Intern Finds Undiscovered Lincoln Documents

Intern David Spriegel, of Gurnee, discovered unknown Abraham Lincoln documents during his summer internship in Springfield

By Rosie Powers
|  Friday, Jun 17, 2011  |  Updated 8:32 AM CDT
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David Blanchette/Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Notes Abraham Lincoln wrote to prepare a petition for a land dispute case in the 1840s.

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Not everyone can say they unearthed a piece of undocumented history during their college internship. But thanks to his discovery of unknown documents from Abraham Lincoln before he was president, David Spriegel can.

Two weeks into his summer internship at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Spriegel, from Gurnee, was doing typical student research.

As he looked through land purchases among three prominent families in the Springfield area -- the Hays, Browns and the Logans -- he found documents that looked like notes Lincoln wrote in 1844 to prepare his petition for a land dispute case.

Spriegel saw that the back of the documents had signed notations from Hay that said: "The forgoing memorandum is in the handwriting of Abraham Lincoln." Spriegel said the notes were in reference to a case, Opdycke et al v. Godfrey et al, of Christian County in central Illinois.

His supervisor, Glenna Schroeder-Lein, brought the documents to experts at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project in the library where they were confirmed as Lincoln's.

"I knew that since I was in a library/museum environment, it was important to consult and confirm the findings," Spriegel said.

The documents are now in the custody of James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln Collection at the library. The collection contains about 1,580 original Lincoln manuscripts. The documents will be available for viewing this fall on the Papers of Abraham Lincoln website, which has about 5,600 materials from other Lincoln legal cases.

Spriegel, 21, is a senior at St. Mary's University in Winona, Minnesota, and plans to pursue a master's degree in Library and Information Science after graduation.

"The excitement of this internship is that I never know what I'm going to get when I'm handed a new box to research and look through," Spriegel said. "I look forward to the next discovery, big or small."

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