Stuyvesant, Hudson lead efforts to honor Lincoln’s death

HUDSON–Columbia County will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination throughout March and April. The first event is scheduled for Thursday, March 5, at 7 p.m. at the Stuyvesant Town Hall, 5 Sunset Drive, Stuyvesant, when author Jack McEneny will speak on “Lincoln’s Final Journey to Albany.” The events will culminate April 25, the date in 1865 when the train carrying the bodies of the president and his son, who had died earlier in Washington, stopped at Hudson and Stuyvesant on its way to Illinois.

Envisioned events include bonfires, music, skits, gun salutes, draped buildings and ringing bells. “All events are free,” according to a brochure of the Stuyvesant Hudson Funeral Train Committee. Those interested in working on the events should contact Richard Anderson, 518 758-6433, Ann Songayllo 518 610-2300, Hudson Deputy Mayor Gene Shetsky 518 828-7217 and , or go to facebook.com/LincolnFuneralTrain2015. Meetings to review preparations and possibilities are scheduled in Hudson, Friday, March 20 at 10 a.m., and Stuyvesant Town Hall, Saturday, March 21, at 9 a.m.

Several places along the multistate funeral route will hold events, but Stuyvesant was one of the first to organize and begin working on such events. “I give the committee credit for organizing it. They’ve worked very hard. The town supports their efforts,” said Stuyvesant Supervisor Ron Knott by telephone February 26.

As the special train bearing Lincoln’s remains proceeded toward Illinois, mourners lined the tracks with fire, wreaths and ceremony along the entire route. But observers at the time reportedly described Hudson’s efforts as unusual.

Mr. Shetsky has asked for donations to help cover the estimated $5,500 cost of the commemoration events. Contributors should send checks to Columbia Economic Development Corporation, 4303 Rte. 9, Hudson, NY 12534. Checks should be made out to “CEDC/Lincoln Funeral Train.” Donations are tax deductible.

In addition organizers are applying for grants, Mr. Shetsky said at a February 20 meeting in Hudson.

That gathering included an overview of the events under preparation.

Ms. Osterink is planning a reenactment of the “weird” ceremony Hudson held for slain president–a description she attributes to a contemporary observer. That performance will be at 8:45 p.m. April 25 near Basilica Hudson and the Hudson railroad station. “We will soon have auditions for 35 young women,” to sing period funeral dirges, Ms. Osterink said.

Stephanie Monseu of the Bindlestiff Family circus is making costumes and Ms. Osterink wants to use “20 real torches.” But Mr. Shetsky reminded the meeting that events using fire need approval from fire officials, and a Daughters of the American Revolution representative suggested using light emitting diodes. The event will also require crossing the tracks, and Mr. Shetsky said he is speaking to an Amtrak Official to make sure it will not disrupt service.

Elena Mosley of Operation Unite plans both an indoor display and an outside event. She hopes to use the Hudson Area Library for the indoor event, because the library is child friendly and some families are used to going there. The outdoor one, she hopes, will reach youth and young adults. Possibilities include a skit about issues facing African Americans in the 1860s. Ms. Mosley also expressed an interest in period costumes. And, acknowledging Hudson’s Bengali population, she called the commemorations “a chance for people new to America to become part of the American fabric.”

Mr. Shetsky said he hopes Hudson will follow Stuyvesant, which is building “an archway across the tracks.”

Nancy Gurino of the Greenport Historical Society expressed hope that the Hudson station will commemorate the Lincoln Funeral Train with a prominent display.

The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution plans an exhibit of the Emancipation Proclamation and other related topics at 113 Warren Street in Hudson. It will be open to the public April 24 to 26, and by appointment for school groups.

Stuyvesant’s April 25 events will take place at the river landing, starting in early afternoon, Ms. Songayllo said by phone February 26.

Claverack and Hillsdale responded when the Stuyvesant Committee reached out to other communities in Columbia County, Ms. Songayllo added. Now these towns also want to participate. Additional places along the funeral train route, such as Peekskill, are planning their own events.

The idea for a big commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination arose when a group of retired railroad engineers in Springfield, IL, decided to re-create the funeral train, according to Mr. Shetsky. As they built replicas of the engine, the coal car, and one funeral coach, their idea expanded to events along the route. They sent out feelers to pertinent towns, and Stuyvesant—involved with restoring its railroad station—embraced the occasion.

But the train replica will not be able to travel on the tracks, even along the sections that run along the original route, because that could disrupt Amtrak and freight schedules. So the replica train will arrive atop tractor trailers pulled by trucks. That’s expensive: $75,000 for each stop.

Where there still are tracks and sidings, as there are near the Hudson station, the replica train can be lifted on to the sidings and offer rides. But Mr. Shetsky indicated on February 20 that, so far, Columbia County is not planning this.

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