The Plot To Steal Lincoln’s Body

Jack Hughes was an outstanding passer of phony bills. A thoroughly honest-looking man, respectably bearded and always well dressed, he spent his working day going from store to store, making one small purchase at each, and paying for it with crisply persuasive counterfeit money.

If his currency ever was questioned and the police called, no case could be made; he never had more than one bad bill in his possession. Read more »

The Mormons

From Poverty and Persecution to Prosperity and Power

In the month of February, 1846, when conditions for travel were as unpropitious as possible, the Mormons began moving out of their newly built city of Nauvoo, Illinois, in order to cross the ice-strewn Mississippi, on the first leg of a long and uncertain journey. A forced abandoning of barely completed homes, this time with the loss of much property and the necessity for travel in the dead of winter, was no new experience for the adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Read more »

“i Was Once A Great Warrior”

The tragedy of Black Hawk, who became the eponym of a war he tried to avoid

On July 4, 1838, the people of Fort Madison, in the Iowa Territory, invited an old Sauk war chief named Black Hawk to be guest of honor at their Independence Day celebration. A wrinkled and feeble old man, he sat at their banquet table under the trees on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and listened dourly while the white men bestowed honor and friendship upon him. When his turn came Black Hawk, too, spoke of friendship, but he could not forget the past as easily as the whites. They, after all, had gained by it; he had lost.Read more »

Spoon River Revisited

An artist recalls his Midwestern home town and the poet who made it famous

I always felt at home in Edgar Lee Master᾿s quarters in the Chelsea Hotel. It was all so much like a Petersburg, Illinois, law office that I might have been back in Papa Smoot’s office overlooking the courthouse square. Edgar Lee, plain and short and stocky, sat in a straight chair near a big desk. there was the same smell of books and tobacco. The same southern light filtered through the braches of the ailanthus trees, and the court behind the Chelsea was almost as quiet as the empty Petersburg square with its big elms.Read more »