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Historical Connections to Abraham Lincoln

Some Interesting Historical Connections in this Biography.

Abraham Lincoln, Orson Welles, Gerald Ford, Billy the Kid, & Zalmon G. Simmons

Gideon Truesdell’s Chicago attorney was Henry W. Blodgett, who studied the law at the Chicago offices of Scammon & Judd., and this is where he first met Abraham Lincoln. J. Young Scammon was a high-ranking member of the Illinois Whig Party.

His partner, Norman Judd, played a significant role in getting Abraham Lincoln the Republican nomination, and Henry Blodgett was part of the Illinois delegation. When he was in Chicago, the future president would stop at Scammon & Judd’s office, where he got to know twenty-one year old Howard Wells Blodgett.

Among those who shook hands with the nominee at a reception was Henry W. Blodgett, who later became a federal judge. “Where’s Howard?” asked Lincoln. “He’s at the office,” replied Henry and Lincoln said “tell him to come over.” Howard came to the hotel where the reception was being held, and found Lincoln shaking hands. He was dressed in a swallow tail suit with kid gloves that had become grimy from so much hand shaking. When Blodgett reached Lincoln he held up his grimy hands and said in mock seriousness “Howard, look at this, never go into politics.”

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Orson Welles

Orson Welles 1915—1985

One of Gideon Truesdell’s attorneys was Orson Head, and he was screen legend Orson Welles great grandson.

During long trials he could think on this feet and recall complicated testimony verbatim. He was Durkee, Truesdell & Company’s attorney, and represented them when they sued the City Bank of Kenosha for usury interest rates on their outstanding notes.He had a strong baritone voice that could be intimidating and probably similar to Orson Welles’ superb voice.

Orson Head’s cousin, Franklin P. Head, was a partner in the law firm of Head & Head, and married Harvey and Mar- tha Durkee’s beautiful daughter Catherine. Franklin subsequently became a partner with Gideon Truesdell in a 40,000 acre Nevada cattle ranch with the Durkee family.

John V. Ayers (1812-1877) was a partner in the Kenosha Pier Company with Gideon Truesdell, and Ayers was Gerald Ford’s great, great. Grandfather.

He arrived in Southport, Wisconsin, penniless after having suffered substantial losses in New Orleans, and found work at Samuel Hale’s lakefront warehouse. He was such a sharp guy that Hale quickly made him a partner in a firm styled Hale & Ayer, which merged with Durkee, Truesdell & Company and Holbrook, Elkins & Company. This firm became the largest freight forwarding and export warehouse between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Just prior to the Civil War, Hale & Ayer moved their operations to Chicago where they made an enormous amount of money in the iron business. They bought a third interest in an iron mill in Youngstown, bought three blast furnaces, and owned four of the largest rolling mills in the country along with coal ovens and limestone quarries.

Samuel Hale once remarked that it was John Ayer that was responsible for their success in the iron business.

Gerald Ford

Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006)

Henry Antrim

Henry Antrim (1859-1881)

There is a well-documented relationship between Henry Antrim and the Truesdell family.

Scholars believe that Catherine Antrim first met Louisa Truesdell (Gideon and Julia’s daughter-in-law) when she baked bread, rolls, and pies for Truesdell’s Star Hotel. The relationship turned into a friendship when her sons became friends with Gideon and Chauncey Truesdell and the other Angelo boys in town.


Catherine was terminally ill with tuberculosis, and Louisa attended the Chicago Academy of Nursing the year before she married G.J. Truesdell. As her condition grew worse, Louisa would spend her nights at the Antrim cabin caring for her, with Henry sitting next to his mother holding her hand. Before she died, she discussed what would happen to her boys after she died. Chauncey Truesdell recalled her saying “she was leaving two boys in a wild country, and she made my mother promise to look out for them if anything should happen to her.” After Catherine was buried, Henry came to the Wisconsin House where he shared a room with Gideon and Chauncey Truesdell.


Academic scholars agree that the Truesdell family knew him well, and they liked him.

Zalmon G. Simmons amassed a fortune as President of the Northwestern Telegraph Company, and as a board mem- ber of Western Union Telegraph. He struck gold when he accepted a patent for a wire mattress as settlement of a bad debt. After investigating this patent with an eye towards mass-production, he calculated that he could lower the cost of a mattress from $5 to 88¢, which led to his founding the Simmons Mattress Company where he amassed another staggering fortune.

He and Gideon Truesdell became close friends when Simmons was president of the Kenosha & Rockford Railroad. During the Civil War he shipped millions of feet of lumber aboard this railroad, and became the railroad’s largest freight customer. Samuel C. Johnson was secretary-treasurer of the railroad, and Sim- mons loaned him the money to develop a paste wax for hardwood floors that later became the family owned billion dollar Johnson Wax conglomerate.

Simmons also engineered Truesdell’s election to the Wisconsin statehouse, and was a board member of the Northwest Dairyman’s Association.

Zalmon Simmons

Zalmon G. Simmons (1828-1910)

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