Certain moments in time are forever fixed in our collective memories. Everyone who was old enough at the time remembers where they were and what they were doing when, for example, President John F. Kennedy was shot in November of 1963. (I was outside the old John Small School building in Washington, NC, during second-grade recess.) Each generation seems to have its own moment in history that serves as a common reference point in their experience and as a collective expression of the mood of the time.

The Museum has such a point in history recorded for posterity by a preserved copy of The New York Herald, dated 15 April 1865. This 8:10 A. M. extra edition records the wild speculations and intense emotions that marked the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The front page of the Herald records that "the wildest excitement prevailed in all parts of the city," and that everyone "rushed to and fro, and the rumors were magnified until we had nearly every member of the cabinet killed." In fact, no one else besides Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward had been attacked.

At 1 A. M., the paper noted, public sentiment was very much against the conspirators and their plans: "The popular heart is deeply stirred, and the deepest indignation against leading rebels is freely expressed." It predicted that "this diabolical assassination . . . will bring eternal infamy, not only upon its authors but upon the hellish cause that they desire to avenge."

The 2 A. M. entry noted only that Lincoln was alive with no improvement in his condition. The final, one-line report came from Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: "Abraham Lincoln died this morning at twenty-two minutes past 7 o'clock."

Come and see this piece of history and others in "Granny's Attic," the Belhaven Memorial Museum.

Belhaven Treasure #15

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Diane K. Mason, HTML Editor 1998