Thursday, March 6, 1930, was a celebratory day in Vincennes, one that involved months of planning. On that day, the city held what was termed the Lincoln Migration Centennial, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln family’s migration from Indiana to Illinois, with their crossing of the Wabash made at Vincennes in the spring of 1830. The festivities were sponsored by the newly organized Old Post Association for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Vincennes.
The weather for the celebration was perfect, with a temperature of 60 degrees and only a minor threat of rain in the afternoon. The city was covered with flags and bunting. Attorney Curtis Shake was chairman of the Centennial Celebration Committee.
The packed day began with a meeting in the City Hall Council Chamber of interested parties to discuss the proposed Lincoln National Memorial Highway, which would roughly follow the Lincoln family’s migration route. This was followed by group luncheons at the Grand Hotel and two churches for both visitors and locals.
Perhaps the most anticipated event of the day was the afternoon “Lincoln Lives Again” parade, which was made up of 21 floats, each entry marking a significant event in Lincoln’s life. None of the floats were allowed to be motorized. A Carmi, Illinois man brought his team of oxen, named Tom and Jerry, to pull an old-time prairie schooner. Church bells tolled as the parade traversed downtown streets.
Parade entries were made by the communities of Monroe City, Wheatland, Bruceville, and Bicknell in Knox County; Casey, Palestine, and Bridgeport in Illinois, and Petersburg in Pike County (the latter having two entries). Organizations represented were the Daughters of Isabella, the Francis Vigo Chapter DAR, the Knox County Farm Bureau, the Vincennes American Legion, the Spanish War Veterans’ Auxiliary, the GAR Women’s Relief Corps., and the Fortnightly Club. Schools having floats were Lincoln High School and the Dunbar School (for African American students) combined, Gibault, and Vincennes University. The “Vincennes Sun” and the Vincennes Public Library rounded out the entries.
The parade reviewing stand was set up on the City Hall grounds at Fourth and Main Streets, where the First Regiment Band gave a concert. It was estimated that from 20,000 to 25,000 people lined the city’s streets to watch the parade.
Following the parade, a big public meeting was held at the Vincennes Coliseum, with some 6,000 people crowding the venue. Local attorney Ewing Emison presided at that event. Representatives of the governors of Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky spoke, as did civic leaders. One of the main the speakers was the Rev. Dr. John Wesley Hill, Chancellor of Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrogate Tennessee. Two-hundred members of the Vincennes Choral Society also entertained with the “Abraham Lincoln” cantata, and Shake read a congratulatory letter from President Hoover.
At the conclusion of events at the Coliseum, the Vincennes Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club provided cars for visitors who chose to go sightseeing and the Fortnightly Club ladies held an open house at their Sixth and Seminary Streets clubhouse, as did the Elks Lodge.
The day was capped off with a 6:30 p.m. banquet at Gibault Auditorium, with a meal served by the ladies of the Old Cathedral, the entrée being larded beef tenderloin with mushrooms. Tickets for the banquet cost $1.50. The principal speaker at that event was author and Lincoln scholar the Rev. Dr. William E. Barton, of Vanderbilt University. Another special guest was Dr. Louis A. Warren, of Fort Wayne, director of the Lincoln Historical Research Foundation.
The Lincoln Migration Centennial preceded both construction of the Lincoln Memorial Bridge, which opened to traffic in the summer of 1932, and the placement of the Lincoln Monument on the Illinois side of the bridge, the latter dedicated on June 14, 1938.
Brian Spangle can be reached at email@example.com. His new book, “Lost Vincennes,” will be released by The History Press on April 10.
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