Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Emilie Todd Helm – ‘Little Sister’ to Abraham Lincoln – Obituary

Emilie, daughter of R. S. and E. L. Todd, and wife of Genl. Ben Hardin Helm, born November 11, 1836, died February 20, 1930.  Lexington Cemetery, Fayette County, Kentucky.

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Friday, February 21, 1930

Half-Sister of Abraham Lincoln’s wife dies in Fayette County

Lexington, Ky., Feb. 20 – Mrs. Emilie Todd Helm, 93 years old, half-sister of Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and the last surviving person intimately associated with the murdered president, died at 2 o’clock this morning at her home, Helm Place, on the Bowman’s Mill Pike.

Mrs. Helm was the widow of General Hardin Helm and the daughter of Robert Smith Todd and Elizabeth Humphreys Todd.  She was born at the Todd residence on West Main Street, here, which is pointed out as the birthplace of Mary Todd Lincoln.  She was known as the ‘Mother of the Orphan Brigade.’

Mrs. Helm’s husband, at the outbreak of the War Between the States, was called to Washington by President Lincoln and offered a commis-

sion in the Union Army, but declined, and returned to the South, where he accepted a commission in the Confederate Army in the brigade formed by Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, an old friend of his father.  He rose rapidly in rank until he became a brigadier general.  He was killed September 20, 1863, at the Battle of Chickamauga.

Following the death of General Helm, President Lincoln sent for the widow and invited her to the White House, where she spent several weeks.  As a girl, she had visited the Lincolns when they lived at Springfield, Illinois.

For almost twenty years Mrs. Helm had lived at Helm Place, the colonial residence built by Col. Abraham Bowman, Revolutionary War officer, with her children, Ben Hardin Helm, Miss Katherine Helm and Mrs. Elodie Lewis.  Miss Helm is an artist and the author of ‘Mary, Wife of Lincoln.’

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 o’clock Saturday morning at the residence, the Rt. Rev. H. P. Abbott, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington, officiating.  Burial will be in the Lexington Cemetery.

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Saturday, February 22, 1930

‘Little Sister’

It was a happy turn of fate that Mrs. Ben Hardin Helm, Mary Todd Lincoln’s half-sister, should have been spared these many years and that she was able, both verbally and by her diary and correspondence, to correct many false impressions of circumstances surrounding the lives of Abraham Lincoln and his wife in a day when public interest in them runs high.  Many books have been written about the Lincolns, husband and wife, in these last ten years, and not the least of them was that of Katherine Helm of Lexington, based largely on her mother’s recollections, letters and writings.

Mrs. Helm’s death, at the age of 93, removes a woman who was well beloved by the ‘boys’ in gray, at many of whose reunions she had been an honored guest.  She was an impressive figure at that time when, after General Helm was killed at Chickamauga and she was granted a pass through the lines from Atlanta.  Union officers at Fortress Monroe sought to force her to take the oath of allegiance.  Tearfully, yet firmly, the young widow refused.  The authorities communicated with Lincoln, who had granted the pass.  ‘Send her to me,’ wired the President, and Mrs. Helm went to the White House, to be reunited with her sister.

‘I had just lost my husband,’ she wrote in her diary, ‘Mary had lost her son, Willie, and we both had lost three fine, young brothers in the ranks of the Confederate Army.’

Lincoln was very fond of ‘Little Sister,’ as he had called Emilie Helm ever since that day in 1847 when, returning from Congress, he visited the Todd home at Lexington and gave her that pet name as he caught her up and held her at a terrifying height from the floor.  Mary Todd was very fond of this child, and because of her confidences, the younger sister was able in later years to refute the cruel story first told by William Herndon that Lincoln had failed to appear at his own wedding, supposedly planned for January 1, 1841.

It was in April, 1861, that Lincoln offered Ben Hardin Helm, then 30 years old and ten years out of West Point, a paymaster’s commission in the Union Army, with the rank of major.  That same day in Washington Ben Helm talked to Robert E. Lee and learned he had resigned his commission.  Helm’s father, Gov. John L. Helm, was a slave owner, but a Union man.  Mary wanted her beautiful sister to live in the White House with her.  The place offered was much coveted and Helm realized his opportunity might readily lead to advancement.  He thanked Lincoln and asked for time.  Returning to Kentucky he was convinced by Simon Bolivar Buckner that he should cast his lot with the Confederacy, and so he wrote the President, after ‘a bitter struggle with myself.’  Two years later Lincoln broke the sad news of Ben Helm’s death to his wife, then in New York, and Senator David Davis described the President as much moved by the tragedy.  ‘Davis,’ he said, ‘I fell as David of old did when he was told of the death of Absolom.’  Lincoln’s affection was even deeper for ‘Little Sister,’ even though while at the White House and until the surrender she remained a ‘loyal little rebel’ to the last.

