George Williams to unknown

Title

George Williams to unknown

Description

George Williams writes a revealing letter to his niece regarding the accuracy of William H. Herndon's work on Lincoln and recounting much Herndon family history.

Creator

Williams, George

Publisher

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Date

1922-09-22

Rights

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation holds all rights and permissions.

Format

pdf

Language

en

Identifier

300522
T1922.09.22-MISC

Transcription

Springfield Ill

715 So. Douglas Ave

Sept 22 1922

My Dear Neice

I have decided not to send the letter, the rough draft of which you read last night, to Mr. John W. Starr Jr.. Relations of our family and the Herndon's have been and still are too close to permit me to write as fully as the subject requires. As I read Mr. Starr's letters to you he is anxious to know the truth about the circumstances and environments of the compilation of Herndon's Life of Lincoln. The close relationship between your father and myself and my personal knowledge of


Mr. W. H. Herndon during the latter days of his life are well know to you. Mr. Herndon practiced law until the dissolution of his partnership with your father in 1877. It is from 1877 to the close of his life that I feel a delicacy in telling. Wm. H. Herndon was a son of Archer G. Herndon, who was born in Culpeper Co Va Feb. 13 1795 and when about ten years of age was taken to Green Co. Ky, where in 1816 he was married to Mrs Rebecca (Day) Johnson. Archer G. Herndon had one child, Wm H, born in Green Co. Ky.; Dec 25, 1818, who came with his father to Madison Co Ill. Subsequently they came to Sangamon county in the Spring of 1821. They settled five miles N.E. of Springfield on what became known as German Prairie. Wm. H. Herndon eldest son of Archer


was married Mar 26 1840, to Mary J. Maxey who was born July 27 1822. They had six children; James N.; Annie M., Beverly P, Elizabeth R., Leigh W, and Mary N..

Mrs Mary (Maxey) Herndon died Aug 18 1860 and Wm H. Herndon was married (second wife) July 31 1861 to Anna Miles. Two children were born to this second union; Nina Belle and William M.

Archer G Herndon was engaged in merchantile pursuits in Springfield from 1825 to 1836, during which time he erected the first tavern in Springfield. He was one of the famous 'Long Nine from Sangamon' that were largely instrumental in securing the removal of the State Capital to Springfield, having been elected to the State Senate in 1836. He served as Receiver of Public Moneys from 1842 to 1849 in Springfield. Archer G. Herndon died Jan 3 1867 and his widow survived until Aug 19th 1875. Both buried at Springfield


From Paul Selby's & Newton Bateman's Encyclo. Hist of Ill & Sangamon Co I copy this further article from page 230. "Herndon-William H., Lawyer was born at Greensburg Ky., Dec 25 1818; brought to Illinois by his father, Archer G. Herndon, in 1820, and to Sangamon Co in 1821; entered Illinois College in 1836, but remained only one year on account of his father's hostility to the supposed abolition influences prevailing at that institution; spent several years as a clerk in a store at Springfield, studied law two years with the firm of Logan and Lincoln (1842-1844), was admitted to the bar and became the partner of Mr. Lincoln, so continuing until the election of the latter to the Presidency. Mr. Herndon was a radical opponent of slavery and labored zealously to promote the advancement of his distinguished partner. The offices he held were those of City Attorney, Mayor and Bank Commissioner under three Governors. Some years before his death he in conjunction with Jesse W. Wilk published a Life of Abraham Lincoln in three volumns afterwards revised in a two volumn edition by D. Appleton, New York. He died near Springfield Mar 18 1891."


In the History of Sangamon County page 116 published by the Interstate Pub. Co. and mostly edited by James Powers is a sketch of Wm H. Herndon but it is not accurate. It places the date of his retirement from practice as 1867. Judge Creighton gives it properly as 1877. After the departure of Lincoln from Springfield, Feb. 11 1861, Herndon at Lincoln's insistent request kept the sign of Lincoln & Herndon swinging at his office stairway until after the death of the President.

His first partner was Chas S. Zane Spring 1861 who had married Miss Margaret Maxey in 1859. The firm name was Zam & Herndon. In 1867 Alfred Orendorff entered the office as junior partner. Upon the election of C. S. Zane to the bench the firm name was shortened to Herndon & Orendorff. In 1877 Herndon retired to his farm and James Creighton became the junior member of the firm of Orendorff & Creighton. Upon the election of Creighton to the bench


Robert H Patton became the junior member of Orendorff and Patton. and this continued until the death of Gen. Orendorff. Patton is the leader of the Prohibition party in Illinois and is one of the most successful lawyers in Springfield, being noted for his success as a jury trial attorney. This brief of the life and times of Wm H. Herndon brings us to 1877. My sketch brought the tale of the why and wherefore that led up to "Herndon's Life of Lincoln." Herndon lived a full life. A life that should be written by a truly friendly pen. His was a wonderfully comprehensive mind. He was an omniverous reader and thoroughly digested his books. His strength of character is shown by his standing by his guns on the question of slavery. A boy of 18 he stood out against his family


and anyone who stood up in opposition to Archer Herndon was a brave man. William Herndon came home and was virtually put out of the family circle, in fact he was actually put out.

