Newspaper from Sep. 9, 2015

"Great Sorrow" & "Ford's Theater"

  • Full Title

    Grand Rapids Herald Articles

  • Description

    In a retrospective, the Grand Rapids Herald sought the perspectives of local residents who remembered the day Lincoln was assassinated. Harvey J. Hollister recalled the intense grief felt by many in Grand Rapids and the ways in which they practiced collective, public mourning. Next, the article quoted extensively from two editorials by the Grand Rapids Eagle, one on the day the war ended on April 8, 1865, and one immediately after the assassination on the 15th. These were included to be representative of the broader shift in Northern public opinion from optimism to disillusionment in this short span of time. In the subsequent article, Big Rapids, Michigan, resident J. P. Huling described his memories of being an audience member at Ford’s Theater the night of the assassination. Furthermore, he remembered details of Lincoln’s funeral as well as the two times he saw Lincoln before the president’s death.

  • Transcription

    [penciled in at top of page] [1899] The Grand Rapids H[cut off]

    Was a Day of Great Sorrow


    The Assassination of
    President Lincoln
    Thirty-Four Years
    Ago Still Fresh in
    the Mind of the
    People—How the
    News of the Trag-
    edy Was Received
    in Grand Rapids,
    April 15, 1865.

    It was just 34 years ago yesterday that
    the sad news swept over the country that
    “Honest Old Abe,” the martyr president,
    had died by the assassin’s knife. Doubly
    sad was it because of the frame of mind
    in which it found the people. The tidings
    of the surrender of Lee’s entire army and
    the probably downfall of the confederacy
    had but the week before thrown the cou-
    try into an ecstacy of joy, and the cele-
    brations of that glad news were still go-
    ing on and on the faces of all the smile of
    great joy reflected the feeling of every
    heart. Then like the bolt from the clear
    sky fell the news that Lincoln had after
    years of toil in behalf of his loved coun-
    try at last made the supreme sacrifice
    and had crossed the river to enter into
    the welcome that surely awaited him on
    the other side.

    To those who were living at that time
    the recollection of that dark 15th of April
    is still as fresh as if the happening had
    been but yesterday.

    Harvey J. Hollister was at the time liv-
    ing in the city and recalls most vividly
    the scenes of what he terms the saddest
    and strangest day he ever spent.

    Said Mr. Hollister in describing how
    the news was received here: “My wife
    and I were walking down to the bank to-
    gether about 9 o’clock in the morning
    and the first thing which attracted our
    attention was the strange actions of the
    people on the street. On the face of
    every one we met we notice a look of
    the most abject sorrow. So remarkable
    was it that we became most anxious to
    know the reason. It was but a week be-
    fore that we had helped to celebrate
    when the news of Lee’s surrender reach-
    ed us, and we thought that the war was
    over and now the people looked more
    somber than after the greatest defeats

    [illustration of Ford’s Theater]


    which we had suffered. Men would stop
    and look into each other’s faces and then
    as they shook hands, tears would begin
    to roll down their cheeks and they would
    separate without a word.

    “At last we reached the telegraph of-
    fice and found it crowded with a lot of
    silent men. Leaving my wife outside, I
    crowded in and soon learned the sad
    news. It is impossible to describe the
    utter feeling of bewilderment which pos-
    sessed us all. I felt as if the very
    ground had been cut from under me. We
    had by that time come to know and ap-
    preciate the magnificent qualities and in-
    finite wisdom of the president and each
    man that morning wept as though he had
    lost a dear friend or some member of his
    own household.

    “The grief at that time was different
    from that which I ever saw before or
    since in its personal character. The com-
    on people had come to have implicit
    confidence and trust in the wisdom of
    the president and when the news reached
    us that he was gone it was as though
    we had suddenly been told that our last
    and only hope had failed.


    “Business was stopped at once and all
    places were closed and the mayor issued
    a proclamation that all flags be hung at
    half mast and that all business cease for
    the day. The people crowded into the
    streets and meetings were held which
    were all pervaded by the same spirit of
    absolute grief which was reflected in the
    face of every passerby. Monroe street
    was one mass of black from head to foot
    and the residence portion of the city was
    all draped: everything of a black color
    being utilized to express in this only
    available way the intense sorrow which
    was in every one’s heart. The next day
    which was Sunday, the services in every
    church were of a memorial character
    and Lincoln’s greatness was eulogized by
    men who struggled with their emotions
    and who utterly failed to find the words to
    express the sorrow they felt. At first it
    was thought that the work was that of
    emissaries of the confederacy and the
    wrath of the people found vent in the im-
    precations against a power that would
    avail its unholy purposes.

