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The presidents slept here
Pulaski House register shows hotel hosted some famous guests

MOUNT PULASKI - Deborah Denney could post a placard on the wall of Pulaski House, home of Marcia's Grand Cafe, saying, "Teddy Roosevelt slept here."

And she could post another one saying, "William McKinley slept here, too" - while he was president.

And if she really wanted, she could post two more: "John D. Rockefeller slept here" and "Grover Cleveland slept here."

What's more, all four stayed at Pulaski House - when it was a hotel, of course - the same night, Oct. 23, 1900.

You don't have to take Denney's word for it.

She has proof - the old guest register from the hotel. This particular volume goes from April 9, 1900, through March 1902.

Could the signatures be forged?

Maybe. Maybe not. Aides may have signed in the four dignitaries.

But the four were in Mount Pulaski and did stay at the hotel.

Denney dug up old issues of The (Lincoln) Courier, which indicated a huge Republican rally was being held in Mount Pulaski and, 1900 being an election year, the four were on the stump. Photos of the rally also appeared in The Courier.

The old register was a gift to Denney from Pat Weimer of Lincoln, an antique-book dealer. It got into Weimer's hands 15 or 20 years ago, when "someone dug it out of their basement," according to Denney.

Weimer gave the book to her after reading in The Courier a letter to the editor from Denney seeking local support for the survival of her restaurant.

Her interest stirred by the old signatures, Denney first researched old microfilm of The Courier to prove the dignitaries had spent the night in Mount Pulaski.

Then, acting on the suggestion of local historian Paul Beaver, Denney and two friends, Susan Ohmart and Bev Kunkle, took the register to Chicago in early August to have a rare-book dealer assess it.

Also of note from the period:

  • A year later, McKinley was dead, felled by an assassin's bullet.

  • Mount Pulaski supported an opera house at the time, and the cast of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" stayed at Pulaski House.

  • The Republican rally in Mount Pulaski was huge, drawing some 7,000 participants.

  • Lincoln at the same time was hosting a very large Democratic convention. (The election was close and hard-fought.)

    One other thing: A half-century earlier, a young attorney working the 8th Judicial Circuit practiced his craft at the Mount Pulaski Courthouse, then and now, the central structure on the town square.

    He, too, stayed at Pulaski House. He was Abraham Lincoln.

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