In Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology some of the names that topped the poetic monologues were fictious and seemingly plucked out of thin air. Some were chosen from the Illinois State Constitution and some were real people such as Hannan Armstrong, Chase Henry, and Anne Rutledge, the woman who was purported to be a love interest of a young Abraham Lincoln. Historians disagree whether Lincoln and Rutledge were truly romantically connected.
Anne was born near Henderson, Kentucky, January 7, 1813. When she was a teenager, Anne moved, along with her family, to New Salem, Illinois, which was co-founded by her father. It was there where she met the young and gangly Abraham Lincoln. However, a wave of typhoid swept through the area and Anne succumbed. She died August 25, 1835 and was buried in the small country Old Concord Burial Ground.
Many years later, when a Petersburg, Illinois, undertaker took a financial interest in the Oakland Cemetery, he had Anne Rutledge’s body exhumed and moved her remains to a grave in Petersburg. Her tombstone was replaced with a large granite monument with Edgar Lee Master’s poem about her etched on its rock face:
Out of me unworthy and unknown
The vibrations of deathless music:
“With malice toward none, with charity toward all.”
Out of me the forgiveness of millions toward millions,
And the beneficent face of a nation
Shining with justice and truth.
I am Ann Rutledge who sleeps beneath these weeds,
Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln,
Wedded to him, not through union,
But through separation.
Bloom forever, O Republic,
From the dust of my bosom!