News & Updates

Please also see our Facebook page for updates

February 13, 2024

We are excited to announce that the Illinois State Historical Society has informed us that the Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial project in its entirety and the supporting video have both been chosen to be honored for their contribution to the history of Illinois!

To find out more, please see our dedicated page. It has indeed been an honor to contribute to the ever-unfolding story of the great state of Illinois and its impact on the history of our nation.

June 25, 2023

Hello, everyone! We wanted to share the other recent media coverage of events closely connected with the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial. If you recall, the story of the old Moffatt Cemetery is truly regional. Nance Legins-Costley – the first enslaved person Abraham Lincoln helped free when he won her case for freedom before the Illinois Supreme Court – lies still at the site in Peoria. However, she was a long-time resident of Pekin and Tazewell County. Those communities have also created a memorial area, complete with Illinois State Historical Markers, in downtown Pekin. We encourage you to go see them and learn the history of freedom and perseverance for our entire area! For a sneak preview, check out the links to news coverage of the official dedication.

https://www.25newsnow.com/2023/06/17/pekin-renames-pocket-park-after-nance-legins-costley-her-son-pvt-william/?fbclid=IwAR0hhkx0MZbyoa6Qt_wn8od8CdyYDvXhV1YPbRRsBxClMsA6o9Kw05x484E

https://www.25newsnow.com/2023/06/16/nance-legins-costleys-family-narrative-is-remembered-pekin/?fbclid=IwAR11WOrxdOI8CUH5GA0dApTyUDlifO5vEavpbc_QzM2lufUXQ-Nf5eTiFPM

https://www.centralillinoisproud.com/news/local-news/tazewell-county-celebrates-juneteenth-with-memorial-of-1st-freed-slave/?fbclid=IwAR1gY8LWP3KGpw2NMG6yGIZH8CBJcEJQjZK0seubvjtZFBuYbubzp_VqZAM

https://www.pjstar.com/story/news/local/2023/06/16/nance-legins-costley-first-slave-freed-by-lincoln-now-being-honored/70327223007/?fbclid=IwAR3p9qjKgn7kcVcBmtAIOJRA7tdBLOcei1TdqCGnFyT-fIVIred6xJk99Ts

June 18, 2023

We were very fortunate to have the City of Peoria take some wonderful pictures of the official naming event and for news coverage from local outlets.

To see the pictures of the big day, please see this Facebook photo album from the city.

Also, enjoy this report from Brett Brooks at Channel 25 News, with a wonderful roundup of the overall Moffatt story and the event. And here is a report from WMBD-TV also covering the event.

The City of Pekin also held a series of wonderful events for which there was a lot of coverage.

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 – was a long-time resident of Pekin.

Pekin and Tazewell County have also established a memorial on Court Street in the city to this amazing citizen of Central Illinois.

To see coverage of that effort, please see these two news reports from WEEK-TV, as well as from WMBD-TV, and the Peoria Journal Star.

June 14, 2023

And the Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park is a reality!

This past week, the City of Peoria held an official naming ceremony for the memorial park. We have so many to thank for making this project a reality. It truly was a community-wide effort!

• The City of Peoria – for taking ownership of the park and the memorial

• Peoria United Union of Roofers Local #69 – for donating the land for the park and the memorial

• Peoria Park District – for installing the historical markers and maintenance of the site

• Peoria Historical Society – for providing support throughout and being our local “banker”

• Peoria Riverfront Museum – for displaying the veterans memorial marker at the PRM and ongoing support

• Peoria County Genealogical Society – for transcribing old records that document everyone that remains still on the site of the old Moffatt Cemetery

• Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society – for support and important discoveries in the old records in Pekin

• Illinois State Historical Society – for its historical markers program and ongoing support

• Abraham Lincoln Association – for financial support of the historical markers

• William G. Pomeroy Foundation – for financial support of the historical markers

• Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War – for financial support of the historical markers and the flagpole

• Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War – for financial support of the flagpole

• Peoria Chapter, National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution – for financial support of the flagpole

• Capt. Zeally Moss Chapter, National Society, Sons of the American Revolution – for financial support of the flagpole

• Peoria American Legion Post 2 – for financial support of the flagpole and for providing a color guard at the ceremony

• Peoria Housing Authority – for providing the nearby site for the ceremony

And last, but not the least bit least, thank you to the many individual donors and volunteers who have worked for several years to bring these efforts to a reality, ensuring that the more than 2,600 Peorians still buried near the memorial site will be “Forgotten no more”.

Thank you all!

