Looking For Lincoln
In February 1855
,Abraham Lincoln was with a group of sixty passengers stranded in Pontiac after a train, bound for Springfield from Chicago, became mired in a snowdrift just this side of where the village of Cayuga was to be platted some two months later. As told in the 1909 "History of Livingston County","the storm that was raging at the time was one of the worst in the annals of the county, and the suffering was great. The day was intensely cold, with a strong wind blowing over the prairies from the northwest."
An old newspaper clipping relates that "roads were blockaded, fences entirely covered up and corn shocks in the field did not stand a foot above the drifts. . . and all aboard were in imminent danger of freezing to death or dying of starvation."
When the train crew became convinced that all efforts to proceed were useless, a messenger was sent to Pontiac to secure help. The train agent here at once went to the citizens, and enough volunteers offered their services, together with their teams and sleds, to bring the passengers safely to Pontiac.
The rescue party
was made up as quickly as possible and soon was underway. With much difficulty they forced their teams into the frigid winds and deep snowdrifts to the snow-engulfed train. And, also with great difficulty, every person was moved from the train and placed in the sleds, "being wrapped up in blankets from the beds of the citizens of Pontiac."
It took a day for the sleds to make the round trip in such cruelly cold and dangerous weather.
In Pontiac, the passengers
were distributed among the settlers to be cared for as best they could. Lincoln and ten others were quartered for about two weeks at the home of John McGregor, Pontiac's first resident attorney. He had built his home on this site in 1853 and, at that time, it was Pontiac's finest house. Lincoln, then little known to fame, spent his time, venturing out among the townspeople when weather permitted. When the relief train made it through the drifts from Bloomington, and Lincoln was about to depart for his home in Springfield, he offered Mrs. McGregor "money for his keep,"
but this was refused.. As the guests were leaving for the depot, they were accompanied to the gate by the McGregors' two young daughters, Emma and Elizabeth. Lincoln gave each little girl a gold dollar, which they did not refuse.