The series has completed a look at the development of the major intersections along Lake Park Avenue, and turned to stories of interest within the Hyde Park and Kenwood communities. The articles are all of varying topics, but relate to the residences that currently or in the past have defined the urban fabric.
By SUSAN O’CONNOR DAVIS
During the hot summer of 1865 the widow Lincoln did much of nothing. She chose the Hyde Park House as a place of refuge following her husband’s assassination, spending her days contemplating the waves of Lake Michigan and walking through the nearby park. Mary Todd Lincoln saw almost no one, and remarked she did not have “sufficient courage, to receive but very few,” of her friends.
On April 21 of that year, the train carrying the coffin of President Abraham Lincoln left Washington, D.C. The shattering news of the president’s death a week earlier spread across the country via telegrams and newspapers, and many clamored for a final glimpse. As the Civil War finally ground to an end, it was hard to believe the man who was to guide America through its aftermath was truly gone.
The Lincoln Special traveled through 180 cities and seven states on its way to Springfield, with elaborate viewing ceremonies taking place in 11 cities. Although 300 people accompanied the body of the slain president on the nearly 1,700-mile journey, Mrs. Lincoln was not among them. On the morning of May 1, the train arrived for the ceremony in Chicago; Mrs. Lincoln remained in Washington, distraught.
When she did leave the nation’s capitol three weeks later, Mrs. Lincoln’s choice of a respite south of the city was not surprising, for the family had many links to the area. As a young lawyer Lincoln argued many cases in Chicago, including his first major lawsuit. It was also in Chicago where Lincoln approached Stephen A. Douglas prior to beginning their series of debates for the U.S. Senate election. Two years later the city was the scene of the Republican Convention of 1860 at the Wigwam, where Lincoln’s advisors brilliantly out-maneuvered those of his opponents, securing the presidential nomination.
Additionally, the Lincolns had long standing ties to two families of the Hyde Park community — the Trumbulls and the Judds — and each figured into the events described above. Their longstanding relationships were also quite personal. Lyman Trumbull’s first wife, Julia Jayne, had been a bridesmaid for Mary Todd at her wedding to Lincoln in Springfield on November 4, 1842. When Jayne married Trumbull in June 1843, Norman Judd was his groomsman.
Attorney Lyman Trumbull came to Illinois in 1837 and three years later was appointed secretary of the state for Illinois, but he lost a number of subsequent elections as a Democratic candidate for governor and twice for Congress. By 1848, he was elected a justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois, and although thought to be retiring and unassertive, his opinions were considered among the soundest handed down by the court. He became a friend of Abraham Lincoln during his travels with the Circuit Court, and sharing similar fundamental beliefs, they became early members of the newly-founded Republican Party.
The year 1855 would become a pivotal year for both — Trumbull was elected to the United States Senate after Lincoln yielded in order to break a deadlock, and he went on to serve for 18 years. Although the balloting began with 44 votes for Lincoln to Trumbull’s 5, in the end Lincoln returned to his law practice. While gracious in defeat, his wife did not react in quite the same manner. Following the election Mary broke off her relationship with Julia Trumbull, believing she should have influenced her husband to be the one to concede.
About a mile south of the Trumbulls lived the venerable Norman Buel Judd, a lawyer also heavily involved in the political scene. During his years as a member of the Illinois Senate, from 1844 to 1860, Judd also maintained a large legal practice and specialized in railroad law. Although he had been a loyal supporter of Trumbull during the 1855 Senate election, Judd was greatly impressed with Lincoln’s abilities and relied upon him in a pivotal railroad trial.
In his role as general counsel for the Rock Island Railway, Judd hired Lincoln for what would become a well-known court case. The first bridge to cross the mighty Mississippi River at Rock Island, Ill., was completed in the spring of 1856. The Rock Island Bridge was quite an enterprise, built with more than 220,000 pounds of cast iron, 400,000 of wrought iron, and one million feet of timber.
In spite of its apparent strength, an incident occurred on the morning of May 6, just two weeks after the bridge opened. As Jacob Hurd maneuvered his Effie Afton along the river heavily swollen by spring rains, the steamboat crashed into the bridge. The sleek side-wheeler caught fire and caused a portion of the bridge to burn, which tumbled into the Mississippi the following day. The owners of each moved the conflict off the river and into the courtroom, and a series of cases followed.
In the most well known of these, Hurd v. the Rock Island Railroad, Abraham Lincoln ably defended the railroad. The trial concluded with a hung jury, permitting the railroad to continue use of the bridge. The ramifications went well beyond the bridge and boat, as the lawsuit pitted the larger East-West interests of Chicago’s railroads against the north-south interest of river travel.
While trying the case the future President spent time on the veranda of the Judd’s Kenwood home. The slender, dark haired Adeline Judd recalled his September 1857 visit.
“Mr. Judd had invited Mr. Lincoln to spend the evening at our pleasant home on the shore of Lake Michigan. After tea, and until quite late, we sat on the broad piazza, looking out upon as lovely a scene as that which had made the Bay of Naples so celebrated. A number of vessels were availing themselves of a fine breeze to leave the harbor, and the lake was studded with many a white sail… Whilst we sat there the great white moon appeared on the rim of the eastern horizon, and slowly crept above the water, throwing a perfect flood of silver light upon the dancing waves… Mr. Lincoln, whose home was far inland from the great lakes, seemed greatly impressed with the wondrous beauty of the scene, and carried by its impressiveness away from all thought of the jars and turmoil of earth.”
