The city of Winchester hopes to add his name to a list of people looking for historic stops made by Abraham Lincoln.
Winchester Mayor Rex McIntire presented Winchester City Council on October 5 with a proposal to purchase a life-size statue of Abraham Lincoln to be erected in the town square.
The statue was to commemorate Lincoln’s first speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act in August 1854 and his effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise. At the time, Lincoln had thrown himself back into the political arena to oppose the act and philosophy of popular sovereignty of his political rival Stephen Douglas when it came to the decision of a State whether or not to allow slavery or not. Lincoln had retired to his law practice after serving a single term in the United States House of Representatives representing the 7th congressional district.
The Scott County Whigs invited Lincoln to Winchester to speak at a meeting whose official business was to appoint delegates to the Senate and Representative convention. The Illinois Daily Journal at the time provided the only account of this first Kansas-Nebraska Act speech by Lincoln, calling it “a masterful effort” in which he opposed the law. Currently, a small rock monument and sign commemorate the location of the speech in the park.
McIntire says a marker in the plaza currently stands where Lincoln delivered the speech in the old Scott County Courthouse, which was once located in the plaza. The current courthouse, the county’s third in its history, was erected in 1885 to the northeast of the square.
McIntire hopes the statue will bring more tourism to Winchester: “I think it’s a great idea because, on the one hand, it commemorates our connection with Lincoln and also perhaps to attract the attention of some people who scour the state for Lincoln sites. It would help bring business to town and help our business community.
McIntire says that since Winchester Square is considered part of the city’s TIF district, funds from the TIF fund that were used to spruce up the square will be used to purchase the life-size statue: “One of the things you have a Le TIF funds is for improving business. This project would definitely be a big part of that. We have sufficient funds in there. Previously, we have spent our TIF funds to rehabilitate storefronts in the TIF district and we have also helped repair roofs to ensure these historic buildings remain intact.
McIntire says Anne Moseley of Springfield University’s Sangamon Experience was on hand for the Oct. 5 meeting to talk about the statue’s significance and possibly include it as one of the “Looking For Lincoln” sites. “.
McIntire says receiving a designation with the statue will help drive further business and interest in Winchester Square.
McIntire hopes the bronze statue, expected to cost just over $6,500, will be unveiled in the spring of 2023 in a formal ceremony.