The Beginnings of the Lincoln Group of DC

By Edward Steers, Jr.

Berkeley Springs WV

Thursday, October 28, 2021


[Note: The following article is abstracted from the Lincoln Herald of October 1949. References to "the present time" and the like are therefore relative to 1949. As you can see from the list of eminent members and speakers, the Lincoln Group has a long history of engaging the most knowledgeable and ardent fans of Abraham Lincoln. And look at that meeting attendance!]


The Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia was organized in 1935* by a New Deal under Secretary of Agriculture [Milburn Lincoln Wilson], a Washington D.C. policeman [Albert “Bert” Sheldon], and a few other admirers of the Sixteenth President. Their meetings were first held on Lincoln’s birthday in the Hay-Adams House.


Today it maintains a mailing list of approximately 2,000 people who are informed of its activities. At the present time the Lincoln Group meets three times a year in the Lincoln Museum in the Old Ford’s Theatre building. The meetings are held on the Sundays nearest to three important anniversaries in Lincoln’s career, Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, the anniversary of his death, April 15, and the delivery of the Gettysburg Address, November 19. Usually about three hundred people attend these meetings.


Between the three meeting dates a few members gathered for “Bull” sessions two or three times a year. Special meetings were called to extend a cordial welcome to some visiting author in the field of Lincolniana and the Civil War. Lieutenant Bert Sheldon usually sounds the alarm for the ardent fans to get together.


A few of those who have been entertained by the Washington Lincoln Group are Benjamin P. Thomas, James G. Randall, R. Gerald McMurtry, Harry Williams, F. Lauriston Bullard, Robert Barton, and Pete Long. On numerous occasions these informal gatherings have been held in the home of the Secretary-Treasurer Lieutenant Bert Sheldon.


The Washington Group has a large number of authors in its membership. Prominent among these writers are Miss Helen Nicolay, a daughter of Lincoln’s secretary (Lincoln’s Secretary), Madam Dorothy Lamon Teillard, daughter of Lincoln’s warm personal friend Ward Hill Lamon (Recollections of Abraham Lincoln), and Dr. John E. Washington, a colored dentist who published They Knew Lincoln.


One of the founders of the Lincoln Group is Dr. Milburn Lincoln Wilson, the editor and compiler of Democracy Has Roots. Frank Maloy Anderson (Mystery of a Public Man) Congressman Chauncy W. Reed, and Randle B. Truett (Lee Mansion, Arlington, Virginia) are also members.


*Editors Note: The 1935 date is at odds with that given by Bert Sheldon. In 1982, Bert prepared a recording of his reminiscences of his founding of the Lincoln Group in which he believes the date was most likely 1933. M.L. Wilson, who Bert first approached to form the Group, returned to Federal service in 1933 as Chief of Wheat Production Secretary in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. From 1933 to June 1934, he directed the Subsistence Homestead Division of the U.S. Department of Interior. In July 1934, he became USDA Assistant Secretary under Henry Wallace. While Wilson was in Washington in 1933-1934, Bert states in the interview that when he visited M.L. Wilson in his office he was Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, which would place the date in 1934 not 1933.


[Photo is of M.L. Wilson, one of the founders of the Lincoln Group of DC]


Author and historian Ed Steers is a past-president of the Lincoln Group and a renowned authority on the Assassination. His most recent book is "Getting Lincoln Right: Correcting Misconceptions About Our Greatest President."