After Lincoln demonstrated his mastery of the facts and skill in the courtroom, Judd came to play a central role in Lincoln’s quest for the Senate in 1858. As chairman of the Republican State Committee, Judd conceived of challenging the incumbent Democratic senator to participate in a series of open-air debates. These celebrated debates placed Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on the same platform in seven locations throughout the state.
That fall Douglas was reelected by the legislature, 54-46, even though Lincoln won the popular vote. However, the widespread coverage of the debates raised his national profile, greatly increasing his political potential and making Lincoln a viable candidate for the next presidential election.
As Lincoln came to increasingly rely on both Trumbull and Judd for political support, Republican advisors were eager to smooth out the soured relationship between Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Trumbull. The task fell to Adeline Judd, and for a short time they were on good terms, as Lincoln gained ground in his quest for the nation’s highest office.
All culminated with Lincoln’s nomination in 1860, and no one had prepared more for that day than Norman Judd. After securing Chicago as the location for the convention, he arranged for special train fares for Lincoln’s supporters and took charge of seating arrangements. As the convention opened the first speaker at the Wigwam was Trumbull. Looking gaunt, serious and much older than his 47 years, he attacked Stephen Douglas for his stance on slavery and the crowd roared their support. Short and stout, the cigar waving Judd was up next and played to the energized audience, criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision of the Dred Scott case.
When actual balloting began on May 18, Judd was given the honor of placing Lincoln’s name into nomination. It was said the roar was deafening; Trumbull and Judd’s candidate won on the third ballot.
Lincoln once said he was more indebted to Judd than any other person for his nomination, yet following the election when Trumbull pushed for a cabinet seat for Judd, a furious power struggle ensued. Enter Mrs. Lincoln — who evidently did not share her husband’s affection for Judd. When it appeared Judd would receive a position in her husband’s cabinet Mrs. Lincoln interceded, writing to David Davis in January 1861:
“Perhaps you will think it is no affair of mine, yet I see it, almost daily mentioned in the Herald, that Judd & some few Northern friends, are urging the former’s claims to a cabinet appointment. Judd would cause trouble & dissatisfaction, & if Wall Street testifies correctly, his business transactions, have not always borne inspection. I heard the report, discussed at the table this morning, by persons who did not know, who was near, a party of gentlemen, evidently strong Republicans, they were laughing at the idea of Judd, being any way, connected with the Cabinet in these times, when honesty in high places is so important… I know, a word from you, will have much effect, for the good of the country, and Mr. Lincoln’s future reputation, I believe you will speak to him on this subject & urge him not to give him so responsible a place. It is strange, how little delicacy those Chicago men have.”
Mary won out — Judd received no cabinet appointment and his consolation prize was as Minister to Prussia. Meanwhile although Mary had repaired her relationship with Julia during the election the “struggle over appointments during the early weeks of the Lincoln administration seems to have been the final break in the friendship between Julia Trumbull and Mary Lincoln,” wrote biographer William Miller. “Each wife only saw her husband’s side of the imbroglio.”
Mary described her once-intimate friend as ungainly, unpopular and cold — and apparently the President’s relationship with Lyman Trumbull went no smoother. Lincoln relied on Trumbull as one of his representatives in Washington for a period after the election, but they drifted apart once the president was inaugurated. The level of their disaffection is reflected in a letter written by Mary Lincoln’s cousin, Elizabeth Grimsley. “I have not seen Mrs. Trumbull — she sent me word she expected me to call, as that is etiquette,” Grimsley wrote from the White House in March 1861, “but I concluded in the present state of affairs . . . that Mrs. Trumbull might waive ceremony also, if she wished to see me. Trumbull is exceedingly unpopular here and particularly so with the conservative portion of the Republican Party.”
Robert Lincoln once questioned his father about the differences with Trumbull. “We agree perfectly, but we see things from a different point of view,” replied the President. “I am in the White House looking down the Avenue, and Trumbull’s in the Senate looking up.”
In the end, although the connections between the Lincoln and Trumbull and Judd families ran deep, their friendships did not withstand politics. After the assassination, Mrs. Lincoln complained Julia Trumbull never honored her with a call yet commented if she had, Julia would have not have been received. She said Julia was dead to her, and before long that was the case —Julia Trumbull died in Springfield in August 1868.
Trumbull’s greatest accomplishment was his was the authorship of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States. Trumbull also authored the Civil Rights act of 1866, and as chairman of the Judiciary Committee helped steer the Fourteenth Amendment through Congress. A plaque installed on his now demolished house read in part:
FRIEND OF LINCOLN,
SENATOR FROM ILLINOIS;
SECURED THE PASSAGE OF THE
The Judds returned from Prussia in 1866, and he re-entered local politics successfully. He was less fortunate with his investments and lost all of his wealth, including his Kenwood estate, during the financial panic of 1873. Judd died five years later.
Apparently Adeline Judd found Mrs. Lincoln “slightly insane,” a view increasingly held by many others. Over the years as her behavior became more and more erratic, Robert Todd Lincoln sought the counsel of the prestigious law firm of Ayer & Kales. In a locked-door session at their offices, some of Chicago’s best physicians declared his mother to be insane. Mrs. Lincoln was committed to a sanitarium on May 19, 1875. The document certifying such was signed by non other than a Hyde Parker, “Benjamin F. Ayer, on behalf of Robert T. Lincoln.”