After yesterday’s latest in the Presidential Visits to Rochester Series (at end), When President John Quincy Adams visited Rochester on July 27th and 28th, 1843 and toured Mt. Hope Cemetery, Michael adds to the list visits by Abraham Lincoln, alive and in death.
And in Memorial Day, 1892, when President Benjamin Harrison dedicated the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument in Washington Square Park with Frederick Douglass. And Occupy Rochester, you saw a marble version of Lincoln make its way to the top.
Abraham Lincoln in Rochester
Add to the list of men who were, or who became, President of the United States, and who have visited Rochester, the most illustrious name of all, Abraham Lincoln. On three occasions (and probably four) Lincoln is known to have stopped at Rochester. The last and most dramatic occasion was on April 27, 1865 when Lincoln’s funeral train arrived here at three o’clock in the morning for 15 minutes on its way to Buffalo.
Despite the early hour, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:
An immense crowd of people was assembled in and about the depot when the train arrived…and a salute was fired by a detachment of artillery on Andrews Street bridge as soon as it was known the remains were approaching.
Mayor Daniel D. T. Moore, other city officials, and military and police contingents were at the station when:
The train came to a stop, a band played a dirge, the troops presented arms, and the hats of the crowd were removed in respect for the illustrious dead.
Following this brief ceremony the various Rochester dignitaries hopped a second train and traveled to Buffalo to participate in the lying in state of Lincoln’s remains at St. James Hall.
The third occasion was on February 18, 1861, when as President-elect on his way to his inauguration, Lincoln’s train stopped for about six minutes in Rochester. A crowd estimated at 15,000 people is reported to have assembled at the New York Central Station (located near the point where the Inner Loop now crosses State Street near High Falls) to see and hear the newly-bearded Lincoln who had carried the city by 975 votes the previous November.
When the train was sighted at 7 a.m., a militia company fired cannons in salute from the opposite side of the Genesee River. Unfortunately the train failed to stop were expected, resulting in what the Rochester Evening-Express described as, “a universal rush and pressure such as it were impossible to describe.”
This resulted in few of the dignitaries and prominent citizens who had arrived to greet Lincoln being able to get near him.
Speaking from the rear platform of his railroad car, Lincoln told the crowd:
It is a matter of welcome surprise to me to meet, at so early an hour in the morning, such a multitude of people, and I must say it is the largest assemblage I have met since I started on my journey. You have not assembled here to greet in me merely the man, but the representative of the American people.
I cannot promise to address you at length; the time allotted for my stay among you will not admit of it. If I should make extended remarks at every place where my fellow citizens had and are to assemble to see me, I should not reach the Capital in time for the inauguration. It is a great gratification to me to see you, and I heartily thank you for your kindness.
Interestingly enough, back in early 2011, when the rest of the United States was staging and scheduling events commemorating the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s presidency and the Civil War, I approached both the city government and the Democrat and Chronicle suggesting that Rochester should participate with an observance of Lincoln’s visit.
Sad to say, I was met with total indifference on the part of both organizations.
Lincoln’s possible second visit to Rochester probably occurred between July 24 and July 29, 1857. I say “probably” because, although we know that Lincoln and his family visited Niagara Falls on July 24, and we know they were in New York City by July 29, we don’t have any information on where they were in between. Given the train routes available, the most likely trip would have taken them from Buffalo to Albany via Rochester, and south along the Hudson to New York, all on the New York Central with no need to change trains. However, a trip from Buffalo, south and east through Pennsylvania via various rail lines and changes of trains remains a possibility. We simply do not know.As to Lincoln’s first visit to Rochester, depending on the source, that took place somewhere between Sept 24 and 28, 1848 when Whig Congressman Lincoln, returning home to Springfield, IL from a campaign trip through New England on behalf of Zachary Taylor, his party’s presidential candidate, traveled from Albany to Buffalo over several lines (including the Auburn & Rochester Railroad) that eventually would be consolidated into the New York Central system. As a little-known congressman from a western state, Lincoln’s arrival in Rochester apparently didn’t attract the notice of the press.
The Presidential Visits Series
AND A FRENCHMAN IN TOWN