What do Hollywood and the Old Mission Peninsula have in common? A heck of a good story about Abraham Lincoln.
While Steven Spielberg’s historical drama Lincoln has Oscar buzzing, there is a local connection to this country’s 16th president that you may not be aware of: deeds to numerous Old Mission Peninsula farms signed by the President himself.
Peninsula lands opened up for federal government land granting around 1860, and although the number of acres on the peninsula granted during Lincoln’s administration (1861-65) could not be confirmed, residents say it was a common practice.
Many land grants were given to Civil War veterans as compensation for their service, and a lot of Peninsula families have ancestors that served in that war, notes Township Supervisor Rob Manigold.
So The Ticker went looking and discovered a couple of families with Lincoln tales to tell.
Diane Zientek is one. Zientek is a fifth generation member of the Kroupa family now living on one of the peninsula’s original Kroupa farmsteads – an 80-acre centennial cherry farm still in production today – on Kroupa Road.
Zientek recalls her mother telling her the family had the original deed signed by Lincoln, but she never saw it and wasn’t even sure the story was true. That is, until she was settling her mother’s estate after she passed away.
“Sure enough, it’s real,” says Zientek. “I found it in an envelope in a fireproof box with other important papers in the bedroom.” (Note: It is no longer there.)
The deed, dated August 15, 1861, assigned the land to Leopold Croper (perhaps a Bohemian spelling of Kroupa?) – Zientek’s great-great-grandfather. He came to America from Bohemia in 1854 with his wife Petronilla and their young son, John Kroupa, Sr. – Zientek’s great-grandfather.
Congress had approved legislation giving “Bounty land to certain officers and soldiers who have engaged in military service of the US” in 1855. According to Zientek, it appears the land was deposited in the General Land Office “in favor of David Mills,” who served in the war of 1812, and who ultimately assigned it to her great-great-grandfather.
Ancestors of the Carroll family also received a deed signed by Lincoln. Peninsula native Tim Carroll shows the document during a video interview conducted by Kennard Weaver for a project of the local historical society.
While Carroll spent his career as a diplomat far away from the Old Mission Peninsula, he now lives in the farmhouse built by his great-grandfather Richard Johnson upon receiving 160 acres. The deed is dated April 14, 1864 – exactly one year to the day before Lincoln was shot.