February 2014  marks the 205th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday which was celebrated in Oregon this year on February 12 with a wreath-laying ceremony and readings about our 16th President at Lincoln Square in downtown Portland in the shadow of the Lincoln statue donated in 1928 to the city by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe. 

150 years ago this week, Abraham Lincoln was preparing for his 55th birthday on the 9th of February by patiently sitting for several photographs taken in Mathew Brady’s photography studio in Washington, D.C.. One of those poses of the commander-in-chief would eventually find a permanent home on the five dollar bill. However, a somber note was inserted into the impending birthday celebration when a fire started at 8:30 pm on the following night in the stables located on the grounds of the White House. Although it was quite cold and dark on February 9, the fast spreading flames were clearly visible to President Lincoln from the windows of the East Room.

Presidential bodyguard Smith Stimmel described in detail the heroic actions of our 16th President in his 1928 memoirs entitled “Personal Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln”. He wrote, “Just then the front door of the White House flew open with a jerk. The President said to me, “Where’s the fire, what’s burning?” According to Stimmel, Lincoln sprinted to the White House stables where he saw with dismay that the “fire department was at work” keeping the flames from the fully engulfed brick White House stables from spreading. Another White House guard, Robert Wesley McBride was also at the scene, and later wrote that he “turned to see the “tall and hatless man who came running from the direction of the White House” 

Stimmel continued his ,narration of the night’s events as “Mr. Lincoln asked hastily if the horses had been taken out, and when told they had not, he rushed through the crowd and began to break open one of the large doors with his own hands; but the building was full of fire, and none of the horses could be saved. The ponies belonging to the little boys and the goats were all lost,” Stimmel wrote in his memoirs. Later on, in the East Room, the President wept as he saw that the fire was still burning because he couldn’t save the six horses and other pets that had perished in the flames. .One of the ponies was the pet of his son Willie, who himself had died of typhoid while living with his family in the White House  in February of 1862. 

Here are the Civil War 150th Anniversary events taking place in Oregon and one in  Washington during February 2014:

Friday, February 14, 2014. Celebration of Oregon Statehood Day at the Oregon Historical Museum. Downtown Portland, Oregon. Oregon was the 33rd state to enter the Union on February 14, 1859, and she entered as a “free state.” months before the start of the Civil War. Almost 20,000 Civil War veterans are buried in Oregon’s pioneer cemeteries like Portland's Riverview and Lone Fir Cemeteries. At OHS, visitors will be able to meet with former Governors Barbara Roberts and Ted Kulongoski will join Lauderdale in a special musical tribute to our great state. Free admission all day. Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Avenue. Extended hours from 10:00am to 7:00pm .http://www.ohs.org/visit-ohs/events.cfm

Sunday, February 16, 2014. Portland,Oregon. 2:00pm. Free Civil War POW cemetery tour at Lone Fir Cemetery. Volunteers guides from the Oregon Civil War 150th Commission will be leading tours of Portland's premiere pioneeer cemetery during the 150th anniversary of the Prison breakout from Confederate Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia when 109 Union Army officers dug a tunnel and made their break for freedom and the Union lines over the night of Feb 9 and early morning hours of Feb.10, 1864. One of the successful escapees (59 in all) was future Oregonian Morton Tower. Lone Fir Cemetery, S.E. Stark and 26th Avenue. Free and open to the public. website:

Monday, February 17, 2014 Presidents Day. 10:00am-5:00pm. Downtown Portland, Oregon. Closing day for the Oregon Historical Museum’s special exhibit “Windows on America: the Challenges of Leadership.” which includes an original copy of the Thirteenth Amendment, a swatch of fabric from the actual chair President Lincoln was sitting in at Ford’s Theater on the night that he was assassinated, and a copy of the original wanted poster offering rewards for the capture of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices. 1200 SW Park Avenue, Nearby parking lots and Smart Park on the street. Free to residents of Multnomah County. website:http://www.ohs.org/exhibits/current/windows-on-america.cfm

Monday, February 17, 2014. Opening of new exhibit “Civil War Pathways in the Pacific Northwest” at the Washington State Historical Society. 1911 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, Washington. (253)272-9747. Admission prices: $9.50 adults, $7.00 seniors, students and military. Check out the website at http://www.washingtonhistory.org/files/library/current-explore_002.pdf

Tuesday, February 25, 2014. 6:00-7:30pm. Portland, Oregon. CIVIL WAR BOOK CLUB meeting at the Midland Branch of the Multnomah County Library. 805 SE 122nd Ave, Portland,OR. We will be discussing the recently published biography of a one-time resident of Oregon Territory, and future Civil War General and two-term president Ulysses S. Grant written by the highly acclaimed historian and native Portlander H.W. Brands. We will be discussion Brand’s “The Man who Saved the Union: Ulysses S. Grant in War and Peace” as preparation for the visit of Dr. Brands to Portland on March 4, 2014 where he will be signing copies of his book after his lecture as the opening speaker in the 2014 Mark Hatfield Distinguished Historians Forum. http://oregoncivilwar150commission.com/ and http://ohs.org/education/mark-o-hatfield.cfm

For more information on this and other special events concerning the Civil War and Oregon please check out our website at http://oregoncivilwar150commission.com/ or sign up for our newsletter on the website.