A House Divided- Lincoln in Oquawka

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 10:30:30 AM

A House Divided- Lincoln in Oquawka

I just finished a commission of my painting of "Lincoln in Oquawka." Lincoln was in Oquawka, Illionois in Oct. 1958 to give a speech in his election campaign for the Illinois senate seat. Running against Lincoln was Douglas who didn't make the Oquawka stop. Here's the report:

Saturday, October 9, 1858.
Oquawka, IL and Burlington, IL.

Escort with brass band meets Lincoln at Oquawka Junction (now Gladstone) and takes him to home of S. S. Phelps. At 1 P.M. he is escorted to stand in business section, where he speaks for hours. After meeting he leaves for Burlington, Iowa, for evening speech at Grimes' Hall. Oquawka Spectator, 4 October 1858; Burlington Hawkeye, 11 October 1858; J. W. Grimes to Herndon, 28 October 1866, William H. Herndon Papers, Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
 

The site where Lincoln spoke was the Moir Bank in 1858 and is now the Oquawka Diner:

[Starting from the levee that was once the abandoned railroad bed we come to the Oquawka diner, owned and operated by George Olson, Jr. In 1952 George and Ida Olson along with their children, George Jr. and Donna, started this small riverside restaurant. Small, because at the time they opened, it was just a small place with very good food. About a year later they enlarged by moving what used to be an old city boat or warehouse and later the Jim and Harry McOlgan fish house, to the east side of the Diner, thus giving a much larger seating capacity for the patrons. George Jr. is still running the Diner today. In an earlier day yet, just east of the Diner was the Hodson Canning Factory. It has long since been gone. Just two years ago in 1984 the old brick structure that used to be the quarters of the Moir Bank that Abe Lincoln stood in front of and gave his part of the Lincoln-Douglas debate, had to be torn down because of deterioration. During its past useful years it was known as the Blue Goose Tavern.]

In 1827, Dr. Isaac Galland erected a log cabin and began trading with the Indians at the site now known as Oquawka. In 1828 Stephen Phelps of Lewistown, IL purchased the claim for his son, S.S., who made his home there. Oquawka was laid out by Alexis Phelps and his brother, Stephen Sumner Phelps on July 9, 1836."Oquawka" was derived from an Indian word Oquawkiek meaning "Yellow Banks".



This is what I came up with. Rosie Melvin, who helped commission the piece suggested I do a young Lincoln. In 1858 Lincoln had no beard. I thought that besides the protrait I'd need to have Lincoln giving the speech. So he's on a platform in front of the Moir Bank with the "Yellow Banks" and Mississippi River in the background. I figured it would appear something like this in 1858. It proved to be difficult to say the least. The front right spectators are loosley drawn and painted.

I used an earlier sketch I found on-line as the basis for the speech. I added S.S. Phelps and Barrack Obama. I'm sure S.S. Phelps was there and since Lincoln's speech directly influenced events that led to President Obama, I figured it would be fitting to include him also.

I'll have some close-ups next blog,

Richard 
 

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