Owen Historical Society News: Mr. Lincoln was our special Valentine

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By Bonnie Strassell

He was a yarn-spinner and a rail-splitter. He was mostly self-educated but went on to become a storekeeper, a lawyer and the president of the United States.
He and his future wife were both born in Kentucky. He came into the world in a rough-hewn cabin, she in a luxurious home in Lexington. He was famous for his wit, honesty, and compassion; all of which served him well as he led this divided country during a most volatile tragic time.
His name is synonymous with the Civil War and he is declared one of the best presidents in the history of our nation.
Abraham Lincoln, portrayed by Williamstown resident Nelson Doyle, was the guest of honor at the Owen County Historical Society Valentine’s Day Dinner last week.
The tall, lanky Doyle, sporting a black suit, vest, bow tie, and top hat, was an entertaining dinner companion as related his journey from a retired history teacher at Grant County High School to a poignant character representation of the 16th president of the United States.
Mr. Doyle was born and raised in Mason County. He graduated from Morehead State University with a bachelor degree and received his masters from Georgetown College.
After teaching for 30 years in Grant County Nelson retired. Since 1987, he has taken on the persona of Lincoln. He is a charter member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters which has grown from 35 members in 1993 to 180 Lincolns across the country today.
The group meets annually at a convention and tours Lincoln sites in many states. Nelson relates that “it gives one a feeling of awe to sit where Lincoln sat and envision the overwhelming task he faced in keeping the country together.”
Recovering from a fall and with the assistance of a cane Nelson Doyle undauntedly took the audience on a journey to the 1860s.
We met Mr. Lincoln as a boy who struggled with the death of his mother but whose stepmother offered him solace.
We grieved with him as he lost his first love when she succumbed to sickness and rejoiced when he met his future wife, Mary Todd. We listened as Mr. Lincoln  opened his private life of an Illinois shopkeeper, postmaster and surveyor before being elected to the Illinois State House of Representatives.
We laughed as Abraham clumsily danced his way into the heart of Mary Todd, daughter of a prominent merchant and lawyer in Lexington and grieved with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln as they lost two of their four children.
In a gravely, emotion-filled voice, Nelson Doyle recounted the tumultuous years of Lincoln’s presidency and described the last few days of his life.
“Lincoln wanted no revenge on the South,” Doyle said. “But when he was killed, the administration, under the new president Andrew Johnson, demanded repercussions. The whole South suffered greatly for the act of these few men.”
After his presentation Mr. Doyle teasingly stated he was a bit nervous coming into this area of Confederate sympathies.
However, in true Owen County style, we welcomed Mr. Lincoln, aka Nelson Doyle, and in doing so, we gained insight into a husband, a father, a president and a man who made mistakes but whose love for his country was overwhelmingly demonstrated by his actions in life.
Our Valentine’s Day dinner was a great success.
Our thanks to the great cooks and kitchen staff Larry Dale Perry, Darrel Baker, Ruthie Hazlett, Christina Rice, and Stella Gibson.
Treasurer Teresa Swigert and Doris Riley ably commanded the front table as they greeted our visitors and received their money for dinner.
Chief dish washers Mary Lou Morrison and Liz Dunavent jumped in after the meeting and in no time had the dishes washed and kitchen cleaned.
Everyone pitched in to put things in order as we danced around Bobby Gibson who vacuumed the whole I.O.O.F. Hall.
Our success would not have been possible without the help of all the dedicated members who cooked the dinner, baked the cakes, decorated the hall and remained afterwards to set things aright.
We are also deeply grateful to all you Owen countians who continue to support us by your attendance at our fund raisers, by your generous donations and by your encouragement which inspires us.
We would like to invite everyone to join the historical society. Dues are $25 a year and are used for the ongoing expenses necessary to operate the museum.
Several historical society members are ill and if you are so inclined send them a note of encouragement. They are Jim Acton, Bud Dunavent and Bill Kennedy. We also regret to announce the recent loss of member Norman Smith who passed away Feb. 12. We will certainly miss the company of this true gentleman.