    “I recall exactly the words which one
    man said when he turned from the office
    after hearing the news. They were:
    ‘Well, the south has lost the best friend
    she ever had,’ and as he spoke the tears
    ran down his cheeks in torrents.”


    Two editorials clipped from the Grand
    Rapids Eagle of the issues of April 8 and
    9 show the strong revulsion of feeling

    which passed over the populace at the
    time when the news of the death of the
    president reached here. On April 8 the
    editor wrote of Lee’s surrender thus:

    [written in smaller font] [The end has come. The morning is so far
    advanced that the sun of peace shows his edge
    above the horizon, presaging a cloudless day—
    a day that shall not go down again until time
    shall be no more—a day that shall glow with
    universal freedom and blossom with progress.

    Last night the nation lay down divided, dis-
    tracted, bleeding—a giant in battle-harness
    matched against his brother. This morning we
    wake, still in battle-harness, the greatest.
    grandest, freest, most powerful nation on earth.
    Today our kindly, generous, wise, great-hearted
    president, Abraham Lincoln (whom nations at-
    tempted to sneer down but yesterday), stands
    the central figure of the nineteenth century.
    “Honest Old Abe” stands at least one hundred
    feet taller than any other ruler in Christen-
    dom today.

    There is but one fleet in all of the world
    whose flag had been floated and been tried in
    actual battle; and Vice Admiral Farragut
    waits the order of President Lincoln wither to
    direct its thunders.

    There is but one army of veterans in the
    world—privates and generals—and Lieutenant
    General Grant directs that, with Sherman and
    Sheridan, Thomas and Meade as his lieuten-
    ants, and with Robert E. Lee and his host as
    their captives.

    And over this ruin and this triumph, this fall
    and this glory, brothers strike hands again,
    and the states unite in the old but grander fam-
    ily circle as one nation, under one flag, with
    one president. And freedom seals the compact
    for all. The Declaration of Independence be-
    longs now to all the states, and the souls of
    the martyrs of liberty are marching on with
    John Brown’s.

    Let the bells ring, then, and the cannon
    thunder. Let all our citizens join in the dem-
    onstration of joy. Let us hold one grand, uni-
    versal, enthusiastic joy meeting this evening at
    some suitable place, either within or without
    doors, and congratulate each other. Let every
    building in the city blaze with light this even-

    How different sounds the words of the
    same writer in the next issue, on the

    [written in smaller font] [“Vale!” “Vale!”

    The wine of life is spilled; the royal cup of
    fine gold is broken. Domestic faction, with
    horrible instruction, has taught the nation the
    utter malignity of secession. Treason has done
    its worst, and on our noblest. The bloody dag-
    ger’s point has reached the nation’s soul, with
    poison in its wound, to carry grief, horror and
    consternation through our veins; and as the
    numbness of the shock wears off, and the heal-
    ing begins, it will wake a fever of fury whose
    end and effect none can foretell.

    The times are dark again. Sudden and dis-
    astrous eclipse has rushed upon the morning
    of peace and returning fraternity, but a mo-
    ment since without a cloud upon its glory, or
    a chill in its breath of balm.

    All is again uncertainty; state policy and
    chance, government and faction, law and an-
    archy, freedom and slavery, battle and truce,
    revenge and mercy, order and chaos, jostle each
    other in the dark, and no man can see whther
    the majestic ship of state (whose cable has
    been cut in the night by the assassin’s knife,)
    is drifting; whether out of this event shall
    come evil or good to the nation and the world;
    whether we shall again moor in the haven of
    peace and union, or have but opened the har-
    bor to be mocked with out last glimpse of na-
    tional brotherhood.

    The president is dead—the greatest, purest,
    kindest soul Heaven and man ever conspired
    to crowd with public honors—the surest, saf-
    est, truest friend, leader and reflex of the peo-
    ple. Great beyond his times, he was at once
    the greatest, grandest hero of history and the
    kindest and commonest of the crowd of men.
    his last act was a benediction. Rather than
    disappoint the populace who expected his pres-
    ence at the theater, he went to his death,
    though both he and his wife were ill; thus fall-
    ing a sacrifice in this little, this homely, this
    common and natural act, which his death has

    [illustration of John Wilkes Booth]

    [Caption] [J. WILKES BOOTH]

    guilded with immortality. He was of the peo-
    ple; he died in a sense for the common peo-
    ple. He was the pattern of the common peo-
    ple and the ripe fruit of American democracy;
    at the same time the unchallenged peer of his-
    tory, and the certain master of living great-
    ness. Heaven’s evident and commissioned in-
    strument he was crowned with success and
    with immortality in the same week.

