Thursday, February 12, 2009
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Mount Pulaski students get lessons on their city's rich heritage

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[February 12, 2009]  MOUNT PULASKI -- Mount Pulaski Grade School and Mount Pulaski Zion Lutheran Grade School joined forces to celebrate Abraham Lincoln Appreciation Day on Wednesday.

Vintage 1800s displays at the Mount Pulaski Grade School were presented by Fred Lipp, with rifles, muskets and smooth bores; Larry Wilham, with carvings; and Phyliss Beccue, with frontier kitchen and household items.

Lonn Pressnall, an Abraham Lincoln impersonator, met and talked with the students.

For the second part of their day, the students were bused uptown to the Mount Pulaski Courthouse and Mount Pulaski Township Historical Museum. 

The museum volunteers presented talks on some Abraham Lincoln connections to Mount Pulaski as well as many interesting items and stories about the town.

A display case of two Mount Pulaski pocket watches was shown. It was explained that the jeweler, Mr. Lushbaugh, and his family had lived across the street from Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln in Springfield but moved to Mount Pulaski in the 1840s.

It was related that on Mr. Lincoln's trips to Mount Pulaski as a traveling horseback lawyer, he stayed frequently with the Lushbaugh family, as the food was better, the beds more comfortable with no bedbugs, and the surroundings cleaner.

The students were asked if they knew why Mount Pulaski had its name. Many could answer that their town was named after Count Casimir Pulaski, a Polish general who fought in the American Revolutionary War. Mount Pulaski was named after this Revolutionary War hero in 1836.

The presenter told them that Pulaski was recruited by Benjamin Franklin to travel to the American colonies and assist Gen. Washington and the colonists in their fight for independence from the British.

The students were shown a life ring from the USS Casimir Pulaski that now hangs proudly on the museum wall. It was explained that the U.S. Navy commissioned a submarine named after Gen. Pulaski in 1964.

Students were told that three men founded Mount Pulaski and all three were from England. A large photo of one of the town's founders, Jabez Capps, who lived to be 101 years old, was shown. It was pointed out that Lincoln often stayed with the Capps family.

A display of many items from old Mount Pulaski drugstores was shown. The Biedler Drug Store existed in 1857, and a large photo of that store was on display. The Connolley Drug Store, which existed on the south side of the square for over 40 years, had items on display as well. The kids were told that one of their teachers, Mrs. Olson, is a granddaughter of the Connolleys.

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A sign was held up: "Which is faster -- airplane or train?"  All the students answered "airplane." But, "what about in 1910?" the presenter asked. It was related that the Chicago-to-Springfield race between a Wright brothers' biplane and an Illinois Central Railroad train was held in 1910, and the winner was awarded $10,000 -- a mighty sum in those days. A photo showed the plane with many onlookers around it as it had landed in a field just down Washington Street from the present American Legion Hall. As the plane took on water, oil and gasoline, the train sped by with Wilbur Wright as a passenger. Nevertheless, the plane took off and eventually passed the train and claimed the award. The famous Wilbur Wright was in the town of Mount Pulaski for about 20 seconds.

In the other side of the museum, the students were treated to a display of old military uniforms: Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. They saw an old bank vault that used to belong to the Mount Pulaski First National Bank. They also saw many Abraham Lincoln photos and paintings, as well as the Harry Hahn display. Harry was Mount Pulaski's famous Abraham Lincoln impersonator who died just a few years ago.

The students also were treated to a tour of the Mount Pulaski Courthouse, which was the Logan County seat from 1848 to 1855. The students walked up the steps to the second-floor courtroom. There, the wooden floor is the very same floor that Abraham Lincoln walked on when he was a traveling 8th Judicial Circuit lawyer. The United States flag of 30 stars adorns one of the courtroom walls -- there were only 30 states in 1848. The students were told that the courthouse became a schoolhouse for 20 years and then served as city offices, a community center, an American Legion Hall and a post office for many years. Dances used to be held in the old courtroom.

The presenters of this historical tour of Mount Pulaski were, at the courthouse, Wally Kautz, Tom Romer and Chuck McCue. In the museum, students were educated by Darrell Knauer, Dolly Buckles, Maxine Downing and Phil Bertoni.

[Text from file received from Phil Bertoni]


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