Henry Smith Lane

Henry Smith Lane, (1811 – 1881)

Born near Sharpsburg in Bath County, Ky., February 24, 1811. Lane received a good education from private tutors, studied law, was admitted to the bar and eventually practiced in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Lane served in both houses of Indiana’s legislature and was elected to the US House of Representatives (1838 – 1843). Toward the end of his term on an icy December night, Lane and his wife Pamela were both injured when their stage plunged over a steep hill. Lane suffered a broken rib – and his wife complained of bruises. Pamela grew worse over the next few days and finally died in Henry’s arms. Modern medicine indicates that Mrs. Lane may have suffered from a ruptured gall bladder.

Lane suffered greatly from the loss of his wife and decided not to seek re-election. Politics remained of interest resulting in some campaign work for Whig Henry Clay. Lane remarried to a Joanna M. Elston who was the daughter of a very wealthy businessman in Crawfordsville. Lane would raise a volunteer group to serve in the Mexican War – and Joanna gave a going away speech from the balcony of their home in spite of a heavy thunderstorm.

Lane continued to dabble in politics and spearheaded the drive to organize the Republican Party in Indiana. In June of 1856, Henry Smith Lane was the keynote speaker at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia. Many in attendance wondered if he was fit to speak as he approached the speaker’s platform. Lane had a shaky limp, a complete absence of front teeth, and a cheek filled with chewing tobacco. One hour later the speech received accolades galore and Lane secured the convention chairmanship. This notoriety pushed Lane into considering the governorship of Indiana. Lane favored Lincoln in the upcoming election, as he wished to gain office on the coattails of Lincoln. Secretly Lane was more interested in being a senator – which became a reality. Lane won the governorship, but serve just 2 days before moving into a Senate position. Over a five year stretch Lane worked tirelessly and was absent from Senate sessions but one day. Lane’s brother in law was General Lew Wallace who authored Ben Hur.

Lane’s senatorial record beams with numerous encounters with President Lincoln – but his comment to the Congressional Globe in February of 1864 is a classic when he says “Whatever else Abraham Lincoln may be, he is to-day one of the kindest and most amiable gentlemen upon this earth, having a sense of justice equal to any man who ever lived”. Lane was a part of the Indiana delegation that boarded the Lincoln funeral train at Richmond. Later he was an attendant at the Indianapolis funeral and part of the processional to the railroad terminal. At the Springfield Lincoln funeral Lane had his pocket picked of some $90.00

After his senate tenure, Lane worked government commissioner jobs before retirement. He died in Crawfordsville on June 18, 1881 and is buried in Crawfordsville’s Oak Hill Cemetery.

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