The purpose of this page is to further the argument that the Paynes were friends and acquaintances of Abraham Lincoln before and after he became President of the United States and also to further the veracity of Permelia's claim of having danced with Lincoln.
Lets begin with the facts as we know them.
1. Abraham Lincoln was a frequent visitor to Danville, Illinois starting as early as 1841 when he acted as a circuit lawyer to that town and to the town of Urbana to the west. He would have had to stay in the area for prolonged periods of time to take care of his business. We know that he had an established office in Danville with a partner.
We know that he represents his friend, Dr. William Fithian, in a law suit as early as 1841. If you are interested in reading about the History of Danville and its association with Abraham Lincoln, there is a wonderful web site called The Lincoln Log which is sponsored by the Illinois Historical Preservation Agency and the Abraham Lincoln- Presidential Library. I became aware of this website from Donna Meszaros. She is the Malcom family's most respected and recognized genealogist and historian. Just copy the website address below into your internet search engine and enter the word Danville and the year 1841 and 1864. Up will pop more than a hundred documented entries of Lincoln activities in Danville. You will also find that there are records of purchases made by Mary Lincoln of common household items. This shows that Mary often accompanied him there and that they must have had some sort of residence there, either a second home or a rental.
Shown below is a copy from the Lincoln Log web site record of Lincoln's first encounter with Morgan Lewis Payne. You will be able to find the real entry on that web site and be able to navigate into the more complete documents. This was an ongoing case for Lincoln and for Capt. Payne.
Lincoln attends court to watch the proceedings in the case of Frazier and Frazir v. Payne and Alexander. In the debt case of Fithian v. Walker, Lincoln represents plaintiff William Fithian. Lincoln and defendant Isaac P. Walker reach an agreement and file it with the court. The agreement requires Walker to pay Fithian $100 and the court costs but allows Walker six months to pay the remainder of his debt to Fithian. Neither Lincoln nor his client Ambrose D. Vanmeter appear when the court calls the case of Cast v. Vanmeter. The court rules in favor of the plaintiff and orders Vanmeter to pay the debt of $804, the court costs, and $87.10 in damages. H. W. Beckwith, History of Vermilion County (Chicago: H. H. Hill, 1879; reprint, Evansville, IN: Unigraphic, 1975), 614-15; Judgment, 20 May 1842, Fithian v. Walker, Circuit Court Record B, 355-56; Order, 20 May 1842, Cast v. Vanmeter, Circuit Court Record B, 357, both in Vermilion County Circuit Court, Vermilion County Courthouse, Danville, IL.
2. We know that Danville was "founded" on April 10, 1827 by the definition that the first lots were sold on that date. The population of Danville in the year 1860 was only 1,632 counted persons. That means that in the 1840s it was probably smaller, maybe even less than 1000 persons. It is reasonable to assert that the people who lived in Danville during the events from 1840 through 1860 and the civil War were probably at least acquainted with each other or had knowledge of many of their neighbor's lives. Lincoln and the Paynes had many common acquaintances and probably dealt with each other on community business and legal occasions. They also probably ran in the same social circles. Please look back at all the times that I have recorded on other pages where Payne family members are recorded in history as very active in the community and were public spirited people. Among the "movers and shakers", so to speak. There is also a Payne Street in Danville, a short street, shown on a city map sent to my Uncle Vincent Malcom in November of 1978 by the Danville Chamber of Commerce. The street is located running north off North Street between Pine and Franklin Streets. This street still exists in 2008.
3. By all accounts of Lincoln's life he was known as a friendly and sociable person who enjoyed chatting with people and swapping "yarns" and jokes. He also was known to enjoy the company of the ladies. (This is not to insinuate that dalliances were had but only to confirm that he "admired" the ladies.) Permelia's brother Wad, when he came to visit her in Iowa, told her grandson, Donald Malcom, "Abe would come down to the local bar for a drink and a free bite to eat each morning. He loved to visit with the townsfolk." This is in character with other person's accounts of Lincoln's friendly affability. Permelia claimed to one Nebraska newspaper reporter that as a child of 4 or 5 she sat on Lincoln's lap. This is not too far a stretch to believe as Permelia was born in 1843.
