From the Archives: Civil War Through Aurora Eyes

This article originally appeared in the Aurora Historical Society’s Spring 2015 newsletter. Become a member and receive our newsletters right in your mailbox.

In April 1865, two momentous events took place. The first, on April 9, was the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox — the end of the bloody, four-year American Civil War. Throughout the North, the news was greeted with joy and relief.

At Tanner Hardware in Aurora, run by William A. Tanner (assisted by his son, Henry) the following day’s ledger entry carried these sentences:

“The Rebel Gen Lee with his army surrendered to Gen Grant yesterday afternoon Sunday April 9th 1865. Everybody rejoicing today & celebrating the glorious Event with flags, Bells, Cannon, Bonfires, etc., etc. Stores closed in the afternoon.”


But just five days later, equally momentous, but far more terrible news was received. President Abraham Lincoln had been shot dead at Ford’s Theatre in Washington.

On April 15, the entry in the Tanner Hardware ledger book was much more somber:

“Our beloved President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by some friend of Hell last night at 10 o’clock. On the news being confirmed this morning the stores were immediately closed & draped in mourning. The Nation mourns as for a Father. The honest, Noble hearted & Pure minded Patriot and Stateman is no more!