The City of Winchester hopes to add its name to a list for people looking for historical stops made by Abraham Lincoln.
Winchester Mayor Rex McIntire presented to the Winchester City Council on October 5th a proposal to purchase a life-sized Abraham Lincoln statue to erect on the city square.
The statue would be to commemorate Lincoln’s first speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act in August 1854 and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise. At the time, Lincoln had thrown himself back into the political arena to oppose the act and political rival Stephen Douglas’ philosophy of popular sovereignty when it came to a state’s decision of whether or not it should permit slavery or not. Lincoln had retreated to his law practice after serving a single term in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 7th Congressional District.
The Scott County Whigs invited Lincoln to Winchester to speak a meeting whose official business was for appointing delegates to the senatorial and representative convention. The Illinois Daily Journal of the time provided the only account of this first speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act by Lincoln calling it “a masterly effort” in which he opposed the act. Currently, a small rock monument and sign commemorates the location of the speech in the park.
McIntire says a marker on the square currently sits where Lincoln delivered the speech in the former Scott County Courthouse which used to be located on the square. 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, for one, it commemorates our ties with Lincoln and also to maybe draw attention from some of the folks who tour the state looking for Lincoln sites. It would help bring business into town and help our business community.”
McIntire says that since the Winchester Square is considered a part of the city’s TIF District, funds from the TIF fund that have been used to beautify the square will be used to purchase the life-sized statue: “One of the things that you have a TIF fund for is to improve business. This project would definitely be a big part of this. We have ample funds in there. What we’ve previously spent our TIF funds for has been to rehabilitate store fronts in the TIF district and we’ve also helped with repairing roofs in making sure these historic buildings remain intact.”
McIntire says that Anne Moseley of the University of Springfield’s Sangamon Experience was on hand for the October 5th meeting to talk about the significance of the statue and to possibly include it as one of the “Looking For Lincoln” sites.
McIntire says to receive a designation with the statue will further help spur business and interest in the Winchester Square.
McIntire hopes to have the bronze statue, with an expected cost of a little more than $6,500, unveiled in the Spring of 2023 with an official ceremony.