Homepage of "Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, & Other
Highlights of Lincoln, IL"
A Long-Range Plan to Brand the First Lincoln
Namesake City as the Second City of Abraham Lincoln Statues
Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration in Lincoln, Illinois
Abraham Lincoln and the Historic Postville
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
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
Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Lincoln Memorial
(former Chautauqua site),
the Historic Cemeteries, & Nearby Sites
Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Salt Creek &
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 &
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
The Foley House: A
Monument to Civic Leadership
(on the National Register of
the Route 66 Era
Arts & Entertainment Heritage,
the Lincoln Theatre Roy Rogers' Riders Club of the
Cars, Trucks & Gas Stations of the Route 66 Era
Churches, 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
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
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
Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era
The Historic 1953 Centennial Celebration of
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,
During the Late Route 66 Era (1950-1960)
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
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
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
Web Site About
Leigh Henson's Professional Life
in this section are about the writing, memorabilia, and Web sites of
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
including photos of many churches
Dave Armbrust's Memorabilia of Lincoln, Illinois
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
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 Route 66
Association of Illinois
State Historical Society
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
achievement: serves as a model for the profession and reaches a greater
of the Lincoln Theater, est. 1923, Lincoln, Illinois
Developmental Center, Named
the Lincoln State School (& Colony) in the Route 66 Era
"On the outskirts of town there was a state hospital for feebleminded
children. . . ."
William Maxwell, Ancestors (1971), p. 181.
Dedicated to the Memory of Ruth Ann
Devoted Caregiver at the Lincoln State School for More Than Forty Years
Ruth Ann Webb Henson:
See below for "A Career of Untiring Service to Suffering Humanity: The Ruth Henson
Notes: Several people have asked me if I have information about
certain patients or employees, but I do not. If you have such a question, I
suggest you contact the Illinois Secretary of State's office to see whether
you can obtain that information and if so how:
Also, some who have seen this history Web page have inquired about the
cemetery where patients are buried, and here is a link to some information,
including a map showing the location of the Lincoln Developmental Center
The epigraph at the top of this page shows Maxwell had written this
sentence before society had advanced into political correctness. The Lincoln Developmental
Center (LDC) was one of the most significant factors in the history of
Lincoln, Illinois, and had been the largest employer in Logan County.
Business Routes 4 and 66 ran on the west side of this institution on
Stringer Avenue. From the south, Route 4 turned east on First Street,
toward the business district, along the north side of the institution's
grounds. From the south, Route 66 followed Stringer Avenue, past the
front of the Mill, the Outside Inn, and Postville Park, turning east on
Fifth Street, past the Postville Courthouse toward the business district.
LDC had 698 employees and 383 residents (Gehlbach, "Lincoln State School,"
p. 3). On June 10, 2002, Governor George Ryan announced that he would no longer authorize
funding for LDC, effectively closing it. The Governor claimed that
patients in this institution faced life-threatening conditions, so he could
justify state financial support for LDC. As a basis for his
determination, he cited four safety-related incidents involving
patients. Employee and parent groups said the incidents were minor and
not typical of this kind of institution and did not constitute life-threatening
conditions. They took their case to court (lincolndailynews.com, June
11, 2002; see link in Sources Cited below), but the legal system has
effectively closed LDC as of September 1, 2002. In the summer of 2003,
some state officials say they favor re-opening LDC within a year.
Former Lincolnite Dave Salyers Recalls
the Lincoln State School
Dave's memoir early on this page because it describes realities about the
Lincoln State School that many of us who grew up in Lincoln in the 1940s
and 1950s did not discover:
to the SS&Colony, I recall my father having some very strong opinions
about that place (of course, my father had some pretty strong opinions on
just about everything).
We lived outside town, on Primm Road. We fed a
couple of hundred head of hogs on garbage, which was legal to do in the
1950s. One of our main sources for garbage was the food service facility
at the SS.
