By Debby Woodin
PITTSBURG, Kan. — An alumna of Pittsburg State University who is a historical researcher will unveil the contents of a recently discovered letter written to Abraham Lincoln by his “little correspondent” next week.
The second letter to Lincoln from Grace Bedell, the girl who encouraged Lincoln to grow a beard in 1860 before his election as president, will be revealed in a ceremony at 11 a.m. Monday at PSU.
The alumna is Karen Needles, of Washington, D.C. She has been working for six years as a researcher for the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. She also operates an online service for locating historical documents at www.documentsonwheels.com.
Bedell became known as “Lincoln’s little correspondent” when, at age 11, she wrote to the presidential candidate.
“She wrote a letter in 1860 saying he would look more statesmanlike if he wore a beard,” said John Lupton, associate director for the papers of Lincoln at the Lincoln Presidential Library.
At first, Lincoln didn’t take to the idea. He wrote back to the girl and told her it might be regarded as “silly” for him to grow whiskers after not having had them for many years.
But, by the time Lincoln took a train to Washington, D.C., to be sworn into office only a few months after receiving her letter, he sported a full beard.
During that trip to the capital, Lincoln stopped in Bedell’s hometown in upstate New York, near Buffalo. He asked for the girl who wrote the letter to step forward from a crowd of well-wishers at the train stop, and he hugged her, Lupton said.
That part of the story was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie in 1953 and is a topic in some books. But, it was not the last time Lincoln heard from the girl.
Lupton said Needles found another letter from Bedell to Lincoln written about four years later, in 1864, that has been stored in the National Archives. The contents of that letter, discovered in March, have not been made public, but Lupton said the writing has to do with the girl searching for a job and hoping Lincoln can arrange to put her to work in the U.S. Treasury.
The researchers found no evidence that Lincoln replied to Bedell, and no Treasury Department employment records were found for her. A third letter from Bedell asking Lincoln why he didn’t reply also was found, Lupton said.
But, at that time, Lincoln was steeped in duty and worry with the Civil War.
The girl wasn’t of legal age for hiring, Lupton said, though she may have been trying to earn money for her family.
Bedell eventually married and, as an adult, moved to Kansas with her husband, George Billings, who served as a sergeant in the Civil War. They moved to Delphos, Kan., where she died in 1936 at age 87.
Needles is traveling this week in Kansas, in part to visit Delphos, where the house that Grace Bedell Billings shared with her husband is now for sale. Needles will return to Pittsburg later this week for Monday’s ceremony, said Cassie Mathes, assistant director of public relations at PSU.
More on the letters exchanged between Grace Bedell and Abraham Lincoln over her suggestion that he grow a beard, including the second letter that is to be part of the PSU ceremony, can be found online at www.lincolnarchives.us/content/features/grace_home.htm.
By Debby Woodin
- Local News
MSSU board meets today in open session
The Board of Governors executive committee at Missouri Southern State University will meet at 2:30 p.m. today.
Missouri man accused of exploiting teen in Georgia
A Vernon County man is being held on charges that he talked a 16-year-old girl from Georgia into sending him pornographic images of herself and solicited men to have sex with her. Curt L. Bowman, 42, was arrested Friday at his home near Nevada based on information developed by investigators with the Cobb County Police Department in the Atlanta area.
Joplin assistant superintendent position to go unfilled
The recently vacated assistant superintendent position with the Joplin School District will not be filled. That decision is natural now that the district is returning to a more normal operating state nearly three years after the May 2011 tornado damaged or destroyed 10 of its buildings, Superintendent C.J. Huff told the Globe when asked for an update on the vacancy.
Former agency employee pleads guilty in tornado fraud case
A former employee of the Economic Security Corp. in Joplin pleaded guilty Monday to defrauding a disaster relief program that assisted victims of the 2011 tornado. Herlana L. Latham, 32, a former resident of Joplin now living in Memphis, Tenn., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Springfield to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Long, cold winter could prompt more disconnects this spring
Vett Spain, of Joplin, uses both electricity and natural gas to heat her home during the winter. During extremely cold winter months — and this winter has been among the coldest for the area — it can cost her almost $500 a month to heat her home.
Mike Pound: Watoto Church brings mission, music to area
What began as a small mission church in Uganda has become home to thousands of children orphaned and women widowed by years of conflict in the African nation. Watoto Church was founded in 1980 in Uganda by Gary and Marilyn Skinner.
New library to be built separate from movie theater
The new Joplin Public Library will be constructed separately from a new movie theater at 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue, the Joplin City Council was told Monday night. Plans had called for the movie theater to be built as a second-floor addition to the library, but interim City Manager Sam Anselm made the announcement of the change at a special meeting of the council.
Carthage board member arrested on DWI charge
Mark Westhoff, a member of the Carthage School Board, was arrested early Sunday in Newton County on a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Westhoff, 56, of Carthage, also has been charged with failing to yield to an emergency vehicle displaying red lights and siren, and failing to drive on the right half of the roadway.
Joplin Memorial Run to hold new event
A new event, the “Walk of Silence,” will be held this year in conjunction with the Joplin Memorial Run. Run organizers also will give out newly designed medals and T-shirts, announced Audie Dennis, chairman of Active Lifestyle Events Inc., the organization that annually stages what has become a run to remember the 161 people who died as a result of the 2011 tornado and to help rebuild Joplin.
Carl Junction Chamber to manage annual bluegrass festival
After 17 years, Carl Junction’s annual bluegrass festival is changing.
- More Local News Headlines
- MSSU board meets today in open session