    Secretary Seward dies with his master and
    his friend. So two great souls—the greatest, in
    all, that the world held in all its bounds—step
    into glory abreast, both crowned with all that
    makes life honorable, and both clothed with
    that raiment that makes death glorious. Such
    a pair, so matched and sustained in all good
    graces, so loved and mourned, have never in
    one hour knocked at the pearly gate nor met
    such glorious welcomed within.]

    Such was the spirit of the people ad-
    mirably reflected in the columns of the
    paper of the day which was heralded abroad
    that the assassin had been run down and
    shot the people only regretted that he
    met with such an easy fate.



    Big Rapids Merchant Talks of the National Horror

    Enacted 34 Years Ago at Washington.

    [written in smaller font] [Special to Grand Rapids Herald.]

    Big Rapids, Mich., April 15.—J. P. Hul-
    ing, one of our leading merchants, was
    present at Ford’s theater, in Washington,
    the evening that has since gone into his-
    tory as marking one of the greatest trag-
    edies of modern times. President Lincoln
    was assassinated by J. Wilkes Booth,
    April 14, 1865, 34 years ago today, and
    Mr. Huling, in response to a request, told
    his personal experience substantially as

    “I served during the rebellion in Com-
    pany C, Seventeenth United States in-
    fantry, and after receiving my discharge,
    I visited the city of Washington on bus-
    iness, arriving there April 14, and that
    evening, by invitation of James T. Hale,

    the representative in congress from my
    district, the Eighteenth Pennsylvania,
    accompanied him to Ford’s theater, where
    we expected to pass a pleasant hour or
    two. As we strolled down to the theater,
    we little thought that in a short time the
    whole nation would be bowed in grief at
    a tragedy which was to be enacted in
    our presence. We passed to our seats and
    soon the curtain rose and the play pro-
    ceded. After Booth had committed his
    shocking crime and leaped from the booth
    to the stage, my friend and myself, who
    were both familiar with the play, were
    saying that we could not recall anything
    like that when seeing the play at other
    times. Then there was quite a stir
    among the audience, and two or three
    men leaped upon the stage and from
    there into the president’s box, and in a

    short time we knew what had happened.
    The audience was all excitement at once,
    and we didn’t know but what the plot
    was to include part of these who sat in
    the body of the house, for there were lots
    of southern sympathizers in Washington
    at the time.

    [boldface] [Saw Lincoln Only Twice.]

    The retails of that sad affair are fa-
    miliar to everyone, and need not be re-
    peated now. I saw Abraham Lincoln but
    twice in my life; when he was on his
    way to Washington to be inaugurated,
    and once as he was driving down Penn-
    Sylvania avenue. I did not see him at
    Ford’s theater, as the curtains of the
    box where he sat were drawn. A few
    days after he was assassinated, from the
    roof of a building, I watched the process-
    sion as they escorted his remains to the
    capitol. I looked upon his noble face for
    the last time as he lay in state in the
    great rotunda of the capitol. When Pres-
    ident Lincoln was on his way to Wash-
    ing he stopped at the Jones house, which
    is now called the Commonwealth hotel,
    in the city of Harrisburg, and which at
    that time was run by my uncle, Wells
    Coverly, and I was there the day that
    Abraham Lincoln stopped there. I was
    recently reading an article in one of the
    magazines which seems to convey the
    idea that when he left this hotel he went
    out the back door and got into a hack.
    The facts are that in order to avoid the
    great crowd that had gathered in front
    of the hotel to catch a glimpse of him,
    he was taken from the hotel through a
    hall to the private residence of my uncle
    and from there took the hack. I stood on
    the sidewalk when he came out, and saw
    the people down the street watching for
    him at the hotel entrance, and a great
    many of them saw him when he got
    into the hack, but none recognized him
    and he was aboard cars and speeding
    away before the crowd found that he had

    Since that April night in Washington I
    have traveled over this country of ours
    a great deal, and although there was a
    large crowd at the theater, I have never
    met, to my knowledge, a single person
    that was there. I had witnessed many
    sad and exciting scenes on the battle-
    fields in the war that was then going on,
    but nothing that I ever experienced gave
    me more of a shock than did that tragedy
    when we realized what had happened.
    That night, and the days immediately fol-
    owing, were the most exciting times I
    ever saw. Little did I think at that time
    that I should live to see our people, who
    were divided and embittered, reunited,
    and the federal and confederate soldier
    fighting side by side under the stars and

  • Source

    c.00130 - John Edison Papers

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    Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by Michigan State University and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

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    Grand Rapids Herald. "Grand Rapids Herald Articles". Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections. Remembering Lincoln. Web. Accessed April 22, 2024.