News & Updates

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December 2, 2022:

Here at the Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial project we are extremely grateful for the essential support of two organizations – the Abraham Lincoln Association and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation. The creation of the Illinois State Historical Society markers would not have been possible without their institutional and financial support. Thank you!

We also appreciate the kind remarks they asked to be shared at our recent unveiling of the markers at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Those remarks are below.

Many thanks, too, for the ongoing support of our local partners – the City of Peoria, the Peoria Park District, and United Union of Roofers Local #69 – who will be essential to our installing the markers on the site in 2023. Onward!

— The Abraham Lincoln Association —

The Abraham Lincoln Association, founded in 1908, is the nation’s oldest and largest Lincoln organization. Its purpose is to perpetuate the history and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. It does this in many ways, including by offering grants to worthy projects that promote the life and legacy of Lincoln.
As an organization, we were happy to provide the funding for the Nance Legins-Costley historical marker, which tells a little known but historically important story about the first enslaved person that our Great Emancipator helped free. We appreciate partnering with the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Team to commemorate this important event.
David Joens on behalf of the Abraham Lincoln Association (Director of the Illinois State Archives)

— William G. Pomeroy Foundation of New York —

We are proud to partner with the Illinois State Historical Society to make historical marker grants available throughout the Prairie State. By obtaining an Illinois historical marker, you are commemorating your community history for today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
From all of our dedicated staff and trustees at the Pomeroy Foundation, we extend our congratulations to the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Project Team, Peoria Historical Society, City of Peoria, United Union of Roofers Local #69, and the Illinois State Historical Society on your Illinois markers commemorating Moffatt Cemetery and Nance Legins-Costley.
Warm regards,
Deryn Pomeroy, Trustee
William G. Pomeroy Foundation

November 15, 2022:

We had an excellent first public unveiling of the latest two Illinois State Historical Society markers today at the Peoria Riverfront Museum!

These markers honor the more than 2,600 Peoria citizens who rest still on the site of the former Moffatt Cemetery and Nance Legins-Costley, the first African American that Abraham Lincoln helped free in 1841, who also rests there still. These two markers join the marker honoring the 52 veterans that remain on the site, as well.

Among the speakers at the event was Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial volunteer Bob Hoffer. He told the Moffatt Cemetery story and discussed the meaning of the two latest markers.


Also among the speakers were Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial volunteer Joe Hutchinson (below left), who told the story of the many veterans that remain still on the old Moffatt site without a proper memorial to their service and sacrifice, which we will rectify with this project. Also, we were delighted to have Charles Stanley join us for the unveiling. Mr. Stanley is a member of the board of Illinois State Historical Society and chairman of its Historical Marking Committee. He also read a message from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation of New York, which was a major donor toward both the Moffatt and Legins-Costley markers.

We’re excited to reach this milestone and enjoyed the show of support from roughly 50 people who attended. That included representatives of our partners – the City of Peoria and the Peoria Park District – both of whom will make this project a reality this coming spring.

We also want to thank the many donors who have brought us to this point. We especially want to thank the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, the Abraham Lincoln Association, and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War for their significant financial support and United Roofers Local #69 for donating the land of the future memorial. Many other individual contributors and institutions have provided support, as well.

We also want to thank the media organizations that came out yesterday to our marker unveiling at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, including:

WCBU-FM, Peoria Public Radio
News 25 WEEK-TV
WMBD-TV


Spreading the word about this project is essential to ensuring that those Peoria citizens who rest still at the site of the old Moffatt Cemetery are “forgotten no more”.

Go listen to/watch the stories by click on the links above.

Onward!

November 1, 2022:

Lots of action over the summer! All three of the Illinois State Historical Society markers that we will place on the future memorial site have been cast! Here they are:

The marker dedicated to Nance Legins-Costley, the first enslaved person that Abraham Lincoln helped free when he won her case before the Illinois Supreme Court in 1841.
The marker telling the overall story of Moffatt Cemetery and the 2,600 everyday citizens that rest there still.

The marker honoring the veterans who rest still at the site.

We continue to work to officially acquire the plot of land for the memorial site at the corner of Griswold and Adams on the South Side of Peoria. That site is near (just south of) where Moffatt Cemetery was located.

Also, another pretty big piece of news, as well – we have solidified our relationships with and the support of key partners! United Union of Roofers Local #69 will generously donate the property for the memorial. The City of Peoria has agreed to acquire the land and take possession of the markers. The Peoria Park District will install the markers when the time comes.

