Homepage of "Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, & Other Highlights of Lincoln, IL"

Site Map


A Long-Range Plan to Brand the First Lincoln Namesake City as the Second City of Abraham Lincoln Statues

The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration in Lincoln, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln and the Historic Postville Courthouse,
including a William Maxwell connection to the Postville Courthouse

About Henry Ford and the Postville Courthouse, the Story of the Postville Courthouse Replica,
Tantivy, & the Postville Park Neighborhood in the
Route 66 Era


The Rise of Abraham Lincoln and His History and Heritage in His First Namesake Town,
also the founding of Lincoln College, the plot to steal Lincoln's body, and memories of Lincoln College and the Rustic Tavern-Inn

Introduction to the Social & Economic History of Lincoln, Illinois,
including poetry by William Childress & commentary by Federal Judge Bob Goebel & Illinois Appellate Court Judge Jim Knecht

"Social Consciousness in William Maxwell's Writings Based on Lincoln, Illinois" (an article published in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, winter 2005-06

Peeking Behind the Wizard's Screen: William Maxwell's Literary Art as Revealed by a Study of the Black Characters in Billie Dyer and Other Stories

Introduction to the Railroad & Route 66 Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois

The Living Railroad Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois: on Track as a Symbol of the "Usable Past"


Route 66 Overview Map of Lincoln with 42 Sites, Descriptions, & Photos

The Hensons of Business Route 66

The Wilsons of Business
Route 66
including the Wilson Grocery & Shell Station

Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Lincoln Memorial Park
(former Chautauqua site),
the Historic Cemeteries, & Nearby Sites

Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Salt Creek & Cemetery Hill,
the highway bridges, GM&O bridge, Madigan State Park, the old dam (with photos & Leigh's memoir of "shooting the rapids" over the old dam), & the Ernie Edwards' Pig-Hip Restaurant Museum in Broadwell

The Historic Logan County Courthouse, Past & Present

Route 66 Map with 51 Sites in the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District,
including locations of historical markers
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

Vintage Scenes of the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District

The Foley House:  A Monument to Civic Leadership
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

Agriculture in
the Route 66 Era

Arts & Entertainment Heritage,
including the Lincoln Theatre Roy Rogers' Riders Club of the 1950s

Business Heritage

Cars, Trucks & Gas Stations of the Route 66 Era

including the hometown churches of Author William Maxwell & Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

Factories, Past and Present

Food Stores of
the Route 66 Era


Hospitals, Past and Present

Hotels & Restaurants of the Railroad & Route 66 Eras

Lincoln Developmental Center
(Lincoln State School & Colony in the Route 66 era), plus
debunking the myth of Lincoln, Illinois, choosing the Asylum over the University of Illinois

Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities


Museums & Parks, including the Lincoln College Museum and its Abraham Lincoln Collection, plus the Heritage-in-Flight Museum

with Distinction

News Media in the Route 66 Era

The Odd Fellows' Children's Home


Memories of the 1900 Lincoln Community High School,
including Fred Blanford's dramatic account of the lost marble fountain of youth

A Tribute to the Historians and Advocates of Lincoln, Illinois

Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era

The Historic 1953 Centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois

The Festive 2003 Sesqui-centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois,
including photos of LCHS Class of 1960 dignitaries & the Blanfords

Why Did the State Police Raid Lincoln, Illinois, on October 11, 1950?

The Gambling Raids in Lincoln and Logan County, Illinois,
During the Late Route 66 Era (1950-1960)


Pages in this section tell about Leigh Henson's Lincoln years, moving away, revisits, and career:

About Lincoln, Illinois;
This Web Site; & Me

A Tribute to Lincolnite Edward Darold Henson: World War II U.S. Army Veteran of the Battles for Normandy and the Hedgerows; Brittany and Brest; and the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge)

For Remembrance, Understanding, & Fun: Lincoln Community High School Mid-20th-Century Alums' Internet Community
(a Web site and email exchange devoted to collaborative memoir and the sharing of photos related to Lincoln, Illinois)

Leigh Henson's Pilgrimage to Lincoln, Illinois, on
July 12, 2001

Leigh Henson's Review of Dr. Burkhardt's William Maxwell Biography

Leigh Henson's Review of Ernie Edwards' biography, Pig-Hips on Route 66, by William Kaszynski

Leigh Henson's Review of Jan Schumacher's Glimpses of Lincoln, Illinois

Teach Local Authors: Considering the Literature of Lincoln, Illinois

Web Site About
Leigh Henson's Professional Life


Pages in this section are about the writing, memorabilia, and Web sites of other Lincolnites:

A Tribute to Bill and Phyllis Stigall:
Exemplary Faculty of Lincoln College at Mid-Twentieth Century

A Tribute to the Krotzes of Lincoln, Illinois

A Tribute to Robert Wilson (LCHS '46): Author of Young in Illinois, Movies Editor of December Magazine, Friend and Colleague of December Press Publisher Curt Johnson, and Correspondent with William Maxwell

Brad Dye (LCHS '60): His Lincoln, Illinois, Web Site,
including photos of many churches

Dave Armbrust's Memorabilia of Lincoln, Illinois

J. Richard
(JR) Fikuart
(LCHS '65):
he Fikuarts of Lincoln, Illinois, including their connections to the William Maxwell family and three generations of family fun at Lincoln Lakes

Jerry Gibson (LCHS '60): Lincoln, Illinois, Memoirs & Other Stories

Dave Johnson (LCHS '56): His Web Site for the Lincoln Community High School Class of 1956

Sportswriter David Kindred: Memoir of His Grandmother Lena & Her West Side Tavern on Sangamon Street in the Route 66 Era

Judge Jim Knecht
(LCHS '62): Memoir and Short Story, "Other People's Money," Set in Hickey's Billiards on Chicago Street in the Route 66 Era

William A. "Bill" Krueger (LCHS '52): Information for His Books About Murders in Lincoln

Norm Schroeder (LCHS '60): Short Stories

Stan Stringer Writes About His Family, Mark Holland, and Lincoln, Illinois

Thomas Walsh: Anecdotes Relating to This Legendary Attorney from Lincoln by Attorney Fred Blanford & Judge Jim Knecht

Leon Zeter (LCHS '53): His Web Site for the
Lincoln Community High School Class of 1953
including announcements of LCHS class reunions

(Post yours there.)


Highway Sign of
the Times:

The Route 66
Association of Illinois

The Illinois State Historical Society

Illinois Tourism Site:
Enjoy Illinois



   Internet Explorer is the only browser that shows this page the way it was designed. Your computer's settings may alter the display.

April 24, 2004: Awarded "Best Web Site of the Year" by the Illinois State Historical Society "superior achievement: serves as a model for the profession and reaches a greater public"

Marquee Lights of the Lincoln Theater, est. 1923, Lincoln, Illinois

   You can go home again. Email Leigh Henson at DLHenson@missouristate.edu.

 21. The Churches of Lincoln, Illinois,
with Information About Abraham Lincoln, Peter Cartwright,
IL Gov. Richard J. Oglesby, William Maxwell, and Reinhold Niebuhr

Serenity Prayer

God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed;
Give us the courage to change what should be changed;
Give us the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.

                                                        Reinhold Niebuhr, Theologian from Lincoln, Illinois

21.1:  Stained Glass Window of Church in Lincoln, Illinois

     (Photo from Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce, Community Profile & Membership Directory, p. 33. Photo courtesy of VillageProfile.com, Elgin, IL.)

      Lincoln, Illinois, has many historic churches with distinctive architectural designs, a source of pride for Lincolnites and a special viewing pleasure for visitors.

     From its founding in 1853 to the present, Lincoln, Illinois, has seen a wide range of religious groups.  As this page shows, the history of religion in Lincoln has not been limited to Catholic and Protestant denominations.  Today Logan County, of which Lincoln is the seat, has "more than 60 churches that dot the county, representing all major denominations" (Chamber of Commerce, Community Profile, p. 33).  This fact suggests the considerable breadth of this subject. 

     Here, I am not trying to write the religious history of Lincoln, so this page is limited to just the churches that, in my view, have had some unusual historic significance.  Some of the entries in Works Cited are noted as being good sources for additional information.

Worship Before Churches Were Built in Lincoln and Logan County

     Historian Lawrence Stringer mentions no churches built in Postville.  Darold Henson remembers a church on the northeast section of the block where Jefferson School has been located since 1888.  In December of 2002, he showed me a small section of the concrete walk that led to the church's front door. 

     Before the first churches were built in Lincoln, religious services were held in various other structures, including private residences.  For example, Catholics in Lincoln met in the home of James Coogan on Logan Street (Stringer, p. 496).  (For more information about the Coogans' house, see 14. Route 66 Map with 51 Sites in the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District, Including Locations of Historical Markers (on the National Register of Historic Places).

     Judge Lawrence Stringer vividly describes the conditions that led to the construction of the first churches in Lincoln: 

     "For a number of years after the first settlement in Logan County there were no church buildings.  Services were held in a variety of places. The log cabin of the early settler was the usual sanctuary.  Barns built with large threshing floors were often used and when a school house was built it was nearly always utilized for religious services.  In agreeable weather, preaching frequently took place out of doors under the shade of a tree or in the timber 'in God's first temple.'  Out of door services, however, were usually of the camp meeting order, which was a popular form of church service in the early days.  These would sometimes last for weeks and were the occasions of great religious excitement.

     The itinerant method of pastorate was necessary and universal. . . .  The itinerant preachers had deep convictions of the doctrines they proclaimed.  They offered no apology for them and did not undertake to make their presentation particularly attractive or interesting, nor did they attempt to mitigate their severity.  Fierce controversies arose over contending doctrines and Armenian and Calvinist, pedobaptist and immersionist went into the pulpit with their war paint on, prepared to prove their respective doctrines by the works of God" (Stringer, p. 489).

The First Houses of Worship on the Square of Latham Park

     Some of the oldest churches in Lincoln were located near the downtown area, many just a few blocks west of the square.  Two blocks northeast of the Logan County Courthouse square, the founding fathers laid out a city block for a park that came to be called Latham Park after Col. Robert B. Latham, one of the founding fathers, who also built his home facing this park. 

     On the square of this park, four religious groups built houses of worship at various times:  Methodists, the Christian Church Society, Universalists (similar to the Unitarians), and Jews.  Evidence indicates that both a Methodist Church and a Christian Church were built on the square of Latham Park in the late 1850s. After the county seat was moved to Mt. Pulaski, the Postville Courthouse was sold to a private owner, so the Methodists, who had used the Postville Courthouse, in 1853 held church in the new Alton & Chicago Depot in Lincoln (Stringer, p. 492.). 

     Describing the construction of the first Methodist Church, Stringer writes:  "On June 23, 1856, two lots were secured on the corner of Pekin and McLean Streets, now a portion of the Lincoln Library premises, the said lots fronting Latham Park and here in 1858, a small frame church edifice was erected" (Stringer, p. 512).  This structure was used until another Methodist Church was constructed in 1868 at Broadway and Logan (building known as the Masonic Temple in the Route 66 era).

     A Christian Church was built on "a lot on Pekin Street between Kickapoo and McLean Streets. . .donated by Messers. Latham, Gillett and Hickox, the proprietors of the original town of Lincoln" (Stringer, p. 502).  Beaver's History of Logan County 1982 has a photo of the first Christian Church, and someone has printed on the photo "Built AD.1856. Wrecked A.D. 1903. John A. Simpson Architect" (p. 134). [Note:  Architect John A.Simpson designed and built the structure that housed Avery and Comstock's furniture store.] On this same site, the Christian Church built another church in 1904, and the contemporary Christian Church was built at Pekin and Mclean and dedicated December 5, 1954 (Beaver, p. 62). 

