Abraham Lincoln, mystery writer

August 24, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism, writers, writing.

One of the things we know about Abraham Lincoln is that he could tell a good story. He was famous for that. But could he write one?

He tried that once, and what he wrote was interesting, if not completely compelling.

Before he was elected president in 1860, Lincoln was a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, and he handled many cases involving a wide variety of people, situations, and legal controversies. He was also a reader and known to admire Edgar Allan Poe, often thought of as the inventor of the modern detective story.

So, during his 20-plus-year legal career, Lincoln would have inevitably been involved in situations that would have lent themselves to an interesting mysterious narrative. Why not write that up? Lawyers did that all the time back then, and it was often good for business.

In 1841, Lincoln defended William, Henry, and Archibald Trailor. Early in the story, Lincoln tells us:

“In the neighborhood of William’s residence, there was, and had been for several years, a man by the name of Fisher, who was somewhat above the age of fifty; had no family, and no settled home; but who boarded and lodged a while here and a while there, with the persons for whom he did little jobs of work. His habits were remarkably economical, so that an impression got about that he had accumulated a considerable amount of money.

“In the latter part of May in the year mentioned, William formed the purpose of visiting his brothers at Clary’s Grove, and Springfield; and Fisher, at the time having his temporary residence at his house, resolved to accompany him. They set out together in a buggy with a single horse. On Sunday Evening they reached Henry’s residence, and staid over night.”

You can read the rest of the story in this article in the Smithsonian Magazine. It takes only a few minutes, but it might provide a new insight into our most revered president.

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