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Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007 04:57 pm

Beyond the grave

Oak Ridge Cemetery’s dead come to life in new book

In Lincoln’s Shadow: Oak Ridge Cemetery Chronicles Sangamon County Historical Society, 2007, 167 pages, $15
Untitled Document As you walk through Oak Ridge Cemetery’s beautiful 365 acres, it’s easy to forget that each tombstone represents a life — a person with friends, enemies, heartbreaks, and dreams. The recently published local book In Lincoln’s Shadow: Oak Ridge Cemetery Chronicles helps us remember. In Lincoln’s Shadow tells the stories of more than four dozen people who are buried or will be buried in Oak Ridge. The Sangamon County Historical Society published it in 2007 to mark Oak Ridge’s sesquicentennial anniversary. “Anyone with a family member buried at the Cemetery, or who owned a lot, was invited to submit a brief biography of that person or family,” the book explains. That open submission policy led to the inclusion of a variety of writing abilities. Some profiles read like obituaries or family genealogies. Some include terms (for example, “half-breed”) that were common decades ago but might raise eyebrows today, and there are factual errors. (The book’s disclaimer says the historical society assumed and did not check the accuracy of each story.) However, there are gems hidden within. The subjects range from the recently deceased to Springfield’s earliest citizens, and include such well-known names as Barringer, Enos, Lanphier, and Tobin. Although Abraham Lincoln and his family aren’t profiled, you get interesting personal glimpses of them through their encounters with those in the book. Take Ozias Mather Hatch, for instance. It’s not a name you hear a lot, but he had a poignant connection to Springfield’s favorite son. Hatch was a businessman and Republican officeholder who came to Springfield in the mid-19th century. His office was next to the State Library, where lawyers, including Lincoln, gathered. As a result, Ozias and Lincoln became friends.
“At Lincoln’s invitation,” Hatch’s great-granddaughter writes, “Ozias accompanied him to Antietam battlefield shortly after the bloody battle there. The two shared a tent on the battleground.” After Lincoln’s assassination, Ozias served on the Lincoln Monument Association and helped find a burial spot for his friend’s body.
One of the strengths of In Lincoln’s Shadow is its insider perspective from family members. Anyone who’s been around Springfield a while remembers the fashionable Herndon’s stores. For decades they were one of “the” stores to hit during shopping forays. According to the book, when the Herndon brothers — Lewis, John, and Richard — were adults, they met every day at their mother’s for lunch and a nap before returning to work (two worked at the store and one was a physician). Every night after work, at least one son would drop by Mom’s to recap the store’s performance that day. Then there’s the heartbreaking anecdote from the Krell family, who, like so many long ago, lost a young daughter to illness. “They would give her coins during her sickness to lift her spirits. She would keep them in a little metal coin purse. I still have this purse and the coins,” writes Tim E. Krell. In Lincoln’s Shadow costs $15 and can be purchased at Barnes & Noble, Prairie Archives, the Sangamon County Historical Society office (308 E. Adams St.), the Oak Ridge Cemetery office (1440 Monument Ave.), and the Sly Fox bookstore in Virden.  
Tara McAndrew is a local freelance writer.
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