Mariah (Bartlett) Vance, Daytime Servant to the Lincolns – Part 1

By Wayne C. Temple

Among the people who had a close relationship with Abraham and Mary Ann (Todd)Lincoln in Springfield was Maria (Bartlett) Vance. Her first name is sometimes spelled Maria. From several primary sources it is known that Mariah worked as a daytime maid, laundress, nurse, and baby-sitter from about 1850 until 1861, when the Lincolns departed for Washington, D.C.2 She probably followed Catherine Gordon, who lived with the Lincolns in 1850 but on January 7, 1851, married William H. Batterton and, of course, moved out.3 But Mariah never resided in the Lincoln home. She was already married with several small children and merely commuted from her house on West Washington Street, west of the Springfield Gas Light and Coke Company, which was located on the northwest corner of Washington and First streets.4 A black woman, Mariah was especially loved by Robert Lincoln, who always relished her corn pone and bacon.5 Without doubt, she proved to be more subservient to Mary Lincoln’s demands and tolerated her volatile mood swings much better than the white girls and “wild Irish,” as Mary Lincoln termed some of them.6 Those girls came to and left the Lincoln home like the seasons. Mariah would have filled in for departed maids or upon occasion augmented the labors of those who were in residence.

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