A Birthday To Remember
204 Years After His Birth, ‘Movie Star’ Lincoln’s Valley Connection Can Still Surprise
Posted: February 13, 2013
Lincoln Society of Virginia President Phillip Stone discusses the Lincoln heritage and family lineage Tuesday at the Lincoln Homestead Cemetery north of Harrisonburg. The ceremony commemorating the 204th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth also marked the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. (Photos by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
Lincoln Society of Virginia President Phillip Stone talks Lincoln on Tuesday at the Lincoln Homestead Cemetery north of Harrisonburg. The Lincoln Society was commemorating President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday for the 38th time.
Lincoln family members’ graves are preserved at the cemetery.
“It’s fascinating,” he said of the discovery.
Tuesday was the 204th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. For the 38th time, the Lincoln Society of Virginia held a ceremony in his honor at the Lincoln Cemetery, which sits on a family homestead six miles north of Harrisonburg on Va. 42.
Originally, the homestead was the residence of Jacob Lincoln, the brother of President Lincoln’s grandfather.
About 150 people gathered at the small graveyard Tuesday. That included Rathburn, 44, who discovered in the past year that he is a descendant of Jacob Lincoln’s father.
His sister, Ginger Blum — both of them live in Staunton — helped with the research that led to the discovery. Their only regret is that they didn’t find the link sooner so their father, Richard Rathburn, could have visited the cemetery.
The elder Rathburn died six years ago.
The Lincoln family footprint on the area is large. During the Civil War, descendants of Jacob Lincoln lived in the circa-1800 brick house at the homestead. They were slave owners.
In the family cemetery, the last of the slaves are buried with five generations of Lincolns, including Jacob and President Lincoln’s great-grandparents, who settled near Linville Creek in 1768.
Despite his ties to the area, Abraham Lincoln never lived in Virginia. His father, Thomas Lincoln, was born in Rockingham County, but the president’s grandfather relocated Thomas and his family to Kentucky before Abraham Lincoln was born in the Bluegrass State on Feb. 12, 1809.
Lincoln, the 16th president, was shot on April 14, 1865, and died early the next day. He is buried in Springfield, Ill.
There is an Abraham Lincoln buried in the local cemetery, one of Jacob Lincoln’s 11 children, who died in 1851. The last burial there was in 1938.
Lights, Camera, Lincoln
Former Bridgewater College President Phillip Stone, president of the Lincoln Society of Virginia, leads the local birthday event each year. He focused his speech Tuesday on Lincoln’s signature act, the Emancipation Proclamation, marking its 150th anniversary this year.
But this year was unique for another reason: It was an opportunity to reflect on the special attention tossed Lincoln’s way in the past year.
Director Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed historical drama “Lincoln” hit theaters in the fall and is one of the leading contenders for Best Film as well as several other Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards later this month.
A documentary, “Killing Lincoln,” based on a recent book by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, debuts on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday.
And then there was last summer’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” in which Lincoln seeks to repel a U.S. takeover by — who else? — vampires.
Stone said O’Reilly’s book satisfies people with casual interest in Lincoln, though it does not go into the “scholarly depth” that Stone personally prefers.
He had more praise for Spielberg’s piece, particularly the actor who portrayed Tuesday’s birthday boy.
“Daniel Day-Lewis was as close to Abraham Lincoln in real life as you could imagine,” Stone said. “And I don’t like movies. I don’t go to them. I’m hard to impress.”
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