KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Lincoln Highway doesn’t run through Michigan but I thought I’d point out an interesting Lincoln-specific spot I checked out during my brief detour to visit my parents in Grand Rapids.
Abraham Lincoln came to Kalamazoo in 1856 to deliver a speech supporting the campaign of John Frémont, the first-ever Republican Party nominee for president, who lost to Pennsylvania Democrat James Buchanan that year.
Lincoln, who was then relatively unknown, spoke in Bronson Park, which remains an important public space in downtown Kalamazoo. This speech helped lay the foundation for Lincoln’s eventual national prominence in the 1860 election.
Lincoln came into Kalamazoo on the train from Chicago. The train arrived late and he rushed down Rose Street to Bronson Park. There were four stages set up in the park and Lincoln spoke at 2 p.m. His speech touched on one of the halmark issues of the Republican party at the time: restricting the expansion of slavery to new territories and states, including Kansas and Nebraska.
Via the Kalamazoo Public Library, I’ve posted Lincoln’s Kalamazoo address in full: