Lincoln's Hat

A proper Presbyterian Church was under construction in the summer of 1859.  A floor was laid, walls, roof, and belfry nearly completed, when "a halt due to lack of funds" occurred.  In October 1859, money was urgently needed to complete construction.  The view from the building site to the DeWitt County Courthouse on the public square was unobstructed.  Recognizing opportunity, the church ladies held a festival during court week to take maximum advantage of the generosity of visitors to town on legal business.  Lincoln, wearing his stovepipe hat, was among those in attendance.  Two church ladies, Mrs. Elizabeth Kent and Miss Roberts, greeted him at the entrance -- for there was no door -- and politely offered to take Lincoln's hat.  Lincoln declined the offer, stating he had some important papers in it.  Instead of handing the hat over, Lincoln placed it high on an unfinished beam, safely out of reach of others...

Lincoln's hat is an historical icon.  At the Presbyterian Church event in October 1859, Lincoln was cautious about letting his hat out of his sight.  There was one instance, however, when Lincoln was not so hesitant to part with it.  In August 1864, Lincoln confided the following to his good friend, Ward Hill Lamon, with whom he spent many evenings in DeWitt County during their days on the Eighth Judicial Circuit:  "I went to the Soldiers' Home alone, riding Old Abe... jogging along at a slow gait., immersed in deep thought... when suddenly I was aroused... by the report of a rifle."  The shot caused Lincoln's horse to start, and, in Lincoln's words, "with one reckless bound he unceremoniously separated me from my eight-dollar plug hat." A soldier on guard duty heart the shot...

Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibits tell the stories of Lincoln’s life and times in Illinois.  Each wayside exhibit tells a unique Lincoln story and a local story.  Many of the waysides share little known stories about Lincoln and the individuals he interacted with.  There are over 260 Looking for Lincoln waysides in the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area.    

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