Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hiding in Plain Sight


Sometimes the best place to hide is right out in the open. Three Lincoln documents have been "discovered" this week. Guess where they they found them?

For the last thirty years, the illusive documents have been hanging on a wall in Sangamon County Recorder Mary Ann Lamm’s office. That’s right, they’ve been hiding in plain view in, of all places, Springfield. It wasn’t supposed to be a secret. In fact, Lamm enjoyed showing visitors the documents.

Somehow, word never made its way down the street to the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project. Though project members have traveled the country for more than two decades to capture scans of Lincoln documents, they were unaware of the Lamm documents until this week.

Details are a bit hard to come by just yet, but the documents seem to include a promissory note and possibly two receipts, all signed by Lincoln.

The promissory note appears to be the most interesting. A woman named Ritta da Sylva borrowed $125 from Lincoln to purchase a home. Lincoln charged her 10 percent interest on the loan.

Though the news story does not mention it, this document appears in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln in volume 2, pages 224-225. The editors identify “Ritta Angelica da Silva” as “a member of a group of Portuguese settlers who came to Springfield in 1849.”

Interestingly, the editors say this document is part of the Taper collection.

I wish the original SJ-R story provided more detail on the provenance of the document. If anyone can shed light on the subject, please send me an email.

Here is the full text of the document as transcribed by the editors of the Collected Works:

Mortgage from Ritta A. DA Silva

August 11, 1854

This Indenture made this eleventh day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand, eight hundred and fiftyfour, by and between Ritta D. Sylva, of the City of Springfield, County of Sangamon, and State of Illinois, of the one part; and Abraham Lincoln, of the City, County and State aforesaid of the other part, Witnesseth:

That the said Ritta D. Sylva, for, and in consideration of, the sum of one hundred and twentyfive dollars, to her in hand paid, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, has granted, bargained, and sold; and by these presents does grant, bargain and sell unto the said Abraham Lincoln, his heirs and assigns forever, the following described lot of ground, towit: Lot Five, in Block Six, in Wells & Peck's addition to the late town, now City, of Springfield, Illinois.

To have and to hold to the said Abraham Lincoln, his heirs and assigns forever, the above described lot of ground, together with all and singular the previleges and appurtenances thereunto belonging, or to belong.

Yet upon condition that whereas the said Ritta D. Sylva has executed her promissory note of even date herewith, for the sum of one hundred and twentyfive dollars, with interest at the rate of ten per cent per annum, payable to the said Abraham Lincoln, Four year after date---interest payable annually. Now, if said note shall be paid according to it's tenor and effect, the above conveyance is to be null and void, otherwise to remain in full force and effect.

In testimony whereof the said Ritta D. Sylva, has hereunto set her hand and seal the day and year above written.


Satisfied in full. Nov. 24, 1858.


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