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 Ann Mayes Rutledge

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Ann Mayes Rutledge

  • Birth 7 Jan 1813 Henderson, Henderson County, Kentucky, USA
  • Death 25 Aug 1835 Illinois, USA
  • Burial Petersburg, Menard County, Illinois, USA
  • Memorial ID 3004

Abraham Lincoln’s First Love. Her death at the age of 22 led to Lincoln’s first known severe depression. Born Ann Mayes Rutledge near Henderson, Kentucky, she was the third of ten children born to Mary and James Rutledge. In 1829, her father, along with John M. Cameron, founded New Salem, Illinois, building a dam, sawmill and gristmill. As their business expanded, James Rutledge decided to lay out a town and sell lots of land. After the town started becoming populated, James Rutledge constructed a tavern and inn for arriving settlers. Ann grew up, helping her parents in the tavern, eventually taking over the family business. In an age where frontier girls were often only home taught in sewing, cooking, and other housewife type skills, she became the first girl to attend Mentor Graham’s New Salem School. She was described as bright and beautiful, with auburn hair, blue eyes, a fair complexion, height 5 feet, 3 inches tall, and 120 pounds. She had a positive character, and many people described her as sweet and angelic, beloved by nearly all who knew her. Her schoolteacher, Mentor Graham, described her as beautiful, amiable, kind, and an exceptionally good scholar. In 1832, young Abraham Lincoln boarded at the inn, where he got to meet her. She was then engaged to John MacNamar, who had started a General Store in town, and in the summer of 1832, he left to see his parents in New York, promising to marry Ann upon his return within a year. After leaving town, he disappeared, and despite many inquiries, no trace of him was ever found. Eventually, a relationship developed between Ann and young Abraham Lincoln, who was studying for his law degree. They appeared to be very genuinely in love, but in 1835, Ann contracted typhoid fever, and after a prolonged illness, she died that summer. After her death, Lincoln confided to Mentor Graham that he felt like committing suicide, but Mentor Graham reassured him that “God has another purpose for you.” Sadly, Ann died about 5 years before the invention of daguerreotype photography, so no photographs of her exist. Her epitaph on her tombstone, written by Edgar Lee Masters in 1890, reads: “Out of me unworthy and unknown, The vibrations of deathless music! ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all’. Out of me the forgiveness of millions toward millions, And the beneficent face of a nation, Shining with justice and truth. I am Ann Rutledge who sleep beneath these weeds, Beloved of Abraham Lincoln, Wedded to him, not through union, But through separation. Bloom forever, O Republic, From the dust of my bosom!” The actual 8th line of the verse should read “Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln,” according to a written copy of the epitaph published by Masters, but the words “in life” were omitted by the stone engraver for reasons unclear.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jun 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 3004
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Ann Mayes Rutledge (7 Jan 1813–25 Aug 1835), Find A Grave Memorial no. 3004, citing Oakland Cemetery, Petersburg, Menard County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .