Illinois News

Pittsfield wedding reenactment to celebrate Pike County's Lincoln roots

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 13, 2018 7:35 am

PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- The city of Pittsfield will celebrate its connection to Abraham Lincoln by commemorating one of its most famous marriages this weekend.

The inaugural Nicolay Hay Day will be on June 15 -- 153 years after the wedding of Therena and John G. Nicolay, a Pittsfield resident and Abraham Lincoln's private secretary. The wedding, held only two months after Lincoln was assassinated, happened in the home of the Bates family -- the site at which Whitetail Properties currently stands.

The wedding reenactment will feature actors in period attire for each of the major characters involved in the original wedding -- John and Therena Nicolay, John Hay and Rev. Burnham. The reenactment will be held on the lawn of the Pike County Courthouse, the original site of the wedding reception. An ice cream reception will be held after the wedding reenactment, commemorating the fact that the wedding marked the introduction of ice cream to Pike County.

"There are so many connections here that have not been made public for many years and were essentially covered up in history," said Bob Evans, Pike County Historical Society president. "I think this will cause people to want to come back and learn more about these guys."

Both Hay and Nicolay came to Pittsfield to attend the Thompson Academy. Nicolay eventually became the owner of the Free Press newspaper, and his editorial supporting Lincoln's candidacy is generally credited with helping Lincoln ascend to the presidency. Nicolay served as Lincoln's private secretary, and Hay eventually became secretary of state,

"These two men had tremendous influence on what Lincoln thought and what he did," he said.

Nicolay Hay Day is also a celebration of Illinois' bicentennial.

State Sen. Sam McCann and State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer will both speak at the event. Pittsfield Mayor John Hayden, President Gerald Ford's personal attorney Greg Willard and renown sculptor Ruth Abernathy, who completed the busts of Lincoln, Nicolay and Hay that are displayed on the lawn of the Courthouse, will also speak prior to the wedding reenactment.

There will be more festivities on Saturday, such as courthouse and museum tours. Evans said the committee that has spent the several months coordinating the two-day event hopes it will become an annual tradition.

For more information on Nicolay Hay Day and a complete event schedule, visit

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