There was a time, not too long ago, when the President of the United States could walk the streets of Washington, D.C. with no Secret Service in his shadow, and visitors could unknowingly wander onto the White House lawn and not be arrested.
During the month of February, this column will harken back to those times with forgotten stories about Council Bluffs residents who had a connection to Abraham Lincoln.
David Reynolds was born in Cayuga County, NY, on April 5, 1840. During the Civil War, he enlisted in the Union army at Quincy, Michigan, joining Company E 1st Michigan Infantry, according to his obituary – the source of this story.
He first met Abraham Lincoln while stationed in Washington, D.C. He and three companions mistakenly walked onto the front lawn of the White House, thinking it was a park. They noticed two men coming down the walk and, as the two drew closer, they recognized them as Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State, William H. Seward. The soldiers saluted. Reynolds, remembering from boyhood Mr. Seward, also a native of Cayuga County, said, “Don’t you know me, Seward?” Seward said, “Not unless it is one of the Reynolds boys. You must be Dave.” “It’s me, Dave,” he replied. Seward introduced him to Abraham Lincoln who extended his hand. “I’m pleased to meet you, Dave.” he said, and after that, whenever the two met, Abraham Lincoln always greeted Reynolds with, “Hello, Dave.”
Later, Dave Reynolds was wounded in the knee and was confined to a hospital in Baltimore where he had been sent paroled for exchange. He had been a prisoner for more than forty days. President Lincoln and Secretary Seward came to the hospital to visit the injured. They didn’t recognize Dave at first, until told by the nurse in charge. Lincoln then placed his hand on Reynolds’ forehead and said, “My poor boy.” He turned to Mrs. McClelland, the nurse. “I know this boy through Seward,” he said. “Do you have charge of him? I want you to do everything for his recovery and save his leg.”
After leaving the hospital, Dave was placed on duty in the capital. Often he would meet Lincoln on the streets, and would be recognized by a cheery, “Hello, Dave.”
Dave Reynolds remembered attending the theater many times and seeing President and Mrs. Lincoln and the cabinet officers present. At one of those occasions he was introduced to Mrs. Lincoln. He noted that the first lady was somewhat unsociable, but prided herself on being well dressed.
The fall before the assassination, Dave Reynolds, then 23, went to Nebraska and settled on a homestead in Butler County where he served as county clerk and justice of the peace.
Seven years later, he married Harriet Hanchette in Michigan. The couple had seven children: Harry, Earl, Charles, Mark, David, Jr., Ruth and Jessamine. They came to Iowa in 1900 with younger members of their family. They first lived in Thurman, then Clarinda, and Council Bluffs. 1907 records indicate they lived at 352 Lincoln Ave. (still standing) and David’s occupation was listed as “carpenter”. David, Jr. was listed as a student. At some point, they moved to Clarinda where, in 1920, they lived at 222 S. 15th St. Around 1923, they moved back to Council Bluffs where they lived at 133 Benton St. (still standing) along with Jessamine and David, Jr. Jessamine is sometimes listed as a pastor’s assistant, other times as a social worker and a clerk. David worked at a sugar refinery and as a bookkeeper. Harriet died in 1927. Records then show David living with their daughter, Ruth, and her husband, Solomon Blair, in their home at 423 Morningside Avenue. Solomon’s occupation is listed as a “tallyman” at a grain exchange. Also sharing the home were Jessamine and David, Jr.
David continued to live there until shortly before his death in 1933. Harriet and David Reynolds are buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery.
Ruth Blair purchased the property in 1905. The single-family Foursquare house with an open porch, built for the Blairs and their two children in 1910, is perched on the corner of Morningside and Gleason avenues as though keeping an eye on the valley below.
– Preserve Council Bluffs acknowledges the following sources of information for this series: National Register of Historic Places nominations, the reference department of the Council Bluffs Public Library, the auditor’s office of the Pottawattamie County courthouse, Council Bluffs Community Development Department, homeowners, family members and individual research. Mary Lou McGinn can be reached by email at email@example.com.