My Abe Lincoln Connection

By Kathryn Knudsen

In the many documents I inherited from my father’s vast collection of genealogy research I found a letter written by my great-great-grandfather Artemas Brooks Woodworth to his grandchildren, one of whom was my grandmother, Catharine Woodworth.  The letter outlined a connection between his brother and Abraham Lincoln!  Upon this discovery, of course, I had to search for more information.  I went to the internet and typed in “people Lincoln knew”.  I came to this interesting site

With a burst of surprise, I realized that I held the answer to the question posed in the blog, in my very old letter!  I went to my email and sent a note to Erika Holst, curator of collections at Edwards Place and author of the article.   Subsequently, Erika wrote an article entitled “Mystery of Leigh Kimball, Solved” and it was published in the Illinois Heritage of the Illinois State Historical Society, and can be viewed via your library at

Artemas Woodworth, the letter’s author, was born April 15, 1840 in Bristol, NH. He died September 20, 1923 in Lowell, MA. Catharine Woodworth, his granddaughter, was one of the letter’s recipients. She is pictured here around the time the letter was written.

Letter dated March 16, 1920, written by Artemas Brooks Woodworth of Lowell, Massachusetts, addressed to his grandchildren, regarding the family connection to Abraham Lincoln.


On page 35 of “Walter Woodworth of Scituate,” a genealogical publication, it says “Of the 12 children of George and Lois Hovey Woodworth, Ireanus Clinton was the first.”  “Daniel Hovey of Ipswich,” another publication, gives the date of his birth as Aug. 7, 1826. He was born in Dorchester, NH. My father owned a farm there, but he was not among the forehanded class. Father and mother were always ambitious to promote the welfare of their twelve children in every possible way, but were not able to give any of them much more than a common school education.

There were living in Canaan, a nearby town, a Mr. and Mrs. George Kimball. Mr. Kimball was a lawyer of some repute and with all an ardent abolitionist and friend of the negro slave. Mrs. Kimball was a woman of fine character and many accomplishments. At that time they were regarded as wealthy, but they were childless. The two families were well acquainted with each other. The Kimballs desired to adopt a son and heir, they took a great liking to Ireanus and proposed to adopt him and promised to give him a college education. Father and mother believed that this was much more than they could do for the boy and consented to the arrangement. They received the boy into their home and changed his name to Leigh Richmond Kimball. Whether this pleased the boy or not I do not know. He was not to be far from his old home, and I suppose no one of the principles concerned thought of the possibility that sometime that condition might be changed by the force of circumstances, as proved eventually to be the fact.

Leigh’s education began, I think, at the academy in Plymouth, NH, and proceeded without interruption for a considerable time. Mr. Kimball had the courage of his convictions regarding Negro slavery and espoused the anti-slavery cause with a zeal that after a while made him very unpopular in that community. New Hampshire was a Democratic state at that time, and the Democratic party, North as well as South, stood for slavery. His neighbors made life uncomfortable for him to the point where he regarded a change of residence advisable in order to be among those who were like-minded. I have not verified this story by the records, but believe it to be true:  one manifestation of sympathy for the colored race was the opening of some of the New England Academies to Negro students, the Canaan Academy among them, but opposition in this town became so strong that the farmers with their horse and ox teams turned out in sufficient force in one night to haul the Academy building from its foundations quite a distance away into a cow pasture.

He therefore removed to Alton, Illinois. This was somewhere in the 30’s. An anti-slavery newspaper was printed at that place by a man by the name of Lovejoy, and there, after a time the abolitionists became so unpopular that Mr. Lovejoy’s establishment was raided by a mob, and his outfit destroyed. Conditions instead of being improved, were made worse for the Kimballs, and they removed to Bermuda, where Mrs. Kimball had relatives and property, never returning.

Leigh, then in his teens, chose to shift for himself and began a business career in the city of Springfield, Illinois, in the drygoods house of Mr. Ninnian Edwards, and became a member of his family. Just how long this arrangement continued I do not know, but eventually he became a partner in the business. I think in 1850 or thereabouts he came to New York and Boston to purchase goods for the firm, and at that time he came to Hebron to visit his father’s family. As a lad I well remember the visit. Father took him around to see relatives and neighbors and I was permitted to accompany them. I recall father’s manner as he said:  “Deacon Brooks, this is my son Leigh from the West.”

This leads to Leigh’s acquaintance with Abraham Lincoln, with whom, notwithstanding the fact that there was quite a discrepancy in their ages, he became quite intimate. Mrs. Edwards’ maiden name was Todd. She had a sister Mary Todd, also a member of the Edwards’s family at that time, with whom Leigh had a somewhat intimate acquaintance. Mr. Lincoln was disposed to pay his particular attention to Miss Mary, and she was quite willing to have him do so, but if I have been correctly informed, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards did not encourage this intimacy. Mr. Lincoln was not always made welcome at this home. Leigh was trusted by them both, and in one way or another was an aid in overcoming the obstacles in the pathway of true love, which led in 1842 to their marriage, with the approval, so far as I know, of all the interested parties. And it was quite natural that Leigh’s acquaintance with them should continue, as I think it did.

I do not know when his business relations with Mr. Edwards terminated. At its termination he became an official in a railroad system having general offices in the city of Bloomington. After a time he returned to Springfield and engaged in the meat-packing business conducted by Mr. James Lamb, a prominent citizen and business man of that city. Leigh’s business ability and his social accomplishments opened the door of the best society to him, leading to his acquaintance with Miss Hannah Lamb, daughter of James Lamb, to whom he was married June 18, 1862. Julia, their only child, died in infancy. Leigh died May 28, 1865. Hannah, known to us all as “Aunt Han”, after remaining a widow several years, married General James M. Palmer of Civil War fame, subsequently Governor of Illinois and United States Senator from that state. I think Leigh corresponded with some regularity with mother and sister Tamesine. I have in my possession one of his last letters to sister Tamesine.

A. B. Woodworth

March 16th, 1920

Leigh married Hannah M. Lamb in Springfield, IL, on 6-18-1862. They had one child Julia L. who died in infancy. He was paymaster on the Chicago & Alton railroad and afterwards General Agent on the T.W. & W. railroad. He died in Springfield at the age of 39 of consumption. Hannah then resided with her mother until she married John M. Palmer, former Governor of the state of Illinois.

kimball leigh
LEGH R KIMBALL, BORN Aug. 7, 1826, DIED May 30, 1865

Death notice:

Death of L. R. Kimball – We regret to announce the death of Mr. Legh R. Kimball, one of our well known and very highly esteemed citizens. He expired suddenly, about 10 o’clock yesterday morning, at the residence of his father-in-law, James L. Lamb, Esq. He had been an invalid for some time, but during the last few weeks he had become apparently very much better, and on the day before his decease, he was on the street transacting business and making arrangements for a trip to another part of the State. At the moment he was stricken with death, he was dressing himself for breakfast and was pleasantly conversing with his wife. He died in about two hours.

Mr. Kimball combined all the qualities of a good and true gentleman. Assiduous in business, genial, warm-hearted and generous, he endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact. No one in our midst was more universally respected.

Mr. Kimball at the time of his death was in the thirty-eighth year of his age. He leaves an afflicted widow to mourn his death. His funeral will take place from the residence of Mr. Lamb, on Thursday.

Illinois State Journal, Springfield, IL, 5-31-1865

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