Hardin County Historical Society

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

The Hardin County Historical Society has obtained exclusive permission from Mrs. R. Gerald McMurtry to reprint her husband's seminal works on the early history of the Lincoln family in Kentucky and Indiana.

A native of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Gerald McMurtry began his career in Lincoln studies in 1932 as the librarian at the Lincoln National Life Foundation in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In that position he worked under the foundation's first director, Louis A. Warren. It was here that McMurtry published his first pamphlet on the Lincolns: The Lincolns in Elizabethtown Kentucky (Fort Wayne: Lincolniana Publishers, 1932).

In 1935, McMurtry left the Lincoln National Life Foundation to seek his fortune as an insurance salesman back in Hardin County. Alas, he was a better historian than salesman, and his career in the the insurance business was short lived. During these years he wrote a weekly newspaper column on the Lincolns and the history of Elizabethtown, which was published in the Hardin County Enterprise. In 1938, a number of these columns were collected together and published as A Series of Monographs Concerning the Lincolns and Hardin County, Kentucky (Elizabethtown: The Enterprise Press, 1938). The book was issued in a limited edition of 1,000 copies.

Also during this time, McMurtry was appointed to serve of the Lincoln Memorial Highway Commission, which was charged with determining the route taken by the Lincoln family in their migrations from Kentucky to Indiana and later to Illinois. As a result of his historical investigations, McMurtry had an article published in the Indiana Magazine of History titled "The Lincoln Migration from Kentucky to Indiana." This article was later reprinted into a hardbound book (M3581).

In the Fall of 1937 McMurtry became the Director of Research at the Lincoln Museum at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. While serving in this capacity, McMurtry built the Lincoln Museum's collection and library, which now contains countless national treasures. During his tenure at LMU, McMurtry wrote a number of books and articles, and edited the Lincoln Herald.

The year 1939 saw the publication of a slim volume, Let's Talk of Lincoln­of His Life, of his Career, of his Deeds, of his Immortality (Harrogate: Lincoln Memorial University, 1939). However, the study was more poetic than historic, and reviews for the book were mixed.

Also in 1939 McMurtry published The Kentucky Lincolns on Mill Creek (Harrogate: Lincoln Memorial University, 1939). This book, issued in an edition of 250 signed and numbered copies, closely examined the land upon which Thomas and Nancy Lincoln lived before they moved to the Nolan Creek farm, where Abraham was born.

In 1943, McMurtry published a book on Ben Hardin Helm, President Lincoln's brother-in-law. Published by the Civil War Round Table of Chicago, Ben Hardin Helm: "Rebel" Brother-in-Law of Abraham Lincoln­With a Biographical Sketch of His Wife and an Account of the Todd Family of Kentucky (Chicago: Civil War Round Table of Chicago, 1943), was limited to 225 signed and numbered copies. It is perhaps the rarest of McMurtry's books.

During the years 1945 and 1946 McMurtry made an attempt at writing fiction. He set to work on a novel which he tentatively titled Love Along the Sangamon. McMurtry's friends who read the book kindly suggested that he was not, perhaps, cut out to be a novelist. Ralph Newman made the suggestion that McMurtry pass along his research material to Chicago novelist Olive Carruthers, who could do a better job fictionalizing the work. The result was Lincoln's Other Mary (Chicago: Ziff-Davis Publishing, 1946). The book was not a critical success, but did enjoy healthy sales.

In 1956 McMurtry returned to Fort Wayne, being named director of the Lincoln National Life Foundation, succeeding Louis A. Warren. As director of the Foundation, McMurtry was the editor of their regular newsletter, Lincoln Lore. In 1959 Lincoln's Favorite Poets (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1959), which he wrote in collaboration with David J. Harkness, was published.

McMurtry's last book-length work was also a collaboration, this with his successor as director of the Lincoln National Life Foundation, Mark E. Neely Jr. Together they produced The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986). The book was written using documentary evidence of Mary Lincoln's 1875 commitment to a mental institution.

During his career McMurtry was the author of 25 pamphlets and brochures and numerous articles and book reviews. Until this year, only his final work in collaboration with Mark Neely was in print. However, in 1999, the Hardin County (Kentucky) Historical Society reprinted four of McMurtry's books. Mrs. Gerald McMurtry granted the Society permission to reprint her deceased husband's works. The following four books are now being offered for sale:

 

 

 

R. Gerald McMurtry. A Series of Monographs Concerning the Lincolns and Hardin County Kentucky. Elizabethtown, KY: The Enterprise Press 1938 [Hardin County Historical Society, 1999]. 8-5/8" x 5-1/2", (6) p., 133 pp., illus. ISBN 0-931244-11-0. $18.00. A reprint of M3637. A collection of newspaper article that appeared in the Hardin County Enterprise in the mid-1930s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R. Gerald McMurtry. The Lincoln Migration from Kentucky to Indiana ­1816­. Elizabethtown, KY, Hardin County Historical Society, 1999. Reprinted from the Indiana Magazine of History Vol. XXXIII, No. 4, December, 1937. Pamphlet, paper, 6-1/2" x 5-3/8", 46 pp., illus. ISBN 0-931244-09-9. $5.00. A reprint of M3581. Documentation of the routes taken during the Lincoln Family's westward migrations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

R. Gerald McMurtry. The Kentucky Lincolns on Mill Creek. Elizabethtown, KY: Hardin County Historical Society, 1999. 8-5/8" x 5-5/8", (2) xi p., 77 pp., illus. ISBN 0-931244-12-9. $18.00. A reprint of M3693. A series of essays on the property on which the Lincoln family lived before the birth of son Abraham. Older sister Sarah was born in the Mill Creek cabin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R. Gerald McMurtry. Ben Hardin Helm "Rebel" Brother-in-law of Abraham Lincoln-with a Biographical Sketch of His Wife and An Account of the Todd Family of Kentucky. Elizabethtown, KY, Hardin County Historical Society, 1999. 8-5/8" x 5-1/2", 72 pp., illus. ISBN 0-931244-129-14-5. $18.00. A reprint of L1944-15. A scholarly examination of one of Lincoln's Confederate relatives

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to these reprints, the Hardin County Historical Society is offering original editions of two Lincoln pamphlets. They are:

 

 

R. Gerald McMurtry. The Lincolns in Elizabethtown, Kentucky (Fort Wayne: Lincolniana Publishers, 1932). M3338. $3.00. McMurtry's first publication examines the relationship between the Lincoln family and Elizabethtown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louis A. Warren. Sarah Bush Lincoln The Beloved Foster Mother of Abraham Lincoln A Memorial. (Elizabethtown: Elizabethtown Women's Club, 1922). M2609. $1.00. Illustrations include the marriage bond between Thomas Lincoln and his second wife, Sarah Bush Johnston.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above quoted prices are exclusive of shipping. Orders can be placed by contacting:

Barbara Lee
519 Sunningdale Way
Elizabethtown, KY 42701
270-765-5264
Email: hglee@prodigy.net

[Data used in the composition of this short essay was taken from Dr. McMurtry's autobiography, My Lifelong Pursuit of Lincoln (Fort Wayne: Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum, 1981).]