Mt. Pulaski Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Wayside Sign Dedication

February 6, 2009

cake by Renee/Buff's


Abraham Lincoln in Mt. Pulaski
 Sign Dedication Press Release

       Good morning.  Today, we are here to dedicate this beautiful sign, which reads and shows the connection of Abraham Lincoln to our town of Mt. Pulaski - one who spent time here as a lawyer on the traveling Illinois 8th Judicial Circuit back in the 1840’s and 1850’s.    As president of Mt. Pulaski’s Looking for Lincoln Committee and member of our local Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Committee, I wish to welcome everyone here today for the dedication of our “Abraham Lincoln in Mt. Pulaski” Sign.  First off – I wish to invite all of you to our luncheon today after this dedication in the VFW hall right across the street here on the south side.  It’s our way of thanking all of you who made the trip up here or over here to be with us today. 

       Before I introduce our speakers, I need to thank my co-chair, Darrell Knauer, for his help, suggestions, advice and advanced fund-raising techniques with this sign.  We raised $6,000 for this sign – which was our part of a matching grant provided by the Illinois Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition – with which Senator Richard Durbin played a huge part.

       Many of you here today helped us create this double-sided sign – this sign would not have been possible without your financial support and/or your suggestions, and local historical information.   Certainly, these financial sponsors need to be recognized:  Mt. Pulaski Historical Society, City of Mt. Pulaski, Mt. Pulaski Pharmacy, Mt. Pulaski Inland Tool Company, Mt. Pulaski Farmer’s Bank, Mt. Pulaski Downing, Przykopanski, Clements, May Insurance Company, Mt. Pulaski Tom Martin Farms, Waldo & Rosalie Bertoni, Betty Hickey, Scott, Kay & Rosemary Steinfort, and Maxine Downing. The sponsors names – some local businesses – are written on the top right of each side of this sign.  We also had an anonymous donor who gave a substantial donation.  Special thanks need to be directed to our sign’s installers – Jim Irish and John Kruger of Irish Restoration, Inc.  They had to drive down to Springfield and pick up this sign as well.  As far as local historical information, I remember getting help from Mrs. Waneta Stephens, Mr. Dean Peddicord, Mrs. Betty Hickey and Professor Paul Beaver.

       Also, this sign would not have been possible without the support, suggestions, advice and research by at least three others who need to be recognized today:
     Niki Stratton, out-going Executive Director of Springfield’s Looking for Lincoln Committee – who kicked off this Central Illinois Federal Grant campaign for these Wayside signs over 1.5 years ago;  
Jeanette Lipe Cowden - Wayside Exhibit Program Coordinator; and Hal Smith - Director of the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition and the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area.  All three of these individuals spent many hours working on this sign for our town.  Jeannette was contacted many times with e-mails and phone calls in regards to the content, manufacture and installation of this sign.  Niki and Hal drove over here to talk with us about the content of the sign. 

       Our Mt. Pulaski Bicentennial chairperson, Mrs. Rebecca Drake, could not be here today.  But she wanted me to express her thanks as well.  Also, she wanted me to tell you that our Bicentennial committee is going on three years – that we organized some of the classes at the grade school to collect jars of Lincoln Pennies;  that we sponsored Katherine Harris from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library for her one-woman presentation in the personage of Harriet Tubman – a dramatic account of what is was like for an emancipated black woman to live in Lincoln’s time; that we sponsored the Firefly Art Gallery during our past two Fall Festivals – to emphasize Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln’s patron ship of the arts; that we hosted the 11th Illinois Cavalry Company G during our past Fall Festival; that we supported the hosting of the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Regiment Band concert on Courthouse grounds here; that we researched and produced the 1854 Cast-Iron Tombstone Trial Re-enactment in which Abraham Lincoln was the defense lawyer.  Incidentally, we are performing this re-enactment for the 9th and final time this coming Sunday at 2 pm here in the upstairs courtroom.  There are still some reserved seats available for only $5.

       For this courtroom re-enactment, we have again contracted the services of Joe Woodard, Abraham Lincoln impersonator – if you have never seen or heard Joe in action, you definitely should try to do so – he also will be featured on
WILL-PBS TV’s Abraham Lincoln in Illinois -much of which was filmed in our courthouse here and which will be aired on more than 150 PBS stations this month - including Chicago, LA, New York, Boston, St. Louis and Indianapolis.  It premiers on WILL-TV Feb. 9 at 8pm and repeats Feb. 12 at 7:30 pm.  Finally, our local Bicentennial committee recently received a grant from the Illinois State Department of Tourism for the construction of a bandstand on our courthouse lawn.  From the 1880’s until the 1940’s, there had been a bandstand in this courtyard.  As part of our grant fundraising, we have been selling memorial bricks so that families and businesses – old and current - can leave
their imprint for ages to come around this newly installed bandstand.  These are still available for $35 at our city hall. 

        Rebecca and I wish to thank our faithful committee:  Darrell Knauer, Bill & Judy Cavestani, Jane DeWitt, Bob McCue, Scott Lindley, Barbara Stroud Borth, Jean Martin, and Wally Kautz for helping with some, many or all of these Mt. Pulaski Bicentennial projects.

       Finally, I wish to thank the many members of the 1854 Cast-Iron Tombstone Trial Re-enactment production.  While each production has only 11 actors, we had to shuffle player roles around as well as to enlist help from others in order to successfully put on these 9 performances over the past 2 ½ years.  Who are these local and now infamous thespians?  – well, come and see for yourself this Sunday.  A list of all the other brave souls – yes these other local thespians - who filled in from time to time will also be provided.

photos & text by phil bertoni 

cake by Renee/Buff's