This Saturday will mark the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's election as president of the United States. As we approach this anniversary, we at the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center wanted to share an interesting piece of trivia about our 16th president. Center supporters Tom and Gee Gee Ferrier shared with us a copy of an article by Joseph Hamilton from the winter 1991-92 issue of Common Ground Magazine about Lewistown, Pennsylvania's monument to Civil War soldiers and sailors. Located in Lewistown's Monument Square, this memorial includes a stone from Lincoln's tomb in Springfield, Illinois. The monument was dedicated in June 1906, during a period when numerous towns, both North and South, began erecting memorials to their communities' sacrifices in the war. The stone from Lincoln's tomb became available after the tomb itself had been refurbished in 1901. Major R. B. Hoover, a Lewistown native, was a member of the Lincoln Memorial Foundation, and thus was able to use his position to secure the stone for his hometown monument.
For Lewistown's community leaders the memorial did not merely mark the town's sacrifices in the war. Rather, it claimed a unique role for the Logan Guards, the Mifflin County militia unit that was among the first military units to reach Washington and offer its services to the Union at the start of the Civil War. The community asserted its pride of place in being the home of these so-called First Defenders. The memorialization of these volunteers also had a more prosaic purpose. As Nancy Hill noted in an article in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, "the display of relic collections and memorabilia" in museums and other public attractions had become commonplace by the early twentieth century. This was the "beginning of the age of tourism, when visitors enjoyed many kinds of local oddities as part of their travel experience." When we think of Civil War tourism, we tend to think of battlefield tours and the enduring popularity of large national parks, such as Gettysburg (the online magazine Slate recently featured a travelogue series it titled "Civil War Road Trip"). However, Hill reminds us that small communities competed for this burgeoning Civil War tourism as well, and they often promoted "local oddities" to lure tourists to their towns. Indeed, the Mifflin County Historical Society (located across the street from the monument) asserts that this is the only stone taken from Lincoln's tomb to be incorporated into another monument. This assertion of the uniqueness of the monument was not merely intended to emphasize the special role that the community's Logan Guards had played in the early stages of the war. It represented a novel way to attract Civil War tourism as well.