     A synagogue facing Latham Park was built in 1910 at the corner of McLean and Delevan Streets (Stringer, p. 508). 

     In addition to the churches and synagogue, the Lincoln Public Library was located on the square of Latham Park at the corner of Pekin and McLean Streets.  The library's humanistic mission and the houses of worship that surrounded Latham Park make this area one of the most spiritual settings in Lincoln, Illinois --, in my view second only to the Cemetery Hill-Lincoln Memorial Park region southwest of the city.

Did Abraham Lincoln Practice Law in the Christian Church of Lincoln, Illinois?

     Writing history even about events of limited significance and scope can be quite challenging. An interesting local-history question (and controversy) concerns whether Abraham Lincoln practiced law in the Christian Church of Lincoln, Illinois, when it was used as the site of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court during the 1850s. Note: much of the following content was published in 2007. Early in 2010, I will send a press release presenting the results of additional research that I did on this topic in 2009. In due time, I will publish that update here.


     This essay probes this question and disputes the source material used by those who claim Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Lincoln Christian Church. As of 9-20-07, absolutely no primary source evidence--the only valid kind--has been produced to prove that Abraham Lincoln practiced law in the Lincoln Christian Church.

    My essay does acknowledge that some of Mr. Lincoln's cases in the Logan County Court of 1857-58 are circumstantial evidence that suggest the possibility that the claim is true, but that these documents need further consideration by professional historians. Specifically, primary source evidence is needed to show that indeed the Logan County Court was held in the Lincoln Christian Church when Mr. Lincoln's verified cases were held in that court in the spring of 1858. Also, primary source evidence needs to be found that dates Mr. Lincoln's Steigleman case to the period in the fall of 1857 when the Logan County Circuit Court might have been held in the Christian Church. (Primary sources are ones that are generated by people living at the time of specified events, for example, dated legal documents, letters, diaries, and accounts of eye witnesses). More research can and should be done to provide the most complete evidence possible in order to justify placing an historical marker at the site of the church.. At the end of this essay, I specify recommendations for that research.


     The original Christian Church in Lincoln, dedicated in 1857, was built on a lot donated by the founding fathers (Paul Beaver, History of Logan County 1982, p. 62):  "the exact location was on the present parking lot just west of the public library" (Beaver, p. 62). This site was on Pekin Street just east of the corner of Pekin and Kickapoo Streets, and this location was also the site of the second Lincoln Christian Church, dedicated in 1904 (p. 62). The photo below shows the original Lincoln Christian Church.

21.2: Original Lincoln Christian Church (Pekin Street)
Photo courtesy of David Doolin

     At first I thought this photo, which I had seen published elsewhere (Dooley, The Namesake Town, p. 19), was taken during the construction of the church in 1856-7. After receiving the helpful message below from David Doolin, I changed my mind about the date and circumstance of the photo. The photo shows the church being dismantled in 1902 or 1903. Thanks, David, for your most informative analysis and tactful manner of correcting my erroneous assumptions. (The church was dismantled during a time when materials were re-used in new construction.)

From: David Doolin [ddoolin@mail.bradley.edu]
Wednesday, April 15, 2009 2:28 PM
To: Henson, D Leigh
Subject: (First) Christian Church


     As you know, I've been doing some research on the historical downtown. I ran across something interesting that I though I would bring to your attention. Attached is a photo of the '1st' Christian Church (both negative & positive) that corresponds to the photo on the "Churches" page of your website. I got this version of the photo from an original negative. On your Churches page and in another book (can't recall the name right now), I read that this photo is of the construction of the church. However, I believe that it is of the tearing down of the 1st church to build the 2nd church in 1903. My reasons for this conclusion are as follows: a close look at the siding on the front side next to the entrance section appears to be hanging off from destruction not construction; the walls look to be lined on the inside by brick or plaster typically done after the outside is completed; on the front entrance section, the siding (then wood siding) would typically be installed from the bottom up; the building in the background is made of brick and mortar not a frame building and is a 3 story building (now the hallmark building)

     Please note that I am not saying I know everything, but rather something that I would like for you to look over and give your professional opinion on. Perhaps this clearer photo that I have provided will help to shed new light on the subject. I am just picking out specific details that to me would say that this is too 'new' of a photo to be of the construction. Please lend your eye to it and I look forward to hearing your opinion.


David Doolin
B.S. Mechanical Engineering
Lincoln, Illinois
(217) 737-6506

     Historian Lawrence B. Stringer, who was also the Logan County judge from 1918 to his death in 1942 and whose collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia formed the basis of the Lincoln collection of Lincoln College, apparently was the first to allege in print that the Lincoln Christian Church was used as a Circuit Court site after the Logan County Courthouse burned on April 15, 1857 (History of Logan County 1911, p. 162). History of Logan County 1878 has three brief anecdotes about Abraham Lincoln in Logan County, but nothing about his practicing law in the Lincoln Christian Church (pp. 303--304).

     The Lincoln Log, the most authoritative record of Abraham Lincoln's activities insofar as they are known day by day, reports that Abraham Lincoln was in Lincoln, Illinois, on March 16, 25, and 28 during the two-week spring 1857 session of the Circuit Court in the Logan County Courthouse before it was completely destroyed by fire on April 15, 1857 (http://www.thelincolnlog.org/view/1857/3).

     Historian James Hickey (1922--1996), who was mentored by Judge Stringer and who became the Curator of the Lincoln Collection of the Illinois State Historical Library, had considered the question of whether Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Lincoln Christian Church. Mr. Hickey apparently determined that the Circuit Court in Lincoln was held in the fall of 1857 from September 21 to October 2; and Mr. Hickey discovered evidence to verify that the Christian Church of Lincoln, Illinois, was the site of the Circuit Court during that period. According to a 1953 article in the Lincoln Evening Courier, the (second) Lincoln Christian Church had installed a plaque "stating that Abraham Lincoln held court there during this period" (Lincoln Evening Courier, centennial edition, section five, August 26, 1953, p. 8).

     Mr. Hickey also discovered evidence that shows Abraham Lincoln was probably not in Lincoln, Illinois, during the 1857 fall term of the Circuit Court because he was then deeply involved in a Chicago court case for a prolonged period (Lincoln Evening Courier, centennial edition, section five, August 26, 1953, p. 8).

      For clarity, here is the entire text of the 1953 Courier article in which Mr. Hickey provides evidence supporting his claim that Abraham Lincoln most likely did not practice law in the Christian Church in Lincoln:

     "The First Christian Church of Lincoln was used at one time as the county courthouse, but there is no proof that Abraham Lincoln ever appeared there during the period, James Hickey, vice president of the Logan county Historical Society, maintains."

     "While searching the courthouse records for material, Hickey came across a suit that had been filed in the circuit court in 1858. According to Hickey, the find revealed the following: David Blain, contractor and builder of the first church[,] filed a bill for relief in chancery Aug. 26, 1858, to obtain payment of a balance due on the contract."

     "Filed Answer: The suit was directed against the building committee of the church, Joseph Reed, John Handesley, Samuel Emmett, Hopkins Judy and Michael Hinricken. The trustees filed an answer to Blain's suit, stating there was bad workmanship, the shingles were bad and the roof leaked. They maintained that Blain was paid more than he was entitled."

     "In the record are these words, 'The said Blain once rented the building as a courthouse to the County of Logan and received from said county the sum of $50,-- therefor and since has entrusted said church to the care of Thomas H. Denney'. The court found for the contractor and the trustees were ordered to pay the balance due on the contract. This document was filed with John T. Jenkins, circuit clerk at this time but was destroyed by fire April 15, 1857." [Note: The preceding language is unclear: The suit against the building committee could have been destroyed in the fall of 1857 fire if it were filed before then, but how could a document referring to the rental of the Church to the Circuit Court have been destroyed by the fire that necessitated that rental?]

     "Told on Plaque: The Fall term of court was held in the church building from Sept. 21 to Oct. 2 and the church bears a plaque stating that Abraham Lincoln held court there during this period. Hickey says that Lincoln was in Chicago during this period, and it would have been physically impossible for him to be in Lincoln. Newspapers of the period gave great play to his part in the Effie Afton case."

     "Hickey has found evidence of a bill of particulars on a case that was heard in the church while it was serving as a courtroom. The document is in Lincoln's handwriting and concerns the case of the firm of Steigleman and Johnson vs. Many A. Brace and William H. Young. As Hickey sees it, the case was handled by Lincoln's partner, Herndon. 'There just is no way that Lincoln could have taken part in the case in Lincoln and the railroad case in Chicago at the same time,' he asserts" ("No Proof Abe Lincoln on Hand, Records Here Show," Lincoln Evening Courier, section five, Wednesday, August 26, 1953, p. 8). In his 1953 centennial history of Lincoln, Illinois, The Namesake Town, Raymond Dooley echoes Hickey's findings (p. 18). [Notes: In fact, The Lincoln Log does not show Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln, Illinois, from April through December of 1857. Access Mr. Hickey's credentials and a photo of him.]

     Mr. Hickey was a meticulous researcher and writer as indicated by his various articles published in The Collected Writings of James T. Hickey (Springfield, IL: The Illinois State Historical Society, 1990). While it's true that the 1953 Courier article focuses on the 1857 fall case, Mr. Hickey would have been naturally interested in the broader question of whether Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Lincoln Christian Church at any time, including the spring of 1858. None of his other writings that I am aware of deal with this subject, so he must not have discovered any other evidence relating to this matter.

     Mr. Hickey also taught a course on Abraham Lincoln at Lincoln College in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I took that two-semester course in 1960-61, and he helped me to understand that sources need to be examined thoroughly and critically.

     Working in the 1940s and 1950s, Mr. Hickey probably did not have as much information about the daily activities of Abraham Lincoln as is currently available in The Lincoln Log. Presently, The Lincoln Log shows that Mr. Lincoln was back in Springfield throughout the last five days of September, 1857, so he could have easily traveled to Lincoln, Illinois, during that time to participate in the court proceedings held in the Lincoln Christian Church (http://www.thelincolnlog.org/view/1857/9). (Lincoln, Illinois, is only about thirty miles north of Mr. Lincoln's hometown of Springfield.) Also, The Lincoln Log does not have entries for Mr. Lincoln on October 1 and 2, but does how him in Metamora October 7--10. Lincoln, Illinois, is between Springfield and Metamora, so Mr. Lincoln could have been in Lincoln, Illinois, in court on October 1 and 2 enroute to Metamora (http://www.thelincolnlog.org/view/1857/10).

     The presence of Mr. Lincoln in Springfield in the last week of September, 1857, while the Logan County Circuit Court was allegedly being held in the Lincoln Christian Church, revives the significance of the case of Steigleman and Johnson vs. Many A. Brace and William H. Young as potential evidence that Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Lincoln Christian Church. That document needs to be located and its date checked to see whether its date is from the last week of September or the first two days of October. If so, that document would be a convincing primary source. Also, what are and where are the other legal documents from the 1857 fall court held in Lincoln, Illinois, that might also provide evidence?

