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How assassination of President Abraham Lincoln shook St Helens
WHEN President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, some of the most high profile names in St Helens signed their names on a letter calling on the town to express their shock and sympathy.
It was intended that some gesture of condolence would be sent to the US.
However it is not known if any plans ever materialised, and the document lay unseen and gathering dust for the next 148 years.
That is until a chance discovery at St Helens Parish Church brought the document to light after being tucked away in the back of an old safe, which hadn’t been opened in 30 years.
Bearing the signatures of notable figures who formed part of the fabric of early St Helens history, including Richard Pilkington, John Burchall and David Gamble, whose family launched Procter and Gamble, it is a fascinating insight into the town’s reaction to the assassination.
It reads: “We the undersigned respectfully but earnestly request that you will call a public meeting of the inhabitants of Saint Helens for the purpose of expressing grief and indignation at the infamous and atrocious crimes committed in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America and the attempted murder of Mr W H Seward.”
It is dated April 29 1865.
The discovery is a timely find, following the release of the Oscar-nominated film Lincoln.
Ted Forsyth from St Helens Family History Group, who found the paper, said: “These are coal mine owners, vicars and glass manufacturers.
“James Shanks’ second wife was the first person to be buried in St Helens Cemetery. It was constructed around her grave.
“John Burchall was the first pawnbroker in St Helens. These were very important people.”