Tuesday’s Tip: Exploring a Family Story- The Springsteens and Abraham Lincoln

Baby Mary T. Helbling with her beloved grandmother, Anna Missouri (Springsteen) Beerbower in 1925. Family photo.
Baby Mary T. Helbling with her beloved grandmother, Anna Missouri (Springsteen) Beerbower in 1925. Family photo.

Helbling Family, Springsteen Family (Click for Family Tree)

Tuesday’s Tip:

Explore your family stories.

They may hold a bit of truth- or even more.


While researching and writing the stories of Abram F. Springsteen for recent posts, a memory of Mary T. (Helbling) McMurray’s story that Abram and his family saw President Abraham Lincoln sparked an interest in checking out that old family story. Mary’s grandmother, Abram’s sister Anna Missouri (Springsteen) Beerbower, had moved in with her daughter and son-in-law, Anna May (Beerbower) Helbling and G.W. Helbling, during her later years. Mary and her grandmother were very close and spent quite a bit of time together. They did talk about family a lot, and Mary always knew more about that line of the family than of her father’s.

Many genealogists and historians will say that a good number of family stories are just that- stories. But I have found that our older generations were actually pretty accurate in their storytelling. So off to research and see if there was at least a grain of truth in the oft-told lore.

If memory serves (which it doesn’t always, lately), the reason Abram ran off to the Army was due to him seeing President Lincoln, per Mary, his great-niece. So finding out if Lincoln was anywhere near Indianapolis during 1861 was what was needed to verify this story, since that year was when Abram first enlisted.

It was harder than thought to find a detailed timeline of Lincoln’s activities. After a Google search that did not show me what I needed, I decided to look through Doris Kearns Goodwin’s most excellent book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.

Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Cover image is Daniel Day-Lewis in the 2012 film, "Lincoln."
Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, first published in 2006. Cover image is Daniel Day-Lewis in the 2012 film, “Lincoln.”

Some tidbits but not exactly what I was looking for, though of course it was hard to stop reading through the book. It did give great context for the times, including the tug between sides to prevent or ‘render asunder’ our precious Union that had existed for 85 years.

The Indiana state capital, Indianapolis, was a major railroad and transportation hub. It also was the home of Gov. Oliver Hazard Perry Morton, who was one of Lincoln’s major supporters. Indianapolis was therefore a major base of Union support, so it was highly likely that Lincoln would have paid the city a visit.

The best clue came from waymarking.com, of all places. (They provide ways to log your visit to a particular spot using a GPS.) The site showed an Indianapolis monument commemorating a visit by Lincoln- on 11 February 1861. Bingo. A quick trip to Wikipedia.org led to more and then much more, and the number of open windows on my laptop increased rapidly with all the information I had been seeking, and more.


Tomorrow: the real story


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. History of Indianapolis, Indiana, Wikipedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Indianapolis
  2. Lincoln’s Inaugaration Journey – Indianapolis:  http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM11MR
  3. Lincoln- assassination attempts just after election (Baltimore Plot):
  4. “Mr. Lincoln Goes to Washington” by Paul Fatout in the Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 321-332. http://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/imh/article/view/8077/9867
  5.  A maul is a large, heavy, hammer with a wedge-shaped head that is used to split rails, which Lincoln had done quite a lot of as a young man on the Illinois prairie. Rails are the horizontal supports on a fence.


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