Abraham Lincoln did not travel to Carthage, Illinois often; however, in October of 1858 Lincoln delivered a rousing speech to a cheering crowd on the square in Carthage. Lincoln was campaigning for the 1858 senatorial election and although his efforts failed in the end, he worked hard at obtaining the support of Hancock county. When Abe visited Carthage, he would stay with his longtime friend, Alexander Sympson.
The doorway to the Sympson home, the very doorway that Abraham Lincoln passed through during his visits to Carthage, is on display at the Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum. In fact, I walked through this very same doorway as I entered possibly the most intriguing, interesting, and unconventional small-town museum I have ever seen. Several of Carthage’s citizens are eccentric-historical-curator-types with a flair for creative drama. And they are fantastic.
I wander through exhibits of taxidermied animals such as a bald eagle, a fox, owl, beaver, even a javelina; rooms set up like houses from several time periods; tools, pottery, arrowheads, drums, and moccasins; wedding dresses, every day dresses, party dresses, hats, gloves, and shoes; toys; pots, pans, and various kitchen utensils; guns, military uniforms, patches, helmets, and flags; fossils, rocks, and geodes; and countless odds and ends. I finally find Lincoln, dead, laying in state in a casket next to a replica of his tomb. What in the world? Did his funeral train pass through Carthage? Was his body displayed in Carthage? Why is Abraham Lincoln in a casket, in a museum, in Carthage, Illinois? I’m just “dying” to know so I weave and wind my way back to the front and ask the docent, “Why is there a dead Abraham Lincoln in a casket? Did the funeral train pass through Carthage? Was his body prepared for viewing in Carthage?” Her reply, “Oh heavens no. When the local funeral parlor closed down, it donated everything to the museum. We have a whole ton of caskets. Go check out the funeral exhibit in the far, back corner.” I just love this place!
I have to digress off the Lincoln subject for a paragraph. Following the funeral home’s example, when the local hospital shut down, it donated all its belongings to the Kibbe Museum. So what do these incredible people do? They set up a hospital exhibit. Included in the exhibit, which is absolutely amazing, are physicians who practiced medicine at Carthage Memorial Hospital. Life-size, three dimensional mannequins have flat, two dimensional photograph faces. I took photos, but really you just need to see it in real life. I’m “dying” (I just love this pun!) to return to Carthage, Illinois to see what these wonderfully creative, talented people come up with next!