     As explained above, the Circuit Court in Lincoln was apparently held in the Lincoln Christian Church in the fall of 1857, but Abraham Lincoln may or may not have been there. According to The Lincoln Log, the next time Abraham Lincoln appeared on the Circuit in Lincoln, Illinois, was March 18, 22, 24, 26, and 27, 1858 (http://www.thelincolnlog.org/view/1858/3). Professor Ron Keller of Lincoln College has identified three cases from the 1858 spring Logan County Circuit Court that involved Abraham Lincoln.

     The main secondary source providing a basis for the possible claim that Abraham Lincoln practiced law in the Christian Church is one particular sentence in Lawrence B. Stringer's History of Logan County, 1911: "Pending its [1857 Logan County Courthouse] erection and completion, the terms of court were held in the Christian Church" (p. 162). Yet nowhere in his history book does Stringer (1866--1942) claim that Abraham Lincoln practiced law in the Lincoln Christian Church. Stringer was fascinated with Abraham Lincoln and describes every activity of Abraham Lincoln that he possibly can based on source evidence, including eye-witness accounts, wherever possible. In places where Stringer focuses on Mr. Lincoln, including a separate chapter on him, Stringer would surely have at least mentioned Mr. Lincoln practicing law in the Lincoln Christian Church if he had evidence to support that claim.

     In 2007, secondary source material has been re-discovered that suggests the need for more research. Lincoln Christian Church official Ron Otto "found a copy of what was said at the plaque dedication, misfiled among some legal papers, 'which is why it wasn't discovered before'" ("Story Stands: Abe Did Practice Law in Lincoln Church," The Courier, September 8, 2007). This plaque was installed in the second Lincoln Christian Church ("Story Stands"), which was dedicated in 1904 (Beaver, Logan County History 1982, p. 62).

     Mr. Otto and Mr. Parmenter also found a 1975 photo of the plaque, and this photo shows the plaque's text: "Pending erection of a new courthouse for Logan County to replace one destroyed by fire in 1857, the original Christian Church built on this site that year was used as both Church and Circuit Courtroom and here Abraham Lincoln practiced law and by common consent acted as temporary judge" ("Lincoln Christian Church Holds Unique Historical Fame," Pantagraph, September 9, 2007). Mr. Otto and Mr. Parmenter continue to search for the plaque--calling for a community-wide hunt, but its short text was based on hearsay. Below is a photo of the plaque:

21.3: Plaque Photo from LincolnDailyNews.com

     Mr. Parmenter notes that Mr. Stringer spoke at the plaque's dedication and asserts that Mr. Stringer's speaking on this occasion implicitly indicates his belief that Abraham Lincoln did practice law in the Lincoln Christian Church: "Why would Stringer speak if he didn't believe what the plaque said was true?" ("Story Stands"). Judge Stringer may even have been involved in composing the text of the plaque (both Stringer's history book and the plaque begin with the legalistic term "pending," and the law was his profession). I note that he had composed the inscription on the bronze marker of the granite monument erected at the site of the Postville Courthouse by the DAR in 1917 (Lincoln Evening Courier, Centennial Edition, Section Six, 8-26-53, p. 7). Rev. Parmenter's question is a good one, and later on this page I offer my opinion as to why Mr. Stringer was involved in the plaque project.

     In his email message to me of 9-13-07, Rev. Parmenter writes, "We have in our possession two pictures and partial articles from the Lincoln Evening Courier and the Illinois State Register, dated February 9, 1952.  The picture shows a display case with a bootjack and fireplace tools. The caption on the picture states that the items were donated to the church by a Justice of the Peace named J. G. Pruitt and are said to have been used by Lincoln when he practiced law in the Lincoln Church building."

     I, too, had discovered the photo of these items in the Courier (2-9-52, p. 8) some years ago when I was doing preliminary research for this Web site. I did not then use it in my Web treatment of Abraham Lincoln because the connection between the boot jack, tongs, and poker to Abraham Lincoln is questionable.  According to "Church tries to prove Lincoln legend true," these items were "donated to the church years ago by a judge who was born in 1853" (State Journal-Register, 9-06-07). That person would have been only four or five years old when Mr. Lincoln allegedly practiced law in the Lincoln Christian Church and most likely would not have remembered seeing Mr. Lincoln with these items. Without eyewitness testimony or some other primary source for this connection, it is hearsay and thus unreliable. Neither Stringer nor Hickey wrote one known word about this alleged connection. (See Courier photo of these artifacts later on this page.)

     And now back to the question of why Stringer would participate in the plaque project. Frankly, it does seem puzzling that Stringer would not claim in his book that Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Christian Church, but then participate in the plaque dedication. The plaque was dedicated some time between 1937 and 1942. We can deduce this because both the Rev. Hargrove and Mr. Stringer spoke at the plaque's dedication. Rev. Hargrove became minister of the Lincoln Christian Church in 1937 (Beaver, History of Logan County 1982, p. 62); Stringer died in 1942 (Paul J. Beaver, in Foreword to the 1978 reprinted edition of History of Logan County 1911).

     I do suggest that perhaps later in his life Mr. Stringer, who would have been between 71 and 76 when the plaque was dedicated, became more sentimental in his love of Lincoln. Thus, he might have become more vulnerable to wishful thinking, impressed by the discovery of even questionable new evidence, and seduced by the Lincoln legend. The questionable new evidence may have been the items donated to the Christian Church that were allegedly used by Mr. Lincoln. Nowhere do I see a date for that donation, but I suppose it could have been when Stringer was still alive. If so, he may have been overly eager to believe the oral history associated with those items. Stringer's involvement in the plaque project could be a case of wishfully thinking Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Christian Church. If so, his role in the plaque dedication shows bias. (Note: Upon reading this paragraph on 9-19-07, Rev. Parmenter emailed his objection to me. I have place that message at the end of this essay along with my rebuttal. Use this link to access this material directly below.)

     In an email of 9-13-07, Rev. Parmenter wrote to me: "As you mentioned on your website, there are three cases listed on the Lincoln Log that were tried by Mr. Lincoln in Lincoln, IL during the spring term of 1858.  They were (1) Bruner et al. v. Bruner et al.; (2) Hickey v. Hamilton & Dugger; and (3) Hildreth v. Gill.  In addition, there is the case where Lincoln sat pro tem for David Davis during the same period.  Rothschild v. Langenbahn.  Ron Keller located this case at the Lincoln Legal Papers." The Lincoln Log specifies that Abraham Lincoln was in the Logan County Circuit Court on March 18, 22, and 17, 1858 (http://www.thelincolnlog.org/view/1858/3).

     The Lincoln Log confirms that the 1858 spring cases involving Abraham Lincoln were filed in the Logan County Circuit Court (http://www.thelincolnlog.org/view/1858/3), but where is the primary source evidence that proves that the 1858 spring Circuit Court met in the Lincoln Christian Church? Where else, then, could it have possibly been held? Stringer's History of Logan County 1911 gives a clue. He explains that while the new county courthouse was being constructed, other temporary offices were built: "The contract for the erection of this court house also included the erection of two small fireproof offices, to be occupied by the Circuit and County Clerks, said offices to be detached and equally distant from the main building, each to face Kickapoo Street and each to be on a line with the west line of the courthouse. . . . The north office was occupied by the Circuit Clerk and the south office by the County Clerk. The later office was occupied by the Circuit Clerk and the south office by the County Clerk. The latter office was also occupied by the County Judge, and the County Court was held in this building. The offices were ready for occupancy October 1, 1857" (p. 163). In the spring of 1858, then, it is possible that the Circuit Court was held in the same place as the County Court.

     When I suggested this possibility to Rev. Parmenter, he responded in an email to me of 9-13-07, saying "to make a statement like that this you would have to believe that Stringer would report that the County Court met on [sic] one of these buildings, but purposely omitted that the Circuit Court met there as well." He also wrote, "No other historian has suggested that the Circuit Court was held in any other location. Therefore, to suggest otherwise is completely unfounded, without even secondary evidence, let alone the primary evidence that you call for. . . ."

     In reply, I say that it is illogical to reject this possibility just because no one else has suggested it. Also, I am not saying that Stringer would deliberately leave anything out. Stringer might not state what would have been well known and readily apparent to many students of 19th century Illinois history--that it was a common practice to hold circuit court in county courtrooms when separate courtrooms did not exist. One primary source example of that is the Logan County Courthouse of Postville. How many of the county courthouses on the Eighth Judicial Circuit in Illinois in Lincoln's time had separate courtrooms for the county and circuit courts?


     Did Abraham Lincoln practice law in the Christian Church of Lincoln, Illinois? Frankly, as of 9-20-07, I don't know, but I have some serious questions. Some secondary sources tease us with that possibility, and the discovery of new secondary source material--or in this instance, the re-discovery-- is exciting, but secondary sources must ALWAYS be viewed with caution because such anecdotal evidence can lead to questionable or false conclusions and be used to promote the wishful thinking of myth. The scholarship of history demands more substantial evidence--primary source evidence.

     If there is no primary source evidence cited thus far by the Lincoln Christian Church historians that proves the 1858 Logan County Circuit Court was held in the Lincoln Christian Church, that leaves the 1857  Blain case cited above by Mr. Hickey as only one of two cases that could prove their position: 'The said Blain once rented the building as a courthouse to the County of Logan and received from said county the sum of $50." Nothing in this language specifies when the rental occurred. As cited above, "Blain, contractor and builder of the first church[,] filed a bill for relief in chancery Aug. 26, 1858." As Rev. Parmenter points out, the original hearing for this case could have been in the fall of 1857 or spring of 1858. My point is that there is no primary source evidence conclusively proving that the Blain case was tried in the Christian Church.

     The Steigleman case in the fall of 1857 is apparently the best potential evidence so far to prove that Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Lincoln Christian Church. As explained above, Mr. Hickey concluded that Mr. Lincoln could not have tried that case in Lincoln, Illinois, because he was in Chicago. In an email to me of 9-13-07, Rev. Parmenter concurs: "Hickey correctly concluded that Lincoln did not practice law in the Lincoln Christian Church during the fall term of 1857." As I explain earlier on this page, The Lincoln Log now shows that Mr. Lincoln was back in Springfield in the last days of September and first two days of October and could very well have traveled to Lincoln to be in court there.

     Rev. Parmenter and his colleagues cite no primary source evidence to prove that the 1858 spring Logan County Circuit Court was held in the Christian Church--only that these cases were filed in the Logan County Circuit Court. They also disregard the relevance of the Steigleman case. Thus, what is their primary source evidence that proves Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Christian Church of Lincoln, Illinois?


     In view of the concerns raised in this essay, more research needs to be done. Of course, it would be helpful to have more primary sources or even another secondary source that shows the Circuit Court was held in Lincoln during the dates identified by Mr. Hickey: September 21 through October 2, 1857. In my view, the 1857 fall Steigleman document that Hickey said is in Mr. Lincoln's handwriting, cited above, needs to be located. If that document is dated in the last days of September or the first days of October, when The Lincoln Log shows Mr. Lincoln was in Springfield and not in Chicago--and could easily have traveled to his first namesake town for Circuit Court--, that document would be circumstantial but convincing evidence to show Mr. Lincoln most likely did practice law in the Lincoln Christian Church.

     I have provided Rev. Parmenter and his colleagues with the names and email addresses of the research historians at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency who would be able to help with the research I have recommended. Once the research has exhausted the preceding possibilities, more expert opinions should be sought to evaluate all of the compiled information before the application for the historical marker is made to the Illinois State Historical Society.

