Lincoln's ex-employee Billie Lynch lives a long life in Carson City

Photo courtesy of Nevada Historical Society Billie Lynch stands in front of the Arlington Hotel. The Arlington was right across the street from the U.S. Mint in Carson City.

Photo courtesy of Nevada Historical Society Billie Lynch stands in front of the Arlington Hotel. The Arlington was right across the street from the U.S. Mint in Carson City.

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Editor's note: This is the final of two parts of Sue Ballew's account of Billie Lynch, who was an employee of Abraham Lincoln, and a witness to his assassination, before moving to Carson City on the invitation of Abraham Curry.

It was about the time that Billie Lynch was working for President Johnson that he met Abe Curry, who was director at the Carson U.S. Mint. He was in Washington on business and offered to take him to Nevada. Regardless of how rough it was, Lynch was determined to make a go of it. His travel to Carson was long (as the trains had not come through to the West until 1869). He traveled by steamer to New York, across the Isthmus of Panama on a train and up the coast to San Francisco. He remembered the journey, according to a newspaper account: The stage driver was a noted character of the old stage coach days. None other, in fact, than Hank Monk, made locally famous by a certain drive from Carson to Placerville with Horace Greeley. 'Keep your seat, Horace I'll get you there?' This must have been Monk's usual method of driving ... "I never got so tired riding in all my life, or so scared. It was just up and down."

Carson still wasn't settled in 1868. Lynch, after coming from Georgetown, must have suffered some culture shock. Carson was nothing but a mud hole then ... you couldn't cross the main street without rubber boots. We used to hunt rabbits where the capitol is now. Saloons were plenty; they were just sheds, and men rode their horses right in and up to the bar when they wanted to buy a drink.

After the Mint closed, Lynch went on to work as a baggage master for the Virginia and Truckee Railroad.

What follows is a chronology of what was happening in Carson City around the time Billie Lynch arrived:

The Daily Appeal, Aug. 12, 1869: Col. Curry started up the engine in the Mint yesterday and informs us that everything works ... Croakers, who cannot see beyond their nose, say it will be of no benefit to Carson. To those we say, wait and see ... Some of the same class say, the railroad will ruin Carson, to those we say, wait and see ...

Aug. 29, 1869: Business in Carson ... Of the new buildings erected, or finished ... The United States Branch Mint, by far the most costly building in the State, the perfect proportions of which now stands complete ... We are informed that Superintendent Curry only awaits the presence of a melter and refiner to enable the institution to commence coining Nevada gold and silver.

Nov. 2, 1869: The Mint Machinery in Motion ... By Superintendent Curry's invitation we yesterday went to witness the working of the Carson Branch Mint machinery ... Brand new as it all is, it worked like the "works" of a watch - everything smooth ...

Jan. 8, 1870: True to his word, Abe Curry has hired Lynch as porter in the new mint. His name is listed with other employees listed in the Appeal. Mint Officers and Employees - Col. Curry has kindly furnished us with the following list of officers, clerks, and employees in the United States Branch Mint ... A. Curry, Superintendent and Treasurer, F.D. Hetrich, Assayer and Acting Melter and Refiner ... W. Lynch, porter.

Feb. 12, 1870: Mint Drops - We yesterday saw Col. Curry and Andy Wright on the street with a half bushel bag full of silver dollars. Andy was toting them down to the express office and the Colonel was going along as body guard. The man who was with us suggested that we knock Andy down and capture his load; but we turned the sordid huckster over to the police and the mint drops went safely to their destination.

Feb. 15, 1870: Col. Curry minted some ten thousand dollars in gold yesterday.

Feb. 20, 1870: Washington, D.C., Feb. 19, 1870, To A. Curry: We have just carried the Mint Appropriation in the House, all right. James W. Nye

Carson Daily Index: July 14, 1885: The funeral of Mrs. Lynch, a colored lady well known in Carson, took place yesterday, Rev. Wythe officiating. By the death of Mrs. Lynch, several small children are left motherless. (Children: Nettie, 5; Charles, 2 and Susan, 2 weeks).

Carson Daily Index: July 15, 1885: Card of Thanks: I desire to tender my heartfelt thanks to the ladies who so materially assisted me in my affliction at the death of my wife. If it had not been for the assistance so kindly rendered by the ladies I could not have done anything at all. Their kindness will ever be remembered. Wm. Lynch

News of Billie was reported in the Las Vegas Sun on April 14, 1968, by Ellen Goodrich Priest. In his last days he lived at the Ormsby County home for the poor. Each Christmas my Sunday School class of Orphans Home Girls and I would take little gifts and goodies to the inmates and put on little entertainments for their pleasure."Uncle Billy" was always a pleased spectator. The girls in turn stood a little in awe of one so aged who has seen Lincoln and witnessed his assassination.

Billie was scheduled to appear in Nevada's 68th birthday celebration. That story is told in the Nevada State Journal on October 30, 1932. (It should be noted that the Parade was held in Reno until about 1936 when it was moved to Carson City). Billie Lynch, aged Negro, reputed to be a former personal servant of President Lincoln, is expected to be in the parade. He is said to be 106 years old ... Lynch was reported to be slightly ill last night, but was emphatic in his promises to be here for the parade ...

Billie Lynch lived in Carson City as a widower and somehow raised three children to adulthood. He died at the county poor farm outside Carson City on Feb. 17, 1935. No one is sure how old he was. His death certificate says he was 100, but Billie insists he was 110. His date of birth is unlisted. The census information indicates he was closer to 90. At the time of his death he left three children, Nettie, Susan and Charles Lynch, and four grandchildren.

• Sue Ballew is the daughter of Bill Dolan, who wrote the Past Pages column for the Nevada Appeal from 1947 until his death in 2006. She is president of the Carson City Historical Society and a docent at the Nevada State Museum.


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