On October 2, 1860, the presidential campaign came to Fort Wayne in the person of Presidential candidate Stephen A. Douglas. Â He was running against Abraham Lincoln. Â Both men were from Illinois and had faced off two years earlier in a series of debates while running against each other for Senator. Â The visit of Douglas to our City was interesting to say the least. Â Yesterday, a press conference was held to announce a lighting project for the Historic Wells Street Bridge. Â It was this very bridge that figured into a wild night, 148 years ago only months after it’s completion.
From the Twentieth Century History of Fort Wayne, U.S. Bicentennial Edition by John Ankenbruck, page 156:
[…] But the Presidential candidate of that year of 1860 who was to sweep the majority of votes at Fort Wayne came into town October 2. Â Stephen A. Douglas, the Little Giant and perennial Lincoln opponent made a speech from the balcony of the Rockhill House on Boradway and then led a giant parade down Main Street for the main event of the day on the banks of the St. Mary’s River at the Wells Street Bridge. Â Along the way, according to George W. Stover, who was there, a “great commotion and a float broke into the parade. Â It was a huge hay wagon and on it was a tall, lanky young man dressed to represent Abe Lincoln, and he was splitting rails.” Â The Democrats got the Lincoln wagon out of the way by pouring salt on grass along the roadside, which attracted the oxen hauling the Republican hay float. “The oxen pulled out of line of the parade to lick the salt, and no amount of urging could get them to move on,” Stover reported.
Down at the river celebration, a huge saw log, intended to represent Lincoln, was flung into the St. Mary’s as a defiant gesture of derision against the Republican candidate. Â Later in the day at sunset, it was “Everybody to the Courthouse” where Democrats hanged a straw figure of Lincoln in effigy.
On Nov. 6, 1860, the people of Allen County and Fort Wayne went to the polls. Â In the voting, 3,224 ballots went for Douglas; 2,552 for Lincoln, 42 for Breckenridge and 32 for Bell. Â Four years later, Fort Wayne and Allen County still wouldn’t go for Lincoln, then President seeking re-election. Â The Nov. 7, 1864, vote was 4,932 for General George B. McClellan, the Democrat, and 2,244 for Lincoln, the Union-Republican standard bearer.
TheÂ Robert Marshall Root painting of Lincoln-Douglas Debate at CharlestonÂ taken from this webpage.