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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mary Todd Lincoln Funeral Ledger Found in Springfield

By Tribune news services Contact Reporter

An itemized list believed to be from former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln's funeral has resurfaced after two of the oldest funeral homes in Springfield merged.

The list shows her 1882 funeral cost almost $280, with expenses ranging from $225 for a casket to $1.50 for crepe and ribbon, the Springfield State Journal-Register reported.

A horse-drawn hearse with four attendants? Fifteen bucks.

The list was included in stacks of fragile ledgers acquired by Butler Funeral Homes of Springfield after last year's buyout of Boardman-Smith Funeral Home.

Butler Funeral Homes is creating a "Lincoln Room" where the Mary Lincoln Todd ledger entry will be displayed with other documents tied to Springfield's funeral history. Among the other items are a pair of funeral biers thought to have ties to the Lincoln family, but they haven't been verified.

Butler Funeral Homes President Chris Butler said employees of Boardman-Smith, which was founded in 1848, had taken care to store and label dozens of expense ledgers dating to the mid-1800s.

Butler said Boardman-Smith's connection to the Lincoln family is one of the attractions that prompted his company to go through with the merger but not the only one. The everday lives of ordinary town residents from another time were also full of fascinating tidbits he and his company want to share the spotlight with Lincoln.

"I'd love to know their stories," Butler told the State Journal-Register. "That family lost all of those children, or 'wow,' it's the 1800s and this person lived to be in their 90s."

Plans are to complete the Lincoln Room this summer, according to Butler.

Butler Funeral Homes President Chris Butler
Butler Funeral Homes President Chris Butler looks through ledgers kept by the Boardman-Smith Funeral Home in Springfield. Boardman-Smith, which was founded in 1848 and acquired by Butler last year, handled the funeral arrangements for Mary Todd Lincoln. (Rich Saal / The State Journal-Register)
At one time, Boardman-Smith was marketed as "The Lincoln Funeral Home" and was called upon to assist with the transfer and preparation of President Abraham Lincoln's body after his assassination in April 1865, according to company history.

Historians say Mary Todd Lincoln welcomed her own death in many ways after the death of her three sons and her husband. She outlined specific instructions for a funeral that was still eight years away in a letter to her son, Robert, which is among the collections at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.

She died in July 1882 at age 63 at her sister's home in Springfield.

While hardly grabbing the headlines of Abraham Lincoln's funeral after his very public murder in 1865, the death of Mary Todd at age 63 in 1882 was still a big event.

"The citizens of Springfield, the home and resting place of Abraham Lincoln, whose name has become canonized in the hearts of liberty lovers all over the world, and who will be gratefully remembered as long as free government continues to be appreciated by mankind," The Illinois State Journal reported, “have learned with profound sorrow of the death of Mary Todd Lincoln, his relief, and mother of his only surviving son."

The resurfaced documents will add much-needed texture to the lives of Lincoln's family, especially in the years after his assassination.

"It's important for us to remember these were living, breathing people," said Samuel Wheeler, research historian at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. "Documents such as these help bring them to life."

Image: An itemized list of expenses believed to be from the 1882 funeral of Mary Todd Lincoln in Springfield. The list was in stacks of fragile ledgers acquired by Butler Funeral Homes through the company's buyout last year of Boardman-Smith Funeral Home. Butler is creating a "Lincoln Room" where the ledger will be displayed with other documents tied to Springfield history. (Rich Saal / The State Journal-Register)

From: chicagotribune.com

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