Wednesday, March 18, 2015

On This Date in Minnesota History: March 18

March 18, 1911 – A prairie fire started by a boy burning brush and grass in his backyard got out of control and swept through a ten block area of Columbia Heights, Minn., an Anoka County village just north of the Minneapolis city limits, burning President Lincoln’s railroad funeral car in the process.

President Lincoln’s Funeral Car (National Park Service Photo)1

First used as the private railroad car for Lincoln and his cabinet during the last three years of the Civil War, the same car transported Lincoln’s body, as well as the disinterred coffin of Lincoln’s son Willie who had died in 1862 at age 11 of typhoid fever, on its trip from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Ill., where both Lincolns were to be buried. The train traveled through 180 cities and seven states, with mourners lining the tracks as it passed.

The car had been purchased in 1905 by Thomas Lowry, Twin Cities attorney, real estate magnate and businessman who oversaw much of the early growth of the streetcar lines in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Lowry Hill Tunnel and Lowry Hill District were named after him.

Lowry Hill Dist. Photo2

The funeral car was brought to Minneapolis, and then housed in Columbia Heights, where it had been visited by hundreds of thousands of Americans who wished to honor Lincoln’s memory. Lowry’s heirs had recently given the car to the Minnesota Federation of Women’s clubs for the purpose of removal to Mendota to be preserved with the old Sibley House as part of a state historical museum. Edmund G. Walton, manger of the Columbia Heights Land Company, announced his intention to permit the public to take fragments of the car as souvenirs.

The Sunday Journal; “Car that Carried Remains of Lincoln Is Burned in Spectacular Prairie Fire”; Minneapolis, Minn.; March 19, 1911; pp. 1 & 2.

2Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain  March 18, 20xx, as long as acknowledgement included.


If you are interested in finding out more about your family history in Minnesota, I specialize in researching  genealogical and historical records in Minn. and western Wis., including:
census records,  birth records,  death certificates, obits, grave site photos, ship passenger lists, marriage records and declarations of intent/naturalization records.  I will visit locations to research local history and county records, as well as take photos. Quick turnaround on MHS records.  Both short searches and family history reports.

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