Last Friday my family and I made our annual pilgrimage to Springfield to attend the Lincoln Museum and go to the Lincoln Tomb. As we made our way though the Museum we encountered, for the second year in a row, a large number of Amish touring the Museum, the women wearing long dresses and poke bonnets that made them look as if they stepped from the 1860s. The Amish were obviously fascinated by what they were seeing and talked among themselves in “Pennsylvania Dutch”. Illinois has had a large colony of Amish in the Arthur, Illinois area, about 72 miles from Springfield, since the 19th century. (Although the Amish are as theologically as far from the Church as it is possible for Christians to be, I should note that I have a huge amount of respect for them. They take care of their own, and ask nothing from the larger society in which they live, except to be left alone, a sentiment which resonates with me.)
After the museum, as usual we had a first rate lunch at the nearby The Feed Store. (Nothing shouts Midwest more than eating in a restaurant with a name like that.) (I highly recommend their barley soup, their tuna fish salad sandwich, and any of their many variants of cheesecake.)
We finished our day at Lincoln’s tomb praying for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and kids.) Once again I thought to myself how nice it was that the first or second greatest President in our history, has his tomb in a cemetery open to all, where there are no guards, no charges for admission, not even for parking. You simply pull up to the small parking area next to the tomb, go in and make your way through the tomb. We owe Mary Todd Lincoln for that. After Lincoln’s murder, there was an attempt to have Lincoln buried in Washington with a grand mausoleum being erected thereafter over his remains. Mary Lincoln would have none of it. She took her dead husband, and had the remains of her dead son Willie exhumed, and traveled with them both back to Springfield for burial. She wanted nothing more from Washington except to get out of there as quickly as she could, a city where she had suffered grief that makes her such a poignant figure in American history. (An exhibit in the Museum shows her framed by a rain stained window, sitting forlornly, mourning the loss of Willie. My bride and I, sadly, having lost a son know precisely how she feels.) We made sure to rub the nose of the nose of the huge bust of Lincoln outside of the tomb. Most noses of Lincoln on metal statues and busts in Illinois are shiny due to the Illinois superstition that rubbing the nose of a bust or a statue of Lincoln brings good luck. With my son taking the Illinois bar at the end of July, it can’t hurt.
It wouldn’t be a McClarey expedition if we didn’t buy books. We bought books yesterday at the Museum and the Prairie Archives bookstore in Springfield which boasts a collection of a quarter of a million books. Most of the books were about Lincoln or the Civil War (surprise!) and here are those books:
Lincoln the President: The Last Full Measure, J. G. Ballard and Richard N. Current (1955). This is the fourth and final volume in Ballard’s study of Lincoln. At the time of his death in 1953 he had written only eight chapters. In his will he suggested either historian Allan Nevins or Richard N. Current to finish his work if he could not. Current took up the challenge, even though he had never written about Lincoln before, and completed the volume in 1955. He later became one of the great Lincoln scholars of his day, writing numerous books on Lincoln and dying in 2012 at age 100. Now I have the complete set. I think I will read it backwards like witches are said to say their prayers.