September 19, 2007

Rev. Parmenter's Response to This Essay (9-19-07) and Counter Response

From: todd parmenter [mailto:gtparmenter@insightbb.com]
Sent: Wed 9/19/2007 2:39 PM
To: Henson, D Leigh
Cc: ronotto@insightbb.com; rkeller@lincolncollege.edu; courier@lincolncourier.com; pwelander@mchsi.com; ldneditor@lincolndailynews.com; pete.sherman@sj-r.com
Subject: RE: Abe in Church Revisited

Dear Mr. Henson,

 I just finished reading your updated post to your website.  I feel you treated my response to you fairly and have no objection to it.  I expected that we would end up with only partial agreement and I’m OK with that.  I want to thank you for your suggestions for further research and I plan to pursue them.

 I do have one objection to your post.  You state:

 “I do suggest that perhaps later in his life Mr. Stringer, who would have been between 71 and 76 when the plaque was dedicated, became more sentimental in his love of Lincoln. Thus, he might have become more vulnerable to wishful thinking, impressed by the discovery of even questionable new evidence, and seduced by the Lincoln legend. The questionable new evidence may have been the items donated to the Christian Church that were allegedly used by Mr. Lincoln. Nowhere do I see a date for that donation, but I suppose it could have been when Stringer was still alive. If so, he may have been overly eager to believe the oral history associated with those items. Stringer's involvement in the plaque project could be a case of wishfully thinking Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Christian Church. If so, his role in the plaque dedication shows bias.”

 Is it really fair to compose such a paragraph where you suggest Stringer may have been influenced by “sentimental” and “wishful thinking”, none of which you have evidence of, and then suggest that he was biased?  Since we do not know when the bootjack display was even rediscovered, it is impossible to know if Stringer even knew about it.  To suggest he may have been influenced by their rediscovery is careless.  You ought to be ashamed of yourself for such a suggestion!  The entire paragraph is nothing but conjecture on your part and does not aid in discovering the truth in the least.

 A better suggestion for Stringer’s involvement in the plaque dedication is that he and E.H. Lukenbill were acquaintances and fellow buffs on Mr. Lincoln.  Mr. Lukenbill was a member of Lincoln Christian Church and a member of the board.  At the time that the plaque was dedicated, Stringer was widely recognized as the “local expert” on Abraham Lincoln.  The members of the board of Lincoln Christian were serious men and would not want to make false statements knowingly.  They would have sought out Stringer to aid in wording of the plaque and would have wanted to include him in its dedication.

 About the same time the plaque was being dedicated, Lincoln Christian Church was breaking away from the Disciples of Christ.  The reason for the split from the Disciples was over a growing liberal view of the Bible and taking liberties with its interpretation.  These same men would not then turn around and knowingly make false statements about Mr. Lincoln and the church they all loved.  They would not risk the reputation of the church in such a manner.  We have several letters from the church board to the Disciples of Christ over their leaving the denomination.  If you read them, you would know they were serious about the reputation of Lincoln Christian.

I want to suggest to you that you delete this paragraph from your post.  It unnecessarily influences the reader towards a conclusion that is based solely on conjecture.  Your position in the discussion is not strengthened by this paragraph and quite honestly, as a reader, I think it raises questions about your own possible bias to the story.  Your post would stand on its own merits without it. 

 Thank you for your time.  I would enjoy meeting you someday and my offer to by lunch is a standing one.  Please let me know when you are in Lincoln and are available.


Todd Parmenter

Executive Minister
Lincoln Christian Church
204 N. McLean St.
Lincoln, Il 62656

 Leigh Henson's Counter Response to Rev. Parmenter (9-20-07)

     Dear Reverend Parmenter,

     First, let me say that while I am concerned that you would say shame on me and suggest I am biased, I do appreciate your civility. I hope you will agree the following discussion maintains this tone.

     The paragraph in which I give my opinion as to why Mr. Stringer might have been involved in the plaque project is a response to your question: "Why would Stringer speak if he didn't believe what the plaque said was true?" ("Story Stands"). Perhaps you intended this to be a rhetorical question, but I took it literally. In my view, Mr. Stringer's involvement suggests that in his final years he may have been a hero-worshipper of Mr. Lincoln and thus a biased student of him and proponent of the local Lincoln legend.

     Nowhere do I state or suggest that Mr. Stringer, Mr. Lukenbill, and their colleagues were trying to deceive anyone. I do suggest, however, that they may have believed something because they wanted to. We must not forget that the Romantic view of the past commonly seen in the Victorian Period extended well into the 20th century. Mr. Stringer lived in a time in which Lincoln hero worship was more common than it is today, although it can still be a problem. I question Mr. Stringer's objectivity in the plaque involvement, not his ethics.

     In the early 1950s when I attended Jefferson School, Mr. Lukenbill sometimes visited my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classes, taught by the esteemed Principal Bernadine Jones. At those times, Mr. Lukenbill relished the opportunity to tell his Lincoln stories. They revealed to us students that Mr. Lukenbill was a Lincoln hero worshipper. I am a primary source for this observation--an eyewitness.

     Now, as an adult, I realize that hero worship involves bias. Mr. Lukenbill's stories always related to Lincoln's moral virtues: honesty, e.g., walking miles to return pennies; noble ambition, e.g., reading/studying to become a surveyor and lawyer; and working hard, e.g., splitting those rails for so many people. There were never any stories about Lincoln the prankster or Lincoln the troubled melancholic or Lincoln the cruel satirist. I am suggesting that Mr. Lukenbill's friend and fellow student of Lincoln, Lawrence B. Stringer, may have been a Lincoln hero worshipper, too, and also biased, especially in the later years.

     (Access more information in this site about Lawrence Stringer. Access more information in this site about E.H. Lukenbill, including a summary of his career and an account of his role in the 1953 dedication of the Postville Courthouse replica. When I occasionally tour Old Union Cemetery, I never fail to pause at Mr. Lukenbill's grave to reflect on his life and times. I notice he sleeps alone: my father tells me his personal life was marred by an unhappy marriage.)

21.4: Edgar H. Lukenbill, Graduation Photo

(1928 Lincoln College yearbook, Emancipator, p. 23)

     Mr. Stringer and the others may have promoted the plaque project because they wanted to believe its significance to be true. And no doubt these gentlemen were as serious and sincere as they could be and were respected for it. I would also note that two and three generations ago, people were less likely to question authority, whether the family doctor, lawyer, minister, teacher, local historian, etc. Today we can more easily realize that believing something based on faith is one thing, but writing history--and denoting it with a plaque or marker-- calls for objectivity: verifying facts.

     You take exception to my statement about Mr. Stringer's possible connection to the relics allegedly associated with Mr. Lincoln in which I write, "Nowhere do I see a date for that donation, but I suppose it could have been when Stringer was still alive. If so, he may have been overly eager to believe the oral history associated with those items." Specifically, you say, "Since we do not know when the bootjack display was even rediscovered, it is impossible to know if Stringer even knew about it.  To suggest he may have been influenced by their rediscovery is careless." I have admitted it is speculation. When you prove to me that the relics were donated after Mr. Stringer's passing in 1942, I will delete the passage.

     Now let me comment on another local historian I knew, James Hickey. As one of his former students, I know that Mr. Hickey was a Lincoln admirer, but not a Lincoln hero worshipper. Hickey valued objectivity and taught the importance of recognizing and avoiding bias. For example, he continually reminded us students that Herndon's Lincoln biography was biased in places because he hated Mrs. Lincoln (and she hated him). I would like to think that Mr. Hickey's point about objectivity was not lost on me.

     You will be interested to know that scholars tend to group writers on Lincoln into three categories: the hero worshippers/myth makers (e.g., Carl Sandburg), the realists (e.g., Benjamin Thomas, David Herbert Donald, Stephen Oates, Michael Burlingame), and the Lincoln demonizers (e.g., Edgar Lee Masters). Educated people, of course, would prefer to read the realists because of their impartiality in seeking truth. In my critique of the evidence and authorities you use to promote your claim that Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Christian Church, I am striving to be a realist.

     My knowledge of your local historians, their lives and times, and their work, based on personal experience and research, well qualifies me to offer a well-informed, carefully reasoned opinion on the question of their objectivity. Thus, I am firm in my decision to keep the passage about Mr. Stringer you question because it relates to the credibility of secondary source evidence that you place such a premium on. Also, the reasons for Mr. Stringer's involvement in the plaque dedication and the text of the plaque are not at the crux of the issue. The real question is what is the primary source evidence that proves Mr. Lincoln practiced law in the Christian Church?

     You write, "Your position in the discussion is not strengthened by this paragraph [about Mr. Stringer] and quite honestly, as a reader, I think it raises questions about your own possible bias to the story." Frankly, I am puzzled that you insinuate I may be biased simply because I question the objectivity--not the ethics--of Mr. Stringer's plaque involvement. If I am biased at all, it is in favor of your cause. I have repeatedly said that I think you have a good start on the research, but that the truly convincing evidence is yet to be found, although I think the chances for getting it are very good.

     I look forward to the day when I can revise my essay because you have provided me with a photocopy of the Steigleman case in Mr. Lincoln's handwriting that shows a date corresponding to the period in the fall of 1857 when the Logan County Circuit Court was held in the Lincoln Christian Church. I surely would like to see that historical marker in place. I would be proud to know that I played a part in that accomplishment.

    I wanted to tell you that I appreciate the church history that you have shared. Some of my high school classmates and friends attended your church, including Joe Webb, whose father was a dean at Lincoln Christian College. My friend Joe Webb is now a professor of religion and widely published.

     I much appreciate your offer to buy me lunch. I am in Lincoln three or four times a year to visit family. The visits are all too short, and I have not even found time to look up some old friends from high school. I look forward to the time when I have graduated from semi-retirement and can spend more time there. I think it would be pleasant to have lunch with you and amusingly reflect on all of this.

Yours very truly,

Leigh Henson
September 20, 2007

Additional Parmenter-Henson Exchanges on 9-20-07

From: todd parmenter [mailto:gtparmenter@insightbb.com]
Sent: Thu 9/20/2007 11:46 AM
To: Henson, D Leigh
Cc: ronotto@insightbb.com; rkeller@lincolncollege.edu; courier@lincolncourier.com; pwelander@mchsi.com; ldneditor@lincolndailynews.com; pete.sherman@sj-r.com; news@pjstar.com; jbrimeyer@pjstar.com
Subject: RE: Henson Replies to Rev. Parmenter, 9-20-07

Dear Mr. Henson,

Thank you for your reply.  Let me respond accordingly and then hopefully we can move forward from here.

  1. In re-reading my response to your recent web post, I regret that I made the statement “You should be ashamed.”   I should never have made such a personal remark, especially in a public setting.  I am sorry for the remark and I hope you will forgive me for it.  It was careless and unnecessary of me to do so.

  2. I cc’d the same people in my responses as you cc’d to me.  It is my standard practice to do so when the sender of an email has copied other people.  It is not unlike standing with a group of people having a discussion.  There may only be two people talking, but others are privy to what is being said.  Therefore, since all of your emails to me have been copied to others, I will respond by cc’ing the same group.  If you would like our conversations to stay between us, let me know and I will happily reply privately.  That being said, I also cc’d the same group my apology and this response as well.  In my opinion, if I have done something to offend you in front of others, I owe you the respect of apologizing to you in front of those people as well.  I said in my last response to you that I “call em as I see em.”  I also try to admit my mistakes when I make them and to be quick to apologize and ask for forgiveness.

