Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota remembers Abraham Lincoln 150 years after his assassination April 14, 2015

THE PISTOL WEIGHS HEAVY in my hand. Cold metal and wood against warm flesh nestled in my palm. I am surprised, really, by the weight and smallness of this curved 1840 Philadelphia Derringer, which is exactly like the deadly weapon John Wilkes Booth fired at President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.

An 1840 Philadelphia Derringer, like the pistol used to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

My husband holds an 1840 Philadelphia Derringer. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009.

I wrote that paragraph in 2009 after attending a meeting of the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable. There an area collector showcased Lincoln memorabilia. I’ve never forgotten that petite pistol he allowed me to cradle.

Today, especially, I feel the weight of that Derringer. April 14 marks 150 years since Booth shot our 16th President as he watched the play, Our American Cousin, in Ford’s Theatre in our nation’s Capitol.

The assassination of Lincoln—the President who, via the Emancipation Proclamation set slaves free in “rebellious states”—stands as a memorable and pivotal moment in U.S. history.

A Lincoln postcard which a collector brought to a Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting several years ago.

A Lincoln postcard which a collector brought to a Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting in 2009.

Today we honor this remarkable leader of humble roots, author of the Gettysburg Address wherein he vowed “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

An original photo of Abraham Lincoln in Roger's collection.

An original photo of Abraham Lincoln from a southern Minnesota collector’s collection.

I’m also particularly fond of a lesser-known Lincoln quote: “All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

Promotional poster for the Lincoln event in Northfield, Minnesota.

Promotional poster for the Lincoln event in Northfield, Minnesota.

Throughout our nation and even here locally in Rice County, folks are publicly remembering Lincoln on the 150th anniversary of his death. At The Grand Event Center, The Northfield Historical Society this evening presents Our American Cousin, A Night That Changed Our Nation, The Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Held in an 1899 historic opera house/theatre with balcony booths much like those in Ford’s Theatre, the event includes summary presentations on the assassination and the nation’s reaction; a snippet from Our American Cousin; and a re-enactment of Lincoln’s assassination. Tickets are available in advance and at the door, although there is no guaranteed seating the day of the show.

An ink drawing of Abraham Lincoln by my artist friend, Rhody Yule, now deceased.

An ink drawing of Abraham Lincoln by my artist friend, Rhody Yule, now deceased.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, the President of the Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Association will arrive on horseback at the Faribault Senior Center, 19 West Division Street, Faribault. There, at the monthly meeting of the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable, Tom Hosier of Rochester, dressed in period costume, will talk about Lincoln’s assassination. The presentation is free and open to the public.

A poster promoting the upcoming Lincoln's Traveling Troupe performance.

A poster promotes the upcoming Lincoln’s Traveling Troupe performance.

In Mankato, Lincoln’s Traveling Troupe will present the “true and dramatic story of Lincoln’s assassination” and its immediate aftermath in The Heavens Are Hung in Black, a play written by Lincoln historian and re-enactor Bryce O. Stenzel. Show times are 7 p.m. Friday, April 24, and Saturday, April 25, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 26, at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church Dining Room.

How will you remember Lincoln today or this month?

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Minnesota remembers Abraham Lincoln 150 years after his assassination”

  1. Living here in Richmond, these past few weeks have been full of commemorations of the end of the Civil War and Richmond’s destruction. It’s amazing how alive and well sentiments about the war still are in the South – a war sometimes still referred to as the “War of Northern Aggression.” Also a new book on John Wilkes Booth has just been published. It sounds fascinating.

  2. His words in the Gettysburg Address should resound throughout this land today. ” …that this nation, under God, shall have new birth of freedom..” Yet, I fear that “government of the people, by the people, for the people” may have already perished from the earth. I pray that it this not so. Thanks Audrey for the history lesson.

  3. You know me and my love and fascination for history, especially Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Franklin. God Bless America!

  4. Wow, interesting post. I just might have to find a history project for the kids to do.

  5. Littlesundog Says:

    Audrey, I absolutely loved this post! So many informational bits here and your photographs are quite well done! That Derringer is mighty small! I realize more all of the time, how lacking some studies were in the private parochial school I was educated in in Nebraska. It makes me wonder if it was intentionally lacking. Truly, I had little knowledge of just how controversial the Civil War was until I moved to the South. I suppose that is why today, I am quite sensitive about some of the attitudes down here… that some folks remain strongly loyal to Confederate views.

    • You’re not the first reader to remark on certain viewpoints that continue today in the South. I think students today are getting a better view of history than we did because so much information is readily available. And, I think, there is more questioning today of certain perspectives and opinions.

      • Littlesundog Says:

        I agree with you on the “questioning” aspect. I wish we had been encouraged to investigate our own theories about what happened historically, but back then we went by the textbook only and we did not have the internet. But, isn’t it wonderful that we manage to investigate and ponder on our own time, so many years later – and it’s not a classroom… it’s just if we care to!

      • Questioning also comes with maturity. We don’t just necessarily accept what we are told as a “given.” That’s part of it, too.

        I like your concluding sentence that we investigate because we want to do so.

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