Notes from the White County Historical Society

By Charlene Shields

Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."

Copyright ©1998 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Laurel Crook and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."

October 13, 1998

One of the more interesting facts about Ratcliff Inn is that Abraham Lincoln stayed there. In our files is a letter from J. Andrew Smith of Canon City, Colo., dated Oct. 10, 1962, in which he writes of this. Excerpts from this letter follow:

"...I will try to give you an account of my interview with Tom Ary and his story of Abraham Lincoln stopping at Ratcliff Inn. This interview occurred in 1910 while I was employed as mechanical foreman of The Carmi Times. At that time Frank Little was owner and editor of The Times. Katie Hast was city reporter and besides myself, the staff included Lillie Crouse, printer, and Overby Starret, Linotype operator.

"The Linotype was the junior model which is now a museum piece. The business and news departments were in the first floor rooms of the old building. At that time a one-story addition was at the rear which housed the mechanical department of the newspaper.

"While The Times was the county's oldest newspaper, it was in financial difficulties. The White County Democrat, under the management of A.W. Charles, and the newly-established Tribune, with Roy Clippinger at the helm, were the leading publications in the county. Little did not have the experience or the financial backing to compete, and in the spring of 1911, The Times was absorbed by the Tribune. The second floor of the building was occupied by the Robinson Royal Remedy Co., which manufactured and marketed a series of products under the RRR Remedies trademark.

"One day, I met Mr. Ary in front of the building. He stopped me and said, 'Young man, I can tell you a very interesting story about the building in which you work. Do you know that it was once the leading hotel in Carmi and that it was known as the Ratcliff Tavern? Well, it was, and Abraham Lincoln once stopped there overnight. I'll tell you about it.

"'I was about 16 years old, and was feeding and taking care of the horses in the livery barn which I later owned. One day the owner said to me, 'Tom, Mr. Lincoln is to make a political speech here tonight and wants to go to Shawneetown to speak tomorrow night. I want you to drive him down there.'

"I was excited at the opportunity, for Lincoln was at that time becoming known as one of the leading political figures in the state. I was at the barn early to feed the stock. When they had eaten, I hitched a team to a spring wagon and drove onto Main Street to the tavern. I had never seen Mr. Lincoln and was greatly disappointed, for there in front of the building stood the tallest and ugliest man I had ever seen. When I stopped the team, he picked up his valise and came over to the wagon. To my surprise, he did not use the hub of the front wheel, as most people did, but due to his long legs, stepped directly into the wagon.

"Then things began to happen, and I soon forgot about his unusually ugly features and extremely slim proportions. He greeted me cordially and began talking to me--not as an important personage to a small boy, but as though I was an individual of equal standing."

(Continued next week)

The Genealogy Library is open from 11 to 5 on Wednesdays.
Write us at PO Box 121, Carmi, IL 62821.

Notes from the Genealogy Library
White County Historical Society
located downstairs in the Ratcliff Inn, downtown Carmi

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The Coordinator for the White County, Illinois ILGenWeb page is Cindy Birk Conley

Updated by Laurel Crook, 12 Oct 1998

Copyright ©1998, 1999, 2000 by Laurel Crook  and  Cindy Birk Conley, all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright notice must appear with the information.