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February 7, 2019

“Lincoln’s Secretary’s Secretary” Arrives to Oak Hill!

A Fascinating Read About One of Oak Hill’s Famous Residents and His Daughter: “Lincoln’s Secretary’s Secretary”

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln’s secretary, John Nicolay, is buried at Oak Hill? He was a journalist, author and artist who served our nation well during the Civil War and the years following.

A book written about his daughter came to our attention a while ago when New England writer, John Maguire, did research for the book in our archives. We would like to recommend this fascinating read about Helen Nicolay, who served as her father’s “secretary.” She later proved to be an unrecognized artist, writer and activist on her own. This book weaves a tale of history, famous characters, and paints a picture of the years after the Civil War and the golden age that followed.

Here the authors, Ann Marie Maguire and her son, John Maguire, describe their book:

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln had a profound effect on the history of the United States which still resonates today. Few people were as directly affected in their education, character development, and life’s direction than Helen Nicolay. Her father, John Nicolay, along with John Hay, were Lincoln’s private secretaries during his first term, and the terrible years of the Civil War.

Helen Nicolay, born in 1866, became a Renaissance woman in an era when women did not have the right to vote. Her life spanned the period between the end of the Civil War and World War II, an extraordinary time in American history.

The household Helen grew up in was completely focused on the preservation of the Lincoln legacy by Nicolay and Hay in their writing of the ten volume Lincoln biography. As her father’s secretary, beginning at age 14, she knew as much about Lincoln as anyone.

At the time of his death, John was in the process of writing a condensed version of the Lincoln biography. Helen completed her father’s work, and went on to write twenty books of biography and history of her own. Many of these works were for youth, to inspire them to become good citizens. An inscription in one of her books reads: “To those who will make history.”

Helen’s paintings illustrate her travels in Europe and Egypt, and with the approach of World War I, shift stateside and begin to document our national parks in the American West. Summering for over sixty years in New Hampshire, as she got older her paintings focused more on the mountains and beautiful area around Squam Lake. Helen became an accomplished artist, painting in Europe, Egypt and the American National Parks, but ultimately followed in her father’s footsteps by becoming a prolific biographer.

In writing this book, we have relied on her artwork, letters, notes, books, and other primary sources as much as possible.

At her death in 1954, Helen was cremated and her ashes were scattered at her and John Nicolay’s country estate, “Tanenruh,” in Holderness, New Hampshire. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to inscribe Helen Nicolay’s name on her father’s monument.

Please stop by our office to pick up your copy today while supplies last. We ask for a small donation to the Oak Hill Cemetery Historic Preservation Foundation.

To read more about the authors visit, www.helennicolay.org.

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