June 1, 2023

A wonderful part of the creation of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial in Peoria is that it’s part of a regional effort to recognize significant forbears. Nance Legins-Costley – the first enslaved person Abraham Lincoln helped free when he won her court case before the Illinois Supreme Court in 1841 – is buried on the site of the Old Moffatt Cemetery near the memorial, but she was a longtime resident of Pekin, where she lived after winning her freedom.

The City of Pekin is holding two events to recognize Legins-Costley and her family’s history in the community. First, on Friday, June 16, at noon, the Pekin Public Library will hold an informational session on Legins-Costley. Then, on Saturday, June 17 at 10 am, the City of Pekin Illinois – Government and Tazewell County – including the Tazewell County Clerk & Recorder of Deeds – will hold a dedication ceremony in the 400 block of Court Street to celebrate a new Costley Monument, which honors Nance and her son, Pvt. William H. Costley, who was one of the original eyewitnesses of Juneteenth.

Read the post below from Freedom & Remembrance Memorial volunteer Jared Olar for more detail!

Don’t forget to start the celebration week with the City of Peoria Illinois – Government naming ceremony for the memorial in Peoria on June 14 – Flag Day – at 10 am at the site of the memorial, 3917 SW Adams Street.

Onward!

May 26, 2023

For anyone interested in a more in-depth presentation of the Moffatt Cemetery story, see the PDF below. It was assembled by memorial volunteer Bob Hoffer as part of what was presented to the Peoria City Council in advance of the council approving the project. Enjoy!

May 19, 2023

The official ceremony for the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial is a GO! It will be on Flag Day, June 14, at 10 am across from the site. See the official press release from the City of Peoria Illinois – Government below. Onward!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Stacy Peterson, Strategic Communications Manager

speterson@peoriagov.org/ 309.494.8560

City to Hold Program for Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park on June 14 Park is located near the previous site of Moffatt Cemetery in South Peoria

The City of Peoria will host a program on Flag Day, Wednesday, June 14 at 10:00 AM to acknowledge the naming of a parcel located at 3917 S.W. Adams Street as Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park. The program will be held across the street at the

corner of West Montana and South Griswold Streets. Street parking will be available.

In 1836, this parcel was part of a larger tract of land granted to Aquilla Moffatt and subsequently became known as Moffatt Cemetery. Between the 1850s and 1905, more than 2,700 persons were buried there as well as remains of unknown persons placed in a mass grave after being removed from another Peoria cemetery. In 1)1905, the Peoria City Board of Health ordered the closure of the cemetery which was then abandoned. Records show that by the 1950s the property was untended and overgrown, many gravestones had been removed or damaged, and the cemetery records were said to be lost. The area was then prepared for commercial development and street expansion. Around 100 individuals are known to have been removed to other cemeteries from 1887-1936, including nine members of the Moffatt family. However, more than 2,600 Peoria residents remain buried at the site. Included are 52 veterans, 49 of whom are Union Civil War veterans, and Nance Legins-Costly, the first enslaved person that Abraham Lincoln helped free when he won her case before the Illinois Supreme Court in 1841. Several buried there have links to the American Revolution.

A group of local volunteers has led the effort to create Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial, which includes three large Illinois State Historical Society markers, a lighted flagpole, and an information storyboard. The mission of these volunteers was to establish a “fitting tribute to these forgotten citizens of Peoria.” Their efforts have received national recognition from the Illinois State Historical Society, the Abraham Lincoln Association, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation of New York.

The memorial site was donated by the United Union of Roofers Local #69 for a nominal amount and approved for purchase by the City Council at the February 22, 2023, meeting.

Questions may be directed to the City of Peoria by calling Stacy Peterson at 309.494.8560 or speterson@peoriagov.org. Please refer questions to the Memorial Project Team at hello@peoriafreedommemorial.org

May 12, 2023

Friends of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial, the markers are UP! Many thanks to the crew of the Peoria Park District for installing them. Feel free to head on down to see them in person!

Also on hand for the installation was United Roofers Local #69 Business Manager Steven Peterson. We can’t thank Local #69 enough for donating the land to make this memorial possible and Steve for his support over the years.

As we’ve mentioned, a formal event opening the park is tentatively scheduled for June 14 – Flag Day – at 10 am. Details are still being settled, but save the date.

Onward!

May 3, 2023

SAVE THE DATE! We have a tentative schedule for an official ceremony commemorating the Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial! As of right now, it looks like there will be an event on Flag Day – quite fitting, really – exactly six weeks from today on Wednesday, June 14, at 10 a.m. It will be across from the site of the memorial at the corner of Griswold and Adams in Peoria. Once we’re able to confirm everything, we’ll let you know. Hope to see you all soon to celebrate the culmination of this effort!

