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History Matters 5-24-23

A few notable events in U.S. history that have occurred from May 16 through May 31 are detailed in this edition of the ‘History Matters’ column.


On May 18, 1860, Abraham Lincoln, a former member of the anti-slavery Whig Party, was nominated for the United States presidency at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, IL.

During the ramp up to the election Lincoln sparred with his rival, Stephen A. Douglas, for a November victory. According to “Lincoln ... first gained national stature during his campaign against Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois for a U.S. Senate seat in 1858. The senatorial campaign featured a remarkable series of public encounters on the slavery issue, known as the Lincoln-Douglas debates, in which Lincoln argued against the spread of slavery while Douglas maintained that each territory should have the right to decide whether it would become free or slave state. Lincoln lost the Senate race, but his campaign brought national attention to the young Republican Party.”

When the votes were tallied, Lincoln emerged as the 16th president – and the first Republican – to ascend to the office.


For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Lincoln and the Election of 1860 by Michael S. Green.



By May 22, 1843, the “Great Emigration” of pioneers heading West was gaining momentum; on that day, a caravan of 1,000 men, women and children climbed aboard their horses and steered out of Elm Grove, MO.

As describes it, those pioneers brought with them “a herd of 5,000 oxen and cattle trailing behind. Dr. Elijah White, a Presbyterian missionary who had made the trip the year before, served as guide ... Dozens of books and lectures proclaimed Oregon’s agricultural potential, piquing the interest of white American farmers. The first overland immigrants to Oregon, intending primarily to farm, came in 1841 when a small band of 70 pioneers left Independence, Missouri. They followed a route blazed by fur traders, which took them west along the Platte River through the Rocky Mountains via the easy South Pass in Wyoming and then northwest to the Columbia River. In the years to come, pioneers came to call the route the Oregon Trail.”


The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck.



Johnstown, PA – founded in 1800 – has an anguished history; on May 31, 1889, its South Fork Dam crumpled, flooded the town, and killed more than 2,200 of the 30,000 residents.

According to, “People in the path of the rushing flood waters were often crushed as their homes and other structures were swept away. Thirty-three train engines were pulled into the raging waters, creating more hazards. Some people in Johnstown were able to make it to the top floors of the few tall buildings in town. However, whirlpools brought down many of these taller buildings. A bridge downstream from the town caught much of the debris and then proceeded to catch fire. Some people who had survived by floating on top of debris were burned to death in the fire. Reportedly, one baby survived on the floor of a house as it floated 75 miles from Johnstown ... (It was) one of the American Red Cross’s first major relief efforts. Clara Barton arrived five days later to lead the relief. It took five years to rebuild Johnstown, which again endured deadly floods in 1936 and 1977.”


The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Through The Johnstown Flood by David J. Beale.



This is a feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize, contributed by John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith. The authors note it is intended to show “our children that their past is prelude to their future.”