Frequently, in summer, I'd help my father pick up
garbage, and at the SS we'd be helped by some of the younger residents of
I said to my father one day that I couldn't understand
what was wrong with these fellows. "Hell," my father said, most of these
kids are just fine. He thought that many of them had been dumped here by
their parents, and that many were illegitimate.
What I had never seen in my time at the SS&C
were the many residents who were profoundly handicapped mentally and/or
physically. That lesson came when I was in 8th grade, and a student at
Chester-East Lincoln school.
That year, we were invited to put on our Christmas pageant for the
residents at the SS&C. After we arrived and began to set up backstage,
Mrs. Morehead, our music teacher, recalled some things that had been left
on our bus, and asked me to fetch them. The auditorium was almost full by
that time, and as I walked up the center aisle, I saw for the first
time people with severe physical abnormalities -- microcephalics,
hydrocephalics, Downs Syndrome, and some dramatically disfigured people.
What this white-bread country boy saw in that few
seconds as I walked up the auditorium aisle was absolutely devastating.
It was all I could do to keep from running out that door and getting as
far away from there as I could get.
But, I retrieved the stuff from the bus, and the show
It's strange, but I don't recall ever talking to my
classmates about this, and I certainly never mentioned it to my parents.
Upon reflection, Lincoln in the 1950s truly was a place
of depthless innocence -- at least to a 12-year-old"
(emailed to Leigh, 2-2005, and quoted here with Dave's
Respond to Dave Salyers at
Summary of Lincoln Developmental
its heyday, Lincoln State School was a self-reliant, small-scale city. It had
its own power plant, kitchen, bakery, sewing rooms, laundry, hospital,
nurses' school, fire department -- and jail [Smith Cottage]. In its
greenhouses, residents watered the poinsettias and other plants that
decorated the state offices in Springfield.
At various times over the
years, residents not only made mattresses, shoes, and brooms, but cared for
other residents and helped keep up the campus, working in the laundry rooms
and cleaning the buildings" (Gehlbach, "Lincoln State School," p. 4).
· 1865 -- the State of Illinois opens the
Experimental School for Idiots and Feeble-Minded Children in Jacksonville,
Illinois (Gehlbach, "Lincoln State School," p. 1).
· 1875 -- overcrowding at Jacksonville (Lincoln
Evening Courier, Section Three, August 26, 1953, p. 15) led to the $7,500 purchase of 40
acres known as Wyatt's Grove near Lincoln for the Illinois Asylum for
Feeble-Minded Children (Gehlbach, back cover).
· 1877 -- first residents arrive at the Lincoln
facility, "a Victorian Gothic Revival building (27.1 and 27.2) (Gehlbach,
Our Times, p. 1).
· 1880 -- enrollment at 296 "pupils" (Courier,
Centennial Edition, Section
Three, 8-26-53, p. 15).
1889 -- "criminals, paupers, mentally ill and more
and more severely retarded people were coming in large numbers from county
almshouses" (Beaver, p. 83).
· 1901 -- Boys' Cottage completed (Beaver, p. 83).
· 1902 -- Girls' Cottage completed, each building
costing $200,000 (the most expensive buildings constructed in Lincoln to
date?) (Beaver, p. 83).
· 1909 -- psychology department added, the first of
its kind in the country (Courier, Centennial Edition, Section Three,
8-26-1953, p. 15).
· 1910 -- name changed to Lincoln State School and
Colony (Gehlbach, p. 2).
· 1915 -- state commitment act enabled courts to
admit "anyone who was feebleminded and not insane"; many new
arrivals: old, sick, paralyzed, and babies (Gehlbach, p. 2).
· 1930 -- by this time 10 buildings had been added
to the farm annex (Gehlbach, p. 3). 450 acres owned by state;
another 400 leased (Beaver, p. 83).
· 1937 -- "Smith Cottage was built for detention of
incorrigible inmates" (Gehlbach, p. 3).
· 1938-1941; 1946-1955 -- administration of William W. Fox, M.D. (Beaver, p. 83).
· 1942 -- Nine of thirteen doctors on military leave
during WW II (Beaver, p. 83).
