Director Mike Lelys with Arborist Guy Sternberg

A Living Memorial

The Oak Ridge Cemetery’s Living Memorial is to build an oak arboretum propagated from rare, historic and champion specimens worldwide by the founding president of the International Oak Society.

Because of the overwhelming desire to honor and memorialize the tragic losses that occurred on September 11, 2001 (9-11) the United States Congress asked the USDA Forest Service to create the Living Memorials Project (LMP). This initiative invokes the resonating power of trees to bring people together and create lasting, living memorials to the victims of terrorism, their families, communities, and the nation. Cost-share grants provided by the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry supported the design and development of community projects in the New York City metropolitan area, southwest Pennsylvania, and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In the Southern Area (Region 8), the Forest Service worked with officials from the Pentagon, American Forests and Arlington County on developing additional memorial sites.

The concept of planting “living memorials” is not new. For centuries, humans have used nature as a symbolic and innate response to mark the cycles of life. The LMP attempted to amplify community actions in the post-9-11 context and to connect these decentralized, yet common, threads of expression and hope.

Jamieson Jenkins

Jamieson Jenkins Grave Marker Rededication- – 20 Sep 2012 | Samuel P. Wheeler

The Sangamon County Historical Society has teamed up with several other local organizations to restore the grave marker of a Springfield citizen who played a key role in redefining the meaning of freedom in the United States. 

In the mid-1840s, an African American named Jamieson Jenkins moved his family to Springfield, Illinois.  He established himself as a drayman (someone who carries goods in a two-wheeled horse-drawn cart) and eventually bought a house on the east side of Eighth Street, between Jackson and Edwards Streets, about a half-block south of the Lincoln home.

 An active member of the Second Presbyterian Church, a congregation sympathetic to the plight of the American slave, Jenkins became an active member of the Underground Railroad in Springfield.  Newspaper accounts from early 1850, for instance, detail how Jenkins assisted seven fugitive slaves travel the sixty miles north from Springfield to Bloomington, IL.

 In addition to living close to the Lincoln home and being a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Springfield during Lincoln’s residency in the town, Jenkins has yet another curious footnote in the Lincoln story.  Jenkins drove Lincoln on his last carriage ride in Springfield, when he drove the president-elect from his hotel room at the Chenery House to his train at the Great Western Railroad depot, where Lincoln gave his “Farewell to Springfield” speech and departed for Washington, D.C.      

 On February 3, 1873, at the age of 62, Jenkins died and was buried in the “Colored Section” of Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.  However, in recent years, his grave marker has been in need of repair.

 The Abraham Lincoln Association has restored a number of grave markers of individuals who knew Lincoln and are buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery.  Previous projects have included the grave markers of Judge Samuel H. Treat and Lincoln photographer Christopher Smith German. 

 The ALA, along with the Arnold Monument Company and Oak Ridge Cemetery, have recently restored Jenkins’ grave marker.  The Sangamon County Historical, along with the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Oak Ridge Cemetery Foundation, and Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum, contributed to the Jamieson Jenkins marker restoration project. 

 By partnering with other local history institutions to help restore Jamieson Jenkins’ grave marker, the Sangamon County Historical Society is not only fulfilling its mission of “preserving and promoting the history of central Illinois,” but it is also playing a role in honoring an important individual who played a transformative role in American history. 

To read more about Jamieson Jenkins and the Underground Railroad in Springfield, visit this detailed article by former ALA and SCHS president Richard E. Hart: