Monday, September 12, 2011

my connection to Abraham Lincoln

My great-great-great-great-grandparents Reuben and Betsy Merriman were born and raised in Connecticut.  They married in 1812, and immediately moved out west, settling in Kentucky.  They remained in Kentucky for 17 years and in 1829, moved to Sangamon County, Illinois, where they remained.  Years later, some family members stated that the move to Illinois was because they did not approve of slavery which was legal at the time in Kentucky.

This story of the Merriman family is similar to Abraham Lincoln's family story.  Abraham was born and raised in the state of Kentucky and in 1816, moved north to the non-slave state of Indiana.  The Lincoln family's decision to move was partially because of their objections to slavery.  Eventually, in 1836, Abraham Lincoln moved to what is now Sangamon County, Illinois (where the Merrimans lived), to practice law. 

My great-great-great-grandfather
William Merriman, who was 16 years old
when his parents died. 
In February 1842, Reuben and Betsy Merriman died within a day of each of from winter fever (pneumonia).  They left a large estate of 830 acres and no will to properly divide their assets.  Also left were seven children to mourn their loss: Lucinda (aged 29), Lavinia (24), George (23), John (20), my great-great-great-grandfather William (16), and twins Francis and Robert (11). 

In June 1842, the older children filed a lawsuit in Sangamon County Circuit Court to equitably divide the estate.  The case was titled Merriman et al vs. Merriman et al, as it was the adult children (Lucinda, Lavinia and George) jointly suing their minor brothers (John, William, Francis and Robert).  The lawyers hired to represent the family's case were none other than Abraham Lincoln and his partner Stephen Logan.  Eventually, all of the family's real estate holdings were ordered sold and the proceeds equitably divided between the children (although the oldest son George did purchase 360 acres from the estate).  The four minor children were also placed under legal guardianships until they attained majority.

Years later, Reuben and Betsy's oldest son George Merriman had become a wealthy and successful farmer, who had a professional presence in the county seat (and state capital) of Springfield, where Lincoln lived and worked. George "had the honor of Abraham Lincoln's friendship."

My great-great-great-grandmother Artinecia Riddle also lived in Sangamon County, Illinois between 1836 until 1851.  Years later, her son said that she was a "personal acquaintance" of Abraham Lincoln during those years and "she recalled memories of the homely barrister who later became one of America's greatest presidents and one of the outstanding human characters in all history."
My descent from Reuben and Betsy Merriman:

Reuben Merriman married Betsy Bennett
- William H. Merriman married Artinecia Riddle
-- George F. Merriman married Mary E. Murray
--- Vera V. Merriman married Benjamin H. Plymale
---- Ben T. Plymale married Patricia J. Bixby
----- Barbara Plymale married Randy Wadleigh
------ Ryan Wadleigh

1. Merriman et al v. Merriman et al (June 29, 1842), B, 328-329, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, University of Illinois at Springfield.
2. Portrait and Biographical Album of Sangamon County, Illinois. Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1891.
3. Newspaper Article, The Picket-Journal [Red Lodge, MT], Dec. 21, 1933

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