Standing beside a portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the Civil War President, in Helm Place near Lexington is Mrs. Elodie Helm Lewis, Mrs. Lincoln’s niece, who resides there.

General Ben Hardin Helm and Emilie Todd had three children, Katherine, who remained single; Elodie, who married Waller H. Lewis; and Ben Hardin Helm.  All are buried in the Todd lot in Lexington Cemetery.

Katherine, daughter of Genl. Ben Hardin Helm and Emilie Todd, born September 2, 1857, died June 18, 1937.

Elodie, daughter of Genl. Ben Hardin Helm and Emilie Todd, wife of Waller H. Lewis, born March 7, 1859, died June 12, 1953.

Ben Hardin Helm, son of Genl. Ben Hardin Helm and Emilie Todd, born May 16, 1862, died May 28, 1946.


Confederate Soldiers Martyrs Monument In Eminence Kentucky

In the cemetery, of the small town of Eminence, Kentucky, stands a monument to three Confederate soldiers.  These men were not killed during battle, but were murdered due to the orders of Brevet Major General Stephen Gano Burbridge – also known as the ‘Butcher of Kentucky’.

During the Civil War Stephen Burbridge was Kentucky’s most controversial military commander.  After serving as colonel during the early part of the war, in 1864 he returned to Kentucky where he fought against Confederate raiders, including John Hunt Morgan.  At that time he was placed in command in Kentucky, but his harsh tactics won him no friends and many enemies.  In July 1864 he issued Order No. 59 which included ‘Wherever an unarmed Union citizen is murdered, four guerrillas will be selected from the prisoners in the hands of the military authorities and publicly shot to death in the most convenient place near the scene of the outrage.’

The three CSA soldiers who were shot November 3, 1864, at Pleasureville by order of Gen. Burbridge in pretense of retaliation of two Negroes that were killed near Port Royal.  ‘Sleep on ye braves for you have got our sympathy to our latest breath.  We would not have thee buried on a lot with him who caused they death.’

On August 12, 1864, four guerrillas were taken from the city of Eminence to some point in the Henry County, and were shot.  On November 3, 1864, four more were sent from Lexington to Pleasureville (a small town in Henry County) to be executed.  Sixteen hours after the execution their bodies were still lying on the floor of the depot where they were shot.  A few hours later three of these men were buried in Eminence Cemetery – William Tighe, R. W. Yates and William Darbro – the fourth man, William Long, was buried in Maysville by his family.

The executions were carried out by Co. C. 54th Reg. Infantry, led by Captain Emzy W. Easley.  Captain Easley was to execute four more Confederates about January 15th for the killing of Preston Sparks, and three more on February 2.  ‘I was heartsick over the task assigned me, and would rather have gone into battle against any force than execute those men.  Just one hour before the time set, I received a telegram signed by Abraham Lincoln.  It ordered the execution of Waller deferred, and that he be sent back to Lexington until further orders.  When I saw the contents of the message at first glance I was so overjoyed that I thought it referred to all of the men.  I did not read it again, but sent back all three – the execution thus delayed never took place, and in a few months the war was over.’  Three lives were saved that day, although only one man was to be sent to Lexington.  Captain Easley didn’t read the telegram carefully and assumed all men were reprieved.

Burbridge also directed the imprisonment and execution of numerous people in the state, including public figures, charging them with treason and other high crimes, many of which were falsely charged

Brevet Maj. Gen Stephen Burbridge quickly lost support of Kentuckians due to his harsh measures and was replaced in February 1865, and at the end of the war he moved to New York.

The lives of four men and their families were forever changed that day in November 1864.  William Darbro had a wife, Mary Ann Bruce, and three babies – Permelia, Catherine and John, all under the age of four.  R. W. Yates was a resident of Hart County and William Tighe of Grant County.

This Confederate Soldiers Martyrs Monument was placed on the National Register of Historic Places July 17, 1997.

William Tighe, aged 30 years.  R. W. Yates, aged 30 years.  William Darbro, aged 20 years.  Eminence Cemetery, Henry County, Kentucky.

Murray Cemetery in Cloverport, Kentucky

img_5855Murray Cemetery, Cloverport, Breckinridge County, Kentucky

Murray Cemetery is a small cemetery, located on the Ohio River in northern Breckinridge County, Kentucky, in the town of Cloverport.  This town was first known as Joesville, after the founder, Joe Huston, in the 1790’s.  The town was the site of the ferry when, in 1816, Jacob Weatherholt piloted the family of Abraham Lincoln across the Ohio River to Spencer County, Indiana.  Joesville was renamed Cloverport in 1828.

