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Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:01 am

Setting the stage for Lincoln’s funeral

The hearse used to carry Lincoln’s body at his Springfield funeral will be re-created for the 150th anniversary reenactment in 2015.


It is still a year before Lincoln’s 150th anniversary funeral reenactment. But to event organizer Katie Spindell, it seems like there’s no time at all.

Spindell is chair of the the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition, which has been working since 2009 to arrange a grand restaging of Lincoln’s funeral procession into Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery, where his body was eventually laid to rest May 4, 1865.

Spindell and the other nine members of the coalition have been piecing together different historical aspects of the scene. The coalition has been working to re-create a funeral that adheres as closely to the 1865 event as possible, but also pays tribute to Lincoln.

The group recently received a donated flag to drape over the coffin. It is an exact replica of the original flag used in Lincoln’s funeral and was made and donated by the same family-owned company that made the flag for Lincoln’s funeral.

Another recent addition to the event comes with the announcement that P.J. Staab and the Staab funeral home family will rebuild a replica of the original elaborate hearse that carried Lincoln’s coffin.

A coffin is being created and donated by three groups: the Chautauqua Historical Society, Historic Elsah Foundation and Grafton Historical Society. If it weren’t for the in-kind donations such as the coffin, hearse and flag, which make up about half of the event’s budget, then the event wouldn’t be possible, Spindell said.

“It’s important for the communities of Springfield to realize the importance of this,” she said.

The event, set for May 2-3, 2015, is tentatively set to start at Sixth and Washington streets. The reenactment will include horses and props provided by Carl Luthin, who provided the horses for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Additionally, David Kloke, owner of Kloke Locomotive Works in Elgin, is working to re-create the train car that brought Lincoln’s body from Washington, D.C., to Springfield.

A gate at Oak Ridge Cemetery that Lincoln’s hearse and accompanying soldiers filed through on the way to the receiving tomb is also being renovated. The upgrade is both a part of the event and a cemetery improvement, according to Sue Massie, member of the Oak Ridge Cemetery Foundation.

Massie said the gate, which according to photographs and drawings from the time appears to have been wooden, was later replaced by a stone wall that still partially stands along the North Third Street entrance. The gate sets along the west side of Lincoln Park, and a chain link fence runs alongside it.

“We are planning to reproduce the original archway and gate to the best likeness that we can of the original one, and that kind of plays into the 2015 event, but also just provides future improvement to the cemetery. It’s something that was original and an educational kind of attraction,” Massie said.

The entire area is being repaired with storm water detention work and grading, and a sidewalk along Third Street will be realigned. Work will begin in June, Massie said.

Additionally, John Goetz, president of R. D. Lawrence Construction Company in Springfield, is working on the renovated entrance and is providing general contractor services free of charge, as are other contractors.

Although the cemetery foundation is collecting donations for the entrance renovation, Massie said the donation of materials and services has been vital to the process.

“It’s apparent that the cemetery doesn’t have extra funds right now,” she said.

While the entrance may only be relevant for the two days of the funeral reenactment, she said the foundation hopes it can be used for other events, such as those like the Moonlight Marathon that runs through the cemetery at night.

“I think the hope is that there can be more activities and greater use of the cemetery,” she said.  

One upcoming event at the cemetery will be a Memorial Day picnic set for 1 to 4 p.m. May 24 at Lincoln’s Tomb. The picnic will feature 12 special or historic trees, including a cottonwood that recently received some work by volunteers Sam Tidball, Guy Sternberg and Mick Weissberg. They installed dynamic cables, which are 10,000-pound test polyester ropes that will help the tree survive storms. The picnic will include guided tours of the trees, along with new plaques for each one that will include smart phone technology linking to more information online about the trees.

Contact Lauren P. Duncan at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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