Also, the Peoria Riverfront Museum continues to be an enthusiastic supporter. You can still see the veterans marker on display there. We urge you to go see it in person! We hope to have an event there soon to display the other two markers, as well.

We also want to thank the Illinois State Historical Society and the Peoria Historical Society for their ongoing support. And of course, all of the donors – both individual and institutional – who have made this possible. In addition to those mentioned above, this includes the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the Abraham Lincoln Association, and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.

We get closer every day to making this vision a reality. Onward!

July 29, 2022:

An exciting week this week! The Peoria Riverfront Museum generously created a display of the first marker – this one dedicated to the 52 veterans that rest still at the old Moffatt Cemetery – along with accompanying information on Moffatt and the memorial project. You should stop by to check it out!

At the unveiling of the display, Freedom & Remembrance volunteer Bob Hoffer (third from right) is joined by Riverfront Museum staff members, including intern Jordan Miller (to Bob’s left); Bill Conger, Curator of Collections & Exhibitions (far right); Elizabeth Day, Assistant Curator & Collections Manager (near right); and Jordan’s parents, who came to celebrate along with us.

We can’t thank the Riverfront Museum and its staff enough for their support and making this a reality. Particular shoutout to intern Jordan Miller, who worked closely with our volunteers to design and implement the display.

To see a recorded livestream of the event, please see this post.

As for the future, the final two markers are being cast at the foundry right now, and we hope to pick them up in the next two or three weeks. Then we will be working closely with the City of Peoria and the Peoria Park District to move installation along as quickly as possible. We hope you’ll be able to join us on that special day. Onward!


July 11, 2022:

We’re beginning the process of ordering the last two markers! We hope to have a delivery date soon and then start to make plans to have the markers installed.


July 9, 2022:

Big news! Thanks to your support and the support of several local and national granting organizations, we are fully funded for the first phase of this project!

Phase 1, as we call it, will consist of the three Illinois State Historical Society markers and getting them set in the ground at the corner of Griswold and Adams near the old Moffatt Cemetery. We’ll also have a storyboard pointing people to sources of more information and thanking supporters. Again, the three markers will honor and tell the stories of the 2,600 individuals that rest there still – everyday citizens, veterans, and Nance Legins-Costley, the first enslaved person that Abraham Lincoln helped free when he won her court case in Illinois in 1841.

In total, we’ve raised $16,800. About one third of that came from individual donations, while the rest came from groups and grants. Fully 40% of the funding came from sources right here in the Peoria area, while the balance came from national granting organizations.

Among the organizations that are making Phase 1 possible are:

• The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War

• The Sons of the American Revolution

• The William G. Pomeroy Foundation

• The Abraham Lincoln Association

We also want to thank again the following organizations, who are providing essential and invaluable support and services:

• Roofers Union Local 69 in Peoria – donating the property on which the memorial will be installed

• The City of Peoria and its staff, Mayor Rita Ali, Councilwoman Denise Jackson, and Director of Public Works Rick Powers – taking ownership of the property and providing necessary legal work

• The Peoria Park District and its staff and board, including Pres. Robert Johnson, Sr., PPD Executive Director Emily Cahill, and Director of Parks Matt Freeman – installing the markers when the time comes

We also want to thank Peoria Historical Society for providing some local fundraising services. There are many, many others to thank, too – more than we can list here right now. We will celebrate everyone in time, but for now, thank you, too!

Just to preview the future of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial project, we plan to have the markers in the ground yet this year. Things look good, but you never know. Concurrently, we’re going to begin work on what we call Phase 1b and Phase 2. We hope Phase 1b will be a flag with lighting and perhaps some concrete paths. Phase 2 is a grander vision, and we’ll be organizing to make that a reality. If you’d like to help in any way, please reach out.

Thank you again for your interest and support. It’s getting real! Onward!


July 1, 2022:

Many thanks to WCBU, Peoria Public Radio, for putting together a comprehensive program on the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial project! They talked to all of our volunteers who are deeply involved in uncovering, detailing, and telling these long-forgotten stories.

Also, we very much appreciate the support expressed in the story by Mayor Rita Ali, City Manager Patrick Urich, Peoria Park District Executive Director Emily Bartanen Cahill, and 1st District Councilwoman Denise Jackson. Without the city and park district coming together – along with the generous land grand by Roofers Local 69 at the site – none of this would be possible.


June 28, 2022:

A couple of items to share! First, we want to thank WCBU, Peoria Public Radio for a fantastic interview with Emily Cahill, Executive Director of the Peoria Park District, from earlier this month. As she indicates, the Park District is one of our key partners, helping with the installation of the markers when the time comes. Let me also mention the City of Peoria Illinois – Government, which is actively helping to get the site squared away *and* has agreed to take ownership of the land that will be generously donated by the Roofers Local 69. To these three key partners, thank you in advance!

