First published Feb. 16, 1984:
If February happens to be your turn to entertain the ladies' club, you may have to decide between serving Lincoln log cake or cherry pie, but chances are you may serve heart-shaped cookies instead. That is about as much thought as we give to patriotic celebrations in February nowadays. However, there was a time when February meant getting out the flags and bunting and decorating for some big celebrations.
I wonder how many people even realized that this week [in 1984] marks the 175th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth.
The first page of the program of Feb. 12, 1909 for a celebration of the centennial anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth which was held at the Presbyterian Church.
Seventy-five years ago, Westfield celebrated the centennial of Lincoln's birth with a program at the Presbyterian Church. It was under the auspices of William Sackett Post, G.A.R. Some of us can remember when a few Civil War veterans were living, but in 1909 they were a very active group.
The Jan. 27, 1909 Westfield Republican carried an announcement of the up-coming celebration and a note that "Clergy are requested to have special services the Sunday preceding February 12th." In the same paper an ad for the Citizen's Bank of Westfield contained this quotation from Abraham Lincoln, "A man's fortune is in his own hands. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich."
The Feb. 17 paper carried a report of the celebration under the headline "Honor to Lincoln." The Presbyterian Church was crowded by old and young. The services under the auspices of the G.A.R. were in charge of Patriotic Instructor P.W. Bemis. The pupils of the higher grades of Union School and High School attended in a body and occupied chairs and pews in front of the pulpit. Members of William Sackett Post also attended in a body and occupied front seats. P.W. Bemis made an appropriate opening address.
Singing was in charge of Professor H.J. Humpstone. Words to "Battle-Hymn of the Republic," "Star Spangled Banner" and "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," all verses, were printed on the program.
Rev. Delaplain, Methodist, addressed the group on the subject "Lincoln as a Man and Citizen" and Rev. MacClelland, Presbyterian, "Lincoln as President." "The service in every way was a fitting tribute to the Savior of our Country and will be long remembered by those who were present."
Even though 1909 was Lincoln's centennial year, George Washington was not forgotten. A play entitled "Heir of Mount Vernon" was presented at the Opera House in Westfield by local talent. The cast included John and Paul Welch, Frances Rood, Lucy Usborne and Minford Douglas. Music was provided by Harry Usborne's Orchestra.
Each February, Westfield's most famous story is retold - the story of the little girl, Grace Bedell, who wrote to President-elect Lincoln suggesting that he grow whiskers.
Often repeated also is the story of Lincoln's funeral train stopping in Westfield to take on wood and water, when a party of five ladies boarded the car and laid a floral wreath on the casket inscribed "Ours the Cross; Thine the Crown." One of those ladies was Clary Utley Drake, widow of Col. Jeremiah C. Drake, the Baptist minister who was probably Westfield's most famous Civil War hero.