  3. My point about bias is this.  Why make statements in your post that may cause readers to question you own objectivity.  As I stated, your response stands on its own merits and including the paragraph about Stringer does not strengthen your argument.  In fact, if the reader were to see bias in your comments about Stringer, it would probably weaken your arguments.  Quite honestly, I never thought you were biased against the church, but I have wondered if you were biased against Stringer from your earlier posts.  Having read your response to my email on your website, I now understand your position on Stringer.  It is clear that you hold James Hickey and his work in high esteem, and you are tremendously blessed to have sat at the feet of such a fine man. 

In closing, I have enjoyed our exchanges on this story about Mr. Lincoln and Lincoln Christian Church.  Your information and insight has been both helpful and stimulating.  I look forward to pursuing this story to its conclusion and I will keep you up-to-date on anything new we discover.  Once again, I regret offending you and I appreciate your candor in our exchanges.  I look forward to meeting you in the future.

Humbly yours,

Todd Parmenter

From: Henson, D Leigh
Sent: Thu 9/20/2007 12:10 PM
To: todd parmenter
Cc: ronotto@insightbb.com; rkeller@lincolncollege.edu; courier@lincolncourier.com; pwelander@mchsi.com; ldneditor@lincolndailynews.com; pete.sherman@sj-r.com; news@pjstar.com; jbrimeyer@pjstar.com
Subject: RE: Henson Replies to Rev. Parmenter, 9-20-07

Dear Rev. Parmenter,

You are most gracious to offer an apology, but it really is not necessary. I have taken nothing personally. I only wish my writing were more effective in convincing you that I have stayed focused on the subject matter of mutual concern to us.

Yet, to be sure that others are fully aware of your kind words, I will add these two most-recent exchanges beneath the others on the Web page presenting my online essay. Rest assured that I consider this aspect of our communication to be "case closed."

Yes, it has been as you say--stimulating and gratifying that we have both gained from it. Please do stay in touch to let me know of your progress in the research and development of the application for the historical marker.

May I offer one other piece of advice based on my professional experience in the field of technical communication (my first profession) in both the academic and business worlds. I urge you as soon as possible to begin communicating with the Illinois State Historical Society in the course of working on the application rather than submitting it cold. In this way, the research and writing can be better coordinated, the entire process expedited, and the chances for timely success increased. 

Yours truly,

Leigh Henson, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of English
Missouri State University

From: todd parmenter [mailto:gtparmenter@insightbb.com]
Sent: Thu 9/20/2007 1:44 PM
To: Henson, D Leigh
Subject: RE: Henson Replies to Rev. Parmenter, 9-20-07

Mr. Henson,

Thank you for your understanding and your kind words.  I appreciate your advice and I intend to follow it.

I believe you have stayed focused in your responses and I recognize that we are not that far apart.  I concur that we cannot have total agreement until the last few missing pieces of primary evidence are located.  I am hopeful that they eventually will be found.

I too consider these last few conversations as case closed and thank you for your graciousness. 

May the Lord bless all your endeavors.


Todd Parmenter

News Articles Published the Week After the Preceding Email Exchanges

     "Missing Lincoln Link" by Roland Klose (9-27-07), editor of the Illinois Times:

     "Abe's Stint in Church Remains Uncertain" by Nancy Rollings Saul (9-29-07) of the [Lincoln] Courier: http://www.lincolncourier.com/story.asp?SID=17218&SEC=8.

     "Church's Connection to Abraham Lincoln Questioned," Patti Welander of the Bloomington Pantagraph: http://www.pantagraph.com/articles/2007/10/01/news/doc470122afd2089157618382.txt.

21.5: Lawrence B. Stringer

(Undated photo from Dooley, The Namesake Town,  p. 75

21.6: The (2nd) Lincoln Christian Church, Dedicated in 1904 (demolished early 1950s)

(Undated photo courtesy of Fred Blanford)

     The inset shows the minister of that time, and I believe he was Rev. Hooe. The photo was taken by Charles Stringer, no known relation to Lawrence B. Stringer. At the right of the Church is the Miller Building (department store), constructed of concrete blocks, since demolished. The stairs at the back of the Miller Building are seen on the right-hand side of the photo below.

21.7: Lincoln Christian Church Group, Early 20th Century

(Photo courtesy of Fred Blanford)

21.8: Artifacts Allegedly Used by Abraham Lincoln

     E.H. Lukenbill was well known to teachers and students of Logan County and Lincoln for several decades at mid 20th century, including yours truly, for his fascination with the Lincoln legend. As Mr. Lukenbill made his rounds to various grade schools in Logan County and Lincoln, he was fond of impromptu story telling about Abraham Lincoln, and we students were equally fond of the entertainment that interrupted the regular classroom tedium. He did help to get Lincoln the man and the town into my blood, as did James Hickey. I just missed Mr. Stringer: he died the year I was born.

(Photo from the Lincoln Courier, 2-9-52, p. 8)

     The good people of the Lincoln Christian Church are looking for these relics as of 9-17-07.

21.9: Picture Postcard of the Lincoln Public Library and Lincoln Christian Church (@1911)

Note: much of the preceding content was published in 2007. Early in 2010, I will send a press release presenting the results of additional research that I did on this topic in 2009. In due time, I will publish that update here.

A Religious Celebration Too Big for a Church

     As noted on 1. Abraham Lincoln and the Postville Courthouse, Peter Cartwright was a famous Methodist circuit-riding preacher who had spoken often at the Postville Logan County Courthouse:  "The old courthouse in Postville oftimes rang with his rugged eloquence.  In his earlier days he was a follower of the race track and a gambler.  In 1803, he mended his ways and became a Methodist exhorter.  His ministerial career, after taking regular orders, covered a period of 65 years, 50 years of which he was a presiding elder."

     Cartwright was a chaplain in General Jackson's army in the Battle of New Orleans. Several years later while preaching in Nashville, Tennessee, Cartwright saw General Jackson come into the church and "being annoyed by the interruption, Cartwright after a moment's pause said:  'Yes, that is General Jackson, but he will go to hell the same as any one else, if he don't repent'" (Stringer, pp. 491-492).

      Cartwright, a Democrat, had also run against Abraham Lincoln, a Whig, for Congress in 1846 during the Mexican War.  "Lincoln took conservative Whig ground, and Cartwright while persuasive as a revivalist, was a poor campaigner.  The Democrats soon gave up.  Lincoln polled 6,340 votes to Cartwright's 4,829" (Benjamin Thomas, Lincoln, p. 108).

     Despite his political failure, Cartwright, like Lincoln, was a commanding personality in central Illinois at mid-19th Century.  "An event of great importance in the Methodist history of Logan County was the 'Cartwright jubilee' which occurred at the M(ethodist) E(piscopal) Church in Lincoln, Sept. 24, 1869" (Stringer, p. 492).  Stringer also says that the celebration was "held in Gillett's hall, in Lincoln, which was crowded to its utmost" (p. 492). 

     This jubilee occurred during the annual Methodist conference, so perhaps activities took place at both the church and Gillett's Hall. Construction on this church began in the summer of 1868, and the basement was dedicated in December of 1868, but the "audience room" was not dedicated until March 3, 1872 (Stringer, p. 513).

     At the Cartwright jubilee, after a formal congratulations by Dr. Peter Akers, "the address was answered by Dr. Cartwright in that peculiar manner which gave in a such a name for eccentricity.  At the evening session he was the recipient of numerous presents. "Among them were a silver set of 33 pieces presented by the citizens of Decatur, a Turkish chair presented by Gov. R.J. Oglesby, a gold headed cane, gold spectacles, gold and silver ware, photograph album continuing photographs of the ministers of the conference, etc. Three years after this jubilee, Peter Cartwright passed away, being over 80 years of age" (Stringer, p. 492).

21.10:  1868 Methodist Church at
Broadway and Logan Streets

(Photo adapted from Gleason, p. 100)

      In the Route 66 era, this building was the Masonic Temple.  By that time, the dome and first level of the tower had been removed.  The roof of the church became a sacrificial altar in the Route 66 era.  The pigeons loved the roof so well they became a nuisance and were removed with organized shotgun rituals sanctioned by the City Fathers.

The Lost Universalist Church

     Of the four religious groups who built churches facing Latham Park, the most liberal (open minded, non-doctrinal) was the Universalist Society.  Many religious groups have claimed affinity with Abraham Lincoln's religious views, and the contemporary Universalist-Unitarian Church is one of them.  My best guess is that the Universalist Church was built where the Augspurger and Pleines Chevrolet Company was located in the Route 66 era.

     Not much information exists about the Unitarian Church in Lincoln.  Stringer offers one paragraph in his Logan County History 1911:

     "A Universalist Society was organized in Lincoln sometime during the latter part of the war [Civil War].  The first trustees were Joseph Ream, Hiram Wilson and Ruth A. Lacey, D.L. Braucher was treasurer and Mrs. H.C. Braucher, clerk.  A church building was erected on Kickapoo Street, facing Latham Park in 1867, the same being dedicated in September of that year.  In 1872, a parsonage was built which when completed and before occupancy in some mysterious manner caught fire and burned to the ground.  It was immediately rebuilt.  The first pastor was Rev. Mr. Chapin.  Succeeding him were A. H. Sweetser, J.M. Garner, N. Crarey, J.P. Chaplain, Hudson Chase, Samuel Ashton, D.P. Bunn and L.G. Powers.  No regular service has been held since 1884, the building having been occupied for years by the Lincoln Business College.  The building is now unoccupied" (Stringer, p. 828). 

      Paul Gleason's Lincoln:  A Pictorial History has a photo of the Universalist Church when used as Lincoln Business College.  The photo shows a couple of dozen men in business suits in front of the building, but the photo cut off the dome, so I have used the photo at right to show more of the building. The full-sized version of the photo used to generate this photo, rather than the reduced version here, shows the front much better, including the steeple and dome with fish-scale shingles, and it shows a sign above the door that reads "Lincoln Business College."  Note the gas light at front.

21.11:  1867 Universalist Church Building Used as Lincoln Business College (undated)

(Photo from Beaver,
History of Logan County 1982, p. 138)

     The caption of the photo for this building in Gleason's book is informative:  "Lincoln Business College was founded by William Whetsler in 1879.  The college held its first classes in the Universalist Church across from Latham Park until it constructed its own facility at 118 North Logan Street.  At one time, the school boasted an enrollment of 100 students from eight states.  Included in the photo are W.R. Whetlser, Professor John Wesley Wear, Frank 'Heidy' Pierce, Ralph W. Braucher, and Louis W. Mittendorf" (p. 43).  The building constructed on Logan Street is a square, concrete block building later used by Lincoln Bible Institute; the building is shown on 33. Schools. 

     According to Larry Shroyer, before Lincoln High School had its own gym [in the 1925 building on Broadway], games were held in such various places as the Universalist Church building and "the old abandoned Presbyterian Church, which stood on the west side of the high school" ("I Remember the 20s and Before" in Beaver, p. 9).

     This Universalist Church dome is noticeable in the right background of the picture postcard of the Chicago and Alton Depot shown in 21.5.  I have enclosed the dome in a rectangle to highlight it. This picture postcard is colorized, and so the dome's color, of course, is speculative.

     Since its origin in the 1770s, the Universalist Church has attracted rather broad-minded members (the Universalist-Unitarian Church is a vibrant organization today), and I wondered about the establishment of such a church in a conservative Midwestern community.  At first I thought perhaps some of the members of the Universalist Society in Lincoln were faculty of Lincoln College.  Thus, I looked at my copy of the centennial history of Lincoln College published in 1965 (Lincoln:  The Namesake College) to see if any names mentioned in Stringer's account of the founding of the Universalist Church were also mentioned in the Lincoln College centennial history, but I found none.  

