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Neb. man learns of family's historic connection to President Lincoln PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

Monday, Feb. 21 the country will observe President’s Day. This comes nearly a week after the 202nd anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln, who was born Feb. 12, 1809.

These occasions carry special meaning for Stan Cross, who lives just across the Nebraska-Colorado state line in Lamar, Neb.

Three years ago, Cross learned of a special connection his family has had with that of President Lincoln. In 2008, after a reunion with some cousins in Branson, Mo., Cross found out his great-great-grandfather, Shaffer B. Cross, had a special assignment with six other men in 1865.

After President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, Shaffer Cross was assigned special detail to help drape the statehouse and grounds in Indianapolis, Ind. for the return of Lincoln’s remains. Then, as the body was placed in the rotunda to give people the opportunity for one final look at their president, Shaffer Cross and six others from his company stood guard and kept the crowd moving.

Cross said he was unaware of the role his great-great-grandfather had in 1865, until his cousins sent a 1910 newspaper story from Missouri that included his obituary.

As President’s Day draws near, the day has taken on special meaning for the Cross family.

Two unidentified soldiers stand guard over the body of President Abraham
Lincoln. Stan Cross of rural Lamar, Neb. learned fairly recently that his great-
great-grandfather was among those soldiers assigned that duty.

Shaffer Cross didn’t publicize his service assignment of guarding President Lincoln’s body while it lay in state at the Indiana State House, keeping many of the details to himself until years later.

Eight days before his death on May 18, 1910, he handed the editor of a Bethany, Mo. newspaper a sealed envelope. He asked the newspaperman to open it after he died and publish it.

That letter, detailing Shaffer Cross’ military service and later life as a homesteading pioneer, appeared in a 1910 issue of the Bethany Republican.

Before Shaffer Cross enlisted with Company F, 93rd Regiment in the Illinois Volunteer Infantry in 1862, he had spent his early years in Pennsylvania. When older, he moved to New York, where he married and had two sons.

From there, he moved to Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa before returning to Illinois to enlist.

Stan Cross believes his great-great-grandfather was a carpenter by trade. History is important to Stan. His grandparents, James Shaffer and Myrtle (Crapson) Cross, and his great-grandparents, Albert and Elizabeth (Wiley) Cross and Greenberry and Elizabeth (Lorance) Crapson, settled in Chase County more than 90 years ago.

Stan presently lives in the rural Lamar area, less than a mile from where his father lived most of his life.

Lincoln’s funeral train

President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending a performance of “Our American Cousin” in Ford’s Theatre.

The bullet from the .44 single Derringer split into two pieces upon impact with the back of Lincoln’s head.

He died in the Peterson Boarding House, to which he had been taken, across the street from the theater.

The public first viewed his body April 18, 1865 in the East Room of the White House. His body lay in state in 14 different cities during the 12 days of the train funeral procession from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Ill.

The funeral train also contained the remains of Lincoln’s son, Willie, who had died in 1862.

Indianapolis was one of the cities in which Lincoln’s body lay in state in the State House.

A historic marker outside the Indiana State House details the
Lincoln funeral train’s stop in Indianapolis, Ind., where, in April
1865, Shaffer Cross was one of seven soldiers to guard the
president’s body as mourners paid homage.

The Lincoln tomb in Illinois now holds the remains of Lincoln, his wife Mary and his sons Willie, Eddie and Tad.

On April 25, 1865, 10 days after the death of Lincoln, the funeral train bearing the remains of the assassinated president pulled out of New York City’s Hudson River Railroad station and continued the long, convoluted journey to Springfield.

The train traveled north to Albany, N.Y., where the body was solemnly greeted and wept over by the citizens and politicians of that capital city. Finally moving westward toward its ultimate destination, the train paused briefly in Rochester, N.Y. on April 27 and then continued on to Buffalo, N.Y., where the casket was once again removed from the train and the hearse was engulfed by thousands of mourners during the funeral procession.

Arriving in Cleveland, Ohio on April 28, the casket was placed inside an outdoor pavilion on Monument Square that had been specially built because the city had no building large enough to hold the anticipated crowds of mourners.

In spite of a driving rain, 10,000 mourners an hour filed past the casket during the five hours it lay in state. The next day the body received similar treatment in Columbus, Ohio.

On April 30, Lincoln’s body arrived in Indianapolis, early that morning, lying in state at the State House before continuing on its way to Michigan City, Ind., at midnight.

