ATHENS - In 1835, it would have
been a difficult choice guessing who would be more
successful, Abraham Lincoln or John Kennedy Kincaid.
from Kentucky, the two men, in their mid-20s, were just
getting started. Lincoln settled at New Salem as a
surveyor and store clerk, while Kincaid, an abolitionist
educated in Greek and Latin, began buying up property
and farmland near Athens.
Lincoln helped Kincaid establish the boundaries of
some property midway between Athens and New Salem. The
land, it's thought, was to supply timber for the Kincaid
Decades later, the Kincaid family had the surveying
document framed. It was passed down through the
generations and proudly displayed.
At first glance, the document is no different than
any other 19th-century piece of pioneer bureaucracy -
except for the "A. Lincoln" signature down at the bottom
of the page and the future president's distinct
But Kim Bauer, Lincoln curator at the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library, sees more.
"It's showing here that Lincoln can take a complex
subject like surveying, boil it down to its basics,"
Bauer said. "(He had) the ability to take a subject and
master it within a six-month period after taking it up.
It's a nice example of a larger story."
Lincoln's first survey was in 1834.
"It was one of the first jobs where he had a much
wider scope of being able to go out, meet and greet and
understand people," Bauer said.
In 1976, Kincaid's great-grandson, also named John
Kennedy Kincaid, and his wife, Margaret, took the survey
to Springfield and had it assessed. When they were told
it was worth about $20,000, its life as a conversation
"I took it to the lock box that afternoon," recalled
Margaret Kincaid, whose husband died in 1996.
Kincaid and her family have decided to donate the
survey to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and
Museum during a ceremony at 1:30 p.m. today in the
museum's Treasures Gallery.
"It needs to be in a place that is
humidity-controlled," Kincaid said. The family had been
discussing how the document might be preserved, and the
new museum is "the logical place," she said.
Kennedy also said it's time for the survey to belong
to the public.
Historians have known about the survey for years, and
it has been published in books. Kincaid's brother,
Archibald, also had property surveyed by Lincoln. While
copies of it appear in print, the original is missing.
Kincaid said her great-grandfather in-law was a Whig
supporter who, in the mid-1850s, backed the new
Republican Party, which Lincoln helped create. There are
family stories that the two men were friends who called
each other "Ken" and "Abe."
Kincaid keeps at her home a part of an old door panel
that someone etched "Ab" on. The story is that Lincoln
stayed at a log cabin belonging to a Kincaid relative
while surveying in the area. He began carving his name
on the door once while waiting for supper. Apparently,
supper was announced before Lincoln could finish carving
Kincaid, who is a firm believer in the authenticity
of the panel, admits it's a hard story to prove, as many
family members have told her. Bauer, however, suggests
that there's a 70 percent to 80 percent chance of it
being true, given the Kincaids' indisputable connection
to Lincoln and that the story is traced to a close
ancestor who claims to have witnessed it.
Kincaid said her survey, inside its safe-deposit box
in a Petersburg bank, has been reassessed since 1976.
She wouldn't tell its worth, except to confirm that, had
someone paid $20,000 for it 30 years ago, it would have
been a very good investment.
According to Bauer, the Kincaid donation is among
artifacts with a total appraisal exceeding $1 million
that have been given to the library and museum since
August, when Lincoln's brief case and other items were
donated two months before the library opened.
Three weeks ago, Bauer, at his office, greeted an
older man and his wife who told him they wanted to give
to him something.
"He said his name was Robert Lincoln Todd. He walked
right in and said, 'Here!'" Bauer recalled.
Todd gave Bauer a silver "loving cup" with an
inscription on the bottom: "R.T.L. to R.L.T."
Todd is a grandson of George Todd, a cousin of Robert
Lincoln, Abraham and Mary's only child to reach
adulthood. Apparently, the cup was a gift from Robert to
George honoring the birth of his son, Robert Lincoln
Todd, the father of the man who visited Bauer.
Bauer said the library has a lot of information on
George Todd, a dreamer and schemer who frequently hit up
his famous cousin for support.
"Without any suggestions, they came in and said
they've had the cup all these years," Bauer said. "They
couldn't find anywhere else they preferred to have it."
Pete Sherman can be reached at 788-1539 or