     Lincoln College was founded by Presbyterians, who tended to be more conservative than Universalists.  The origin and demise of the Universalist Society in Lincoln, Illinois, thus remains a mystery.

21.12:  Chicago & Alton Passenger Train Depot in 1910 with Universalist Church Dome at Right

The Churches of Black Lincolnites

The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME Church)    

     The African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lincoln, Illinois, was organized in 1868 by Spencer Donegan and his wife, Elizabeth; Lucenda Allen; Elizabeth Peterson; and Marrah Tate (Lincoln Evening Courier, centennial edition, section four, August 26, 1953, p. 12). 

     After meeting in the Donegan home for five months, Spencer Donegan bought the school house on Sherman and Broadway from the city for use as a church.  "Following a great revival, many joined the church in 1875. . . .  Alfred and Laura Dyer and Albert and Sarah Perkins decided in 1880 that the little school house was too small to hold the members.  The school was moved and the present church was built by the Reverend McDowland"  (Courier, section four, 8-26-1953, p. 12).

     In Dooley's 1953 The Namesake Town, Mrs. Harriet Dyer Brummel described her parents, Alfred and Laura Dyer, as "deeply religious.  'In our home,' she said, 'there were no intoxicants allowed, no dancing, no card playing, but how we loved to dance!  And we did dance when they were away from home.'"

21.13:  American Methodist Episcopal Church

(Photo from Gleason, Lincoln, p. 109)

     Dooley continues: Mrs. Dyer's "father, long a Sunday school superintendent and a choir leader, was a student of the Bible, and on hearing a Bible quotation, could tell instantly where it was to be found. . . .  'I am proud of my father and mother, who were highly regarded by all who knew them, white as well as black.  Their deep religious faith has been my help and strength throughout my life'" ("An Interview with Mrs. Harriet Dyer Brummel," The Namesake Town, p. 33.)

21.14: Callie Gorens with AME Church in Background

(from a photo album of   , date unknown)

21.15:  The American Methodist Episcopal Church and Congregation

(Undated photo in Dooley, The Namesake Town, p. 33)

     This photo reminds me of William Maxwell, who knew this church from personal experience and who saw this very photo in Dooley's book. In "The Front and the Back Parts of the House," Maxwell refers to the interview of Mrs. Dyer, the mother of the Maxwell's housekeeper, and photo of Mrs. Dyer (pp. 291-292).  The above photo appears on the same page in Dooley's book as the interview with Mrs. Dyer.    

     In William Maxwell's "The Front and Back Parts of the House," he describes going to the AME  Church with Mrs. Dyer:

     "During one of those times when my father was searching for a housekeeper and Mrs. Dyer was in our kitchen, she stopped me as we got up from the table at the end of dinner and asked if I'd like to go to church with her to hear a choir from the South.  It was a very cold night and there was a white full moon, and walking along beside Mrs. Dyer I saw the shadows of the bare branches laid out on the snow.  Our footsteps made a squeaking sound and it hurt to breathe.  The church was way downtown on the other side of the courthouse square.  As we made our way indoors I saw that it was crammed with people, and overheated, and I was conscious of the fact that I was the only white person there.  Nobody made anything of it.  The men and women in their choir were of all ages, and dressed in white.  For the first time in my life I heard 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,' and 'Pharaoh's Army Got Drownded,' and 'Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?' and "Joshua Fit de Battle of Jericho.'  Singing 'Don't let nobody turn you round,' the choir yanked one another around and stamped their feet (in church!).  I looked at Mrs. Dyer out of the corner of my eye.  She was smiling.  'Not my brother, not my sister, but it's me, O Lord!"  the white-robed singers shouted.  The people around me sat listening politely with their hands folded in their laps, and I thought, perhaps mistakenly, that they too were hearing these spirituals for the first time" (p. 293).

     This passage is typical of Maxwell's skill in using descriptive detail to capture the feelings of people in realistic social situations. 

The Second Baptist Church

     The Second Baptist Church, the second church of blacks in Lincoln, "was founded in 1874 by ten Christians who met in each other's homes for the first two years.  In 1876, on a lot donated by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Jefferson, the little congregation built a small frame church, where the worshipped until the new cement block church was built in 1915" ("New Church Every 82 Years," Our Times, 2.1, p. 4). 

21.16:  Reverend Glenn Shelton Marches with His Congregation to a New Church Building

     (Photo from Our Times, 2.2, spring, 1997, p. 4)

     The congregation financed the 1915 church by selling subscriptions to purchase individual concrete blocks.  The "small frame church" was moved to the back of the lot, and the new concrete block church was constructed on Broadway.  The four-day dedication of the new church in August of 1916 expressed an interfaith cooperation among local churches:  "The services were ecumenical affairs, with preaching by pastors of the Methodist, First Cumberland Presbyterian, A.M.E., and Christian churches" (p. 4).

    The 1915 church is seen in the right background of 21.8.  (The Logan County Courthouse dome is also in view.)  The scene above shows the congregation moving to its new church in 1997.

The First Presbyterian Church, William Maxwell, and Governor Richard J. Oglesby

     Name a church and two famous people who visited it, but who ordinarily did not spend a lot of time in any house of worship.

William Maxwell, His Family, and the First Presbyterian Church

     William Maxwell writes "I joined the Presbyterian church in Lincoln as soon as I was old enough [12?], and when we moved to Chicago I started going to another Presbyterian church there. . . (Ancestors, p. 290). 

     Maxwell describes how he came to attend this church:  "When my Grandfather Blinn died, the house across the street was sold to a retired farmer.  There were three boys in the family, and my brother and I were drawn to them like nails to a magnet.  They went to the Presbyterian Sunday school, and so we asked my mother if we could go with them. Though, historically speaking, the Presbyterian Church belongs among the more rigid and orthodox forms of Protestantism and its adherents have been notable for their excitability and rancor, neither the  minister nor the congregation of this church appeared to be in the least concerned with proving that what Jesus had in mind was the Presbyterian Church and no other. 

     Those adults I remember individually were cheerful, complacent, and full of kindly feelings.  There was never any talk of hellfire and infant damnation, or any mention of the fact that everybody wasn't subject to redeeming grace.  No one was outside the pale except the heathen Chinese and Japanese, who were fast being converted. . ." (p. 255).

     As a member of the Presbyterian Church, he also joined its chapter of Boy Scouts.  Its leader, Professor Oglevee, was one of the pillars of this church. 

     Maxwell contrasts the tolerant demeanor of these Presbyterians to the more stringent, judgmental views of his Maxwell grandparents, who belonged to the Christian Church:

21.17:  1896 First Presbyterian Church

     (Photo in Chamber of Commerce, Community Profile, p. 33. Photo courtesy of VillageProfile.com, Elgin, IL.)

     "My Grandmother Maxwell believed that there was only the Christian Church; every other religion was a mistake, based on total misunderstanding of the Bible and of Jesus' intention for mankind" (Ancestors, p. 94).

     Maxwell reports that his mother had also attended the First Presbyterian Church.  "For a time, during the First World War, my mother went to the Presbyterian church with us, until one Sunday when the minister made some patriotic statement that was greeted with applause by the congregation.  She never went back.  Her objection was to handclapping in the house of the Lord, not to the assumption that He took sides, for which there is ample warrant in the Scriptures.  She used to say fervently that it was not the English who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte, nor the Austrian, nor the Russians, but God Almighty.  She was quoting Victor Hugo.  She loved sentimental ideas just as she loved sentimental music, and so did everybody else" (Ancestors, p. 258).

     Maxwell says that he stopped attending the Presbyterian Church when he became a religious skeptic as a result of reading Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger (Ancestors, p. 290).  Yet, religion was a most important and interesting subject to Maxwell, especially the religious views of his mother's family:  "In their unconscious assumptions and attitudes, my mother's family was hardly Christian at all.  But neither were they pagan.  I don't know what they were.  I do know, really, but it is a question of what name to put to it.  When Annette [his aunt] was forty, she had a son, now a grey-haired man, who bears a physical resemblance to my (and of course also his) Grandfather Blinn.  But the resemblance is more than merely physical.  What I am aware of in him, and found in my mother and Annette and my Aunt Edith and my older brother -- the family trait they all have in common -- is the pure feeling of the heart [italics mine].  I hesitate to say that it was their religion, but it is what they lived by" (Ancestors, p. 252).

     It is impossible to read William Maxwell without sensing that "the pure feeling of the heart" is what he, too, must have lived by -- and it certainly was what he wrote by.  I urge you to read Maxwell's works set in Lincoln, Illinois, to discover his truly insightful and sympathetic perspective on human nature and life.

Governor Oglesby and the First Presbyterian Church

     The popular, three-term Governor Richard J. Oglesby was apparently a religious skeptic and thus most likely did not regularly attend any church while he lived in Lincoln in the early 1880s.  Ironically, Oglesby's last public appearance occurred in the First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln.  The occasion was a lecture by General John B. Gordon of Georgia on December 1, 1898(?).  The First Presbyterian Church, dedicated May 17, 1896, featured an auditorium room seating 600 (Stringer, p. 524).

    Lawrence Stringer describes the occasion in what must have been an eye-witness account.  Stringer would have been thirty at the time and was devoted to local history throughout his life. He writes, "The scene was nationally historic.  The lecture was given under the auspices of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic.  The veterans of the post occupied front seats in the audience room.  Gov. Oglesby presided, although quite feeble.  It was to be his last public appearance on earth, and somehow or other everyone seemed to intuitively divine it.  It gave pathos to the scene.  Both distinguished men sat upon the platform, none others.  One was a representative of the North, the other of the South.  Both were national characters.  Both had been Governors of their respective states, Illinois and Georgia.  Both had represented their respective sates in the United States Senate at the same time, but on opposite sides of the aisle.  One was a leading Major General in the Federal arm, the other a leading Major General in the Confederate cause. 

21.18:  Governor Oglesby

(Photo in Lindstrom and Caruthers,
Lincoln: The Namesake College
, p. 38)

     Two more representative men of the two sections could not have been found.   Here they met as friends, and as they shook hands before the large audience, it seems as if no greater demonstration of the indissolubility of the Union could have been asked.  Gov. Oglesby rose to his feet, trembling and unsteady.  His voice shook with emotion, but the audience was so quiet that every intonation of his voice could be heard.  He referred to their old association in the Senate, then to the fact that the Union had been preserved and that now there was no more North, no South, only one common country.  Feelingly he introduced General Gordon.  Feelingly Gordon responded. Tears stole down the cheeks of each, handkerchiefs came from the pockets of the auditors and there was scarcely a dry eye in the house.  All realized that Gov. Oglesby's days were numbered.  No more historic scene was every witnessed on American soil" (p. 629).

    Many men from Lincoln and Logan County, Illinois, were soldiers in the Union Army.  Thus, after the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was a major civic organization.  As suggested by the meeting described above, the G.A.R. promoted the spirit of reconciliation that Abraham Lincoln had expressed in his famous, benevolent second inaugural address ("with malice toward none and charity for all. . .").

