Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Katelyn Eddington
Shelbyville, Illinois Shelbyville, a small town in central Illinois, has many distinct things about it, but one of the first things you’ll notice is a statue of Abraham Lincoln, and an attorney in Shelbyville in 1856, Anthony Thornton. For some it’s a landmark but for others it’s a reminder of loved ones. Nancy Hardy is a prime example of this. Her husband the late Whitney Hardy was a third generation attorney at law, and a huge Lincoln enthusiast, who helped get the bronze statue in front of the Shelbyville Courthouse.
In 1856 Abraham Lincoln, before running for president, was on a series of stops to check in on cases in other communities. This is what is known as riding the circuit. One of the stops happened to be in Shelbyville where he and Anthony Thornton had a debate. Lincoln was starting to become a Republican while Thornton was a Democrat. It was a debate based on the respect and friendship they had for each other, which the statue shows.
Now almost one-hundred sixty years later the debate has an effect on people, the Hardy family especially. The late Whitney Hardy helped get the project started.
The statue, made by John McClarey, was put into place by John himself. John Mcclarey had designed and built several other Lincoln statues throughout the state.
“He wanted Mr. Lincoln to be at about eye level so everyone under six feet could met Mr. Lincoln eye to eye” said Nancy.
The statue is just one of three interesting memorabilia, the other two are hanging up in the courtroom. The big painting by Shelbyville native Robert Root, examines what happened during the debate. That’s not all about this painting. Root had locals come in and model the debate for him, so anybody that sees the painting can tell who is who.
The last but certainly not least bit of memorabilia is also hanging in the courtroom, right on the wall across from the Robert Root painting. This is a portrait of Lincoln painted by German artist A.J. Schmidt in 1894. This portrait is based on an 1860 glass photograph of our sixteenth president taken by Alexander Hesler. The Hardy family had given this portrait to the courthouse when it was time to close their law firm, which was right across the road from the courthouse. When asked about what she liked the most about living in such an historic Lincoln town, she answered “seeing all the tourists.”