The Evansville Courier, July 6, 1935

Article was typed as it was worded in the newspaper.


Tri-State Relives Day of Railsplitter’s Youth as Village is Dedicated

By J. BEN LIEBERMAN (Staff Correspondent)

ROCKPORT, July 5—(Special)—

Ten thousand Tri-State folks, in a friendly, democratic fashion heightened by a holiday spirit, helped Rockport dedicate its Lincoln Pioneer Village yesterday.

Heat and humidity brought perspiration in the morning, and lightning-filled thunder clouds brought rain in the afternoon, but even this combination could not dampen the festive feeling of the mass of people milling in and around the city park, reliving the memories of Abraham Lincoln’s youth in Indiana.

There was a youthful paradox to age present, too, as 700 McGuffetyites, grandparents and great-grandparents, most of the, went back to their childhood schooling and recalled the McGuffey primers, readers, and spelling-books that shaped their later lives.


A crowded day of activities, lasting from 9:30 in the morning until supper-time, kept the old fair grounds busy, and visitors spent every spare minute inspecting the village, drinking soda pop and lemonade, and talking to the many friends they met. Aside from the planned program, the day was a big, over-grown family reunion, with the whole Tri-State as the family.

A mile-long, colorful pageant parade and 12 contests during the morning and early afternoon, drew an early crowd to the park amphitheater, but the main part of the program, the dedication services, starting at 2:30 o’clock in the afternoon, attracted the biggest number of spectators, even after dark clouds threatened to ruin the ceremony. The clouds blew over after a brief shower which nobody seemed to mind, and the dedication proceeded as scheduled.


Principal speakers at the dedication program included F. Harold Van Orman, former lieutenant-governor of Indiana; Philip Lutz, jr., Indiana attorney-general; Judge Roscoe Kiper of Boonville, Lincoln historian; and J. Roy Strickland, president of the Southern Indiana McGuffey club, which he founded through his column, Paragraphy, in the Courier; George Honig, artist, sculptor, and designer who dreamed the Pioneer Village and saw it through, devoting months of work to its completion, delivered the dedicatory speech. Mrs. Bess V. Ehrmann, president of the Spencer County Historical society, which sponsored the village and its dedication ceremonies, presided.


Senator Sherman Minton and Representative John W. Boehne, jr., scheduled to speak, sent telegrams of regret from Washington, D. C., explaining that national affairs were keeping congressmen busy at the capitol so that they could not attend the dedication.

Lutz, first of the principal speakers, predicted a nation wide place and purpose for the Village. "The world will make a path to this memorial," he said, "and those who come will consecrate their lives anew to the principles held by Lincoln of friendship, loyalty, patriotism, sincerity, honor, honesty, fidelity, and every attribute that Lincoln held to make him great in all the nations of the world."


He went on to suggest still another Lincoln memorial in the Tri-State, and institution dedicated to the same love for humanity that was Lincoln’s—a national university, hospital, foundation, or other agency, permanent, useful and serviceable—and predicted that it would some day be a reality.

Judge Kiper, recounting the story of Lincoln’s youth, declared that much of his strong, moral character came from his environmental influences in Spencer county, where he lived from the ages of seven to 21. "His cogent reasoning materialized in his utterances made in after life," the judge pointed out, "forcibly manifest the basic principles of life which were woven into his character then."

And that, said the judge, is true even though "it is seemingly a far cry from the days of the early environment of Abraham Lincoln, represented by this faithful reproduction of the scenes amid which the youthful Lincoln lived and was reared, to the arena in which he was afterwards placed, as the chief actor, in the titanic struggle to preserve our national unity and give impetus to American ideals."


In his address Van Orman sounded a cry for strong and intelligent leaders to build a stronger democracy, pointing out that "good leadership attracts devoted and enthusiastic followers."

"Perhaps the most pronounced traits in the character of Lincoln were his broad charity and unbounded sympathy," he said. "These traits stand out prominently in everything he ever said or did and carry a significant message to a troubled world.

"The need for the application of Lincoln’s ideals to present-day problems must be evident to anyone who considers seriously the world in which he lives.

"When news came to this county in 1783 that the treaty of peace with England had been signed, Thomas Paine wrote in his paper, the Crisis, ‘The times that tried men’s souls are over.’ It did not turn out so. The times which followed tried men’s souls even more greviously than the times which preceded. While the war was on and there was danger of defeat the colonies pulled together in something like unity of action. But when the war was over they were pulling in 13 different directions. And so it is turning out at the present time; and we have come to realize that the problems of peace are just as difficult and more numerous that the problems of war. In these problems the spirit of Lincoln would be a mighty solvent, not only for America, but for the whole world."


At the dedication, Honig, with one of the greatest moments of his life at hand, very simply thanked all of his co-workers "for making my dream a reality," and then went on to plan for the future of the village.

"We dedicate it to Abraham Lincoln and the pioneers of Spencer county," he said, "and hope that it will be an everlasting memorial by constant building." There are 22 more log cabins, and blockades, each telling the part of the Lincoln drama, yet projected, he said, hoping that "the Tri-State will now step in to help Rockport to complete it."