These photos were taken at the end of the day – not great light.

img_5838Col. David R. Murray, born March 17, 1790, died May 28, 1871, aged 81 years, 2 months and 11 days.

img_5837Dr. Charles Sebastian, born July 4, 1790, died January 19, 1849.

img_5858Elizabeth, wife of Dr. Charles Sebastian, born January 14, 1805, departed this life December 12, 1886.

img_5834Esther B., wife of William Allem(n), born March 20, 1799, died April 19, 1863.

img_5842Susan E. Kinzer, wife of P. V. Duncan, born November 18, 1821, died September 26, 1900.

img_5841P. V. Duncan, born August 16, 1820, died October 25, 1893.

img_5848B. L. Duncan, October 11, 1822 – October 11, 1888.

img_5847Maria K. Duncan, April 29, 1828 – April 13, 1920.

img_5851In memory of Laura H. Miller, born July 27, 1873, died August 27, 1873.

Samuel Montague Fassett – Chicago Photographer

Scan191 1This is a lovely example of an early 1860’s Civil War fashion.  The skirt is huge – with a high waist and very full at the waistline.  By the mid 1860’s the waist was a bit lower and not as full, the material slim at the waist, with the full material billowing down to the feet – or sometimes gored, with an A shape gore in the center, with a generous gore at either side, with a straight length pleated at the back, according to Joan Severa in Dressed for the Photographer.  The plain hairstyle is also indicative of the early years of the period.

This woman wears a hair band and several pieces of pretty jewelry – necklaces and a ring on her right hand.  Her bodice and sleeves are decorated with soutache braid, common for the period, and still used today.

The photo was taken by Samuel Montague Fassett, whose photography shop was located at 114 South Clark Street in Chicago.  Just a bit of research on Mr. Fassett gave some great information!  He was one of the early photographers of Chicago, who started their shops in the 1850’s and 1860’s.  Along with Edwin Brand, John Carbutt, Alexander Hesler, C. D. Mosher and others, Samuel gave the public the opportunity to have their portrait made into carte-de-visite’s at a reasonable price.  These early photographers also produced outdoor views of the city that were quite popular.

One very interesting note on Mr. Fassett – he took a photo of Abraham Lincoln on October 4, 1860, that was used in campaign posters.  In a more somber tone, he also took a photo of the hearse that contained Lincoln’s body as it made its way through the streets of Chicago in 1865.  This photo has no rights attached so I am including it for you.

Lincoln hPhotography has come a long way from those early years!

Austin Gollaher – Boyhood Friend of Abraham Lincoln

IMG_5262Lincoln’s Playmate – To the west, in Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, is the grave of Austin Gollaher, 1806-98.  Lincoln, while president, once said, “I would rather see (him) than any man living.”  They were schoolmates and playmates when the Lincoln family lived in this area, 1813 to 1816.  Gollaher is credited with rescuing Lincoln from flooded waters of Knob Creek.

Abraham Lincoln lived in the area of Knob Creek, just a few miles north of Hodgenville, Kentucky, while he was aged four to seven.  Austin Gollaher and his family lived close by – close enough that he and the future president went to school together and played together.  There is the claim by Austin Gollaher that he saved his friend from the swollen waters of Knob Creek when they were boys, he being three years older than Abraham Lincoln.  Whether this is true or not, the friendship remained in Lincoln’s memory and he even expressed his desire to see Gollaher, offering to pay for his friend to come to Washington, D.C.  Gollaher declined because of his fear of trains.  How much did Lincoln’s assassination affect his boyhood friend?  Evidently the memory of young playmates lasted a long time for them both.

Benjamin Austin Gollaher was born in 1806 in Georgia.  His parents were Thomas Gollaher and Judith Hines.  May 19, 1828, in Larue County, Kentucky, he married Mary Price, daughter of Thomas Price and Lydia Pearcey.

In the 1850 Census of Larue County Austin and Mary are both listed as 45, with the following children:  John Thomas, 21; E., 18F; M., 16F; C. E., 15F; James, 12; G. B., 7M; and M. S., 1F.  [I’ve only noticed this a couple of times, but why couldn’t they write out the full name!]

In 1860 only three children were living with the couple:  James, 21; G. B., 16M; and Mary, 11.

In 1870 Austin is 65, born in Georgia, his father in Pennsylvania, and his mother in Georgia.  Mary is 65, born in Kentucky, both her parents born in North Carolina.  Daughter Mary M., 24, and her husband Lawson Barnett, 35, are living with her parents – and the following Barnett children:  Mary E., 7; George, 3; James, 2; and Oscar, 1/12.

