Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

The late Peggy Phillips was well known as ...

The late Peggy Phillips was well known as director of public relations at Stephens College in the 1960s. She told me this true story about her great-grandmother more than 30 years ago. Her daughter, the late Peggy Ann Jennings, relayed the story to her own daughter, Terry Jennings Hume, and Terry passed it along to their 12-year-old son, Corey. Months before her death, Peggy wrote about this event for a weekly paper in Orefield, Pa. Today I share it with you:

One February in Quincy, Ill., when the class was studying about Abraham Lincoln, the teacher said, “Who can relate some incident in Lincoln’s lif~e?” Maud Hoit flung her hand into the air, shaking it excitedly. “Yes, Maud?”

The girl stood and said, “My mother sat on Abraham Lincoln’s lap.” The kids giggled. “They were neighbors ...”

“Yes, Maud. Now it’s your turn, Joe.” Maud Hoit was crushed. She wanted to tell the entire story.

After school the teacher went directly to the Hoit home and Maud listened outside the parlor door as her mother and the teacher chatted. The teacher lowered her voice to say, “Mrs. Hoit, I regret to tell you that your Maud told a terrible fib in class today. I think she should be punished.”

“What on earth?”

“She said that you knew Abraham Lincoln and that you once sat on his lap!”

Matilda Bachman Hoit squared her shoulders and sat up tall in her chair, planning her reply. “I did, indeed, know Mr. Lincoln. The Lincolns and Bachmans, my family, were neighbors in Springfield when I was a child. Maud was repeating a true story she has heard many times. Mr. Lincoln called me ‘The little one.’*”

The speechless teacher leaned forward anxiously as Tillie Holt began at the beginning:

“My sister and I were playing in our yard when a well-dressed stranger came striding up the wooden-plank sidewalk. ‘Good morning, ladies,’ he said with a Southern drawl, ‘Could you direct me to the home of a Mr. Abraham Lincoln?’

“*‘Of course, we’ll take you there,’ we said. Soon we saw Mr.Lincoln coming down the walk to greet us.

“Suddenly he gave a booming laugh and scooped me up to sit on his shoulder and carried me there. I truly felt that I was sitting on top of the world and that I could reach up and touch the sky!” The teacher clung to Tillie Hoit’s every word.

“*‘Sit here, little one,’ he said as he whisked me from his shoulder to his lap. Ann sat on the visitor’s lap and we relaxed as the men talked. I remember a pretty table with a bowl of big red apples. I gazed up at Lincoln’s rugged chin, his jutting nose and his kindly, deep-set eyes. He had a tuft of unruly hair sticking out in a way that caught my attention. I felt safe and comfortable in his long arms. People used to laugh about those long, awkward arms but I decided they were just right for holding a little girl.

“An enormous gold chain stretched across his chest and the rhythm of the ticking watch in his vest pocket almost put me to sleep. Before we left, he gave us each an apple, explaining that they were slightly wrinkled because they’d been buried in the earth all winter.

“It’s just a little-known incident ~in the life of this kind and~ gentle man.”

The next day, Maud Hoit was the star of the class and the teacher apologized with a very red face.

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