· 1949 -- state Mental Health Law shifts discharge power from the courts
to the superintendent. Residents out on court order were discharged
(Gehlbach, p. 3).
· 1954 -- name changed to Lincoln State School.
-- peak resident population of 5,408 (Gehlbach, p. 3).
· 1973 --as a result of a Supreme Court decree that working residents had
to be paid the same as regular employees, the practice of residents
working was stopped at Lincoln. This was a major change in the
life of the residents and the institution, with many residents beginning
to work in shelters or being transferred to smaller institutions, group
homes, and nursing homes (Gehlbach, p. 3). Begins trend toward
· 1975 -- name changed to Lincoln Developmental Center.
· 1978 -- farm-annex ended; facility becomes the Logan Correctional Center
· September 1, 2002: Official closing.
· Spring, 2003: Some
say that LDC will re-open by 2004.
27.1: Picture Postcard of
Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children, Administration Building (Central),
27.2: Undated Picture Postcard of
the Central Administration Building
27.3: Boys' Side of
Building (Central), Back View (?)
(Ruth Henson photo, undated)
27.4: Girls' Cottage Annex, 1931
(Ruth Henson photo, undated)
Boys' or Girls' Cottage (undated)
A Career of Untiring Service to Suffering Humanity: The Ruth Henson
The "State School" had
seen many dedicated employees. One of them was my maternal
grandmother, Ruth Ann (Webb) Henson.
Ruth (still in her
teens) and her itinerant farmer husband, John, had accompanied her mother, Parlee,
to Lincoln, Illinois, in approximately 1917. Like many other
over decades in the 19th and 20th centuries, they had come from southern Illinois
to Lincoln to find work at the state institution. Ruth began
working there in 1920 and continued for more than 40 years.
At first, she was classified as an attendant and earned $45.00 per month. She
became a licensed practical nurse in 1952.
For 31 years her position-title did not change. Her first assignment
was with a group of severely retarded girls, and for 31 years she had been
with this same group.
In the early 1950s, she was promoted to supervising attendant and
placed in charge of a building with about 600 of the most severely retarded.
In 1952, she was in charge of a new building that housed 120 severely
crippled females gathered from other wards. The patients ranged in age
from 7 to 90, with an average age of 28. Their mental ages ranged from
0 to 6 years with 64% having a mental age of less than 1 year. The
majority of those patients were crippled, spastic, epileptic, blind, and/or
Mrs. Henson used new
strategies to work with these most challenging patients. She arranged
for as many as possible to eat in the dining room and emphasized a bath per
day for each patient. She used games and competition to encourage
patients to dress and become as mobile as possible.
27.6: Ruth Henson in 1932 at the
Fountain in Front of the
Was she wondering if her 14-year-old
son, Darold, would bring fish home from nearby Salt Creek later that
(Photo from Ruth Henson's papers)
27.7: Ruth's Licensed
Practical Nurse Pin
She enlisted the more capable patients to assist with the helpless. Seven
girls were able to walk for the first time. Many others began to guide
their own wheel chairs or to walk with strollers.
An article about her says, "Outstanding as is the success with physical
achievement, even more heartwarming is the evidence of psychological comfort
which she brings to her 'girls.' She is always in their midst,
patting, smiling, talking, joking, comforting. The girls reflect her
presence in their joy of living. They laugh, sing, play games, and
cajole each other. Movies are shown on the ward and she shares in
their excitement and pleasure as they recognize horses, dogs, tunes, etc.
Frequently the patients show evidence of knowing things nobody realized they
"Morale on her
building is high. Her enthusiasm for her 'girls' is infectious and
spreads to her patient helpers as well as the employee assistants on the
building. Brighter patient girls who had difficulty in adjusting to
other work assignments in the institution get along well with Mrs. Henson
and ask to be assigned to her building.
27.8: Ruth Henson with Patient
(Photo from Ruth Henson's papers)
Employees who work with her request
permission to continue to do so. She shows each new employee,
personally, just what is to be done and demonstrates by her own way of
working. Visitors and parents of the patients are pleasantly surprised
at the atmosphere of cheer and happiness that prevails" ("Lincoln, Dixon
Choose Outstanding Aides").
