CLINTON - Abraham Lincoln was dead, and a nation mourned.

So, just days following his assassination, three women of the Clinton Presbyterian Church organized a memorial service in honor of the fallen president, the man they knew, the man who had sat at their tables.

Or so the play "Remembering Lincoln" tells it.

The women had come to know Lincoln when meals to help make money to build their church were served during a session of the 8th Judicial Circuit.

"When the presbyterian church was being built, they started the building, and they ran out of money," said Joey Woolridge, vice chairwoman of the Lincoln Heritage Committee of DeWitt County.

So, the women came up with the idea to serve meals.

"The best time to do that was court week," said Woolridge. "Court week was like circus week."

And Abraham Lincoln, as an attorney traveling that circuit, stopped by to eat, said Helen Stites of Clinton, who authored the play.

There's even a documented story about Lincoln and his hat associated with the church meal in October 1859, which Stites and Woolridge related.

"The ladies greeted him at the door, or where the door would have been," said Woolridge, when one of the women offered to take his dusty top hat.

No, Lincoln refused, placing the hat high above their heads on an unfinished beam while he ate.

"That's where he kept his papers," Stites said.

Stites' play commemorating the memorial services will be presented Friday and Saturday in Clinton Presbyterian Church, close to the actual date of Lincoln's assassination. The president was shot on April 14, 1865, and died early the following morning. A cast of eight, including Clifton Moore who delivered the eulogy for the service, will be in period costumes.

"I don't know when I found out that Clifton Moore had given the eulogy," Stites said. "He never mentions Abraham Lincoln (by name)."

Moore is being brought to life by Larry Buss, curator for 13 years of the DeWitt County Historical Society Museum, the C.H. Moore Homestead. Buss, with his white hair that can be parted and combed similarly to Moore's, said he is about the same size as Moore was. He'll be wearing formal attire suitable for funeral wear of the time, including a mourning tie.

Moore first lived and taught in Pekin before becoming an attorney and coming to Clinton, Buss said. Lincoln and Moore became quasi-law partners, he said.

"They would help each other out," Buss said, when, for example, Lincoln needed something taken care of in Clinton.

If you go

WHAT: "Remembering Lincoln," a play by Helen Stites.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, April 17; 2 p.m. Saturday, April 18.

WHERE: Clinton Presbyterian Church, 402 N. Center St.

ADMISSION: Donations suggested for the Lincoln Heritage Committee of DeWitt County, the sponsoring organization.

INFORMATION: Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce, 100 S. Center St., Suite 101, or 935-3364.

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