Lincoln and Georgetown

Next Monday is Presidents Day. And for the occassion, GM would like to discuss one of the weirder (and sadder) stories of Abraham Lincoln, one that ties him to Georgetown.

While he had already nurtured a growing interest in the then trendy spiritualist movement, Lincoln grew more convinced of the veracity of spiritualism following the death of his son Willie in 1862. (To be fair, accounts of his spiritualism vary. Some historians believe his participation was merely intended to humor his wife.)

He came to know the Laurie family, which lived at 3326 N St. Cranston Laurie was a well known spiritualist who led seances. There are accounts of Lincoln coming to that address multiple times to participate in seances.

According to the current residents, Ed and Betsy Emes, there are even reports that at one seance, a piano was levitated.

So, Georgetown isn’t exactly the site of where Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address or drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, but he walked our streets and his connection to the neighborhood was real (even if the seances weren’t).

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Lincoln and Georgetown

  1. Q St Neighbor

    Also, Willie was interred in a tomb at Oak Hill cemetery until Lincoln’s death. It’s hard to imagine he didn’t come to Georgetown at least for the interment, if not to visit later.

  2. Old Georgetowner

    The building on Wisconsin that now houses The Gap was a Union hospital during the war, and Lincoln visited it often.

  3. Kate Whitmore

    Sources I have seen indicate that the building now housing the Gap, Forrest Hall, actually was a Union prison.
    http://www.picturehistory.com/images/products/0/8/9/prod_8911.jpg
    You may be referring to the Union Hotel on the northeast corner of M and 30th (since torn down and now the site of a bank), which was used as a hospital during the war. Louisa May Alcott wrote about her brief experience as a nurse there in the book “Hospital Sketches,” which you can download from this site:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=1923314&pageno=1

  4. President Lincoln would leave the White House sans security and come over to Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery where he would visit his son Willie who was interred in a mauseleum in the graveyard. Lincoln had his own rocking chair in the mauseleum and would have Willie taken out of his casket so he could hold him in his arms as he rocked in his chair.

    This story was relayed to me by George Kackley who was a long-time caretaker at the cemetery before Joe Pozell.

  5. Old Georgetowner

    KW —

    Perhaps it was a hospital for wounded Confederates. I can’t remember where I read it. I can still easily imagine Lincoln visiting.

    There’s also an apartment building on the East Side that’s got a plaque saying it served as a hospital during the war.

    P.S. I highly recommend the Alcott memoir.

    P.P.S. Notice the building immediately to the north of Forest Hall — what’s now Martin’s Tavern. Those small upper-story windows are still echoed on the building’s front.

  6. Kate Whitmore

    Old Georgetowner, I found the probable source of your information: the book “Historic Georgetown: A Walking Tour” page 58, where it states that Lincoln visited Confederate prisoners of war at Forrest Hall. Perhaps some of them were injured?
    This is an interesting book and you can scan it online on google books. Another source of info on Forrest Hall, and a good read as well, is:
    http://www.nps.gov/choh/historyculture/georgetowncivilwarwalkingtour.htm

  7. Kate Whitmore

    Old Georgetowner, one more thing: The former girls school on 30th near N that you referred to (now the Colonial Apartments) was converted to a hospital during the war. You can read about it in the above link, which tells a pretty hilarious tale of how ‘secesh and non-‘secesh Georgetown got (or did not get) along. Forrest Hall (community hall, later prison) was also the location where Georgetowners voted to remain in the Union. Had the one deciding vote not been cast, the town may well have gone Confederate. Interesting to speculate on what that might have triggered, so to speak.

  8. Pingback: More About that Lincoln Seance | The Georgetown Metropolitan

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