4. Please read the 1858 Danville Newspaper account of Lincoln's triumphant campaign visit to Danville while vying with Stephen Douglass for the seat of US Senator from Illinois. Lincoln, while loved and revered in Danville, does not win this election. (Danville newspaper article written in September 1858.)
Then compare the newspaper version to Permelia's story as related to the Sioux City Journal in an 1928 article written after an interview. At this time in her life she is living with her son Charles Alonzo Malcom in Decatur, Nebraska. Her husband Joseph died in 1914 and as was the custom of the day, she lived at times with all her children and their spouses. This article was reprinted in the Spencer, Nebraska newspaper in 1982 and was submitted to that newspaper by her son, Charles Malcom. (See note at the end of the article) I think, after reading and studying both articles, you will find many similarities, at least enough to say that perhaps her story is a true one.
5. The following is a copy of an email I received from Donna Meszaros on November, 18, 2007. She has spent years researching the Malcoms and does not easily commit herself to speculation nor is she given to wild guesses. She has supported and helped me in many ways for which I thank her. I always look to her for guidance.
I think it is entirely possible that Lincoln knew the Payne family, including John. As a lawyer, he was in Danville many times to try cases, beginning in the 1840s. In 1842, he watched the proceedings when a man named Frazier sued Permelia's uncle, Morgan Payne. Later, when he was President, he is supposed to have restored Morgan to his Civil War company after he was mustered out for not getting back on time from a furlough. This is described in The History of Vermilion County, Illinois. There is a web site called The Lincoln Log http://www.thelincolnlog.org/view where they have tracked Lincoln's movements throughout his life. If you use the search term Danville, you will come up with numerous instances when he was there. Only two match up in any way with Permelia's stories: September 1858, when he and Douglass spoke in Danville, and February 1861, when he addressed the crowd from his train on the way from Springfield to Washington. There is no instance of him ever being in Evansville, Indiana.
I'd say it's pretty likely Permelia at least saw Lincoln when he was in Danville in 1858 and 1861. That would have been a big deal to the people of that area. She may have known or met Stephen Douglass, too. Her aunt Delilah was married to Douglass's cousin. By the time she was in her nineties, her memories probably started to get confused. The courthouse in Springfield probably got mixed up with the White House in Washington. Maybe she and her father did go to Evansville at one time. Her kids gave the information for her obituary, so they are probably the ones who said she was Lincoln's neighbor. If he was trying cases in Danville, he had to have someplace to stay while he was there, like a boarding house, so in a sense they were neighbors. The Lincoln Log shows that Mrs. Lincoln was there sometimes, too, and bought things in the stores.
I would like to add these two pieces of information. While Lincoln was elected as the next US President in November of 1860, he did not travel to Washington until February of 1861. He spent most of the interim time in Springfield where the events listed on the Lincoln Log show he received many guests and well wishers there who helped support his campaign. Maybe John Payne and his daughter Permelia were among the many guests and visitors. When his train stopped at Danville, on February 11, 1861, it was for the specific purpose of thanking his friends and supporters from that community. On February 12, 1861, the New York Herald reported that, "Mr. Lincoln again stepped out, and addressing himself to the enthusiastic gathering, remarked, that if he had any blessings to dispense, he would certainly dispense the largest and roundest to his good old friends of Vermilion County. "
There is much more to be learned about Permelia and what happened to her when she left Danville with two children in tow and faced a new life in the western plains of Nebraska. Please go to the Malcom pages on this web site to learn further. At this time (March 2009) I have begun to construct the Malcom pages of this website but have a long ways to go before the Malcoms are "finished", so check back later.