Also, a special pre-thanks again to WCBU, who will air a *half-hour* long program on our project, this Thursday, June 30, at 5:30 pm on their All Things Peoria program. You can listen at 89.9 FM, or check out their website. I’ll post a link later this week, too.


June 21, 2022:

We here at the Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial also want to thank WMBD for telling the story of Juneteenth and the stories connected to the old Moffatt Cemetery – including that of Nance Legins-Costley, the veterans, and the everyday Peorians, all of whom remain on the site after it was redeveloped in the 1950s. We have one marker completed and soon will have two more set to go so that these honored fellow citizens can have a proper memorial.


June 21, 2022:

Another excellent piece from reporter Brett Brooks of @25NewsWEEK – this time focusing on Nance Legins-Costley. Ms. Legins-Costley was the first enslaved person Lincoln helped free when he won her case before the Illinois Supreme Court in 1841. She was clearly a remarkable individual – fighting for her freedom since she was a child, refusing to give in to the system of slavery. She’s a beacon of freedom. And her final resting place is the old Moffatt Cemetery on the south side of Peoria near the corner of Griswold and Adams. We are working to place three historical markers at the corner to honor Ms. Legins-Costley’s life and contributions, as well as the veterans and 2,600 everyday Peoria citizens that still lie at the site, even thought it was commercially redeveloped in the 1950s. Thanks again for the story, which features Freedom & Remembrance Memorial volunteers Carl Adams and Jared Olar!


June 20, 2022:

Many thanks again to 25 News and reporter Brett Brooks for sharing the story of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial! Get a sneak peek at the marker that will honor the veterans who rest still at the site of the old Moffatt Cemetery near the corner of Griswold and Adams in Peoria. The other two markers are well underway. They will honor Nance Legins-Costley, the first enslaved person that Abraham Lincoln helped free, and our fellow Peoria citizens, all of whom remain at the site. Onward!


June 20, 2022:

Continuing our series connected to the Juneteenth holiday, we want to thank Brett Brooks at 25 News for her story about the Peoria-area soldiers who were at the original Juneteenth in Texas!

One of those soldiers, Nathan Ashby, rests still at the old Moffatt Cemetery near the corner of Griswold and Adams in Peoria where we are working to create a fitting memorial for these veterans, everyday Peorians, and the first enslaved person that Abraham Lincoln helped free, Nance Legins-Costley, all of whom still remain on the site.


June 19, 2022:

Happy Juneteenth! We volunteers here at the Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial are excited to celebrate this day dedicated to freedom. On June 19, 1865, union soldiers in Texas announced that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed the slaves in the Confederate states. In the years since, Juneteenth has grown in recognition as the date to celebrate the end of slavery and a “new birth of freedom”, to quote Lincoln. Today, we’ll begin a series of posts related to Juneteenth.

To begin, our own Carl Adams is deeply involved in the activities of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. He joined them for a Zoom conversation in May.

Again, Carl is the author of “The Trials of Nance”, the true story of Nance Legins-Costley, the first enslaved person that Abraham Lincoln helped free when he won her court case before the Illinois Supreme Court in 1841. Ms. Legins-Costley rests still on the site of the old Moffatt Cemetery in Peoria.

Also, Nathan Ashby was there in Galveston, Texas, as part of the 29th US Colored Infantry. Ashby also rests still at the former Moffatt Cemetery.

Through our project, we will commemorate his life, Ms. Legins-Costley, other veterans, and the everyday Peorians that today have no marker since the old cemetery was commercially redeveloped in the 1950s.


June 9, 2022:

Exciting news!!! The first of the three Illinois State Historical Society markers has officially arrived! This one honors the veterans that rest still at the site of the former Moffatt Cemetery near the corner of Griswold and Adams.

Two more markers are almost completely funded and will be cast relatively soon. Those will honor the others who remain at the site, including Nance Legins-Costley, the first enslaved person Abraham Lincoln helped free when he successfully argued her case before the Illinois Supreme Court in 1841, and the roughly 2,600 of our fellow Peoria citizens whose final resting place goes unmarked.

Freedom & Remembrance Memorial volunteers drove hours to and from the foundry, transported it home, and this week got their first look at the result. This stunning design will be duplicated for the other two markers.

Plans are underway to make the marker available for public viewing. We’ll have updates later on that. Until then, please join us as we celebrate this milestone! Onward!