In 1951, she was honored as the first place outstanding employee of LSS&C.
In 1952, she was named second-place winner in the Mental Health Week awards
made by the National Association for Mental Health ("Progress and Problems
in Illinois' Mental Hospitals," p. 6)
27.9: Ruth Henson Honored as
National Second-Most Outstanding Employee in State Departments of Mental Health,
27.10: Ruth Henson Receiving National Second-Most Outstanding Employee Award from
Esteemed Illinois Governor
Photo 27.9, left to right: Dr. Joseph Albaum, Mrs. Harriet Larson, Mrs. Ruth Henson, Mrs.
Dorothy Sandleben, Dr. William Fox, and Mayor Alois Feldman (Lincoln Evening Courier
photo, no date available).
Ruth Henson loved her work, her home, and greatest of all her family, whom
she supported unconditionally, quietly, and generously. She passed
away in 1987 and is buried in New Union Cemetery, resting approximately 100
yards from Bowen Cottage, where she worked for many years.
27.11: The Author's
Grandfather John Henson Among
State School Employees in the Military During WW I
This plaque is now located in the Logan County Historical and Genealogical
Society on Chicago Street across from the former GM&O passenger depot.
27.12: Bowen Cottage, Summer of 2002
27.13: Classic Red-Brick LDC Building
(unidentified), Summer of 2002
Ruth Henson's papers
contained an undated Courier article from the early 1960s that
describes one of the buildings in which she worked: "Bowen Cottage
[shown in 27.12],
constructed for 84 adult female patients in 1951 now serves 130, all of them
infirm. They have four attendants on the day shift." This
article says that overcrowding and understaffing occurred throughout the
One of Ruth Henson's good
colleagues was the Reverend Clarence Molen. He had been ordained in the
Evangelical Covenant Church of America in the mid 1930s. He left
parish work to serve "those forgotten -- especially forgotten by the church" (Lincoln
Evening Courier, March 30, 1965).
At LSS&C, he ministered
to an average of approximately 3,200 Protestant patients in any given year.
His work included group worship, visiting the sick, and counseling residents
and their families. He indicated that one-on-one counseling was some of
his most rewarding work. He also lectured on the religious work of the
institution to in-service training groups.
His wife, Florence Molen, taught English at Lincoln College.
Their daughter, Mary, is an alum of LCHS, Class of 1958 . Both mother
and daughter earned master's degrees in English from Illinois State
27.14: Reverend Clarence T. Molen,
Protestant Chaplain, 1956-1967
(Courier article and photo by
Ken Goodrich, 3-30-1965)
Ruth Henson's Colleague, Mrs. McElhiney
(Undated photo from Ruth Henson's papers)
Picture Postcard from 1951
27.17: South Hospital, Snow on
Ground, Easter Sunday, April 4, 1920
27.18: Back of Wheeler Cottage,
Date and Lady Unknown
27.19: 1910 Picture
Postcard of Gymnasium
Darold Henson says that
as a boy he often went to weekend movies shown in the gym. These films were free to staff
families. Near the gym was a baseball diamond, where many local teams
played. In this area, I also remember May pole festivities:
Adapted from Courier Photo Titled "Winding the Maypole"
(From the Lincoln Evening Courier, June 17, 1953,
reads, "Children at the Lincoln State School and Colony engage in the May
pole dance at one of the five poles set up for the finale of Tuesday night's
annual summertime festival. More than 1,000 took part in the program
which included the crowning of festival rulers. Alphonso Stein was
crowned kind and Beatrice Moore queen."
Other Henson Family
Experiences with LSS&C
I worked briefly at the Lincoln State School. In the summer of 1963, I
worked in the store and in the commissary of the Annex (farm). My
mother worked several years at the State School as a seamstress. Three
generations of my family had worked at this institution.
often joked that he graduated from both LCHS and LSS&C.
