Part II – Abraham Lincoln’s Murder Case Mystery

This daguerreotype by Nicholas H. Shepherd is the earliest photographic image of Abraham Lincoln (1846)

The Bizarre Testimony of Dr. Gilmore  

After Dr Gilmore dropped the courtroom bomb that the ‘murderee’ Fisher was alive but unwell at his house, the case turned even more strange.

that he [Dr. Gilmore] asked how he [Fisher] had come from Springfield; that Fisher said he had come by Peoria, and also told [of] several other other [sic] places he [Fisher] had been at not in the direction of Peoria, which showed that he [Fisher], at the time of speaking, did not know where he had been, or that he had been wandering about in a state of derangement.

He [the Dr.] further stated that in about two hours he received a note from one of William Trailor’s friends, advising him of his [Wm.Trailor’s] arrest, and requesting him [the Dr.] to go on to Springfield as a witness, to testify to the state of Fisher’s health in former times;

that he [the Dr.] immediately set off, catching up two of his neighbours, as company, and riding all evening and all night, overtook Maxey & William at Lewiston in Fulton county; that Maxey refusing to discharge [Wm.] Trailor upon his statement, his two neighbors returned, and he [the Dr.] came on to Springfield.

Some question being made whether the doctor’s story was not a fabrication, several acquaintances of his, among whom was the same Post Master who wrote to Key’s as before mentioned, were introduced as sort of compurgators [a sworn witness to the innocence or good character of an accused person], who all swore, that they knew the doctor [to] be of good character for truth and veracity, and generally of good character in every way.

Here the testimony ended, and the Trailors were discharged, Arch: and William [Trailor] expressing, both in word and manner their entire confidence that Fisher would be found alive at the doctor’s by Galaway, Mallory, and Myers, who a day before had been dispached for that purpose; while Henry [Trailor] still protested that no power on earth could ever show Fisher alive.

And here’s how Lincoln ended the story:

Thus stands this curious affair now. When the doctor’s story was first made public, it was amusing to scan and contemplate the countenances, and hear the remarks of those who had been actively engaged in the search for the dead body.

Some looked quizical, some melancholly, and some furiously angry. Porter, who had been very active, swore he always knew the man was not dead, and that he had not stirred an inch to hunt for him; Langford, who had taken the lead in cuting down Hickoxes mill dam and wanted to hang Hickox for objecting, looked most awfully wo-begone; he seemed the “wictim of hun-requited haffection” as represented in the comic almanic [sic] we used to laugh over;


This was Lincoln’s gruesome punchline:

and Hart, the little drayman that hauled Molly [Lincoln’s nickname for Mary Todd] home once, said it was too damned bad, to have so much trouble, and no hanging after all.[1]

Lincoln’s side won the case, and the brothers Trailor went free.

The Mystery Lives On

Despite the win and belaying his cavalier ending of the story, something about this whole case bothered Lincoln.

Even the letter seems to convey that. He wrote it without ANY paragraphing and few periods, and he wrote it immediately – the next day – after the case ended. Aside from the last line, which may or may not have had a larger point, Lincoln offered no summaries, homilies, or interpretations except for noting the effect of the doctor’s testimony on several townspeople. Odd writing for Abraham Lincoln.

The courts adjudicated no guilt and were finished with the case, but Lincoln sure wasn’t.

To find out why, click on the link below

Part III – Abraham Lincoln’s Murder Case Mystery 


To read Part I of this weird case and the uncomfortable mystery just click below:

 Part I of Abraham Lincoln’s Murder Case Mystery

Food for thought.


Works Cited

[1] “To Joshua Speed – June 14, 1841.” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. v.I:pp. 255-259.



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