     The medallion pictured below commemorates an event in Lincoln, Illinois that honored both Union and Confederate veterans.  I have no evidence that this undated medallion commemorated the historic scene of reconciliation described above featuring Governor Oglesby, but it could have.  The front of the medallion, picture below at the left, has an inscription reading "A memorial to the brave men who fought for the blue and the grey."  The image at the right below shows a full view of this medallion, and it reads "Grant--Lee Cantonment Lincoln, Ill."  The medallion was offered on eBay in early May of 2003.

21.19-20:  Undated Medallion Commemorating GAR in Lincoln, Illinois


     In Lincoln, among Oglesby's close friends was Judge Edward Blinn, maternal grandfather of William Maxwell, who writes "the friend who was closest to my Grandfather Blinn's heart was Richard Oglesby.  The two men were both of a speculative turn of mind, and among the things they loved to speculate on was the nature of life after death" (Ancestors, p. 226).  Maxwell notes that "it was a rule of my Grandfather Blinn's house that when he and Governor Oglesby were discussing religion, the children could stay up until they fell asleep.  Annette [Maxwell's aunt] says that her religious convictions came much more from being present on those occasions than from attending Sunday school, though she and my mother did that too.  As grown women, they believed in God but felt no guilt about not going to church; apparently He had excused them from it.  The God my mother believed in (plainly modeled on my Grandfather Blinn with perhaps a touch of the grandeur of Governor Oglesby) was large-minded and just and affectionate toward His family, who lived in the hollow of His hand--where else would they live?" (Ancestors, pp. 253-254).

     One of the religious thinkers that both Blinn and Oglesby were interested in and who influenced their religious views was Peorian Robert Ingersoll, the controversial, unconventional lawyer, sometime politician, and remarkable political orator.  Ingersoll delivered the famous "plumed knight" speech nominating  James G. Blaine for President at the 1876 Republican National Convention (Plummer, p. 71).  "Governor Richard J. Oglesby was one of the close friends with whom Robert Ingersoll shared his private, unorthodox religious views" (Plummer, p. 27).  The two corresponded often and were even capable of satirizing one another (Plummer, pp. 2-28). Probably it was the influence of Oglesby that led Judge Blinn to own "the twelve volumes of Ingersoll's lectures and miscellaneous writing. . .[which] ended up in my father's [the Author William Maxwell's father] den" (Ancestors, p. 226).

     In Maxwell's 1948 novel, Time Will  Darken It, one of the central characters, a young independent, strong-willed woman named Nora, is described as an avid reader; and she finds a collection of  Robert Ingersoll's books in the library of her hosts, Austin and Martha King.  Nora's mother discovers her daughter reading Ingersoll and makes her stop.  Both were upset.  In telling her husband about this incident, Martha asks him, "He's [Ingersoll] an atheist, isn't he?" (p. 77).

     A curious footnote about Ingersoll is that he was allegedly jailed in Lincoln, Illinois, for "intoxication and disorderly conduct" (Larry Shroyer's "I Remember the 20s and Before" in Beaver, p. 8).  What Ingersoll was doing in Lincoln would be an interesting story, but those who could tell it are long gone.

     According to Maxwell, "my grandfather was so fond of his friend [Oglesby] that he built a room on his house for him. The carpenters hadn't quite finished [it] when Richard Oglesby died. . . ." (Ancestors, p. 228).   Governor Oglesby died April 24, 1899, at Oglehurst-- his home on Elkhart Hill --.  More than 4,000 visitors were in attendance, including his son, Robert Todd Lincoln, Gov. Tanner and all the state officers. . . three ex-governors. . . United States Senators. . . Congressmen. . . ex-Vice President Adlai E. Stevenson" (Stringer, p. 629).

     See note in Sources Cited below under Plummer for a link to Plummer's authoritative, free online biography of Governor Richard J. Oglesby.

Memoir of the First Presbyterian Church

     From the 1920s through the present, my mother's family, the H.F. Wilsons, have been faithful members of the First Presbyterian Church; and at the encouragement of my mother and Grandmother Blanch Wilson I attended Sunday school classes, was baptized in this church, and joined it at the customary age of 12. I recall Sunday school classes on the second floor and such teachers as Mrs. Clarke and Attorney Luther Dearborn, whose class consisted of teen guys. Mr. Dearborn's class met in Reverend Burns's study. Mr. Dearborn used candy bars to reward students who read their weekly Bible assignments and could answer his quiz questions accurately. I recall Bob Goebel earned a lot more candy bars than I did. 

     My Lincolnites from the late 1950s show photos of religious education classes for various churches held before school on Wednesdays, I believe. I am pictured in the religious education classes of the First Presbyterian Church for my freshman (1957), sophomore (1958), and junior (1959) years. Below I include photos for the religious education classes for both 1957 and 1958 in order to depict several of my LCHS classmates, including those who were a couple of years older:

21.21:  Religious Education Class of 1957 (Lincolnite)

21.22:  Religious Education Class of 1958 (Lincolnite)

    Before Lincoln Community High School moved to the campus on Primm Road in 1959, some classes were held in the First Presbyterian Church. As a sophomore, I attended a class in world literature that met in this church and was taught by Mr. John Ryman. The class was held in a second story room that afforded a view of the back of the 1900 LCHS building, and so our class could observe the inmates who occupied Room 316. We noticed some miscreants occasionally sneaking out through the large windows onto the fire escape.

     And what about my religious views?  Well, I too read The Mysterious Stranger, in addition to the works of such other 19th Century American fatalists as Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Stephen Crane. I also read the Victorian poets of religions crisis, including Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, and Arthur Hugh Clough as well as Thomas Hardy, the fin-de-siècle (end-of-the-century) meliorist poet (things are bad but will get better).  T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats were also not exactly cheerful. The result was not quite the same as for William Maxwell, but my religious views are another story. 

The Centennial History of the First Presbyterian Church of Lincoln, Illinois (1857--1957)

     My research relating to my double interest in family history and the social-cultural history of Lincoln led me to discover and purchase the published Centennial History of the First Presbyterian Church of Lincoln, Illinois (1857--1957) (PDF), written by Helen M. White and edited by historian Raymond Dooley, venerable president of Lincoln College. The preceding title is a link to a printable PDF version of that document, and I have carefully scanned it so that you can adjust the PDF reader to enlarge the pages on the computer monitor screen for optimum readability. For printing, be sure to use a setting such as "Fit to Printable Area." Using a good quality of paper will give a copy suitable for binding. I recommend a spiral binding, and Staples offers that service. The last page (28) notes that Larry Shroyer, the legendary Lincoln Courier photojournalist, took the 1950s photos.

     I offer this church history in memory of the Reverend John T. Burns (minister and counselor, Navy chaplain, and teacher of religion at Lincoln College) and my Wilson family members who were faithful church members, including my mother, Lydia Jane Wilson Henson (1921--1978). She appears in the photo of the High School Girls' Class, 1938, on page 19. The following photo includes my Great Aunt Myrtle Wilson and my Grandfather Harrison Franklin Wilson, who were members of the Church before 1900:

21:23: 1952 95th Anniversary

 Footnote: The First Presbyterian Church of Lincoln apparently qualifies for recognition by the Illinois State Historical Society's Sesquicentennial Church Awards Program Application: Deadline May 15, 2013: "The Illinois State Historical Society will honor churches, Synagogues and houses of worship in 2013. All denominations established before 1863 are encouraged to apply for this special award. The award will includes a certificate, a complimentary one-year membership in the Society, invitation to a special awards banquet, and state-wide recognition. The Awards banquet will be held in Peoria Illinois on July 23, 2013," ref: http://www.historyillinois.org/.

St. John United Church of Christ and Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr: The Only Lincolnite to Win the Presidential Medal of Freedom

  Reinhold Niebuhr was Lincoln's most famous man of God:  a widely influential theologian, beloved professor, and author with international acclaim.  The State of Illinois Library Web site presents the following about him:

Niebuhr, Reinhold
genre: non-fiction

     "Reinhold Niebuhr was arguably the most important American-born Protestant Theologian of the twentieth century. He was confirmed and ordained in Lincoln, Illinois. He attended Central School there, and his father served as pastor at St. John United Church of Christ during his family’s nearly three-decade stay in that city.  Niebuhr is perhaps best known for his “Serenity Prayer," first published in 1951. He has authored numerous theological works including Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932) and The Nature and Destiny of Man. He also earned many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964."

21.24:  Reinhold Niebuhr

(Photo from the City University of New York,
Brooklyn College Web site address in Works Cited)

     As for all great men and women authors, more has been written about the person than the person wrote. (And I read somewhere that more has been written about Abraham Lincoln -- 16,000 books --  than anyone else except Christ.)  I typed "Reinhold Niebuhr" into Google.com and received 14,200 hits, and of course these would not include the most scholarly publications (the articles and books of academics are located through more specialized electronic databases). 

     In my view, all three authors from Lincoln, Illinois, -- Langston Hughes, Reinhold Niebuhr, and William Maxwell -- express social criticism, as would be expected.  Creative writers report, analyze, and evaluate the truth as they see it, including the unpleasantness of human nature and society.  Langston Hughes expresses awareness of social injustice resulting from racial prejudice and discrimination.  As I explain in htttp://findinglincolnillinois.com/wmmaxwellsocialclasses.html#conclusion, William Maxwell's social criticism has largely been overlooked.  Niebuhr's social criticism is profoundly intellectual and explicit.  His writing probes and questions the underlying religious and political thought that founded and developed American society.  

     Neibuhr's writing is far too involved for a discussion here, and I frankly I claim no qualifications to undertake such a task.  For a quick reference, I found the Atlantic Online article titled "A Man on a Gray Horse" by David Brooks useful and recommend it (link below).  Also, a good source of information about the Niebuhr family in Lincoln is "Reverend Gustav and Lydia Hosto Niebuhr" by Ray Gimbel in Paul Beaver's Logan County History 1982.

     Niebuhr's central purpose, as I understand it, was an effort to make Christianity relevant to the problems of the 20th Century. One curious footnote about Niebuhr's social criticism is that it led him to cross paths with Henry Ford.  Such other Lincolnites as Lawrence Stringer and D.F. Nickols had conflicted with Ford over the fate of the old Postville Courthouse.  Ford's treatment of factory workers became a concern for Niebuhr after his synod sent him to the Bethel Evangelical Church in Detroit just a few months after temporarily taking over his father's position at the St. John United Church of Christ in Lincoln.  Niebuhr served in Detroit from 1915 to 1928, and his experience at this church led him toward social activism, as summarized by George Anderson:

     "The church in Detroit was mixed with professionals and blue-collar workers.  During Niebuhr’s 13 year pastorate, the church grew in membership (to 700) and budget 10-fold.  While at the church, he wrote two books, one of which was Leaves From the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, which consisted of reflections on parish ministry.  He learned in Detroit that life is a lot more complex than his training at Yale had prepared him for.  In Detroit, he became the theologian-activist that would mark him the rest of his life.   

     Detroit was "Henry's town," you see.  Niebuhr arrived in Detroit believing in Henry Ford’s reputation of being labor's benefactor because he created so many jobs through his factories.  However, much of Niebuhr's congregation consisted of those factory laborers and he came to know of the unfair hours, the poor working conditions, the layoffs without pay during re-tooling, and other unjust working conditions of the early industrial revolution.  Remember, Reinhold had an inherited passion for justice and fairness and though it was “Henry’s town,” he was not afraid to criticize Ford, which he did not only from the pulpit but also in the public arena.  He gained national attention as a result"  ("The Life and Thought of a Christian Realist, Reinhold Niebuhr," Web site address in Sources Cited).