Many of the Gollaher and related families are buried in Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, from Hodgenville drive north on US31E, then turn on Hwy 84 towards Howardstown.  The cemetery is on 84 on the right.


Austin Gollaher, 1806-1898.  Mary, his wife, 1804-1873.  (Mary Price)


John T. Gollaher, born March 8, 1821, died February 19, 1900.  (Son of Austin and Mary Price Gollaher.)


Mary J., wife of J. T. Gollaher, June 11, 1839 – April 14, 1904.  (Mary Jane Barnett).


Laura Gollaher, born October 26, 1865, married to Jesse Lafollette, March 4, 1888, died July 26, 1910.  (Daughter of John Thomas Gollaher and Mary Jane Barnett; granddaughter of Austin Gollaher and Mary Price.)


Jesse Lafollette, June 16, 1861 – March 24, 1956.


Lawson A. Barnett, January 10, 1835 – October 22, 1907.  Mary M., his wife, December 22, 1840 – July 15, 1907.  (Mary is the daughter of Austin and Mary Gollaher.  Lawson could be a brother to Mary Jane Barnett that married Mary’s brother, John Thomas Gollaher.)


Pleasant Grove Baptist Church

Day One – Monday’s Genealogy Adventure

Finally, finally, the clouds parted and the sun shone – and we could get in a cemetery!  The last two days have been beautiful and Ritchey and I took advantage of the good weather!  In our continuing effort to take photos in cemeteries of all 120 Kentucky counties, Monday we headed out with a plan.  Three counties – Larue, Hart and Grayson – eight cemeteries.

In Larue County we stopped at Red Hill Cemetery in the county seat of Hodgenville – our Google Maps taking us first to the back of the cemetery where the gate was locked!  It didn’t take long to find the entrance to the cemetery – and a funeral procession was going in – first time there has ever been a service while we were in a cemetery.  However, we went to the old section which was far enough away not to disturb the burial.


In Memory of Thomas Brown, born January 1, 1798, died July 16, 1843.  Red Hill Cemetery, Hodgenville, Larue County, Kentucky.

Just north of Hodgenville on Hwy 31E and 84 is Pleasant Grove Baptist Cemetery.  For those not familiar with the area, this is where Abraham Lincoln was born.  His boyhood friend is buried in this cemetery – which will be another blog!


James H. Vittitoe, born October 27, 1867, died December 28, 1930.  ‘We will meet again.’  Ella Vittitoe, born December 13, 1871, died May 25, 1926.  ‘She was the sunshine of our being.’  Pleasant Grove Baptist Cemetery, Larue County, Kentucky.

Going back through Hodgenville, to go south into Hart County, we stopped at The Sweet Shop for ice cream.  We both had the Butter Pecan and Cashew – wonderful!  It was a joy to sit in the small, highly colorful shop and eat the perfect ice cream – and eye all the many flavors of fudge and other homemade candies that are offered.

Just across the county line into Hart County we stopped in the small town of Hammonsville, Hwy 357, and visited their city cemetery.


Nannie, wife of A. T. Tharp, born July 17, 1854, died January 9, 1876.  Hammonsville Cemetery, Hart County, Kentucky.

In the small town of Bonnieville we stopped for gas.  Bacon Creek Cafe was next door and we decided it was time for lunch!  This cafe is a great little hometown restaurant with yummy food!  They offered cherry cobbler for dessert – my absolute favorite – so we decided to share one.  The waitress brought us a huge bowl – and it rivaled my own!  So good.  Another little tidbit about the town of Bonnieville, during the Civil War John Hunt Morgan burned the bridge over Bacon Creek – twice!  In his geocaching Ritchey found a cache on the walkway across the bridge.  Genealogy and geocaching go hand in hand for us!

On Hwy 728 we happened upon a very small cemetery with only eight gravestones – most with the last name Hawkins.  But I share with you the following since it was the oldest of the group – only the date of birth was visible.


William Constant, born 1779, died, Hawkins Cemetery, Hart County, Kentucky.

A little further down 728 we visited Campground United Methodist Cemetery.

IMG_5358J. D. Duckworth, born May 19, 1844, died June 5, 1894.  ‘Meet me in heaven.’  Campground United Methodist Cemetery, Hart County, Kentucky.

On to the last county for the day – Grayson – west of Hart County.  Our first stop was at Hanging Rock Baptist Cemetery – so named for the huge rock overhang near the river.  This was our ‘small road’ cemetery of the day – off Hwy 259 north of Leitchfield, then Hanging Rock Church Road – the cemetery and church were at the end, about three miles if I remember.  A beautiful little church and cemetery.

