Finding Lincoln on the Spoon River Drive
The Spoon River Drive beckons my husband Keith and me each year. Yes, we have been there, yes we have done that, but I always see something new and different and this year we had just finished harvest and a day away was balm to the soul.
Being from the Land of Lincoln, I am always on the lookout for Lincoln sightings. You would think that those of us that are immersed in the history of Honest Abe would tire of it, but it is not so! I was thrilled when I stopped by the Harold Kee Welch studio and museum in Smithfield and saw not one, but three Lincoln pictures. One I was told represents Abraham Lincoln and Ann Rutledge who they say may have been his first love.
The second is working a farm machine through horse power. I am pretty sure this one is Abe, but I admit it doesn’t look as clearly Lincoln like as the other two.
The third is Lincoln taking a break from splitting rails. On the official page with his pictures (http://www.haroldkeewelch.com/portfolio) I found that this is called, “The Rail Splitter”, portrait of young Abe and was completed in 1935.
All of these pictures look like they could come right out of Lincoln’s New Salem, which if you haven’t been there is another great place to visit especially now during the fall of the year.
Each drive, I always stop at the Harold Kee Welch studio to see what is on display from the late artist whose talent knew no bounds. This was the first time I had seen some of the unique advertising items from his long career and the Lincoln pictures. There were two women in the studio and I think one may have been his widow, I should have asked, I was amiss there. I should have told her how much I appreciate the beauty her husband left behind for all of us here today to enjoy.
For those that don’t know who Welch was, I took a gander at his bio and wanted to share what is written. He was, “A painter, sculptor and illustrator, his painting subjects were Chicago, Spoon River territory (Fulton County, Illinois), and Mexico. Harold Kee Welch was born in Smithfield, Illinois. He graduated from Canton Senior High School and attended the Chicago Art Institute from 1924 to 1928 before embarking on his career as a commercial illustrator… Hundreds of his paintings, carvings, murals, and sculpture are held in private collections around the country. In 1963 he returned to Smithfield with his wife, Rita, and their five children. There he focused full-time on fine art until his death in 1972.”
Before becoming a studio, the building was the State Bank of Smithfield. Most places along the drive that winds through Fulton County’s Spoon River are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday the first two weekends of October.
(Note permission was gained to take pictures of these works of art).