April 26, 2023

The memorial continues to come together! Last night the City of Peoria agreed to officially rename the site acquired from United Roofers Local #69 to “Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park”! It was a unanimous vote by the council. We can’t thank all of the council members and the city staff for their help with and support for this effort. A special thanks goes out to 1st District council member Denise Jackson for her kind words before officially putting in the motion. See all of the action on YouTube below. Onward!

April 22, 2023

As the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial moves closer to becoming a reality this summer, we want to share a special story about the support this effort has received.

Two years ago, our team attended the 1st annual Freedom Fest held by the Southside Community Center to celebrate Juneteenth. Volunteer Bob Hoffer was on hand to tell the Moffatt Cemetery story and answer questions.

After his presentation, he was approached by a woman in a wheelchair, who asked, “Will this memorial honor the veterans?” Bob replied, “Yes,” and she said, “Stay right here.”

She zoomed off on her powered wheelchair, with the little safety flag flying in the wind, bouncing over the grass toward the Harrison Homes housing area across Krause Street. A short while later, she bounced back across the lawn and handed Bob a small Tootsie Roll bank.

“Please take this and put it toward the memorial for the veterans,” she said. “I have been saving this, but didn’t know what for until today.”

Later when the little cardboard bank was opened, it contained $2.96. This was the first cash donation toward the memorial.

That bank is still today at the Peoria Historical Society, one of our partners. And we can only say thank you to her and to so many who have given of their time, effort, and yes, cash, to make this possible. We’ll recognize everyone in time, but this first donor – who wants to remain anonymous – will always have a special place in our hearts.

April 19, 2023

While the main objective of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial project has been to create a tangible, public space to honor long-forgotten Peoria-area forebears, an unexpected and very fortunate discovery also allows us to get a window into their lives. Much of what we know about the old Moffatt Cemetery comes from undertaker records that were rediscovered as part of the team’s research. Those records include numerous details that paint a portrait of life in Peoria during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The images below summarize some of that information, but a few items stand out:

• While most of those buried at Moffatt were native to Illinois, many came from other parts of the U.S. and from Europe. Immigration, both internally and internationally, was alive and well.

• Early childhood was dangerous. More than half of those buried at Moffatt are infants or below the age of five. Always a challenge, parenting came with additional sadness at that time.

• Of the causes of death that we know, many were from diseases that are well under control now.

Special thanks to our project associate and local genealogist Cathy Butler Pipkins who searched out the information for these charts!

April 14, 2023

Friends of the Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial! We have flags! On Wednesday the 12th, our friends at Peoria Flag & Decorating stopped by the site at the corner of Griswold and Adams to install the flagpole, lighting, and the flags themselves. It’s all really taking shape now!

March 31, 2023

As the memorial begins to take shape, we here at this project have been amazed and delighted at the discoveries made along the way. One big one, of course, is that Nance Legins-Costley – the first enslaved person Abraham Lincoln helped free – is buried on the site of the old Moffatt Cemetery. Through research into her life, it was also discovered that her daughter and Civil War veteran husband lived in Peoria and are buried at Springdale Cemetery. However, they had no gravestones to mark their final resting place. In a separate effort, F&RM volunteers and the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War stepped up to fix this injustice. Below is the story of Edward Lewis, written by project volunteer Jared Olar, local historian at the Pekin Public Library. Onward!