Once finished, he added, "it will stand as a memorial of western democracy to the man who brought it to the company of world philosophies."

Mrs. Honig, "who stood by her husband through every bit of it," as Mrs. Ehrmann described her part in the dream’s fulfillment, was introduced to the audience, and she bowed with her husband.

The Rev. L. S. Jarrett, pastor of Rockport M. E. church, offered the invocation, while the benediction was given by the Rev. Wilbur M. Allen, pastor of the Trinity Lutheran church, Rockport.


Mayor Harvey Chinn of Rockport welcomed the visitors to the city. Edward Simpson, state joint-representative for Spencer and Perry counties, followed the mayor, reading the telegrams from Washington. He then presented Lutz. Judge Kiper was presented by Taylor C. Basye, president-emeritus of the Spencer County Historical society, and remarks followed by William Fortune of Indianapolis, one of the first Lincoln historians. Strickland was introduced by U. S. Lindsey, chairman of the McGuffey reception committee.

Mrs. Ben Smith of Grandview presented a vocal solo, "In the Good Old U. S. A.," as a musical interlude, while the Rockport high school band, with E. E. Nichols directing, played before and after the program from the amphitheater.

On the speakers’ platform besides the participants were Prof. Ross Lockridge of Indiana university; Mr. and Mrs. Clarence P. Wolfe of the New Harmony Times; Kate Milmer Radd, the "Hoosier Listening Post," editor of the Indianapolis Star; Mrs. Kin Hubbard, widow of the famous "Abe Martin;" William Barker, past president of the Southwestern Indiana Historical society; and Mrs. William Barker, jr., of Milwaukee, and R.O.T.C. Captain Jack Miller, Winslow, youngest in the United States to hold such a rank.


The speakers and guests were escorted to the platform—the old band-stand opposite the amphitheater, with the track between—by a 50-girl escort of honor from Rockport and the Dale girl’s drum corps.

Colorful, instructive, and impressive, the pageant parade, a mile long, started at 10 o’clock in the morning in front of the court house in Rockport, went straight down Main street and out to the city park, winding around the track before passing the reviewing stand, opposite the amphitheater. Crowds line the sides of the path the entire way.

Floats by nearly all of the Rockport organizations and business firms with a liberal representation from other Tri-State cities, including Evansville, were judged by Edward W. Smith of the Owensboro, Ky., Chamber of Commerce; H. H. Wettmarshausen, secretary of the Tell City Chamber of Commerce, and A. P. Eberlin, secretary of the Evansville Chamber of Commerce. The parade took half an hour, with the various units closely bunched.

A barge depicting Sandy Creek landing, presented by Grandview won first place, with the Village committee itself placing second on it contribution to the parade, a pioneer family moving in the old covered wagon. Third place went to a pageant collection of farm implements including a wheat cradle, shaving horse, and spinning wheel. It was entered by Scamahorn and Hutchinson of Rockport.

The Rockport Kiwanis club, the Richland Business Booster club, and the Evansville American Legion Women’s auxiliary post drum and bugle corps were given honorable mentions.

The Lincoln Pioneer Village itself, center and cause of the celebration, attracted more than 4,000 paying visitors, with McGuffeyites, participants in the ceremonies and Boonville Press club members swelling the total to 5,000.

This is half of the estimated total number of visitors during the day, coming and going. More than 700 of the total membership of 900 in the Tri-State McGuffey club registered, and 50 members of the Boonville Press club were present.

Enclosed by a stockade, the Village covers a four-acre tract and contains 11 buildings including a stockade. At the cost of $6,000, with approximately $3,500 of labor done by FERA workmen, the Village took six months in actual construction, with years of research preceding that by Honig and others.

It is exact to the last detail—even to the wooden-pegs as hinges on the stockade gates. Costumes of the "pioneers" who "inhabited", the Village today were likewise authentic. Mrs. Grace H. Pattie, as Nancy Hanks Lincoln, for instance, wore the shawl of her great-grandmother Rasor, a Tri-State pioneer.

Contest winners were as follows:

Prettiest baby under one year, Sharon Fay Ehmer, daughter of C. C. Ehmer, Rockport; doll contest, Dorothy Goldman, Rockport; prettiest girl (under 14), Caroline Bugby, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Edwin Bugby, Owensboro, Ky.; twin running race, Denby Marshall and Lewis Frank, both of Rockport.

Girls’ bicycle race, Dorothy Goldman, Rockport; boys’ bicycle race, Alfred Dassel, Rockport; boys’ running race (under 14), J. C. Lloyd, Richland; hog-calling contest, E. G. Gentry, Rockport; husband-calling contest, Mrs. Russell Laird, Rockport; fat-man’s race, Bill Welsch, Rockport, and mule race, Paul Hamilton, Rockport.

The husband-calling contest evoked the loudest laughter, and Mrs. Laird’s "Rus-s-s-el-l-l-l-l-l" drew a great round of applause.