If you were an old lady who had met Lincoln as a girl, you could be expected to embroider your memories a little. You might vividly recall his kindly eyes, or repeat something he said, or show off the silver dime that he gave you.
But not Dorothy “Dolly” Lamon Teillard. Teillard, 1858-1953, was the daughter of Lincoln’s Danville law partner and trusted friend, Ward Hill Lamon. She grew up in Danville.
In 1864, when she was 6, her father took her on a carriage ride with the President in Washington, D.C. Her one and only recollection can be found in a letter that she wrote to the son of a friend in October 1946. That letter is included in Telliard’s odd little book, “By These Things Have I Lived,” published in 1948 by Lincoln Memorial University Press.
“This ride has never made much impression on me,” Teillard wrote. “The only details that I remember are, first, that my father’s carriage was lined with red satin. It was the best carriage, only used on special occasions. What the occasion was I do not know.
“I was much more interested in the length of Mr. Lincoln’s legs – I was only six years old. My own little legs, (feet and all) didn’t reach much beyond the seat on which I was sitting, and those of Mr. Lincoln touched the opposite seat in front of him. My father was a very tall man – I knew later that he was 6 feet 2 inches and that Mr. Lincoln was 6 feet 4 inches – and on that occasion Mr. Lincoln ‘s knees were much in advance of those of my father.
“In looking back on that incident, I have always considered it as my first study in anatomy and mathematics but have much regretted that I paid so little attention to Mr. Lincoln’s wonderful face.”
In 1948, Mrs. Telliard was a widow, living in a home for Catholic ladies in Georgetown, part of the District of Columbia. Robert L. Kincaid, a graduate of Lincoln Memorial University had sought her out in 1945 to learn about her father, and her ties to Abraham Lincoln. He pushed her to write the book.
“ … It seemed almost a miracle that I was now privileged to talk with a woman who as a child had heard Lincoln’s voice and once rode with him in a carriage … ,” Kincaid wrote in the foreword. “I listened almost reverently as Madame Teillard reached across almost a century … “
Some 160 pages follow. Fifty-four of them form Mrs. Teillard’s autobiography; the rest consist of inspirational quotes that she collected over 76 years.
Decades earlier, she put her father’s recollections of Lincoln into book form. Her 1948 book contains little about her famous father. Instead, she focused on her European travels and her long residence in France.
“Three sentences could sum up my life,” she wrote. “I have lived 89 years, seen God’s hand through a lifetime, and all was for the best.”
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org