The weather in Allegheny City was cold, overcast and rainy on Feb. 14, 1861.
Yet on that day 150 years ago thousands of citizens gathered at the Allegheny Station of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad station on Federal Street to welcome President-elect Abraham Lincoln and his family. The Lincolns were on their way to Washington D.C. for his inauguration as the nation’s 16th president.
These were indeed tense times as several states had already attempted to remove themselves from the Union. Pennsylvania’s only president, James Buchanan, had been unable to stop this secession process.
In Allegheny City, Pittsburgh and the entire region, Lincoln received an overwhelming majority of votes in the November election. His decision to stop in Allegheny City was in gratitude of the support that helped to put him "over the top."
Lincoln’s arrival was delayed several hours due to a railroad accident at Freedom in Beaver County. But, even with that delay and in the nasty February weather, crowds waited for an opportunity to see the incoming president and wish him well.
With the approach of the train cannon-fire boomed from Seminary Hill. Mayor Drum of Allegheny and members of the Allegheny City Council met the train and accompanied it into the Allegheny City Station.
After brief remarks to the a crowd and a few kisses to local children, Lincoln left the station in a carriage and headed to the Monongahela House in Pittsburgh where he and his family would spend the night. The entire caravan crossed the recently opened bridge, designed and erected by John Roebling, connecting Federal Street with Pittsburgh. Detailed descriptions of this event filled all the local newspapers.
Lincoln spoke to a large assembly of supporters the next morning from the balcony on the Smithfield Street side of the Monongahela House. Afterwards the entire party headed through throngs of well wishers, back to the Allegheny Station.
Before heading to Washington, Lincoln would pass through Cleveland, Buffalo, New York City and Philadelphia. This brief visit was the only time Lincoln would be in Allegheny and Pittsburgh.
In the war years that followed, however, the war that ensued from Lincoln’s determination to save the Union and end slavery would be a great catalyst for the rapid development of our region’s industrial growth.
On Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011 (Lincoln’s Birthday), the Allegheny City Society will commemorate this significant anniversary in the history of the Northside. The program will include a bus tour following Lincoln’s route, lunch and a talk by Gary Augustine, an eminent Civil War scholar.
The morning program will begin at 10 a.m. at the Calvary United Methodist Church. The afternoon program will begin at noon at the same location. The cost is $40. Reservations can be made through Feb. 9 by calling Amelia at 412-766-5670.