Early on the morning of February 11, 1861, Abraham Lincoln went to the Great Western Railroad depot to begin his inaugural journey to Washington D.C. Lincoln and his eldest son, Robert, were scheduled to leave on the 8:00 a.m. train, while the rest of his family would follow later that day.
Lincoln gave a short speech to the group of friends and family who came to see him off. His words, brief yet powerful, moved his audience and foretold of the great challenge he faced.
"My friends, No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."
Today, the Great Western Depot still welcomes visitors who want to learn more about the man who left Springfield behind to guide the nation through Civil War. The depot, now privately owned, is located two blocks from Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Tours are self-guided. Inside the depot, exhibits highlight Lincoln's life and times, a 20-minute video of his inaugural journey, railroad and other artifacts from the period, and his farewell address to the people of Springfield. Make the Great Western Depot a stop on your journey through historic Springfield!
The Great Western Depot is owned and operated by Noll Law Office. Depot open Monday through Fridays 10 AM - 4 PM. See the website at www.lincolndepot.org for holiday and Saturday hours.