Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Memorial Day and President Lincoln's Funeral Train

On Monday, Jim and I watched the Wellington, Ohio, Memorial Day parade, which starts at the village square and ends at the Greenwood cemetery. I was in the parade many times as a kid: riding my bike decorated with crepe paper, as a Girl Scout, and later as a member of the marching band.

Before this year's event there was a short program/wreath laying. Then the following marched or rolled by: representatives of veteran's groups; three guys depicting the drummers and fife player from the painting "The Spirit in 1776;" Boy Scouts; Cub Scouts (but no Girl Scouts, why was that?); part of the high school band; and some cars from car dealerships. That was pretty much it. But both the participants and the parade watchers were enthusiastic. 

After the parade, we walked to the the Lorain and West Virginia Railroad Station at the western edge of the village to see a replica of the Lincoln Funeral Train that made a three-day stop here in town.

Commemorating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination and funeral (Lincoln died April 15, 1865) the train car is a full scale replica of the one that carried President Abraham Lincoln's body from Washington, DC, to his home in Springfield, Illinois, for burial. Although Lincoln never got to ride in it while he was alive, in its time the train was the equivalent of Air Force One.

I read that one-third of the nation's population got a glimpse of the train as it made a circuitous route to Springfield. In 12 cities (including Michigan City, Indiana, where we were just a couple of days ago) the train stopped, Lincoln's body was unloaded  and people filed by his open casket. In other cities where the train rolled through -- including Wellington -- people lined the tracks to watch.

We were told that President and Mrs. Lincoln had planned to take the body of their deceased son, Willie, back to Springfield when they returned. After the assassination, Mary Todd Lincoln had Willie's body exhumed and Willie's casket was carried on the same train as his father.

Military representatives follow the Spirit of '76 reenactors at the Wellington, Ohio Memorial Day parade. The Spirit of '76 marchers are a long-time staple in Wellington parades.  They are based on a painting of the same name by Archibald Willard, who  lived in Wellington for a time and is buried here. 
Lincoln's funeral train: The original train that carried Lincoln's body was destroyed in a fire in 1911.  The new train car was purchased and created with the help of many people and a non profit organization named the Historic Railroad Equipment Association.
Volunteer Dale Morehouse explaining what was on the train and how the replica came to be.  Mr. Morehouse did some of the upholstery work on the train.  He said the casket was six feet eight inches long and President Lincoln was six feet four inches tall.
Mary Todd Lincoln (we think; she wouldn't own up to it) near her husband's funeral train.  In real life Mrs. Lincoln was too distraught to accompany her husband's body to their home in Springfield and arrived a month later. President Lincoln's body was accompanied on the train by his son, Robert, and various dignitaries.
After visiting the train, we stopped at a very old cemetery in Wellington I've never visited (and not the one that the parade goes to). There was no sign, but I read on line that it's simply called "The Pioneer Cemetery."  Most of the gravestones listed deaths in the mid 1800s. That's Jim in the distance looking at a marker that revealed the September 7, 1857 death of a man named E. Bidwell Webster. Webster's infant daughter died ten months later,  then Bidwell's wife died one year to the day after her husband. There's got to be a very sad story there behind E. Bidwell, who was only 29 when he died. His father built the first frame house in Wellington.

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