Tuesday, April 14, 2009
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Abe's 1858 namesake town rally-speech published in the Lincoln bicentennial issue of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

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[April 14, 2009]  The Lincoln bicentennial issue of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society has recently been released, including native Lincolnite Darold Leigh Henson's article titled "Lincoln at Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln Rallies Logan County, Illinois, in His First Namesake Town on October 16, 1858."

HardwareThe society's journal publishes only articles recommended by professional historians, who are typically distinguished professors at four-year colleges and universities. Henson earned a Ph.D. in English studies from Illinois State University in 1982 and is professor emeritus of English at Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.

Henson's article explains his research process that led to the discovery of previously unidentified newspaper (primary) sources about this event, which took place on the day after the last Lincoln-Douglas debate in Alton. (Primary sources are contemporary with a given event.) Henson used numerous primary sources, including the texts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, in the composition of the play script that was adapted for the re-enactment of this historic event in Lincoln on Oct. 16, 2008. The article includes historic photos and a summary of the play, with excerpts demonstrating Lincoln's arguments against slavery and his humorous jabs at Stephen A. Douglas, his opponent in the 1858 Senate race.

The double, book-length journal issue (213 pages) features nine articles, most of them about Mr. Lincoln's various career-related experiences in Illinois. Also included are reviews of 25 books: new and recent as well as collections, reprints and picture books relating to Mr. Lincoln. These reviews are the work of Dr. Robert McColley, professor emeritus of history at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. On the cover is the famous photo of Mr. Lincoln taken by Alexander Hesler on June 3, 1860, in Springfield, soon after Mr. Lincoln became the Republican presidential nominee. The state historical society owns the only two surviving glass-plate positive images of this treasured photo.

The articles in this issue reflect the diversity of Lincoln's career-related experiences in Illinois. One article focuses on Lincoln in Mercer County (western Illinois), where he spent time as a soldier during the Black Hawk War and later worked as a surveyor. Another article explains one of Lincoln's little-known Illinois Supreme Court cases (1841), Bailey v. Cromwell, in which he successfully defended a young black woman in her efforts to gain her freedom. This case became an important legal precedent as well as early evidence of Lincoln's lifelong anti-slavery views.

In another article, Dr. Daniel W. Stowell, director and editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, begins by discussing the peculiar social phenomenon of 19th-century camp meetings, which attracted hucksters and rowdies as well as the religious faithful. Next, Stowell describes the 1857 Methodist camp meeting in Mason County that was the setting for the murder of James Preston Metzger, a murder that led to Lincoln's most famous case -- the almanac trial at Beardstown the following summer in which Lincoln successfully defended Duff Armstrong.

Other articles of significance explore Lincoln's political relationships with the Mormons and Germans.

Henson's article on the research for the 1858 Abe rally-speech re-enactment is the only one in the special issue with a direct connection to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial celebration. The rally-speech re-enactment last fall -- on the sesquicentennial anniversary of the original event -- exemplifies the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission's mission, which "encourages every community and citizen to become involved to learn about their Lincoln stories and explore ways to relate their Lincoln heritage in public events and commemorative activities."

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Thus, in the future when people look back to see how the Lincoln bicentennial was celebrated, they will discover from this article that his first namesake town commemorated its unique Lincoln heritage with a truly original and spectacular event. For that reason, everyone associated with Lincoln, Ill., can be proud and grateful to the city's Lincoln Bicentennial Commission for producing the re-enactment. Special thanks are due Ron Keller, Paul Beaver, Wanda Lee Rohlfs and Sean Patrick Leonard, who portrayed an impassioned Mr. Lincoln.

Henson plans to purchase copies of the special issue of the journal and donate some to the Lincoln Public Library, the libraries of Lincoln Christian College and Seminary and Lincoln College, as well as to Main Street Lincoln and the Logan County Genealogical and Historical Society.

Individual copies and copies in bulk (suitable for classrooms) may be purchased from the Illinois State Historical Society, PO Box 1800, Springfield, IL 62701-1503; phone 217-525-2781.

According to the Web site of the Illinois State Historical Society (founded 1899), its mission is to foster research, preservation and recognition of history in Illinois. This nonprofit organization depends solely on membership dues, gifts, bequests and foundation grants. Access the society's Web site at http://www.historyillinois.org/.

Access a link to the cover of the special issue, the table of contents, the editor's page, biographical sketches of the authors, the first two pages of Henson's article and more information about the society: http://www.geocities.com/

Additionally, Henson recently published a video of the re-enactment on the Internet. This video was produced by his sister-in-law and former student at Pekin Community High School, Caryl Schlicher. Another video version of this event -- shot with higher resolution, showing more scenes and providing more production information -- is available for purchase at Main Street Lincoln, 109 S. Kickapoo St., Lincoln, IL 62656.

Access the Google video publication of the 2008 re-enactment of Abraham Lincoln's political rally and speech in his first namesake town on Oct. 16, 1858: http://video.google.com/

[Text from file received from Darold Leigh Henson; LDN staff]


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