State Historical Society gives Abraham Lincoln portrait to Morgan Co. courthouse

By Gary Scott on August 14, 2017 at 12:30pm

The Morgan County Courthouse is adding another piece of history from the Illinois State Historical Society.

A dedication ceremony this morning revealed the piece of historical art in the form of a unique portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

In attendance at this morning’s ceremony were Morgan County Commissioners Bill Meier, Brad Zeller and Ginny Fanning, as well as State’s Attorney Gray Noll.

Also in attendance was Executive Director of the Illinois State Historical Society William Furry. Furry explains how this specific portrait ended up in the local courthouse.

“The Illinois State Historical Society is trying to put portraits of Abraham Lincoln, large framed 30×40 framed canvas portraits of Lincoln by Alexander Hesler in every one of the courthouses in the state for the bicentennial. We made an appeal to people around the state and Rand and Pat Burnette of Jacksonville came forward and purchased one of the Hesler Lincoln photographs and dedicated it in memory of Dick Rawlings and we’re here today to unveil that and to see that it gets hung in the Morgan County courthouse,” says Furry.

Furry talks about some of the other counties who’ve received portraits, and says this particular Lincoln portrait is rather unique.

“We’ve had them placed in Cass County, Macon, Pike County. We’re trying to get them done for the bicentennial and the Arts Society of the State Historical Society owns original glass-plate positives that we shot on June 3rd, 1860 in Springfield, right after Lincoln got the nomination. So this is our Illinois Lincoln. There’s a lot of portraits of Lincoln with a beard out there in courthouses, but people never saw him with a beard in Illinois. So the one that we have where he was actually here at the time and received the nomination, we think it’s an important one to place in the courthouses,” Furry explains.

Obtaining the Lincoln portrait wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of Morgan County Historical Society President Dr. Rand Burnette and his wife Patricia Burnette, who provided the funds for bringing the portrait to Jacksonville.

As Burnette explains, the portrait is dedicated to longtime Jacksonville resident Dick Rawlings.

“I think the fact that Lincoln has a strong connection to this. Not too much of a connection as a surveyor, but we wanted Dick (Rawlings) there and the statement (on the plaque) says ‘another surveyor,’ because like Lincoln, Dick was a surveyor and worked for one of the engineering companies in town. (Rawlings) worked very diligently on the Governor Duncan Association, which I was a member of and my wife was the Secretary Treasurer, and Dick was just so easy to work with, he was just really a super guy,” says Burnette.

Those visiting the Morgan County courthouse can view the new Lincoln portrait in the main court located on the second floor.