I had heard there was a lovely statue in Bunker Hill so my husband Keith and the grandkids went to check it out. There is something about a statue that moves me and this one happens to be of Illinois’ favorite son, Honest Abe. I must admit the grandeur of the statue is unexpected. The lovely bronze statue is front and center located in the center divide between Bunker Hilll’s Washington and Fayette streets.
This is a Civil War statue and it was dedicated in September of 1904 as an everlasting memory of the conflict , “by which the union was preserved and in which they took part”.
The statue was a gift from Captain Charles Clinton, the commander of Company B of the First Missouri Voluntary Calvary. Company B was comprised of men from Illinois, Missouri and other states. After the war Capt. Clinton, a St. Louis man, in a token of appreciation for the Bunker Hill men under his command, donated a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The Bunker Hill Library site shares, “Early in the Civil War, President Lincoln called for troops and each state was assigned a quota. Illinois (and some other states) filled its quotas quickly and there was no room for Illinois men to enlist in Illinois companies. Instead, they went to neighboring states and enlisted. A few regiments were later given new names and credited to Illinois. Others, though, did not, and the Illinois men served throughout the war with the out-of-state units.”
According to a State of Illinois tourism site about the statue they state, “A crowd of more than 5,000 was estimated to have attended the dedication ceremony. A procession was formed at 9 a.m. and marched over principal streets. The line of marchers was over half a mile in length. Many of the residences along the parade route were decorated. Professor S. L. Stiver, superintendent of the Bunker Hill Military Academy, was master of ceremonies. Miss Mary True, daughter of Moses True, unveiled the monument. Among those present at the dedication ceremony were the survivors of Company.”
While the statue was a surprise, so was the fact that there had been a military academy in the town. Research showed that the school opened in 1859 as the Bunker Hill Academy a s a nonmilitary school. Closed during the Civil War from 1862 until 1869, the building housed Bunker Hill’s public school. Then in 1883, the military academy was established by Congregational clergyman Reverend Samuel L. Stiver. The website states that Rev. Stiver, “offering strict instruction to local children as well as the cadets. Reverend Stiver remained head of BHMA for the next 27 years. Between 1883 and 1910, a total of 1,050 cadets were enrolled each year. During the Academy’s years of operation, it received high praise from many people. Former students, parents, church ministers, editors, businessmen, and former officials of BHMA are among those from whom the Academy received such high acclaim.”
After Rev. Stiver’s death in November 1910, the school closed and the bell used at the school two years later was installed in the belfry of the Berean Baptist Church. I love finding old history like this, who knew?
After the war, Capt. Clinton had high regard for Bunker Hill and became friends with Mrs. Moses True, widow of the founder of Bunker Hill. Her daughter mary True was at the unveiling ceremony. As a thanks for those that served, Clinton dedicated the statue. The cost for the base of the statue was raised by local subscription. The bronze casting of Lincoln was shipped from Philadelphia and the granite for the lower part from Vermont. The statue was unveiled Sept. 7, 1904. A plaque mounted on the statue has inscribed:
Getting back to the statue, while the bronze Lincoln is on top, at the base of the statue is a bronze statue of a woman in the act of inscribing upon the stone, “with malice toward none.” The stylus in her hand is resting upon the finished letter “e” of the word “None.”
The grandkids had a high time posing at the foot of the statue. Not wanting to disrupt traffic (although there was not much on the quiet Sunday afternoon we were there), we didn’t take long. I loved seeing this Civil War history that has such a prominent place in this central Illinois town where the men and boys gave so much to the War Between the States, it is good that they are remembered.