MOUNT PULASKI - Deborah Denney
could post a placard on the wall of Pulaski House, home
of Marcia's Grand Cafe, saying, "Teddy Roosevelt slept
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
What's more, all four stayed at Pulaski House - when
it was a hotel, of course - the same night, Oct. 23,
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
But the four were in Mount Pulaski and did stay at
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