Abraham Lincoln takes a ride around Charleston
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Over the past two days, Abe Lincoln has been spotted at Ellen's Ice Cream on Capitol Street, Appalachian Power Park on the East End and even bicycling along Kanawha Boulevard.
On Monday, the 16th president was spotted downtown in a Pontiac convertible with Charleston Mayor Danny Jones.
The Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau hired a Lincoln re-enactor out of Louisville, Ky., to portray the 16th president for a series of videos that will be aired on the agency's website, said Tim Brady, vice president of sales.
The videos are being produced to promote Charleston during the state's 150th birthday celebration, Brady said.
"Our ultimate goal is to get people to come to Charleston for the Sesquicentennial celebration," Brady said.
Convention and Visitors Bureau staff members sat down and brainstormed ways to promote the state during its 150th birthday, said Jama Jarrett, vice president of office operations and communications.
The bureau came up with the plan to get the re-enactor, whose real name is Larry Elliott of Louisville. The bureau then applied for, and received, a $5,000 grant from the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission to pay for the project, Jarrett said.
"This is just another way for us to market our hip, historic Charleston, West Virginia," Jarrett said.
Elliott is a professional re-enactor who does a lot of work at schools. He has been portraying Lincoln since 2003.
Elliott speaks about everything from Lincoln's early years to his wartime leadership and the emancipation of the slaves.
He also discusses the turbulent prewar years and such decisions as the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed residents in the territories to vote on whether they would allow slavery.
The act led to a guerrilla war along the Kansas/Nebraska. "Bleeding Kansas," as it came to be known, became the landscape trod by such notorious villains as John Brown.
Elliott also strives to educate people about Lincoln's true motives, and that he was not necessarily all about freeing the slaves because he hated slavery.
Instead, Lincoln was concerned about preserving the Union.
"I believed, as the founding fathers did, that slavery would end, but it would die a natural death," Elliott said while standing along Capitol Street still in character as Lincoln.
However, Lincoln knew that the nation could not continue to exist if part of the country was allowed to have slaves while the other was not. Therefore, leaders would either have to allow residents in all states to own slaves or prohibit the practice in the rebelling states as well as in the north.
"I knew a house divided against itself cannot stand," Elliott said.
Elliott stood on Capitol Street Monday afternoon just outside of Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream in full Lincoln regalia including frock coat and stovepipe hat.
He moved throughout Charleston garbed as Lincoln, Brady said. The group even took Elliott to the state Capitol where he took pictures next to the sculpture "Lincoln Walks at Midnight."
Elliott not only dresses like Lincoln, he also has some other connections with the 16th President as well.
Elliott is from Hodgenville, Ky., which is the town where Lincoln was born. Elliott also discovered that his great, great, great, great grandmother, Mary LaRue Enlow, was the midwife who delivered Lincoln.
Jones had a good time driving Lincoln around town in his 1960 Pontiac Catalina convertible. But it wasn't all fun and games and Jones was also educated about Lincoln and the days leading up to the Civil War, he said.
"He gave me a history lesson," Jones said.
Elliott pointed out that Jones did not need much of a lesson and in fact the mayor was well schooled in West Virginia history.
"He's (Jones) a very intelligent person," Elliott said. "And I know this because he's (Jones) a Republican."
The videos of Elliott appearing at various Charleston landmarks around town will be posted on the Convention and Visitors Bureau's website by early to mid May, Brady said. He is also encouraging anyone who took pictures with Lincoln over the past two days to post them on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag "#CWV."
"We're trying to create a viral experience," Brady said.