Historic Moment: A Lincoln experience
By Beth Batlle
Skaneateles Town Historian
After the outbreak of the Civil War, Anna Seymour and her mother fled from their Virginia home to Washington, D.C. Joseph, their husband/father, despite his Northern sympathies had been pressed into service by the Confederate army.
One day Anna was playing in the back yard with her cousin, Virginia, when they grew tired of making mud pies. The two 6-year-old girls, dressed in their calico dresses and Shaker bonnets and mud still on their hands, decided to take a stroll down the streets of Washington.
As they walked along hand in hand, they came upon a long line of beautifully dressed women and handsome men, who were filing into a big white house. So they decided to join them. As they progressed into the house, the men and women paused briefly to shake the hand of a tall, rather gaunt figure. When the two girls reached the man, he stooped and clasped their hands.
They were so impressed that they went to the end of the line, and, proceeding along, once again met with the tall gaunt man. After shaking his hand again, they decided to try for a third time.
Recognizing them, this time the tall figure drew them aside, patted their heads affectionately, and spoke a few soft words to them. After this, the girls left the White House and returned home. However memory of this meeting with President Abraham Lincoln stayed with them for the rest of their lives.
When she was 8, Anna attended a performance at the Ford Theater with her mother. Had she attended the theater a week later, she would have witnessed the shooting of President Lincoln. She would have seen him slump over in his seat in the flag-draped box after that fatal shot was fired by John Wilkes Booth. The President died late the next day.
After the president’s body lay in state at the US Capitol Rotunda, on April 25, 1865, a funeral train carried the body of the slain president back to his home in Springfield, Illinois, reversing the 1,700 mile route he had taken in 1861 on the way to Washington for his inauguration. As the train, draped in mourning, moved slowly through its six-state journey, as many as five million people lined the track to catch a glimpse of the Presidential car as it passed by.
The train stopped in ten cities to allow for public viewing of the President’s casket. It pulled into Syracuse at 11:15 on the night of April 26. Thousands of solemn people stood in front of the flag draped depot, heads bared in spite of the rain, and paid their last respects to the slain president. The sound of tolling of church bells filled the air. At 11:30 p.m. the train pulled out, headed on toward Buffalo and stations west.
When Anna was sixteen, she also came to Central New York. Joseph Seymour brought his family to Skaneateles where they settled on a farm on the south side of Coon Hill Road. Ann married Edward Clark of Clintonville on December 12, 1877. Her cousin, Virginia, also had come to this area. She married John Evans and lived just over the hill, in Marcellus.
After 12 years of marriage, Edward died from injuries suffered from a fall from the roof of a barn on their farm. Ann later married Giles Hilborne. She lived a long time in Skaneateles, in her later years at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Vernie Hardwich, at #5 State Street. She died in February of 1940 at the age of 84. Her death was just two days short of the anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. He was a man she had held in high esteem ever since that day, back in Washington, when she was only six years old and had shook his hand, not only once but three times.