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. 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:
The above quoted prices are exclusive of shipping. Orders can be placed by contacting:
519 Sunningdale Way
Elizabethtown, KY 42701
[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).]