— Looking for Lincoln —
Abraham Lincoln spoke in
the little Presbyterian Church
on the northwest corner of
Livingston and Mill streets on
Jan. 27, 1860, shortly before being nominated for the presidency at the Republican National Convention in Chicago on May 16. Lincoln had received two invitations to speak to the Young Men's Literary Society from his friend Jason W. Strevell, a prominent young attorney of Pontiac and President of the group, which was composed of educated young men who met to debate issues of the day and hold instructive entertainments. It was not known until noon that day that Lincoln would appear, but a crowded house greeted the future president. Lincoln told the group he was "very, very tired,"
having just returned from the East, where he had been on the road continuously and "was worn out talking on political subjects."
Reviews of the speech were mixed. Many were disappointed in his topic, "The Wheel and Axle," having wanted him to speak on the great question confronting the American people - - slavery. Strevell, in a letter to his son in 1901, said the lecture was one of the most interesting he had heard "before or since."
thought it a most interesting lecture, Augustus Cowan who founded the first abstract company here, wrote his sweetheart: ". . . last night the citizens of Pontiac were favored with a lecture by Hon. Abe Lincoln. . . . He is a "Big Gun" in the political world, but—I think the people generally were disappointed. . . . He was, I thought, decidedly inferior to many a lecturer I heard. . . ." But, then, Mr. Cowan was a Democrat.
On May 19, 1857 lots
were deeded to both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches and a sharp rivalry developed as to which would erect and dedicate Pontiac's first church building. The Presbyterians won the race, dedicating their church in November that year, about thirty days ahead of the Methodists. Families rented pews as a means of supporting the church. The first Presbyterian service in Pontiac had been held in Buck's Tavern in 1852, after which services were held several times in the first courthouse. The church officially organized in November 1855, and regular preaching began in the small schoolhouse on the Livingston County Jail grounds. By 1874, the building where Lincoln spoke had become too small for the congregation, and it was sold to Wallace Lord who moved it to Howard Street to be used as an opera house.