On a rainy April 21st, 1865, Former President Abraham Lincoln began his journey towards his final resting place as his 9 car funeral train left Washington Station as it began its long journey north. Along with Lincoln's casket, Lincoln's son Willie Lincoln who had passed away three years earlier was also on the train in addition to 300 other guests.
This train would eventually make its way through 7 states and 180 cities before reaching his final destination of Springfield, Illinois on May 4th.
The Lincoln Funeral train held an incredible amount of significance during this new period for American History. Previously, President Lincoln had two attempts on his life, one in 1861 and another in 1864 before his untimely death at the hands of actor John Wilkes Booth. The nation had just recovered from a devastating war and a recovering nation armed with new ideals, mourned Lincoln's passing as the train continued along its fixed route.
What many people do not know, is that Lincoln's train passed through La Porte County. What even more people may be unaware of is that this trip was met with a large number of individuals throughout La Porte County who came out just for the opportunity to see their former president for an hour, that ended up embedding itself into La Porte County and Northwest Indiana History.
The train's original route was intended to reach Indianapolis at midnight on April 30th, and then leave with enough time to reach Chicago by midday afternoon the next day.
As the train made its way through Westville, it was welcomed to 2,000 onlookers consisting of men women and children who showed their support by according to reporter from the Chicago Tribune having men with uncovered heads, women looking on solemnly and children waving white flags. A choir sang a hymn "The Departed" as the train slowly passed through.
The train continued to make its way past Crossing in La Porte County before finally passing through Michigan City before entering Michigan City at 8:35 am. Waiting for the train were a group of women waiting to present a cross made of flowers along with an arch made of roses and evergreens 25 feet wide and 30 feet high. The flower cross was placed with permission on the coffin with 36 young girls, each representing each state that was part of the Republic at the time.
The townspeople of Michigan City were allowed to view the president while different patriotic organizations performed their own memorial services to honor the president. The train actually had to wait an hour before the special train of the committee from Chicago to arrive before the train could head towards its final destination of Springfield, Illinois.
The original train met an untimely end in 1911 when a prairie fire near Minneapolis, Minnesota ended up damaging the train car beyond repair. While this may seem like the end of a legacy, it was the only the beginning in reviving the legacy and historical significance of this famous locomotive.
Now that the South Shore CVA and Indiana Welcome Center will showcase the Lincoln Funeral Train Exhibit, people from a new generation will be able to see the train that touched the lives of many and created an unforgettable day for residents of La Porte County so many years ago.
Each replica was meticulously recreated from its original models and plans, taking into account a large selection of details and features to ensure that anyone viewing this exhibit will see a faithful version of the historic train years ago. The train consists of a full-size reproduction of the original steam engine named Leviathan and funeral car named the United States.
Having to see the opportunity to see this exhibit is an opportunity that doesn't come around often and stands as a historical encounter for those who come to see this exhibit in person. While it's not the original train used to transport one of our nation's most famous president to his final resting place, this is the closest opportunity available to see this train in person. To see a snippet of history during one of the biggest transformative periods of the United States is vitally important for people to see.
This train brought together communities and its residents the opportunity to gather and pay respects. It gave the opportunity for individuals, no matter their political affiliation to see the man who brought a new age of freedom to the United States.
The historic nature of the Lincoln Funeral train brings with it ideals of progress and new ways of thinking and now that the Southshore CVA has brought this historic exhibit to Northwest Indiana, residents can experience the historic splendor of the train that brought a nation together and will hopefully let new generations feel the impact that those NWI residents felt back in 1865 for that one, historic hour.
Check out this drone video of the Lincoln Funeral Train