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The Lincoln Family Church

First Presbyterian Church
321 S. Seventh Street
Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln in Springfield Photo Tour

When you're visiting the Lincoln home neighborhood, stop by the church which houses the original Lincoln family pew. The Lincolns purchased it for $50 when the congregation worshipped in a previous building, which is no longer standing. In that building, the pew was No. 20 on the left side, seventh row from the front.

Mary Lincoln referred to this pew in a letter to Mrs. Samuel Melvin, a Springfield friend, whose husband was chairman of the church pew committee. She wrote from the White House on April 27, 1861, "I had intended requesting Mr Melvin to have given me a promise, that on our return to S- we would be able to secure our particular pew, to which I was very much attached, and which we occupied some ten years, may I hope that he will be able to do so."

The Lincoln family began attending services in 1850 after the death of three-year-old Edward Lincoln. The pastor, Dr. James Smith, had conducted Eddie's funeral in the Lincoln home. Abraham Lincoln did not formally join the church, but his wife became a member on April 13, 1852. Their two-year-old son Thomas (Tad) was baptized in the church on April 4, 1855, and his funeral would be held there on July 17, 1871.

The Scottish-born Dr. Smith had been installed as pastor on April 11, 1849. A former deist, he wrote an influential apologetic work, The Christian's Defense, published in 1843. He gave a copy to Lincoln who had seen it previously in his father-in-law's Kentucky home. Dr. Smith, an Old School Presbyterian, became a close friend of the Lincoln family. After Dr. Smith's resignation on October 19, 1856, the church called Dr. John H. Brown. In 1867 Dr. Brown married Mary Lincoln's cousin, Elizabeth Todd Grimsley.

First Presbyterian Church, the oldest church group in Springfield, was organized on January 30, 1828, at the home of Mary Lincoln's uncle, Dr. John Todd. The congregation built its first permanent structure at the corner of Third and Washington streets. The Lincoln family attended services at the second and larger building at that site. The church sold that building in 1871 and purchased its present structure the same year from the Third Presbyterian Church.

The current building dates to 1868, three years after President Lincoln's death. It was the site of Mrs. Lincoln's funeral on July 16, 1882. A stained glass window in the front features President Lincoln in the middle, flanked by Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton.

© Abraham Lincoln Online
The old Lincoln pew now occupies a place of honor in the narthex where it is embellished with flags and a silver marker. It is a shortened composite of two pews from the old sanctuary; one-half had been used by the Lincolns and the other half from a different pew. The original cushion was covered with black haircloth.

John W. Bunn, a church member and contemporary of the Lincolns, purchased the pew from the owners of the old sanctuary and donated it to the church in 1912. The pew was in place on Easter Sunday, April 7, 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt, a great Lincoln admirer, sat in it while attending worship services. The formal dedication of the pew took place on April 14, 1912, during a religious service involving eight different Protestant ministers.

Guided tours of the church are available from June through September on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. For information call 217/528-4311.

Click here for a map

Related Links
Church of Lincoln's Ancestors Seeking Help (State Journal-Register)
First Presbyterian Church, Springfield
Lincoln's Faith in God
Looking for Lincoln
New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
St. John's Church

Related Reading
Davenport, Don. In Lincoln's Footsteps: A Historical Guide to the Lincoln Sites in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Revised edition, Trails Books, 2002.

Jones, Edgar DeWitt. Lincoln and the Preachers. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948.

Temple, Wayne C. Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to Prophet. Mahomet, Illinois: Mayhaven Publishing, 1995.

Wolf, William J. The Almost Chosen People. Garden City: New York, 1959.

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