A Game of Whist: An Alleged Sheboygan Connection to Abraham Lincoln’s Assassin

By Steven K. Rogstad

Sheboygan resident Helen Brainard Cole made herself into a local celebrity the final six years of her life by supplying journalists with stories about her four-year association with President Abraham Lincoln. Between 1925 and 1931, she provided numerous reminiscences about how she became connected with the Lincoln family.

Cole became such a recognized personality through her Lincoln stories and professed wartime nursing service that when she died at age 93 in 1931, she was heralded as “one of Sheboygan’s oldest and grandest women and Wisconsin’s last Civil War nurse,” who had received numerous accolades for her patriotism, devotion to military societies, attendance at state military encampments of the Grand Army of the Republic, participation in nursing organizations and area service clubs, and the years of faithful devotion as a nurse to the “boys in blue” at the nation’s capital.

Unfortunately, the stories she told of her interactions with Lincoln and his family, along with the tales she enjoyed recounting about her nursing career, have proven to be absolute fiction.

This address was delivered at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center in Plymouth, Wisconsin, on October 7, 2022.