PETERSBURG - The executive director
of the Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association
thinks Abraham Lincoln's stint as a surveyor is
overlooked, and his group hopes to draw attention to
that period in Lincoln's life.
Bob Church told the New Salem Lincoln League's annual
meeting last weekend about his group's plan to erect a
statue of Lincoln the surveyor near the visitor center
at Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site. If all goes
well, the unveiling could take place in October, which
would coincide with the association's 75th anniversary,
"We believe the project will not only honor a
little-known aspect of Lincoln's life, it also will make
the public aware of the profession of land surveying,"
The statue will be based on a pen-and-ink drawing by
the late Lloyd Ostendorf - redrawn by his brother Ned
for "professional accuracy" - and is being created by
Decatur sculptor John McClarey. The life-size cast
statue will depict a 25-year-old Lincoln, clad in boots,
knee breeches, loose shirt and jacket, with a hat in one
hand and a surveying instrument in the other.
"New Salem is particularly appropriate, since that's
where Lincoln lived when he studied surveying and worked
as a deputy county surveyor," said Church.
"The story is, (Sangamon County surveyor John)
Calhoun came out to New Salem, looked up Lincoln and
said, 'I want you to be a land surveyor,'" Church said.
It was 1833 - a time when many settlers were moving
into the area and prospectors were looking for town
sites. Calhoun could not handle all of the surveying
himself, Church said.
"Lincoln told Calhoun he knew nothing about land
surveying," said Church. "Calhoun answered, 'I've been
told you can learn anything.'"
According to Carl Sandburg's "Abraham Lincoln: The
Prairie Years," Lincoln perused two books on the topic
with the help of Mentor Graham and then essentially
taught himself to survey.
"He surveyed roads, school sections and pieces of
farm land, from four-acre plots to 160-acre farms" in
such towns as Petersburg, Bath, New Boston, Albany,
Huron and others, Sandburg wrote.
"It can be argued that surveying launched the
political career of our 16th president," Church said.
"Lincoln ran for the state legislature in 1832 but was
defeated. He was successfully elected two years later
after becoming widely known as a competent and
Adin Baber, a surveyor from southeastern Illinois,
began in 1948 to explore his family's ties to Nancy
Hanks - Lincoln's mother - as well as the Hanks
connection to surveying and the manufacture of surveying
equipment. He also was intrigued with Lincoln's career
as a land surveyor, and he documented his findings in a
book, "A. Lincoln with Compass and Chain."
In order for the Lincoln surveyor statue to become a
reality, the surveyors association must raise nearly
$100,000. The group is selling 12-inch bronze replicas
of the statue, along with reprinted editions of Baber's
book and a limited number of copies of Ostendorf's
Organizations, companies and Lincoln enthusiasts who
donate $3,000 to the endeavor will have their names
inscribed on the base of the statue and will receive a
signed and numbered print, as well as the book and
Church in recent weeks has spoken to a number of
groups, including other surveyors, in Illinois, Indiana,
Kentucky and Missouri. About 40 percent of the needed
funds have been collected.
Lincoln League president Carol Shafer presented
Church with a $3,000 check.
Lincoln's surveying equipment is on display in the
New Salem Visitors Center, and Church said the statue
will provide an additional learning opportunity.
"I want (visitors) to see that, for a short time,
Lincoln was a land surveyor. I think it's important for
people to understand that," Church said.
Those wanting more information or to make a
contribution may contact the Illinois Professional Land
Surveyors Association, 203 S. Walnut St., P.O. Box 588,
Rochester, IL 62563.
Ann Gorman can be reached through the metro desk at