The first part of the post was published on May 30, 2011.
In April 1865 everyone knew that temporary quarters were needed for the immediate housing of Lincoln’s remains along with those of his departed sons Willie and Eddie. Willie’s casket accompanied Lincoln’s back to Springfield from Washington and was carried out to Oak Ridge Cemetery with Lincoln’s on May 4, 1865, both being placed in the temporary receiving vault in the cemetery.
Edward Baker Lincoln had been buried in Hutchinson Cemetery in 1850. This was a six-acre area immediately west of the old four-acre city graveyard. As Springfield grew, Hutchinson Cemetery was no longer sufficient, having become surrounded by town development. In 1856 the original portion of it was closed to further burials, and by 1866 all burials in these grounds were closed and all the bodies were removed to Oak Ridge.
At Oak Ridge what began as a modest 28 acres in the late 1850s eventually encompassed 115 acres of scenic rolling hills. City officials followed the national trend of placing cemeteries in bucolic rural settings outside of the noise and commotion of daily life. Cemeteries became places where people could commune with nature and see that life, like nature, was cyclical.
The formal dedication of Oak Ridge occurred on May 24, 1860, and was a major public event that Abraham and Mary Lincoln likely attended. Mary vividly recalled a conversation with her husband shortly before his death as they were taking a carriage ride. Approaching an old country graveyard, Lincoln turned to her and said: “Mary, you are younger than I. You will survive me. When I am gone, lay my remains in some quiet place like this.” This memory of Lincoln’s burial preference became the source of controversy between Mrs. Lincoln and the National Lincoln Monument Association in 1865.
The Association began negotiations to acquire property in the Mather block, a site near Springfield’s public square and visible from the Chicago and Alton Railroad tracks. A temporary receiving vault was begun with the intent that Lincoln’s remains would reside there, not at Oak Ridge. Mrs. Lincoln objected, and her cousin John Todd Stuart consented to her immediate wishes that Abraham and Willie Lincoln’s bodies reside in the temporary vault at Oak Ridge. Most Association members continued to push for the construction of the permanent monument on the Mather property and hoped to persuade Mrs. Lincoln of the merits of their position.
She refused to meet with them and gave the Association an ultimatum: either build the permanent tomb in Oak Ridge, or else she would have her husband’s remains removed to Chicago or to George Washington’s crypt in the United States Capitol. While there had been some talk immediately following Lincoln’s death that his remains should be placed in Washington’s crypt, nothing was done. The overwhelming indicators had favored Springfield. But now it appeared that the dispute between Mary Lincoln and the Association might identify the memory of Lincoln with someplace other than Springfield. Jesse Fell, one of Lincoln’s closest associates, warned the Association that they should defer to Mrs. Lincoln on the subject lest their efforts be seen as tending “more to the enhanced value of town lots than to the dictates of patriotism.”
On June 14, 1865, a vote of the board of directors decided to concede to Mrs. Lincoln’s wishes that the monument be built in Oak Ridge. This vote passed by a slim margin of 8 to 7. The City of Springfield donated the land, and a temporary receiving vault was completed by December to free up the space in the cemetery’s public receiving vault. The remains of Abraham, Willie, and Eddie were all placed in the private temporary vault that month. Mary had carried out her husband’s wishes for “a quiet place.”