In downtown Lewistown there is a soaring monument to the men who served during the Civil War. A war memorial isn’t unusual for a small central Pennsylvania city, but look a little closer, down along the base of the south-facing side, and there you’ll find the unusual.
On the monument’s base is a small granite block with the inscription, “This stone from Lincoln’s Tomb, Springfield Ill.”
Dedicated in 1906, the 64-foot Soldiers and Sailors Monument honors the Navy, Cavalry, Infantry and Artillery — one military branch on each of the four sides. Men from the Mifflin County city of Lewistown served in each of the branches, and were some of the very first recruits to respond to President Lincoln’s call in 1861.
When looking for a unique way to honor their brave men, the people of Lewistown looked to one of their own for help, George R. Frysinger, editor of the Lewistown Gazette and head of the monument committee. Frysinger had been a boyhood friend of another Mifflin County native, Major Robert B. Hoover, who was in charge of the Lincoln Memorial Foundation.
At the time, the Foundation was in the middle of a remodel of Lincoln’s Tomb in Springfield, Illinois. Frysinger asked for his old friend’s help, and it was agreed that the foundation would send a small granite block from the tomb, so it could be imbedded in the bold new Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
There is also a hidden curiosity behind the unusual 14-by-24 inch block of stone: a glass jar containing the names of Mifflin County Civil War soldiers and their corresponding war records, a Grand Army of the Republic button and badge, United States coinage representing each of the war years, and an 1895 medal commemorating the centennial of the City of Lewistown.
The stone may have traveled 750 miles from Springfield, but the monument and its other mementoes are all home-grown.