For nearly 116 years, the grave of Civil War veteran Pvt. Edward Lewis (1834-1907) of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry lacked a stone to mark his final resting place in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria. But this spring, thanks to the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, a Civil War veteran’s marker was placed on his grave. Pvt. Lewis was born into slavery in Petersburg, Virginia, the son of Ambrose and Phillis Lewis, but obtained his freedom later, perhaps when he was brought to Illinois. About the mid-1800s, his family came to Illinois. Though his parents and siblings settled in the East St. Louis area, Edward made his home in Central Illinois. In March 1858 in Pekin, he married Amanda E. Costley (1834-1900), eldest child of Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892), known to history as the first African-American to be freed from slavery with the help of Abraham Lincoln when he won her court case before the Illinois Supreme Court in 1841. By 1863, Edward and Amanda were living in Peoria, where they raised a family of five sons – Edward Jr., William, Ambrose, Jesse, and John – and an adopted daughter (Edward’s niece) Margaret. Edward worked for many years as a Peoria tobacconist, later working as a musician and music teacher, also employing his cooking skills in Peoria eating houses. Answering his nation’s call, he enlisted in the Union Army on 28 Sept. 1864 at Springfield, serving until the war’s end, being mustered out at Springfield on 23 May 1865. While in the service, he had the rank of private, and the Union Army employed him as a cook. His wife Amanda died in Peoria on 5 Feb. 1900 and was buried in Springdale Cemetery. (Though her grave is not yet marked, efforts have begun to raise funds to provide a stone for her.) Pvt. Lewis’ Peoria Star obituary says he died 1 April 1907 at home: “Edward Lewis age 76 years, died of dropsy at 114 Hancock in Peoria. He is a Civil War veteran and a member of the Masons. 3 sons survive. Services April 3 with burial in Springdale.” The legacy of Pvt. Edward Lewis includes a grandson, William Cecil Lewis, who studied science at Bradley University and served in the U.S. Army during World War I; and two families of living descendants of Pvt. Lewis’ third son Ambrose.

March 29, 2023

As the elements of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial begin to go up (see the last post), we want to acknowledge one important part of this project that has come down. All the way back in 2017, a special memorial service was held near the site of the old Moffatt Cemetery, and a banner was installed honoring the veterans who rest there still. (The ones we knew of at the time. More have been discovered.) Well, that banner has been through a lot over the years, weathering sun, rain, and storms. Earlier this month, we retired the banner in anticipation of the great things to come. Many thanks to F&RM volunteer Bob Hoffer for taking care of this important step. Onward!

March 28, 2023

The first physical part of the Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial went up TODAY! Many thanks to our partner the Peoria Park District for installing the posts that will hold the three Illinois State Historical Society markers and a separate informational sign.

If you recall, recently United Roofers Local #69 granted the land to the City of Peoria, clearing the way for construction to begin. We’re on our way!

Many other developments are taking place, as well. We’ll keep you updated here and on our website over the next couple of weeks. Onward!

March 16, 2023:

Friends of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial, more big news today! Local #69 of the United Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers has officially gifted to the City of Peoria the property on which the memorial will be constructed! In these photos, Local #69 Business Manager Steven Peterson is signing the papers.

The local’s headquarters is immediately adjacent to the site, and they’ve long supported this effort. We can’t thank Roofers Local #69, Mr. Peterson, and the City of Peoria enough for taking this significant step toward making the memorial a reality. Many thanks to the city for the photos, as well.

If you recall, just over two weeks ago the Peoria City Council unanimously voted to acquire the property (technically for a nominal fee of $10) and entered into an agreement with our other major partner, the Peoria Park District, to establish and maintain the memorial.

Things are moving fast, and we’re looking forward to the next few months. Onward!

March 13, 2023:

One exciting part of this project is how it has become a regional recognition of our heritage. In addition to the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial in Peoria, the City of Pekin has also decided to establish a memorial to Nance Legins-Costley!

Legins-Costley is the most high-profile of those who rest still at the site of the former Moffatt Cemetery on Peoria’s south side. Abraham Lincoln helped her to finally win her freedom by successfully arguing her case before the Illinois Supreme Court, finishing years of a legal battle on her part.

Though she is buried in Peoria, she lived for years in Pekin. For more on Pekin’s steps to recognize her legacy, please see this article from F&RM volunteer Jared Olar of the Pekin Public Library.

Also, enjoy this article from Phil Luciano at Peoria Magazine, in which he gives further details on Nancy Legins-Costley and the progress toward the memorial.

February 29, 2023:

Following up on some of our key partners officially coming together to put the creation of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial on track, please enjoy some of the following media coverage:

Brett Brooks at WEEK-TV Channel 25 News produced this story on the Peoria City Council’s vote to acquire the land for the site from Roofers Local #69 and to partner with the Peoria Park District to establish and maintain the site.

If you want to watch our segment of the city council meeting, featuring volunteer Bob Hoffer, head to the City of Peoria’s YouTube feed here.

Onward!


BIG NEWS! February 28, 2023:

We’re excited to announce that the Peoria City Council voted to acquire the land for the site. This sets in motion the final stages of constructing the Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial.

The council unanimously agreed to accept the land donated by Roofers Union Local #69. Also, the City of Peoria and the Peoria Park District have formally agreed to join together to establish and maintain the site.

Also, donations continue to come in to allow a lighted flagpole to be erected on the site.

It’s looking like the pieces have come together to create the memorial in the first half of 2023. Onward!


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!