Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oregon, IL's Black Hawk Statue Now Officially Historic

Long a favorite landmark along the Rock River, the fifty-foot tall statue of Black Hawk was honored with a listing on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service in November. The poured concrete statue was created in 1910 by Lorado Taft, which means it will celebrate it's one hundredth anniversary this coming year. Officials figure almost half a million visitors come to Oregon to see the huge monument in Lowden State Park. Taft operated an artists' colony in Oregon called The Eagle's Nest during the early 1900's where he and his colleagues could think and dream and work. Northern Illinois University continues that vision today at the Lorado Taft Field Campus by providing outdoor education programs. In the picture above is another popular Lorado Taft sculpture known as Eternal Silence. Found in the beautiful Chicago cemetery Graceland, it was commissioned by Henry Graves as a marker for himself, his wife Clementine, his brother Loren and his parents Dexter and Olive Graves. Kate's first book Ruth by Lake and Prairie was based on research prompted by a visit to this statue. If you go around to the back of the black marble block, you will find a large brass plate inscribed: "Erected by Henry Graves, son of Dexter Graves, one of the pioneers of Chicago. Dexter Graves brought the first colony to Chicago consisting of thirteen families arriving here July 15th 1831 from Ashtabula, Ohio on the schooner Telegraph." The "Telegraph" happens to be the ship belonging to Joseph Naper, Ruth's uncle, on which Ruth sailed with her family from her old home in Ashtabula to Chicago. Researching who the other thirteen families might have been led to developing the characters in Ruth by Lake and Prairie. Kate discussed that research in an article published by the DuPage County Genealogical Society. If you are interested in learning more about tracking down these early pioneers, please see "Naperville's Original Thirteen" in the November 2006 edition of The Review. A final note of interest about the Eternal Silence monument: It frequently appears in Chicago ghost story books. Of course it is an impressively creepy image for a book about haunts, but there is also a legend that goes along with the creepiness. Supposedly you should avoid looking under the statue's hood and into his eyes. If you do meet his gaze, they say you will see the manner of your own death!

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