The Baptism of Abraham Lincoln by James R. McGill

    In the February 5, 1942, Christian Evangelist, the following letter from G. M. Weimer was published:

“I met Brother John O’Kane…in Illinois….at a convention. We were together about all the time. The Lincoln matter as to whether he [Lincoln] had ever been baptized came up.  Brother O’Kane told me one day: ‘Yes, Brother Weimer, I know all about the affair.  On the night before Lincoln was to be baptized his wife cried all night.  So the matter was deferred, as she thought.  But soon after, Lincoln and I took extra clothing and took a buggy ride.  I baptized him in a creek near Springfield, Illinois.  We changed to dry clothing and returned to the city.  And by his request, I placed his name on the church book. He lived and died a member of the church of Christ.’” (Frederick D. Kershner, “Lincoln’s Religious Status,” Christian Evangelist, February 12, 1942, 290)

     In September of that same year the Christian Review published a similar letter Weimer had written July 27, 1942.  Weimer stated that O’Kane, in the presence of witnesses, said:

“I took Lincoln’s confession one night at our church services in Springfield, Illinois.  Then when Lincoln told his wife, she stormed the castle, and declared it with intense vehemence that she would not permit such a thing.  Well, the result was a delay….We had a change of clothes under the buggy seat.  I baptized him into Christ as the Bible demands.  He lived and died a member of the church of Christ.”

     Discovery of the recorded oral history of Mariah Vance, who worked in the Lincoln home from 1850-60, is being heralded as “America’s Dead Sea Scroll.”  The find has great historical significance.

     The Library of Congress estimates that 5,036 books have been written about Abraham Lincoln, yet very little is known about his private family life.  Now, for the first time, an eyewitness answers the most controversial questions about Mary Todd Lincoln’s drug addiction, her rages, the Ann Rutledge romance, Lincoln’s baptism after being elected president and more.

     How these reminiscences came to light after 135 years is itself a remarkable story.  Mariah, a religious warm-hearted woman who could neither read nor write, was laundress, cook, and then housekeeper to the Lincolns from 1850 until he was elected president in 1860.  When Lincoln’s family prepared to move to Washington, Mariah, and her large family moved to Danville, Illinois.

     For forty years Mariah told stories about the Lincolns to anyone who would listen.  In 1900, Mariah, a widow in her 80s, was still supporting herself as a laundress.  When Adah Sutton, a 17-year-old secretary, used Mariah’s services and heard the Lincoln stories, she wrote them down in shorthand.

     The note taking continued until Mariah died in 1904.  Lloyd Ostendorf, the noted Lincoln artist, met Adah Sutton in 1955, heard some of the stories and begged her to write them down. It took Adah five years to transcribe her notes into a 259 page handwritten manuscript.

     In a unique publishing event, Hastings House is proud to publish Lincoln’s Unknown Private Life that includes two volumes in one book:

“One volume, for the historical record, a facsimile of the handwritten manuscript as recorded by Adah Sutton; for easier reading, the second volume is a printed copy of Adah’s manuscript supplemented by editorial comments by Lloyd Ostendorf and Walter Oleksy to add editorial interpretation and put important facts into historical context.”