Did President Lincoln's body spend a night below a High Street restaurant?
On April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Following his death, his body traveled on a funeral train, dubbed “The Lincoln Special.” This tour allowed mourners from several states to see the president before he was laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois.
One of the 13 stops on the tour was in Columbus.
WOSU's Curious Cbus received a submission asking about a rumor that Lincoln’s body was stored in the basement of a High Street restaurant during the funeral train stop in Columbus.
In short, Lincoln’s body arrived in Columbus on April 29, but did not stay overnight. Additionally, the remains were not stored in a restaurant basement on High Street nor in any other establishment.
A local Columbus business that was involved in the funeral train’s stop was the Taylor and O’Hara Funeral Parlor.
An undertaker from the funeral home was hired to ensure that President Lincoln looked presentable to the thousands of onlookers who visited his casket at the Ohio Statehouse.
One of the undertaker's tasks was to clean the dust that gathered on Lincoln’s face. According to one first-hand account, the thousands of visitors stirred up so much dust that “each night the body had to be washed of a quarter inch of dust that lay upon the face.”
Another way the president’s body was kept presentable was with flowers, specifically lilacs. The casket was placed on a frame covered in lilacs. When the casket crushed the flowers, a sweet smell was released into the rotunda, which masked the odor of the body.
Many businesses and households in Columbus draped their buildings and homes in black as a way to participate in the funeral. A large funeral procession of prominent Columbus citizens marched the remains from Union Station to the Ohio Statehouse.
The columns in front of the Statehouse were also draped in black, and above the front entrance, there was a sign that displayed one of Lincoln’s famous quotes: “With malice toward none, with charity for all...”
It’s said that 50,000 Ohioans saw President Lincoln on that day.
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