He did not flinch from his punishment but took a job in a general store. The hours were not limited. From daylight in the morning until around 9 p.m. were customary hours of work in those days. But Herndon did not give up his studies and in 5 years he had saved up enough from his meagre salary to enable him to enter the law office of Logan & Lincoln, this was in 1842 and in 1844 Herndon was admitted to the bar. Let us take a glance backward and see how rapidly history was being shaped, it seems by the hand of providence.

Lincoln roomed with Maj Stuart at Vandalia in 1834 when both


were members of the Legislature. Major Stuart was attracted to Lincoln and as his mentor and teacher led Lincoln to the law. 1837 saw Lincoln a full fledged member of the bar of Sangamon Co. In 1837 Herndon had been yanked out of college and put on his own resources. Mar 13 1837 Lincoln left New Salem on a small pony borrowed from Bowling Green, his long legs nearly reaching the ground. Lincoln became a partner in the firm of Stuart & Lincoln in 1837 and Herndon was a clerk in a store. The Stuart Lincoln partnership ended in 1841 when Stuart went to Congress. Judge Logan snapped up Lincoln for a partner the same year 1841 and this partnership ended in 1843 because both partners were aspirants for Congress but during these years Herndon had entered the office as a student and upon the ending of the Logan and Lincoln, Herndon was asked


(9

by Lincoln to form a partnership. Seven years had made changes in Herndon. The boy barely past 18 who had taken his fate and his fortune into his own hands rather than yield an iota of his honest convictions was a partner of the most promising lawyer in Sangamon. Surely there must have been great natural powers in Herndon to have brought him so far forward in so short a time. Until the election of Lincoln in 1860 this firm forged steadily ahead. It was a priviledge to be taken into this office as a student, and the chance to read law under the tutelage of Lincoln and Herndon was eagerly sought. Herndon lacked the supreme effectiveness in the pleading of cases that was an outstanding characteristic of the Great American. Even here he was an important cog in


the machine by his natural ability as a reader and researcher. Herndon was a man of great vision. He could read between the lines and understand the undercurrents of events. He lived in an intense age. Passions were excited in an extreme degree and they found vent in the climax of 1861-1865.

The calm, farseeing statesmanship of Lincoln curbed Herndon during their close companionship, when the guiding brain was stilled forever there was no truer mourner than Herndon. Herndon had formed a partnership with C. S. Zane but it was to be merely a stop gap. When the assissins bullet ended the firm of Lincoln and Herndon it was a blow that the junior partner never recovered from.


I verily believe that the bullet that struck down Lincoln killed the amition of Herndon. He had lived with and for Lincoln for twenty of the best years of his life. And in a moment; in the twinkling of an eye, this great man whose fortunes he had followed so faithfully and so ably left him stranded an alone. This man of vision; this man of studious life and also of active endeavors; this man whom you might almost call a dreamer -- some called him fanatic; this man of many virtues and only few vices; this man in the prime of his powers and usefulness was dealt such a wound that he never recovered his former powers.

He had the trancendant bravery of sacrifice. He had that far reaching virtue of being true


to his friends and to his principles. Brave and true! Can we say more for any living man.

The life of Wm H. Herndon was slowing in its course from 1865-1877. Hail and Farewell. In 1891 they laid you to rest in Oak Ridge. I cannot end better than by quoting from an address of Herndon's last partner, Gen Alfred Orendorff. "May we not all be sustained by a comforting hope that the good night here will be followed in some fairer better clime by a welcome good morning: and may we not be uphild by an unfaltering trust that since God is just, that somehow, somewhere meet we must."

I am withholding my first and perhaps fuller sketch. If this will aid Mr Starr he is welcome. I am at his service to the extent of my knowledge.

Your as ever

Geo. Williams

Status

Complete

Percent Completed

100

Weight

20

Original Format

paper and ink
12 p
22 x 16 cm

Citation

Williams, George, “George Williams to unknown,” Chronicling Illinois, accessed November 21, 2018, http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/items/show/8363.