In the early 1940s, before Dad was drafted, he had briefly worked for the
Illinois Department of Transportation. In those days, during winter
months state trucks went to the old heating plant of the State School to get
cinders that were spread on the highways when it snowed. Dad said that
the male State School patients-as-workers made the cinders fly as they quickly loaded
the state trucks in anticipation of being rewarded with cigarettes for their
many months after Dad told me the story of the patients shoveling cinders, I
found the colorized picture postcard below that shows the powerhouse of the
State School. At the right of the buildings are piles of cinders
produced by the power plant. The dark color of the roads indicates
they were paved with cinders. The cemeteries around Cemetery Hill were
also paved with cinders -- whether derived from the State School power plant
or the power plant that generated electricity for the city or both.
William Maxwell described the cemetery roads paved with cinders.
I recall the cinder roads in New Union, Holy Cross, and Old Union Cemeteries
from the days I raced my motorbike around the twists and turns of the
cemeteries, occasionally taking a spill and having to pick the gritty
cinders from the abrasions on my arms and legs. Amazing that I did not
develop blood poisoning because I never did more than wash the wounds.
27.22: Very Rare
Colorized Picture Postcard of the LSS&C Campus
The artist has used the typical style of painting the horizon as if to
suggest sunrise or sunset. I know the orientation of this scene, and
its background is in the west. The artist has painted the buildings
skillfully to suggest the setting sun shining on their red brick facades.
Lincoln State School Marching Band, Directed by George Treatch
(Photo from Paul Beaver, Logan County History 1982,
band and drum and bugle corps of the Lincoln State School were renowned.
This scene is from the 1953 Lincoln, Illinois, centennial parade on Broadway
Street, northeast side of the Logan County Courthouse Square. In the
center background is the celebrated Kangaroo Court Jail of the legendary
Brothers of the Brush.
Below is a
photo that, I believe, shows the LSS&C Drum and Bugle Corps:
27:24: Drum and Bugle Corps
of the Lincoln State School in 1958
(Photo by Richard Leonard, Ph.D., of Bloomington, Illinois)
This photo shows a parade in the fall of 1958, perhaps a Labor Day parade or
Homecoming parade. The musicians are marching east on Broadway, where it
intersects with Chicago Street. The tracks in the foreground are those of
27.25: Old Barn on South Edge of Grounds (Leigh
Henson photo, 7-02)
Training at the Lincoln State School
The following is a
short story about my grandfather, Henry Stringer, who taught brush making
at the Lincoln State School and Colony from the l890s to the early 1920s.
Also attached is a picture of my grandfather another teacher and a small
group of their pupils and a second picture that includes brushes that were
made at the school.
In 1880 Henry
Stringer immigrated to Chicago from Walsall, England. Walsall is famous
for the manufacture of saddles and other gear for horses and their care.
When granddad came to this country, he and my grandmother already had four
children. Initially the plan was he would find work here and then send
for the family. Unfortunately, he was not a good money manager, and after
the second year of waiting grandmother arrived while the children waited
in Walsall with an aunt. After sufficient money was saved for passage the
aunt with her children and my grandparents’ children came to the states.
I’m told by my cousin, Loren Stringer that grandfather attempted to
establish a brush making shop in Chicago, but he was burned out twice by
the unions. Labor relations were rough and tumble in those days.
Sometime in 1894 or the following year my grandparents moved to Lincoln,
and granddad became a brush making instructor at LSS&C. The residents of
LSS&C varied in the individual capacities and dispositions, and while some
might receive training others were totally unsuitable for it.
Regrettably, not all of the residents really belonged in the institution.
Occasionally, a resident had been committed to the institution, who really
should have been left in society. The explanation that I heard for this
had to do with the juvenile court system. If the parents were
influential, the judge might direct the juvenile to LSS&C rather than
prison. To compound matters, the youngster might be ignored and forgotten
by the family. Today, we would recognize this as the “thrown away child”
Occasionally, granddad would get such a boy in his shop. When this
happened, granddad would help the boy gain basic civil skills, which
included following directions. After the boy was 18, granddad provided
the young man with enough money to buy a train ticket to St. Louis with
the instruction to enlist in the army. Was the army a good
recommendation? Yes probably. By eighteen the young man was conditioned
to being institutionalized. It could further transition to a free life.