IMG_5408Rev. H. B. White, June 3, 1843 – July 25, 1914.  Nancy E., his wife, July 31, 1846 – November 28, 1904.  Hanging Rock Baptist Cemetery, Grayson County, Kentucky.

A little further west in Grayson County is another small town, Caneyville, off US62, and we stopped at the city cemetery there.

IMG_5485Mary A., wife of Thurman Gonder, born May 15, 1888, died January 17, 1906.  Caneyville Cemetery, Caneyville, Grayson County, Kentucky.

Our last stop was at Fairview Cemetery in Leitchfield, Grayson County, on the way home, also on US62.  The actual reason for stopping was a geocache – but I never past up an opportunity for another cemetery photo!

IMG_5522George Wilbur Duvall, M.D., September 28, 1880 – May 1, 1942.  Essie Jones Duvall, September 18, 1889 – December 13, 1972.  Fairview Cemetery, Leitchfield, Grayson County, Kentucky.

A two hour drive and we were home!  Such a pleasant and productive day.  Tomorrow – day 2!

Fort Harrod and Its Pioneer Graveyard


Reproduction of Fort Harrod

I feel very fortunate to live in a small Kentucky town known as the “Birthplace of the West”.  Harrodsburg was the only colonial city, and first permanent settlement, west of the Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains.  Broadway Street has the distinction of being the oldest street west of those mountains.  It was settled in 1774 by James Harrod of Pennsylvania.  The fort was originally to be built much closer to what is now the small town of Burgin, but the huge number of bison that consistently ran through that area, made it impossible.

Harrodsburg was first the county seat of Fincastle County, Virginia, then Kentucky County, Virginia.  When Kentucky County was divided in three counties, Fayette, Jefferson and Lincoln, Harrodsburg continued to the be county seat of Lincoln.  In 1785 Mercer County was formed and retained Harrodsburg as the county seat.  Stanford became the new county seat for Lincoln.


Osage Orange Tree

Fort Harrod is now a reproduction that draws many visitors each year.  It has been a popular field trip for students from the far reaches of the state – and out of state – and even our own children make their way there at least once during their years of education.  And most take their pictures lined on the huge, sprawling limbs of the Osage Orange Tree.

My mother was a reenactor one year at the fort, sitting in one of the cabins weaving baskets, in her colonial costume, and sometimes making lye soap over an open fire!  She could certainly tell some stories!  In fact, the gift shop sold out of lye soap the days mom was there!


Pioneer Graveyard at Fort Harrod


The McAfee Memorial Stile, honoring The McAfee Pioneers, James McAfee, Jr., 1736-1811; George McAfee, 1740-1803; Robert McAfee, 1745-1795; Samuel McAfee, 1748-1801; William McAfee, 1750-1780, sons of James McAfee, Sr., and Jane McMichael McAfee.  The McAfee brothers came to Kentucky in 1773 and were the original founders of the Salt River settlement.  Several of the brothers were with George Rogers Clark on memorable expeditions.  They were in the vanguard of those civilizing agencies, which were to redeem the wilderness and make it a fruitful field and the home of a Christian people.  They brought with them not only the axe, the hunting knife and the rifle, but the implements of peaceful and beneficent industry and above the bible respect for law and order and reverence for the Sabbath Day.  They established a community in 1779 where the town of McAfee stands.  A posterity rises up and calls them blessed.  June 16, 1929.


Pioneer Graveyard – This graveyard was just south of Fort Harrod.  The original fort was located on the hill where our present day parking lot is.  Over 480 grave stones still remain in this pioneer graveyard.


This historic cemetery was used from 1775 when the fort was built, until about 1833.  Most of the graves up to 1800 are only marked by rough unlettered stones.  The different grave markings clearly define the progress of civilization at the date of burial, and the materials to be had at the time.


Ann McGinty

Noted pioneer woman Ann McGinty lies buried here.  She brought the first spinning wheel to Kentucky.  She died in 1815.  A Revolutionary Patriot symbol was placed on here stone by the Ann Poage Chapter of the D. A. R.


This is said to be the grave of Thomas Jefferson Head, a son of Jesse Head, the pioneer preacher who united the parents of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, in 1806.  Thomas Jefferson Head died in 1823.


An Unknown Grave


Jane, born August 14, 1810

James Harrod, who lead the first pioneers to Harrodsburg, is not buried in this cemetery.  He failed to return from one of his frequent hunting expeditions and his fate was never known.


Thank you for visiting Harrodsburg with me today!  Hopefully one day you can see it in person!