     The question naturally arises of what Reinhold Niebuhr's life would have been like if his synod had directed him to remain at the St. John United Church of Christ in Lincoln.

     The religious idealism of Reinhold Niebuhr's parents inspired three of  their four children to pursue careers in Christian higher education.

     Reverend Gustav and Lydia Hosto Neibuhr moved to Lincoln in 1902 so that he could be the minister of the St. John Church and administrator of the Evangelical Deaconess Hospital. 

     Their four children attended Central School and Lincoln High, and all four continued with higher education and enjoyed distinguished professional careers.  At Central, Reinhold "received honors as a short story writer" (Beaver, p. 444).

     Walter was managing editor of the Lincoln Daily News-Herald and later a successful producer of documentary films until his death in 1946.

     Dr. Hulda Niebuhr was a member of the faculty at Boston University, New York University, and McCormick Seminary in Chicago (d. 1959).

21.25:  H. Richard, Reinhold,
Hulda, and Walter Niebuhr

(Photo in Beaver, p. 445)

     Dr. H. Richard Niebuhr taught at Eden Theological Seminary, was president of Elmhurst College, and became professor of theology and Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School in 1931 (d. 1962).

     "When [Gustav] Niebuhr died on April 21, 1913, within a week of being diagnosed with diabetes, his son Reinhold hurried home from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis to conduct the memorial services. 

     Reinhold wasn't due to graduate from Eden until June, but the board allowed him to leave early so he could accept the call from St. John's [sic] to be its pastor until he left for Yale Divinity School in the fall" ("An Immigrant Church Reaching Out," Our Times, 2.1, 1997, p. 5).

     Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr for thirty-two years was professor of ethics and theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

21.26:  Old St. John Church at
Fifth and Union Streets

(Photo in Dooley, The Namesake Town, p. 38)

     Besides gaining the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, Reinhold Niebuhr was on the cover of Time magazine in 1948 and in 1990 was named by Life magazine as one of its 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century.

     Buried in the Niebuhr family lot in Old Union Cemetery are Reverend Gustav Niebuhr (1913), Lydia Hosto Niebuhr (1962), Dr. Hulda Niebuhr (1959), and Mrs. Niebuhr's sister, Sister Adele (1975), a consecrated deaconess who served a number of years on the Lincoln Deaconess Hospital staff (Beaver, p. 445).

     A plaque commemorating the Niebuhr family has been erected on the east wall near the back of the 1925 St. John Church pictured in 21.18.  The plaque indicates that all four Neibuhr children were confirmed in the old St. John Church at Fifth and Union Streets.

     The plaque was erected in 2001 by the St. John United Church of Christ, Friends of the Niebuhrs, and the Illinois State Historical Society.

21.27:  St. John United Church of Christ,
Constructed in 1925

21.28:  Niebuhr Plaque on the East Wall of the St. John United Church of Christ in Lincoln, Illinois

(Leigh Henson photo, 7-02. Click on thumbnail to access a larger size with readable text.)

Lincoln's Former Synagogue

     Stringer describes early Jewish activity in Lincoln:

     "The Jewish people of Lincoln organized a congregation in August of 1884, with eight or ten families.  Rabbi Cadden, of Bloomington, was instrumental in the organization and held services for the congregation in the Universalist Church.  Louis Rosenthal was president of the organization and Samuel Stern vice president. Subsequently various other rabbis held services in Lincoln at stated intervals.  A more definite organization took place, however, in 1904, when Rabbi Charles S. Levi of Peoria, organized the present Beth El congregation, which resulted in 1910 in the erection of a permanent synagogue, at a cost of $7,000.  This synagogue was dedicated on Nov. 6, 1910.  The building is located on the corner of McLean and Delavan Streets, facing Latham Park.  It is constructed of dark-faced brick with stone trimmings and is 70 by 36 feet in dimensions.  The interior decorations are especially attractive.  The present rabbi in charge of the congregation is Rabbi Abraham J. Messing of Bloomington" (Stringer, p. 508).

     This historic structure, designed by Architect J.M. Deal, was purchased by the Lincoln's Woman's Club in 1927.  "The club home has been central to the club's accomplishments and has been an integral part of its community service program providing a facility of character for parties, receptions and weddings plus being a meeting place for many civic and church groups" (Beaver, Logan County History 1982, p. 78).

21.29:  Undated Picture Postcard of the Beth El Synagogue

21.30:  Contemporary View of the Lincoln Woman's Club Building

     (Leigh Henson photo, 12-02.  Note the discrepancy in the colors of 21.27 and 21.28.  Apparently the artist who colored 21.27 failed to get the correct shade of red.)

The Former Church of Christian Science

     Stringer describes the origin of this group:

    "A Christian Science Society in Lincoln was informally organized in1905 when a number of those espousing that faith met at private houses and held services.  Later a hall was rented in the business portion of the city.  In January of 1908, the society leased the Presbyterian Church building on the corner of Broadway and Ottawa Streets and since that time the Society has met regularly in that structure. 

     The society formally organized in May of 1909.  The first trustees of the organization were J.M. White, Fred Reinhardt, Mrs. T.T. Beach, Mrs. Eva Hunting and Mrs. E. Lutz.  The first readers were Mrs. A. M. Hart and Mrs. Mildred Bosworth" (Stringer, pp. 505-506).

21.31:  Christian Science Church Building,
1928, Pekin and College Avenue

(Photo in Gleason, p. 108)

     An article in the centennial edition of the Lincoln Evening Courier describes the architecture of the Lincoln Christian Science Church building:  "The church building is of Spanish design.  The walls are built of Haydite units finished with stucco.  The entrance of Bedford stone leads into a vestibule.  The roof of red tile and the hand wrought lanterns are distinctly Spanish style.  The principal windows are half circles and glazed with amber colored rippled glass.  Directly back of the Reader's platform are three rooms used for the Readers, Sunday School, and the public Reading Room ("Christian Science Society Organized Here During 1909," Courier, centennial edition, section six, August 26, 1953, p. 5).

Some of Lincoln's Churches on Picture Postcards

21.32:  1904 Christian Church

21.33:  1909 Episcopal Church

21.34:  1911 First Baptist

21.35:  1910 Zion Lutheran

21.36:  1936 First Methodist Church

     The red-brick building at the left is the 1925 Lincoln Community High School.  The white arch on that building is a distinctive feature, and below the arch is an inscription described on 33. Schools.

21.37:  Holy Family Church and Parsonage, Church Dedicated in 1904

     The Holy Family Church building at Logan between Clinton and Decatur Streets, constructed in the Romanesque style with heavy buttresses, was originally St. Patrick's Church.  "The fire which destroyed St. Mary's Church led to the merging of the two parishes of St. Mary's and St. Patrick's into Holy Family Roman Catholic Church on March 15, 1978" (Beaver, p. 61).

Sources Cited

     "A.M.E. Church Organized Back in 1868."  Lincoln Evening Courier, centennial edition, section four, Wednesday, August 26, 1953, p. 12.

     Anderson, George C. "The Life and Thought of a Christian Realist, Reinhold Niebuhr": http://www.spres.org/sermons2002/Lectures/Niebuhr%201.htm

     Beaver, Paul. History of Logan County 1982. Published by the Logan County Heritage Foundation Printed at Dallas, TX:  Taylor Publishing Co., 1982.  The most detailed history of churches in Lincoln and Logan County with many photos.

     Brooks, David.  "A Man on a Gray Horse."  The Atlantic Online. September, 2000. http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2002/09/brooks.htm

     "Christian Science Society Organized Here During 1909."  Lincoln Evening Courier. Centennial  edition, section six, Wednesday, August 26, 1953, p. 5.

     Dye, Brad.  Lincoln Web site with contemporary color photos of several Lincoln churches: www.braddye.com/lincoln.html.  (If you get a password window, click cancel, and Web page will load shortly.)

     Gehlbach, Nancy Lawrence. Our Times 2.1, spring, 1997.

     Gleason, Paul.  Lincoln, Illinois:  A Pictorial History.  St. Louis, MO:  The G. Bradley Publishing Co., 1998.  Photos of thirteen churches and detailed captions presenting church histories.  Material from Mr. Gleason's books is copyrighted with all rights reserved.  Mr. Gleason's material used in this Web site is with permission from the G. Bradley Publishing Company, 461 Des Peres Road, St. Louis, MO 63131. Call 1-800-966-5120 to inquire about purchasing Lincoln, Illinois:  A Pictorial History (1998) (200 pages of rare photos and text) or Logan County Pictorial History (2000) (also 200 pages of rare photos and text).  Visit http://gbradleypublishing.com/.

     Herndon, William, and Jesse W. Weik. Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds. Herndon's Lincoln. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006.

     Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce. Community Profile & Membership Directory.  Selected photos and text used courtesy of http:/www.villageprofile.com Elgin, Illinois.

     Lindstrom, Andrew, with Olive Caruthers. Lincoln:  The Namesake College, A Centennial History of Lincoln College, Lincoln, Illinois:  1865-1965.  No place of publication or publisher, 1965.

     Maxwell, William. Ancestors:  A Family History.  NY:  Vintage Books, 1971. William Maxwell's works are available at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

     __________ . "The Front and Back Parts of the House." All the Days and Nights:  The Collected Stories.  NY:  Vintage Books, Inc., 1995.

     Niebhur. Reinhold. Biographical information at the Illinois State Library Web site:  http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/library/isl/reading/il_auth/il_au_n.htm

     "No Proof Abe Lincoln on Hand, Records Here Show."  Lincoln Evening Courier, centennial edition, section five, Wednesday, August 26, 1953, p. 8.

     Photo of Reinhold Niebuhr from http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/virtual/portrait.htm

     Plummer, Mark A. Robert G. Ingersoll:  Peoria's Pagan Politician.  Macomb, IL:  Western Illinois University, 1984.

     Note:  The University of Illinois Press makes an online, complete version of Plummer's biography of Richard J. Oglesby available at http://www.press.uillinois.edu/epub/books/plummer/. A related work of interest is Plummer, Mark A. Robert G. Ingersoll:  Peoria's Pagan Politician. Macomb, IL:  Western Illinois University, 1984.]

     Saul, Nancy Rollings. "Story Stands: Abe did practice Law in Lincoln Church." September 8, 2007: http://www.lincolncourier.com/story.asp?SID=15907&SEC=8.

     Sherman, Pete. "Church tries to prove Lincoln legend true." State Journal-Register, 9-6-07: http://www.sj-r.com/News/stories/15724.asp.

     Stringer, Lawrence B. History of Logan County Illinois (1911). Reprinted by UNIGRAPHIC, INC. Evansville, IN:  1978. 

     Thomas, Benjamin.  Lincoln:  A Biography.  NY:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1950.

     Welander, Patti. "Lincoln Christian Church holds unique historical significance." September 9, 2007: http://www.pantagraph.com/articles/2007/09/10/news/doc46e4b7f1a4210815835529.txt.


     Email comments, corrections, questions, or suggestions. 
Also please email me if this Web site helps you decide to visit Lincoln, Illinois: DLHenson@missouristate.edu.

"The Past Is But the Prelude"

The founding fathers of this town asked their attorney, Abraham Lincoln, for permission to name this new community after him, and he agreed.  On the first day lots were publicly sold--August 27, 1853--, Abraham Lincoln, near the site of the train depot, used watermelon juice to christen the town as Lincoln, Illinois.  It thus became the first town named for Abraham Lincoln before he became famous.