Unfortunately, not all residents were docile, shortly before retirement
one boy became quite angry with granddad and clubbed him aside of his
head. Granddad suffered a severe vision problem in one eye after that.
The reverse of the first picture states, “Top left Henry Stringer Top
right Mr. Peters.” The same man appears to be identified as “C. J.
Paesler” in a group picture in Paul Gleason’s Lincoln a Pictorial
History. Please also note the brush held by the fourth resident from
the left. It bears the initials “H S.”
The second picture includes some mementoes of granddad’s. The hidden from
the camera, the top left brush also bears the initials “HS.” The box in
the upper right is a puzzle brought from England. The history of the
gavel is unknown other than it was granddad’s. The large semicircular
brush is a clothes brush. The curved brush is for sweeping crumbs from
the dinning table. The remaining brush is also a clothes brush.
I trust you find the story and pictures interesting. Merry Christmas and
the best in 2005.
Respond to Stan Stringer at
Henry Stringer (Top Left) and Residents
(Photo courtesy of Stan Stringer.
Click for larger version.)
Craftsmanship of Henry Stringer
(Photo courtesy of Stan Stringer)
The Genius Patient of the Lincoln Asylum for
His name was Henry Darger, and he was institutionalized in Lincoln for four
or five years during his adolescence, finally escaping in 1909 after several
attempts. He fled directly to his native city of Chicago, where he became a
reclusive, compulsive writer and "outsider artist," who painted the scene
The painting below is
not typical of Darger's work because it has a recognizable landscape
(non-abstract)--the prairie of central Illinois with the GM&O double railroad tracks
that ran through Lincoln, Illinois, between St. Louis and Chicago. These
tracks ran close to the Lincoln State School and were clearly visible from
the institution. I know this because I worked there in 1963 as described
above; and countless times as I grew up in Lincoln I walked, rode my bike,
or drove my first car--a 1949 Ford--on the cinder road that ran parallel
with these tracks between them and the institution on my way past the power
plant to the common man's recreational paradise of the "back lakes," "hoot
'n holler," and Salt Creek.
Darger was probably
transported to Lincoln on a train using these tracks, and perhaps he even traveled by train
when he escaped to Chicago, where he lived for decades in a one-room
apartment in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Henry Darger Painting of the Vivian
Girls in a Prairie Landscape
The painting shows the
rising dark smoke of the coal-fired steam locomotive, trees, and farm
structures on the far distant horizon; and the utility poles, including the
glass insulators, that parallel the railroad tracks can be seen even today
(2006) along the tracks (now a single set belonging to Amtrak). The clouds
to the right appear to be tinted dark from the locomotive's smoke,
suggesting a Dickensian theme of a blight on nature and humankind traced to
a symbol of the Industrial Revolution. Darger read Dickens--a copy of
Oliver Twist was found in his room--; and of course Dickens, like
such other British writers as Wordsworth, Blake, and Matthew Arnold,
expressed concern for the harmful effects of industrialization on society.
We see this theme in Dickens especially in Oliver Twist and Hard
Times. In Darger's painting above, the polluting, carcinogenic black
smoke has mutated the clouds into an enormous, ominous flying dragon moving toward the innocent girls in
readiness to prey on them.
Have the uniformed girls
recently disembarked from the train, or are they awaiting its arrival? In
either case, they are playful, innocent free spirits, symbolizing Darger's
lost childhood that led him to a compensatory fantasy world in voluminous
words and pictures.
