Lincoln statue initially OK’d

Looking for Lincoln plans to memorialize tale of president playing marbles with children

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An effort to get a statue of Abraham Lincoln on the Edgar County Courthouse lawn took a step forward Wednesday, Aug. 14.

Vick Bowyer, of the local Looking for Lincoln committee, addressed the full board after previously discussing the idea during the July 22 county board study session. He explained Looking for Lincoln is part of the 42-county national Lincoln Heritage Area created by an act of Congress.

“I believe we are the only county of the 42 in the Heritage Area that doesn’t have a Lincoln statue,” said Bowyer.

The local committee, he said, is looking into creating a statue of Lincoln based on a local story in which W.C. Slemons claims in 1852 or 1853 he and other children were engaged in a game of marbles on the east lawn of the Edgar County Courthouse when a tall man exited the east door of the courthouse. The man watched the game for a time and then joined the children.

Slemons recalled the stranger was an expert player and only made the connection with the marble playing stranger and Lincoln a few years later as Lincoln rose in national prominence.

Lincoln came to Paris at least twice a year for several years when Edgar County was part of the Eighth Judicial Circuit.

As envisioned by the local committee, the life-size statue of Lincoln will be created around that story.

Bowyer emphasized the committee is not seeking a financial contribution from the county board, only permission to place the statue on the grounds. He said committee members believe local fundraising will produce the $70,000 to $95,000 needed to create the bronze artwork.

“We don’t want to go forward without permission to place it on the courthouse lawn,” said Bowyer.

Edgar County Sheriff Jeff Wood asked if the committee was considering using the south lawn. Bowyer said the location is undecided, adding the preference is to place it on the east side since that is where the story places the marble game but that area of the lawn already has several markers and the large war memorial structure.

“We would like to have it as close to the site as possible, but we also want it in a place where it is visible and looks good,” said Bowyer.

County board chairman Jeff Voigt asked Wood if he had any issue with a statue on the grounds. Illinois law gives the county sheriff authority over the courthouse and grounds.

“I’m 100 percent for it,” said Wood, and several county board members nodded in approval.

Voigt asked County Clerk and Recorder August Griffin to place the Lincoln statue on the Sept. 11 meeting agenda so the board can vote on a resolution of support.