The Town Square was the scene of farmers’ markets, social gatherings, and even the first football game in the county’s history. Eventually, the area of the Square became run down and concerned citizens beautified it with a fence and flower beds.
By the late 1800s, local citizens wanted to do something to honor the soldiers and sailors of the Civil War. George R. Frysinger, editor and publisher of the Lewistown Gazette, had editorialized for some time about the need for an improved downtown and a Civil War monument. Interest in the project was hard to generate, but when the 1895 Lewistown Centennial was being organized, Frysinger spearheaded another push for this cause.
With the inspiration and support of an old friend and county native, a committee was eventually formed and began to raise money for a monument by selling shares at $1 each. A quarter share could be bought for $0.25. Taxes were also raised to help pay for the memorial. Each taxpayer was assessed $0.84 every year for five years. Finally, the $15,000 needed for the project was reached and construction began in 1906.
HOW THE LINCOLN STONE CAME TO MIFFLIN COUNTY
The friend of Frysinger had been a drummer boy and soldier from Mifflin County’s Logan Guards. Maj. Robert Burns Hoover, served in the Civil War and eventually moved to Springfield, Illinois. A letter from Hoover appeared in the Gazette on Feb. 12, 1890. He wrote, in part: I was pleased to see in a late issue of your paper an article on the future of Lewistown, from the pen of my old friend and schoolmate, Geo. R. Frysinger. Although it is not likely I shall ever live there again, my heart often goes out to that lovely little city on the banks of the blue Juniata, and I wish I could do or say something to enthuse the people of Lewistown into what we term in the west a business boom...
Almost every western city has a public square, and yet in all my travels I know of none that could be made so beautiful and attractive as the one at Lewistown...What a fine place the center of your square would be for a soldiers’ monument...a reflection on your enterprise and patriotism that the one town in this great nation which furnished the first
company to report to Washington in defense of the Union has not yet honored the memory of those who did not return.
As a prominent Springfield resident, Hoover was involved with the Lincoln Memorial Foundation. He requested a stone from the Lincoln tomb when it was being remodeled at the time. Maj. Hoover based his proposition on the fact that Mifflin County sent some of the first volunteers to answer President Lincoln’s call for troops to defend the Union in 1861.
Hoover’s request was approved. The only stone ever removed from Lincoln’s tomb was given to the people of Mifflin County. The 14 by 24 inch granite block was sent to Lewistown by rail from Springfield, on condition that a monument be built in the town
square. The stone was placed in a street window of the Mifflin County National Bank on Market Street to aide the fund raising effort. Some individuals offered matching fund to spur interest, children got into the act saving pennies.
On May 7, 1906, a ceremony was held to place articles in a cavity behind the Lincoln Stone. A heavy glass jar was used to hold a list of soldiers from Mifflin County in the Civil War, a button and badge from the G. A. R., other military records from the Civil War,
United States coins for the five years of the war 1861 - 1865, plus an 1895 Lewistown Centennial medal.
REDEDICATED TO ALL WHO SERVED
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument was rededicated in 1969, to become a memorial to all service people from Mifflin County who fought and died for the country.
It is a source of community pride, much as Robert B. Hoover had envisioned. The next time you have the chance, be sure to take a close look at the Lincoln Stone. The 1993 book, Mifflin County Yesterday & Today notes, “Remember Major Hoover, who never forgot the people of Mifflin County or their role in the defense
of the Union. He truly brought President Lincoln to Mifflin County.”