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Historic Lincoln desk finds its way back home

May 17, 2018

LINCOLN CITY, Ind. (AP) — A wooden desk believed to have been made by Thomas Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s father, has a new home at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, thanks to a Jasper family.

The desk had been in his father, John Fierst’s side of the family for several generations, according to Tom Fierst of Jasper. Through a lot of research over the years, the family compiled the history behind the historic piece of furniture.

The Lincolns moved to what is now Spencer County in 1816 and lived there for nearly 15 years. Tom said they had corn ground at Hoffman’s Mill on Anderson Creek or at Enlow Mill along the Patoka River in Jasper. During one of Thomas Lincoln’s trips to Jasper, he traded the desk for meal. Tom added that at that time, it was likely that Abraham Lincoln, who later became the country’s 16th president, would have made the trip to Jasper with his father, who was a farmer and a carpenter.

“We know the desk was used in the old Enlow Mill and it generally passed from one mill owner to another until it reached the Eckert family,” Tom said. “I guess the younger generation of the Eckerts at that time sold it to my great grandfather who was Louis P. Joseph. When he bought it, we’re not really sure.”

At the time, Joseph was with the Jasper Desk Company and Tom said he used the desk as an advertisement and put it on display. While on display, “souvenir seekers” would steal the knob from the front of it.

“So that knob that’s on that desk is not an original,” Tom said, saying the same would happen when Joseph took the desk to furniture shows across the U.S.

John acquired the desk in 1964 from his uncle, who was Joseph’s son. The desk sat in John and his wife Gloria’s home — the childhood home of Tom, his two brothers and four sisters — for more than 50 years.

Tom said the desk “was in a very protected location in the house,” at the top of the staircase and to the right.

“When all of us would get to the top of the stairs, we would generally be going left, we wouldn’t be going right,” he said. “It got very little traffic. And, of course, he (dad) was rather protective of it as well.”

John did more and more research on the desk through the years and would tell his kids of anything he learned. He was a history teacher at Jasper High School for 40 years and was Dubois County’s historian for at least 10 years.

Tom believes his father was intrigued by the desk because of his admiration for Abraham Lincoln, whom John studied extensively.

“As someone who had a passion for history, this was something that I think he had his eye on for some time,” Tom said of his father. “He knew his grandfather owned this piece of furniture and I think he just wanted it in his possession because of his admiration for Lincoln.”

John died in 2008 and he and his kids had discussed what would happen to the historic desk. Someone suggested donating it and then John agonized over where to donate it. He liked the idea of donating it to Lincoln Boyhood, Tom said, because it was made by a man who lived there and because the park would give it more national exposure where a larger number of visitors would see it.

After John died, the desk remained in the Fierst home with Gloria. She now lives at Brookside Village and the Fierst children decided it was time to donate it this past February.

“I think that we couldn’t have done anything better than donate it to Lincoln Boyhood,” Tom said.

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Source: Dubois County Herald, https://bit.ly/2IoaOam

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Information from: The Herald, http://www.dcherald.com

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