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Mentor Graham of New Salem
03-08-2018, 05:56 PM
Post: #1
Mentor Graham of New Salem
Here's an article I did last year on Mentor Graham, Lincoln's so-called teacher from his New Salem days.

By Tom Emery

Mentor Graham is popularly known as the teacher of Abraham Lincoln through the New Salem years. But their relationship was much more complex than simply that of teacher and student.

In later years, Graham became an adversary of Lincoln on the legal circuit, and voted against his former student in the 1846 Congressional race. He was also the cousin of one of Lincoln’s past love interests, who urged Graham to vote against his former pupil in the 1864 Presidential race.

William Mentor Graham was born in 1800 and raised in Green County, Ky. He was educated in Hardin County, which today is just north of Hodgenville, the birthplace of the sixteenth President. Hodgenville is now part of Larue County, which was cut from parts of Hardin.

In a letter to William Herndon, Lincoln’s third law partner and controversial biographer, on July 15, 1865, Graham claimed to have seen Lincoln and his father, Thomas, working in the fields near Hodgenville. The future President would have been just a small boy, as the family moved to Indiana in 1816, when Lincoln was seven. Graham, though, added that he did not speak with the Lincolns.

In 1826, Graham moved to Illinois and settled a mile west of New Salem, where he became the local teacher. In a May 29, 1865 letter to Herndon, Graham wrote that Lincoln, then 24, lived with him for sixth months beginning in February 1833. Graham asserted that he taught Lincoln “the rules of surveying.”

Since there were no grammar books in New Salem, Graham sent Lincoln to obtain a copy of Samuel Kirkham’s English Rules of Grammar, a top handbook of the time, from a man six miles away.

Graham later proudly claimed “I think I may say that he was my scholar and I was his teacher.” He also wrote that “no one ever surpassed (Lincoln) in rapidly, quickly, and well acquiring the rudiments and rules of English grammar.”

However, Graham’s recollections are viewed as suspect by some Lincoln scholars, and others believe Graham may have exaggerated his relationship with the future President. In his 1982 Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia, Mark Neely writes that “Graham’s statements, made over 30 years after the events, are riddled with errors.”

Neely, though, adds that “Lincoln did study grammar and surveying about the time Graham mentioned” and that Lincoln “may well have sought and obtained” Graham’s help.

Graham is credited with helping Lincoln write his platform for his first run for a seat in the Illinois House in 1832. In the platform, printed in the Sangamo Journal on March 15, 1832, Lincoln pledged to improve navigation on the Sangamon River while supporting usury laws and universal education.

It proved of little help, as Lincoln ran eighth in a field of thirteen in voting that August, though he did collect 277 of 300 votes cast in the New Salem precinct. Four men were elected, including Lincoln’s future law partner, John Todd Stuart, who ran second, and the Rev. Peter Cartwright. Lincoln rebounded in 1834, winning the first of four straight terms in the legislature.

Lincoln and Graham also served as local clerks for at least two elections, for Sangamon County sheriff in May 1834 and for Congressional representative that October.

In the 1840s, however, the relationship of Lincoln and Graham took some unusual turns. While riding the legal circuit, Lincoln argued cases in Menard County, and went against Graham on at least two occasions.

In at least one case, Lincoln resorted to harsh, if necessary, measures. On Nov. 8, 1841, Lincoln requested that the court issue an attachment for Graham for contempt for failing to appear as a witness.

On Nov. 4, 1845, Lincoln represented Nancy Green as plaintiff against Graham in an unpaid debt. Graham admitted to the debt, which amounted to $112.23, including a note and interest.

The two men also veered politically, as Graham, a Democrat, voted for James K. Polk in the 1844 Presidential election. Two years later, Graham voted for Lincoln’s opponent, Cartwright, in the 1846 Congressional race. Lincoln, however, prevailed in the election.

But Graham was a staunch Unionist through the Civil War, a position not shared by family members. One was his cousin, Mary Owens Vineyard, with whom Lincoln was romantically involved for several months in 1836-37. Vineyard later lived in Weston, Mo. and saw at least two of her sons join the Confederacy.

In later recollections, Graham remembered that Vineyard said she would “never…call me cousin again” if he voted for Lincoln in the 1864 Presidential re-election. Unswayed, Graham still voted for Lincoln.

Graham may have taught Vineyard in her early years in Kentucky, and is believed to have been a teacher to Ann Rutledge, the legendary, if unproven, love interest of Lincoln.

He taught in an array of rural schools in Illinois until 1879 before moving to Blunt, in central South Dakota, in 1883. Graham died there in 1886.

Today, Graham’s burial site adjacent to Illinois Route 97 south of Petersburg is commemorated by an Illinois State Historical Society marker, while his home in Blunt is also a historical attraction.
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03-08-2018, 08:09 PM
Post: #2
RE: Mentor Graham of New Salem
(03-08-2018 05:56 PM)Tom Emery Wrote:  Today, Graham’s burial site adjacent to Illinois Route 97 south of Petersburg is commemorated by an Illinois State Historical Society marker, while his home in Blunt is also a historical attraction.

Nice article Tom

Mentor Graham's grave site is just one of the places we will visit on this years Springfield Tour. We visit many sites to pay our respects to the people who were involved in Lincoln's life. Come join us and learn about Mentor Graham, and others that played an important part in shaping Lincoln's character.

see post #344 by Joe Di Cola

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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