Grace Bedell's son on her letter to A.Lincoln
Vault Holds By Beverly Btumer Â·Â· Delphos--One of the nation's most treasured letten-- Abraham Lincoln's reply to Grace Bedell--rest* obscurely In bank vault here. K- But most Americans are eon vinced Lincoln's famous letter -telling -telling why he didn't grow a belrd -- is encased in a. Washing' ton D. C. museum. Not only are few Kansans aware of its true location, but most folks In this town of 700 don't know the letter is in reading distance. It's locked in a vault at tht, Delphos Slate bank, w h e r e Grace Bedell's son,' Harlow Drake Billings, Is banker. ." "We keep It in a vault here, insured insured against fire and burglary," Billings explained. "Normally, we never get it out of the vault and don't mention it being here much. I'm keeping it here for sentimen- . tal reasons." The 79-year-old banker lets money do most of his talking, speaking little of the letter and even less of his identity. "Very few people here in Delphos Delphos know I'm Grace Bedell's son." he said. Billings, a modest but not secretive secretive man, hasn't publicized the information information chiefly because Grace Bedell herself the letter. rarely mentioned "She never courted publicity at all," Billings explained. The letter, written to Grace Bedell when she was 11 years old, was in answer to her question asking Lincoln why he didn't grow whiskers. At that time Abe was clean-shaven. Lincoln's reply was: wisher, A. Lincoln." Lincoln later visited Westtltld, N. Y., the horn* of Grace Bedell. Recalling hli moUier'i aceoont of the meetlnf, BIlHnfi Mil: "Lincoln asked for her by name from the train platform. I remember remember her saying hÂ« took her up there and she noticed he had whiskers. 'Grace, you see, I let them grow for you, he said'." Mist Bedell was married at the age of 19 to George Billings, a sergeai.t in the Civil War. Moving from A'. Won N. Y., they took up a veterans homestead three miles north of Delphos, remaining there ten years. Billings then founded :he Delphos State bank. Grace Bedell's letter from Lincoln Lincoln has remained in the Delphos community since the close of the Civil War. Before her death in 1937, she related her experience in receiving the message. "My people didn't know I had written to Mr. Lincoln," she said. "When I- received the one from him, I opened it to read on my way home. A slight skiff of snow was falling, but it wasn't hardly cold enough for snow, and it melted melted as it fell. You'll see many brown spots on it, like big freckles. That's where flakes of snow fell on it as a very excited little girl was trying to read a letter and ran home as fast as she could at the same time. I/IXCOL^S ANSWER -- Rarlow Billings, Delphos, son of late Grace Bedell, displays Abraham Lincoln's letter to her. (JOTOSAI, PHOTO) letter?' "I told her, 'Hon. Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln, Esquire.' They all laughed again, but mother spoke up and nid: "My dear little Miss: Your very agreeable letter oÂ£ the 15th is received. received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters -- I have three sons -- one 17, emu nine, and one .seven years of age. They, with their mother, consti-i tute my whole family. I "As to the whiskers, having! P a P er that never never worn any, do you not think S p r i n g 11 e I d, Ttl. people would call it a piet-e of silly affectation if I were to begin; it now? Your very sincere well- "I rushed in upon my mother Â»nd two Â»r three sisters and all were very much surprised. I remember remember my sister Helen asked me liow I knew where to address the letter. I replied I rend in the Lincoln lived in They all laughed. Then Helen asked: " 'How did you address your i " 'Well, I guess hÂ« received that letter all right'." The message Lincoln received from Grace Bedell read: "Hon. A. Lincoln -- Dear Sir: My father has just come home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin's. I am a little girl only 11 years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you won't think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am? If so, give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot you would be President. Sly father Is going to vote for you and It I was a man I would for you to but I will try and every one to vote for you that I can. "I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look -very pretty. I have got a little baby sister. She is nine weeks old is just as cunning as can be. you write your letter mail it to Grace Bedell Westfield Chautauqua Chautauqua county New York. I not write any more. Answer this letter right off. GocM Bye. Grace Bedell." Today, 92 years later, Grace Bedell's answer from Lincoln still answer this letter. I have got f o u r j i 3 regarded as something of a brothers and part of them will confidential matter -- the same vote for you any way and if youj i t was when Lincoln penned "pri- will let your whiskers grow I will) va te" at the top of the page. Billings isn't anxious to donate to a museum, and is even less| try and get the rest of them to vote for you. You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. "All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their huj' hands to vote for you and then enthused with any financial offering offering for it. Asked iÂ£ $50,000 would purchase the document, he answered: "No, ?50,000 wouldn't be any temptation at all."