ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S VISIT TO CHELSEA
September 19, 1848, Abraham Lincoln, a little known, one term, Congressman from Illinois visited Massachusetts to stump for the Whig Presidential candidate Zachary Taylor. This was the first and only time Abe Lincoln visited Massachusetts. He spent eleven days and made twelve speeches in nine cities and towns; Worcester, New Bedford, Boston, Lowell, Dorchester, Chelsea, Dedham, Cambridge, and Taunton. Zachary Taylor was opposed by Democrat, Lewis Cass and Free Soiler Martin Van Buren. Taylor won the election carrying Massachusetts, but died in office sixteen months later.
The people of Massachusetts were so unimpressed with Lincoln's visit that twelve years later when he was nominated for President, not one newspaper in the state recalled his visit.
On Monday evening September 18th , Abraham Lincoln arrived by carriage at Richmond Hall, corner Washington Street and Churchill Place in Dorchester (which was an independent town). He was met and introduced by Nathaniel Saffard as a member of the Lincolns of Hingham and a descendant of General Benjamin Lincoln.
The next day Tuesday September 19, 1848, Lincoln traveled by carriage to Chelsea to speak at Gerrish Hall on Winnisimmett Street in Chelsea Square. The "Boston Atlas" had a small piece announcing only the time at which he was to speak at Gerrish Hall. The previous evening Gerrish Hall was used for a Free Soil speech by Charles Sumner. Although newspaper reports of Lincoln's speeches were scant they were generally favorable. Abe Lincoln's height and his rough sense of humor added color to his speaking. New Englanders were accustomed to speakers delivering orations of fiery eloquence in serious tones. Abraham Lincoln surprised the staid New Englanders when he used ridicule, made jokes or brought other forms of humor into his speech.
On September 20th, the day following the Chelsea speech, the "Boston Atlas" in it's press cover of the speech at Gerrish Hall stated (Lincoln) "made a speech which for aptness of illustration, solidity of argument and genuine eloquence is hard to beat." The morning of September 20th, Lincoln left Chelsea to go to Dedham and make still another speech. On February 12, 1925, a plaque was placed by the people of Chelsea on the doorway leading into Gerrish Hall, the site of Lincoln's visit. The plaque is unfortunately missing. Lincoln later stated that the visit, "brought home to him how much the morality of the slavery issue disturbed people in Massachusetts."
The Republican Party was born in March 1854 in Ripon, Wisconsin, as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill that extended slavery. Lincoln was one of the first members of the new Republican Party. The first major victory of the Republican Party came in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States.
Lincoln recalled his trip to Massachusetts in 1848 saying; "I went to Massachusetts, the most cultured state in the Union, to take a few lessons in deportment."