Lincoln’s Friend in Galion (Galion version)

Thomas Palmer
6 min readMar 11, 2022

--

On February 11, 1861, the newly-elected Abraham Lincoln left his beloved Springfield for Washington, D.C.. It was to be the last time he would be in a city he deeply loved.

At the Great Western Railroad Depot, Lincoln spoke a few words to the assembled crowd. Years later, friends would tell of how the President had a premonition that he was truly saying farewell. The uncertainties of what awaited him in the nation’s capital had to be occupying his thoughts.

There are at least three versions of Lincoln’s remarks that day. One was this:

====================================

“Friends, No one who has never been placed in a like position, can understand my feelings at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I feel at this parting.

For more than a quarter of a century I have lived among you, and during all that time I have received nothing but kindness at your hands. Here I have lived from my youth until now I am an old man. Here the most sacred ties of earth were assumed; here all my children were born; and here one of them lies buried.

To you, dear friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am. All the strange, chequered past seems to crowd now upon my mind.

To-day I leave you; I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon General Washington. Unless the great God who assisted him, shall be with and aid me, I shall not fail, I shall succeed. Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now. To him I commend you all — permit me to ask that with equal security and faith, you all will invoke His wisdom and guidance for me. With these few words I must leave you — for how long I know not. Friends, one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell.”

====================================

This is how his remarks appeared in the February 12, 1861 edition of the Illinois State Journal, a Springfield newspaper. It is considered the most accurate of the three versions. The paper added that although it was raining fast when he began to speak, “…every hat was lifted, and every head bent forward to catch the last words of the departing chief. When he said, with the earnestness of a sudden inspiration of feeling, that with God’s help he should not fail, there was an uncontrollable burst of applause.”

Threats to his life had already appeared in great number as war was imminent. As would be expected, Lincoln had been surrounded for weeks by people who he trusted implicitly, although he had taken time out for a New Year’s Day event with several neighborhood invitees. Tomorrow, we will meet one of those visitors.

Five weeks earlier, a New Year’s event was held in Springfield, and Lincoln’s most ardent friends gathered in their house for refreshments provided by his supporters. Among the guests were a husband and wife, family friends, who lived just two blocks to the south.

The Lincolns lived on the northeast corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets (the house is today a National Historic Landmark), while Elias and Harriet Fralick lived near the southwest corner of Eighth and Cook Streets. The street names have not changed in 160 years. Below is a snippet of an 1867 map of Springfield with the location of both houses marked — Lincolns on the right and Fralicks on the left.

Elias was an engineer then serving on the Wabash Railroad. He was born in New York in 1832, and had signed on with the Erie Railroad in 1853 and then moved west to Illinois. A natural talent, he had his own railroad engine within eighteen months. In 1860, he set a speed record for the Wabash line.

The Fralicks and Lincolns knew each other well. Elias remembered in later years being given a big piece of the cake sent to the Lincolns for the New Year’s event.

By February 11, Fralick saw the President-Elect again. Accounts differ if it was the railroad which called upon his services or his friend Abraham Lincoln, but whichever was the case he was entrusted by the President-Elect to assume a very important role.

As Lincoln finished the remarks we shared yesterday, the train’s engineer was manning the throttle and brakes. The train then slowly pulled out of the station and headed toward Washington, D.C.. The train, a Hinckley locomotive called the “L.M. Wiley,” had just two coach cars.

Being the engineer of that particular train was a high honor but also a serious responsibility. The conditions were such that the President of the railroad was part of the entourage, making certain that everything went according to plan. Train travel presented many more challenges in that era, and they needed someone they could trust at the helm.

So when Lincoln was making his long-remembered remarks and leaving Springfield forever, Elias H. Fralick, Lincoln’s engineer, was the man in charge of the train itself.

Fralick took the entourage as far as the Indiana state line, where the rail lines changed.

At some point between 1860 and 1863, Springfield City Directories show that the Fralicks had moved — to the corner of Jackson and Eighth. In other words, they lived directly across the street, or catty-cornered, from the Lincoln House during the time the Lincolns lived in the White House.

Springfield, Illinois — 1867

In 1866, a little over a year after the end of the Civil War and the President’s death, the Fralicks decided to move east. They chose a smaller community with a busy rail presence, including a large Erie operation.

They chose Galion.

The Fralicks had two children; Frank, a son, who married a Galion girl, and Ada, a daughter who passed away in her teens. Elias and Harriet took the position of ward over a young girl, Julia Johnston, who married Edwin H. Laughbaum.

Within a few years, the Fralicks built their dream house — a frame, two-story Italianate-style residence which still stands on the southeast corner of South Union and West Atwood Streets (a block west of the Rich Gas Station).

The Fralick House is in a remarkable state of preservation, with original trim. It was also built by and home to friends of Abraham and Mary Lincoln.

Elias retired in 1903 and died in 1912. Stories abound of his charmed life; in the 1880s, for instance, a tame dove followed his engine from Marion to Richwood (16 miles) one afternoon, and also accompanied the train returning the following day. It was said that “…at times he could almost touch the dove from the window.”

Elias survived a head-on collision near Dayton in 1895. The Fralicks lie buried in Fairview Cemetery. It’s very easy to find their grave; it is directly across the small road from the Veterans Monument and graves where Memorial Day services are held. On the opposite (south) corner are the grave markers of the Gill family.

Pictures follow.

Fralick grave marker. Elias, Harriet, and Ida are buried here.
Fralick marker on right, GIll plot on left, Veterans area straight ahead
Marker for Elias H. Fralick, Lincoln’s engineer, friend, and neighbor
The Fralick House
The Fralick House

Copyright c2022 by Thomas Palmer

--

--