A commemorative plaque in Indianapolis reads:

“Assassinated President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral was April 19, 1865, at the White House. The funeral train left for Springfield, Ill. April 21, directed by the military; stops en route allowed mourners to pay homage. In Richmond, Ind. Governor Oliver P. Morton boarded; train reached Indianapolis, April 30, at 7 a.m. Buildings were draped in black. (side one)

“In the rain, Lincoln’s coffin was escorted along crowded streets lined with soldiers to old State House, located here. Reports say at least 50,000 people viewed Lincoln’s open casket in the rotunda. Through streets lit by bonfires and torches, coffin was returned to Union Depot; train departed at midnight for Michigan City, last scheduled Indiana stop.” (side two)

All along the 1,700 mile journey, people would wait by the tracks for hours just to see the train as it passed by. At night bonfires lit the route along the tracks, and people stood out in the cold rain with bowed heads.

“Illinois Clasps to Her Bosom Her Slain, But Glorified Son” read the sign over the entrance to Chicago’s Cook County courthouse, where Lincoln’s body lay in state.

On May 3, the funeral train completed its long journey and arrived in Springfield, Ill., where the coffin lay open in the Illinois State House while the president’s friends and neighbors filed past to pay their last respects.

The next day an elaborately decorated hearse carried Lincoln to Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery, where he was laid to rest in a hillside vault. One of the thousands of mourners who thronged to the cemetery declared, “He was canonized as he lay on his bier by the irresistible decree of countless millions.”

The following is an excerpt from Shaffer Cross’ letter printed in a Missouri newspaper 100 years ago, telling of his life and the special duty he was assigned after President Lincoln’s death.

I enlisted Aug. 1, 1862, in Co. F, 93rd Regt. Ill. Vol. Inf., for three years. We were sent to Chicago, then to Memphis, Tenn., then to Helena, Ark.; from there we went through the death trap—the famous Yazoo Pass; received an injury there.

Took typhoid shortly after, was sent to my regiment and taken to Millikens Bend, seven miles above Vicksburg, when I was transferred to the hospital and remained there until Feb. 22, 1863, when I was transferred to Co. C, 1st Battalion Veteran Reserve Corps and sent to Indianapolis, Ind., in February, 1865, was detailed with 150 soldiers to take 500 prisoners to Richmond, Va., for exchange.

We cast anchor in the James river, seven miles below Richmond to await orders.

Next day a Confederate steamer brought 500 of our men, when the exchange was made. On returning to Richmond and just below Fort Darling, the Confederate steamer ran on to one of their own torpedoes and blew up. Only five men were saved from this disaster, which put a stop to the exchange of prisoners from that point, and we were ordered back to Indianapolis, where I remained until mustered out in 1865.

When President Lincoln was assassinated, I, with six other men of our company, was detailed to report to Col. Frybarder for duty, which was to assist in draping the state house and grounds for the remains. When the body came it was placed in the center of the rotunda to give the people an opportunity to take a last look at their president.

We were stationed so as to keep the crowd moving, and all day long the people came. It was estimated how many passed through the state capitol that day, but I do not remember the number, but I do know that was the hardest day’s service I ever put in.

During the time I was at Indianapolis, I filled every official position from corporal to captain. During my whole term of enlistment, I never missed duty but one day, except when I was in the hospital as stated. And while in Indianapolis, was on daily duty three-fourths of the time.

I was mustered out July 10, 1865, went home to Morristown, Ill.; and followed my business until September, 1870, when I sold out and went to Kansas, and settled on a farm two and one-half miles northwest of Ottawa, and farmed in connection with my trade.

In August, 1875, the grasshoppers came in droves and harvested my crops. They took the crops for pay for their labor. I put in 100 acres of crops in 1876, and that went the same way. Moved to Osage County in 1877, where I took a big contract, and in addition put in 40 acres of corn.

Took sick and was unable to fulfill the contract, and for the third time the grasshoppers harvested my crops for me.

Having become tired of feeding Kansas grasshoppers, I started for Illinois in the spring of 1878. Came by way of Bethany, Mo., to see Mrs. Hildebrand, our oldest daughter. We crossed Big Creek and stopped to take a drink of Big Creek water, and was never able to get away since to stay any length of time.

I have lived in Bethany 32 years, and have always tried to do all I could to support the city and defend the ordinances and laws, though some of them did not exactly suit me.

— Shaffer Cross