Curiously, another genius who lived in Lincoln--William
Maxwell--attempted to recapture his lost childhood through the art of
creative writing. Both Darger and Maxwell were inspired to pursue this
common purpose and theme as a result of the untimely deaths of their
mothers. Maxwell was born in Lincoln in 1908--the year before Darger left
there. In Lincoln, Darger had lived in an abusive institutional environment,
and that probably played a role in shaping him as an "outsider" artist and
writer who lived an anti-social life in obscurity. In contrast, Maxwell had
a loving, privileged home life in Lincoln, and that experience probably
helped to shape him as a loving, beloved husband and father and as the
ultimate literary "insider": he enjoyed triple roles as a venerated fiction editor at the New Yorker
magazine; a sociable, communicative, and popular member of the literati; and a celebrated, compassionate writer who empathetically portrays human
foibles and lives darkly colored by misfortune and tragedy.
An excellent introduction to Darger appears at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Darger, including the alleged reason
for his institutionalization at Lincoln. For a wealth of
other information about Henry Darger, search with his name on Google.
Debunking the Myth of
Choosing the Asylum over the University of Illinois
In "Extra! Extra! Old Rumor Disproved," Nancy Gehlbach debunks the
myth that the City of Lincoln chose to lobby itself as the site of the
Asylum rather than the site of the University of Illinois. The
question of where the state would locate the university, first referred to
as the Illinois Industrial College or the Agricultural College, occurred in
1867. The question of where the state would locate the asylum occurred
eight years later, in 1875, so there was no "either. . . or" decision.
In fact, Lincoln attempted to become the site of both.
In 1867, in a bid to become the site of the university, "the city and county
offered the state $350,000 for the privilege ($50,000 to come from the city
of Lincoln and $300,000 from Logan County). On February 13, 1867, the
city hosted the legislative committee "assigned to view the sites": a
local group with "the Lincoln Band and 50 carriages started out to visit the
three possible locations, one of which was the Brainerd farm."
Afterward a dinner was held at the Spitly House [hotel] across from the
train station; then the visitors left on the 5:00 p.m. train. On
February 29, 1867, Governor Richard J. Oglesby signed legislation
designating Champaign as the university site.
Ms. Gehlbach notes that "eight years
later, the committee appointed to choose a site for the Illinois Asylum for
Feeble-Minded Children chose Wyatt's Grove near Lincoln. The state
paid Latham and Wyatt $7,500 for the 40 acres, with an option to buy 20
more. No lavish dinner, no financial offers, no band--just success"
I wonder what
the politics were the led Oglesby to sign the bill designating Champaign as
the site of the university. I would have expected this governor to use
his political influence in favor of Lincoln because he had personal connections
to President Lincoln and the city of Lincoln. "In 1882 Oglesby moved
to Lincoln [from Decatur] and occupied the residence at the northwest corner
of what is now known as Latham Park. It was while a resident here that
in 1884, he was nominated a third time for Governor of the state and a third
time elected, entering upon his third term in January, 1885" (Stringer, vol.
1, p. 625).
Paul J. History of Logan County 1982. The Logan County Heritage
Foundation. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Company, 1982.
Gehlbach, Nancy Lawrence. "Lincoln State School: A Little
History of a Big Place." Our Times. vol. 5, no. 4, winter, 2001. Sam Redding,
Publisher. Prairie Years Press. 121 N. Kickapoo St., Lincoln, IL 62656
Goodrich, Ken. "Courier Man of the Month:
L.S.S. Chaplain Molen Cited for Humanitarian Service." Lincoln Daily Courier, March 30, 1965.
"Lawmakers Tour Lincoln State School." Lincoln
Evening Courier. date unknown.
archives for June 11, 2002).
"Lincoln, Dixon Choose Outstanding Aides." The Welfare Bulletin.
The Illinois Department of Public Welfare. no date, no page.
"Progress and Problems in Illinois' Mental Hospitals." The Welfare
Bulletin. The Illinois Department of Public Welfare. vol. 33, no. 3: 5-6.
"State Doing Fine Job Since 1875." Lincoln Evening Courier.
Centennial Edition, Section Three, Wednesday, August 26, 1953, p. 15.
Stringer, Lawrence B. History of Logan
County Illinois (1911). Reprinted by UNIGRAPHIC, INC., Evansville, IN: 1978.
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"The Past Is But the