Mark J. Price
This story was originally pubished Feb. 14, 1999.
The train stopped for only three minutes in Hudson, but that was long enough to produce memories that lasted a lifetime.
About 5,000 people crowded the depot on Feb. 15, 1861, to catch a glimpse of president-elect Abraham Lincoln, who was on his way from Pittsburgh to Cleveland to make a pre-inaugural speech.
Lincoln, who had celebrated his 52nd birthday three days earlier, seemed to be impressed with the warm welcome.
"Mr. Lincoln stepped upon the platform of the rear car, and bowed gracefully to the assembled multitude, who greeted him with tumultuous applause," the Summit County Beacon reported.
When the roar subsided, Lincoln spoke: "Ladies and gentlemen, I stepped upon the platform to see you, and to give you an opportunity of seeing me, which I suppose you desire to do. You see by my voice that I am quite hoarse. You will not, therefore, expect a speech from me."
No sooner were those words spoken than the train pulled away, whisking the president-elect to Cleveland.
Lincoln's visit was brief, but its impact was lasting.
"It was one of the high spots in my life," Akron resident Henry Feuchter told the Akron-Times Press more than 70 years later. Feuchter was 5 years old when he saw Lincoln in Hudson.
"I shall never forget how and when he stepped out on the car platform and lifted his hand," Feuchter said. "It was the biggest hand I ever saw."
Ada Thompson sat atop her father's shoulders to get an unobstructed view of Lincoln. "I can recall him distinctly," she said seven decades later. "He didn't wear his hat, nor did he carry it with him. . . ."
An Akron octogenarian named Charles H. Ammon boasted in 1932 how he sold a newspaper to Lincoln upon the president-elect's arrival in Cleveland: " 'Won't you buy a paper?' I asked him. 'Yes, I will,' he said. Then he patted me on the head, saying I might be president myself some day."
Less than two months after Lincoln's visit to Ohio and a month after the presidential inauguration, Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter, S.C., igniting the Civil War.
Many other local residents crossed paths with Lincoln, but under far different circumstances than a fleeting glimpse at a train station.
Akron resident Christopher Parsons Wolcott, the brother-in-law of War Secretary Edwin M. Stanton, served as assistant secretary of war. Akron resident William T. Coggeshall was Lincoln's friend and personal messenger and once served as the president's bodyguard.
Union Army soldier Charles Sherbondy of Akron was on guard duty in Virginia when Lincoln arrived to inspect the troops. "I didn't know him then and thought he might be a spy," Sherbondy later told the Times-Press. "But I was doing my duty and pointing my gun at him, commanded him to halt and give the counter sign."
The president identified himself and the situation was resolved, but the loaded weapon was a harbinger of tragedy to come.
Thomas J. Brennan of Akron was present at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865, when John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln.
"I was there that night," Brennan later recalled. "All at once, Booth, the actor, pointed a gun and shot Abraham. Then Booth leaped from the stage and got away. I saw them carry Lincoln out. That was how I saw Lincoln."
Abraham Lincoln, 56, the 16th president of the United States, died the next morning from the gunshot wound to the head.
The funeral train that carried Lincoln's body stopped in Cleveland on its mournful 1,600-mile journey from Washington to Springfield, Ill.
In Northeast Ohio, the Lincoln presidency ended as it began.
Thousands crowded the Cleveland train station to say farewell to the slain leader -- just as thousands had gathered four years earlier in Hudson to welcome the promising new president.