“Lowell Reaction to Lincoln Assassination” by Jim Peters

On this 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Jim Peters writes about the reaction in Lowell, especially in the city’s churches:

    Privates Ladd and Whitney were supposed to be memorialized on April 19, 1865, but instead sixty clergymen from across the country, took part in the President’s funeral.  This was completed on the nineteenth of April, 1865.  In Lowell, many people found solace and comfort in the words of their ministers, priests, and pastors.  It happened in this way:
    Many stores closed for the day.  The opening prayer was offered by Bishop Simpson.
    At Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church, attendance was very good.  Dr. Edson presided.
    The First Congregational Church was led in prayer by Mr. Reverend Webber, the pastor.  He took the time to say a few words about Mr. Lincoln, and the tremendous loss that brought many to his parish that day.
    At St Paul’s Methodist Church every pew was occupied and “aisles being filled of people standing.” {ibid.
The Reverend Mr. Upham presided.
     At the First Universalist Church, Mr. Twiss presided.  He noted later that there was “Fervent and impressive prayer.”
    At the Worthen Street Baptist Church there was a good sized crowd and the Reverend Mr. Warren gave a very good sermon, parishioners told the Courier.
     In an interesting twist of fate, the John Street Church saw a Deacon, Mr. Asa Wetherbee, give a sermon that included his duties sixty-five years earlier at the death of President Washington.  As a young Deacon, Mr. Wetherbee had delivered the sermon for George Washington.  Now is his eighties, he gave the sermon at the death of President Lincoln.
    The High Street Church was in full attendance and the funeral service was delivered by the Reverend Mr. Street.
    The Kirk Street Church was “filled with a somber audience,” according to Reverend Dr. Blanchard.
    At the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, the Reverend A. McKeown reported to the newspaper that “there was a full house.”
    St. John’s Episcopal Church saw the Reverend B. Smith as Rector.  He reported a full Sunday-like attendance.
    St. Peter’s Catholic Church offered a solemn Funeral High Mass and draped the church in black.  The Pastor was the Right Reverend Father Romano.
    Worthen Street Methodist Church was administered by the Reverend Mr. Reed.
    There were no pastors available at the First Baptist and Appleton Street Churches.  The parishioners wanting to pray were sent to other churches.
    There is no record of the actions or efforts of the Pastor of St. Patrick’s Church.  They may have joined up with St. Peter’s for the service since it was a Solemn High Mass.
     Huntington Hall was draped in black.  There was a handmade sign, “A Great Man has Fallen.”  Doors opened to a huge crowd filling both entrances.  At 3PM, members of elective office filed in and took chairs on stage.  This appears to have been the solemn public  meeting with a prayer service devoted to the memory of the slain President and overseen by the members of the elective offices of Lowell at the time.  There was no City Manager, we had a Strong Mayor and Alderman form of government.
    On April 21st. President Johnson made a long speech.  In it he said, “Every era feels it gets a lesson.”  The American people must be taught, he stated, that treason is a crime.  This is quite a difference in the type of lecture this President would become famous for, the forgiveness of debts through the taking of the Oath of Allegiance quoted in prior writings.
    So, that is where we end today.  It is April 14th. and exactly 150 years ago, President Lincoln was turned down in his offer to General Grant to attend the play which I believe was entitled “My American Cousin.”  I might be  wrong about that.  But I believe that was the title.  He settled on another couple when the Grants begged off to board the train and ride to New Jersey to visit their children.  Today, 150 years ago, the President was shot.  Tomorrow will be 150 years since he died.

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, in his First Inaugural Address, that “Unanimity is impossible.  the rule of a minority as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the  majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.”  He was laying out his stand on the secessionist movement.  He would not sanction secessionism as a concept and appeared to be saying that he would view maintaining the Union as a goal in and of itself.  Slavery, at this point, until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, was a secondary issue.