Vandalia residents already know that Abraham Lincoln began his political career in our community and that it was in the Vandalia Statehouse that Lincoln became legally entitled to practice law.
But there is a great deal of other information about Lincolns time in Vandalia that is not common knowledge. That will change this fall.
At a meeting of Vandalias Looking for Lincoln Committee last Thursday, Dale Timmermann unveiled the 10 wayside exhibits that will tell our communitys Lincoln stories.
Our 10 storyboards will be among the 200 or so that will be in place by sometime next year, each of those sharing some stories about the time that Lincoln spent in Illinois before going off to serve as this countrys 16th president.
Timmermann spent countless hours researching the Lincoln stories that will appear on our storyboards, and maybe even more time tracking down with help from Linda Kelly of Evans Public Library many of the images that appear on the storyboards.
Though his work in the past has been sufficient to earn him the title, Timmermann can now truly be considered one of this communitys elite historians.
As the old saying goes, you have to know about where youve been to know where you are going. Thanks to Timmermann and others including people like Mary and Josephine Burtschi, Joseph Burtschi, Mary Truitt, Judy Baumann and Helen Tedrick Brooks we know where weve been.
And a large part of where we are going with tourism being Illinois second-largest industry lies in our history as Illinois second capital and the birthplace of Lincolns political career.
With the state already closing state historic sites like the Vandalia Statehouse two days a week, the storyboards will be a welcome sight for those tourists who come to Vandalia on Sundays and Mondays. Their role in telling our community’s story could be heightened as the state makes plans to impose even more drastic cuts for historic sites.
And while we talk about the value of the storyboards to tourists, their worth to local residents as well cannot be understated. Not only will they help us get a better grasp on our towns history, the storyboards will allow us to better share that history with out-of-town guests thirsty for knowledge about Lincoln.
As Mayor Rick Gottman pointed out at last Thursdays meeting of the local Looking for Lincoln committee, education of local residents about our history particularly that which involves Lincoln is needed.
He told committee members that he was in a local restaurant recently when a couple from out of town asked a restaurant employee where Vandalias Lincoln sites are. The employees response We dont have any.
You may say thats not such a big deal, but put the shoe on the other foot. What if you traveled to another town, or even another state, for a particular attraction or event, and a resident of that community was unable to provide you with the information you needed.
We have to understand and appreciate the fact that tens of thousands of people come to Vandalia each year to visit the Statehouse. While here, they want to visit other attractions and learn more about our Lincoln history. And while here, they are putting money into the local economy by purchasing gas, food, souvenirs and possibly even motel rooms.
Our community has suffered a number of hits to our local economy recently, including the announcement of Orgills pending move to Missouri. We must be doing everything we can to help the economy, if we’re going to weather the downturn. Tourism is one of those opportunities, and the installation of our Lincoln storyboards in the fall will play a big role in that.