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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Vineyard, Benjamin R. 'Benjamin R. Vineyard to Jesse W. Weik' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon609.html


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504. Benjamin R. Vineyard to Jesse W. Weik.

St. Joseph, Mo., March 14 — 1887

Dear Sir,

I have just returned from My sisters near Weston and gotten from her to send you the ambrotype of my Mother taken Many years before the photograph a copy of which I sent you. The photograph was taken when she was about sixty-five, — the ambrotype was taken perhaps twenty-five or thirty years earlier. I had forgotten that this old picture existed, until seeing my sister it was brought to my recollection. We do not know the date when the ambrotype was taken but think it was probably taken when she was about the age of thirty-five. I run the risk of sending you this ambrotype of my Mother by this day's express. Please let me know as soon as you get it, and return it to me as soon as through using it. By taking in a reprint the face and bust only for the benefit of your readers I am sure that it will be much more satisfactory than the photograph I sent you before. [1] I send you also inclosed the original letter of Mr. Lincoln to my mother dated August 16th, 1837, which I got from my sister. Please take the best of care of it, and return to me by Mail just as soon as you can get through using it. You see I am trusting you (a stranger) considerably. I trust my confidence will not be misplaced.

I have written (also inclosed) a short account of my Mother and Mr. Lincoln's courtship of her. I do not wish it published over my signature, but send it to you as my idea of what is probably true, that it may serve you as the basis of what you may wish to write on the subject.

Please acknowledge receipt of this, as soon as it reaches you.

I received your last with contents as stated.

Yours truly,
B. R. Vineyard.

Mary S. Owens, daughter of Nathaniel Owens, was born in Green County Kentucky, on the 29th day of September, 1808. She was married to Jesse Vineyard on the 27th day of March, 1841. Of this union there were born five children

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of whom only two survive. Jesse Vineyard died December 27th, 1862, and Mary, his widow, on July 4th, 1877.

Mary received a good education, her father being a leading and wealthy citizen of his time and locality. A part of her schooling was obtained in a Catholic Convent, though in religious faith she was a Baptist — , and in after years united with that denomination, and continued a Member thereof until the time of her death. She was good looking when a girl, by many esteemed handsome, but growing fleshier as she grew older. She was polished in her Manners, pleasing in her address and attractive in society. She had a little dash of coquetry in her intercourse with that class of young men, who arrogated to themselves claims of superiority. But she never yielded to this disposition to an extent that would willingly lend encouragement to an honest suitor, sincerely desirous of securing her hand, where she felt she could not in the end yield to a proposal of marriage if he should make the offer. She was a good conversationalist and a splendid reader, but very few persons being found to equal her in this accomplishment. She was light-hearted and cheery in her disposition. She was kind and considerate for those, with whom she was thrown in contact.

She first became acquainted with Mr. Lincoln while visiting a sister of hers who had married Bennett Able, and who was an early settler of the Country about New Salem. Young Lincoln was a frequent visitor at the house of Able and a warm friend of the family, and during the first visit of Mary Owens, which did not continue a great while, he learned to admire her very much. Later she made a second visit to her sister, Mrs Able, returning with her from Kentucky. Lincoln had boasted, so it has been said, that he would marry Miss Owens if she came a second time to Illinois, a report of which had come to her hearing. She left her Kentucky home with a predetermination to show him, if she met him, that she was not to be caught simply by the asking. On this second visit Lincoln paid her more marked attention than ever before, and his affections became more and more enlisted in her behalf. During the early part of their acquaintance following the natural bent of her temperament, she was pleasing and entertaining to him. Later on he discovered himself seriously interested in the blue-eyed Kentuckian, whom he had really underestimated in his preconceived opinions of her. In the mean time, Mary, too, had discovered the sterling qualities of the young man who was paying her such devoted attention. But while she admired, she did not love him. He was ungainly and angular in his physical make-up, and to her seemed deficient in the nicer and more delicate attentions, which she felt to be due from the man whom she had pictured as an ideal husband. He had given her to understand that she had greatly charmed him. But he was not himself certain that he Could make her the husband he thought she would be most happy with. Later on, by word and in letter he told her so. [2] His honesty of purpose showed itself in all his efforts to win her hand. He told her of his poverty and while advising her that life with him meant

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to her, who had been reared in comfort and plenty, great privation and sacrifice, yet he wished to secure her as a wife. But she felt that she did not entertain for him the same feeling that he professed for her, and that she ought to entertain before accepting him, and so declined his offer. Judging alone from some of his letters it has been supposed by some that she, remembering the rumor she had heard of his determination to marry her, and not being fully certain of the sincerity of his purposes, may have purposely left him, in the earlier stages of his courtship somewhat in uncertainty. But later on, when, by his manner and his repeated announcement to her that his hand and heart were at her disposal, he demonstrated the honesty and sincerity of his purposes, she declined his offer kindly but with no uncertain meaning. In speaking of him in after years she always referred to him as a man with a heart full of human kindness and a head full of Common sense.

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 4604 — 10

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Vineyard, Benjamin R. 'Benjamin R. Vineyard to Jesse W. Weik' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon609.html
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