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Part 3: Informant Testimony Reported in William H. Herndon's Letters to Jesse W. Weik.

Some of the following entries have been extracted from letters, for which the date is given, and some were apparently written out separately and included in letters. The reader should note that while some of these entries report recent conversations, others appear to be recollections of something related at a much earlier time, and that all were written more than twenty years after the death of AL.

609. James H. Matheny (William H. Herndon Interview)

Jany 87

Judge Matheny tells me this story of Mr. & Mrs. Lincoln: the story was told him by one of the parties to it. About the year 1850 there lived in this city a man by the name of Tiger, who was a personal friend of Lincoln: he was a kind but a powerful man physically. Tiger heard that Mrs. Lincoln was without help and Knowing that Mrs. Lincoln was a tigress and Could not for any length of time Keep a girl, thought that he had a niece, who was a fine girl, industrious, neat, saving, and rather handsome, who could satisfy any body on earth. So he sent the girl down to see Mrs Lincoln: she, Mrs L, was anxious to get a girl and arrangements were made between the two that Sarah — the girls name, should stay and help Mrs L. Everything went on well for sometime, Mrs L bragging on her Sarah all the while to her neighbors & visitors. Sarah herself was no Common hired girl, but a fine woman and rather intelligent, pleasant, and social. Mrs. Lincoln at last got on one of her insane mad spells, insulted and actually slapt the girl, who could and would not stand it — : So she quit Mrs Lincoln — went home to her uncle Tiger's and told her story weeping and crying all the while. Tiger felt bad about the matter, but knowing that all quarrels generally have two sides to them, he was determined to find out the truth of the matter — So he went down to Lincoln's and when he got there he saw that Mrs. Lincoln had thrown the girls trunk and clothes out of the house and on the pavement in the street. On approaching the


house he saw the things; and just in the yard stood Mrs Lincoln ready for a fight. Tiger advanced and spoke to Mrs. Lincoln in a kind and gentlemanly way — said he came to see her and find out who was in fault, and what was the matter — all about it. Mrs L at once blazed away with her sharp and sarcastic tongue, having her insane mad spell on her — abused Tiger shamefully, calling him a dirty villain — a vile creature & the like. Tiger stood still, waiting for an opportunity to pitch in a word of peace and reconciliation, but to no purpose. Mrs. Lincoln got madder & madder — boiled over with her insane rage and at last struck Tiger with the broom two or 3 times. Tiger now got mad, but said nothing to Mrs. Lincoln — not a word — stood the licking as best he could Tiger at last gathered up the clothes of the girl and being a strong man threw the trunk on his shoulder and carried it and the girls clothes home to his niece. The older the thing — his licking by Mrs L, got the madder Tiger got, and so he swore to himself that no man's wife should thus treat him and go free from a whipping or at least the husband should humiliatingly apologise for the wrong done him by his wife. The longer the thing stood in Tigers mind the more furious Tiger got, and so he went down into the city in search of Lincoln, in order to make him correct the thing or to whip him — to apologise or to stand a thumping — licking — a severe whipping: he after some considerable search found Lincoln in Edwards' store recling on the Counter telling one of his best stories. Tiger caught part of the story that tickled him very much. However Tiger, being a man of will, called Lincoln out of the store and told him the facts of the fight between the women, and his licking by Mrs Lincoln; and said to Lincoln that he must punish Mrs. Lincoln and apologise to him — Tiger or — — — and just here Lincoln Caught what was coming — looked up to Tiger, having held his head down with shame as Tiger told the story of his wrongs, done him by Mrs L & said calmly — kindly — and in a very friendly way, mingled with shame and sadness — "friend Tiger, can't you endure this one wrong done you by a mad woman without much complaint for old friendship's sake while I have had to bear it without complaint and without a murmur for lo these last fifteen years" — Lincoln said what he did so kindly — so peacefully — so friendly — so feelingly so apologetically in manner and tone and so sadly that it quickly and totally disarmed Tiger who said to Lincoln — "Friend give me your hand. I'll bear what has been done me by Mrs. Lincoln on your account and your account alone. I'll say no more about the matter, and now; Lincoln, let us be forever what we have been — friends". Lincoln instantly took and grasped, warmly grasped Tigers hand and shook it in a real friendly, western Style — saying — "Agreed, friend Tiger, and so let us be what we have always been, warm personal friends" and they ever were afterwards.

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3342-44



1. Jacob Taggart, according to JWW's notes on this story. See §555, note 1.

2. A Sarah E. Taggart married Upton Crow in Sangamon County in 1850. See Power, 236.