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The Quincy Public Library to Celebrate 125th Anniversary, Part II

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Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the Republic candidate, and U.S. Senator Stephen Douglas (1813-1861), the Democratic candidate, held the sixth of their seven debates (for the 1858 U.S. Senate election in Illinois) in Quincy. At the time, state legislatures elected federal senators to represent state governments.

Having already spoken in Springfield and Chicago, Lincoln and Douglas agreed to appear together in the state’s other seven congressional districts. A crowd of over 10,000 people came to see the famed orators debate the issues of slavery and national unity on October 13, 1858.

In 1870, the population of Quincy surpassed that of Peoria, making it the second-biggest city in the state. The Downtown Historic District has a number of picturesque buildings and a monument in Washington Park to commemorate where the sixth Lincoln-Douglas Debate was held.

One of these buildings is the former Gardener Museum of Architecture & Design. The Gardener Museum occupied a lovely Victorian structure built in the Romanesque style as Quincy’s first public library building.

When the Gardener Museum closed, the Board of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County acquired its assets. The Historical Society Board has asked the Great River Economic Development Foundation “to help determine the level of public support for keeping the museum open.”

In this district, one will also find Villa Katherine, a Moorish-style residence sometimes branded as a castle. An affluent Quincy resident, W. George Metz, had it built on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in 1900. A world traveler, Metz had fallen in love with Islamic architecture of the Mediterranean, especially as he found it in Morocco, and gave sketches to architect George Behrensmeyer.

According to legend, he built the opulent home to house himself and a woman he met on his travels who either refused to settle in Illinois with him or was supposed to follow him and died en route. Whatever the case, he sold the home in 1912 and it fell into disrepair.

The group Friends of the Castle restored it, finishing in 1998. It is now the City of Quincy’s tourist center.

The South Side German Historic District includes Dick Brothers Brewery Building, Gem City College, Salem Evangelical United Church of Christ, and a number of other noteworthy buildings, many of which reflect the heritage of 19th Century German immigrants. It also includes Woodland Cemetery, which opened in 1847, making it one of the oldest cemeteries in the state. The Quincy Public Library, though not a historic building, is located in the South Side German Historic District, at 526 Jersey Street.

In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau found Quincy had a population of 40,366. That same year. Forbes declared it the eighth-best small city in which to raise a family.

The Oakley-Lindsay Center, built at a cost of $8,000,000, opened in downtown Quincy in 1995. It is the micropolitan region’s convention center.

In June of 2008, during terrible flooding in much of the Midwest, the Oakley-Lindsay Center became a focal point for sandbagging efforts. Senator Barack H. Obama, Jr., then a presidential candidate, paid a visit on Saturday, June 14, 2008.

Mark McDonald interviewed Q.P.L. Research Librarian Iris Nelson about Sister Caroline Hemesworth’s biography From Slave to Priest: The Inspirational Story of Father Augustine Tolton (1854-1897), amongst others, in an episode of Illinois Stories. He pointed out in the documentary that if Fr. Tolton is canonized (recognized as a saint by the Holy See), St. Boniface Church in Quincy, which is now shuttered, may become a shrine.

This is certainly possible. Fr. John Augustine Tolton, also known as Augustus Tolton, was born into slavery in Missouri, but he was raised in Quincy, Illinois because his mother found the wherewithal to runaway to freedom with her children. He had to leave St. Boniface School in Quincy because it came under threat for his presence.

Thanks to Fr. Peter McGirr, he attended St. Peter’s School in Quincy and St. Frances Solanus College (a Franciscan school that changed its name to Quincy College in 1925 and more recently changed its name to Quincy University).

Several Franciscan priests also gave him private lessons, but no American seminary would accept him, so he completed his education at the Collegium Urbanum de Propaganda Fide in Rome. He was ordained at St. John Lateran Cathedral in Rome in 1886.

He celebrated Mass for the first time at St. Peter’s Basilica on April 25, 1886, celebrated Mass at Hoboken, New Jersey on July 7, 1886, and celebrated Mass at St. Boniface Church in Quincy on July 18, 1886. He became pastor of St. Joseph Church.

The parish he founded in Chicago, St. Monica Church, in 1891 merged with St. Elizabeth Church long ago. After he died of a sunstroke at Mercy Hospital at the age of forty-three, his funeral was held at St. Peter’s Church in Quincy.

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