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Remembering Abe Lincoln and Archbishop Ryan

Published February 05. 2011 09:00AM

By jim zbick

A century ago, Civil War soldiers were still answering their roll calls at meetings for local veterans' organizations such as the Grand Army of the Republic. The grizzled veterans circled occasions such as Memorial Day and the death of Abraham Lincoln on their calendars.

In 1911, the St. John's Primitive Church in Seek held a special service to honor the Great Emancipator.

"The church was artistically decorated with the national colors, cut flowers and potted plants," said a reporter for the Tamaqua Courier.

He noted that he church was "crowded to the doors" for the service, which was attended by 75 members of the Seek post of the GAR and the Breslin Camp of the Sons of Veterans out of Summit Hill.

A chaplain of the Philadelphia Battalion of the Sons of Veterans Regiment of Philadelphia was a special guest at the service.

Rev. C.W. Peters, pastor of the church, gave a stirring sermon which was accompanyed by patriotic vocal selections by "Mrs. West of Coal Dale", Miss Thomas" of Seek. "Major Davis" and five members of his band also provided the instrumental music.

Three days before the service, a writer for the Courier laid the groundwork for the special day with a patriotic editorial about Lincoln titled "The Nation's Need!'

"It would be well for all people to let their minds dwell upon the great, strong and loving character that had such a wholesome and uplifting influence upon American life," he stated.

He explained how Lincoln was just the right man at the nation's desperate hour of need, before and during the Civil War. He said the nation, in its current state of affairs, could benefit greatly from Lincoln's leadership.

"The need of the hour is for just such a man as he, just such a staunch, earnest and honest leader, just such a man who being one of the people, knew exactly the needs of the people," he wrote.

He said Lincoln was never prejudicial, biased or in awe of wealth.

"His dominant purpose during his public career was to accomplish at all times greatest good for the greatest number," he stated. "He carefully and jealously guarded the interests of the masses. He believed that the American people had certain inalienable rights that should be hedged with battlements and towers and that in those towers the sentinels of great caution should be placed on guard.

"Had he lived today, Lincoln would with that clear, fine, penetrating sight of his, have seen that this nation is slowly but surely approaching a crisis as a result of class. He would have perceived that there must be a reversion to the old method and a rearrangement of the old lines.

"His ears wold have been deaf to the cry of those who, possessing great wealth and lusting for more, cry out 'You must do nothing that will interfere with business.' The welfare of humanity, the peace and the happiness of the race were what always interested Lincoln, most of what would interest him if he were with us today."

"The nation needs a Lincoln," he said. "Shall he come forth from the East, the West, the North or the South?"

As local residents were reflecting on Lincoln's life, many were stunned to learn of the death of another public figure held in great esteem - Archbishop Patrick Ryan in Philadelphia. Like Lincoln , he was known for his eloquence and wit, and was widely acclaimed as one of the greatest orators the church in the United States had ever seen.

His leadership skills were also well-known to many anthracite coal miners. During the strike of 1900, he inspired the men while others leaders were advising caution. The bishop was asked to be an arbitrator during the strike.

During his earlier service in St. Louis during the Civil War, he became known for his faithfulness in attending the military prisoners. His later tenure in Philadelphia was characterized by the immigrant boom and he became known as an advocate of the poor and oppressed.

The archbishop always took special interest in the Indians and negroes, causes to which Lincoln also aspired. He established two congregations for negroes in Philadelphia, and under his direction, Mother Katharine Drexel founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who devoted themselves entirely to the Indians and negroes.

More proof of the archbishop's stature among Native Americans was the fact that President Roosevelt appointed him to attend the meetings of the U. S. Indian Commission. On two occasions, he spoke before the Committee of the United States Senate on Indian affairs.

His great reputation as an orator brought him invitations to speak, and he frequently preached at events such as the laying of corner-stones, consecration of bishops, and at funerals. Some of his noteworthy events included the dedication of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, and the opening of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 1900.

Today, his name is memorialized in Archbishop Ryan High School and the Archbishop Ryan School for the Deaf.

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