Lost Piece of Peoria History Finds a New Home at Sprindgale

On October 11, 1866, a 30-foot pillar memorializing Peoria County’s Civil War dead was dedicated outside the courthouse downtown in front of a crowd of 30,000 people. One hundred and fifty-three years plus one day later, on October 12, 2019, this long-lost monument was rededicated in its new home, just inside the entrance of Springdale Cemetery.

Known to many locals simply as “The Shaft,” the monument may have been the first Civil War memorial in the state, going up just a year and a half after the end of the war. It stood tall in downtown Peoria for 96 years, serving as a gathering point for generations of Peorians, but was removed in 1962 during construction of the current courthouse.

Rather than being stored, the monument’s pieces were scattered around the city. An effort to recover them began in 2017 under the leadership of Bruce Brown, Norman Kelly and Bob Hoffer. They found chunks of the pillar and the 13,000-pound base, but could not locate the uppermost pieces of the column nor the bald eagle known as “Old Abe” that once adorned the top of the monument.

Attendees in period dress at the unveiling.
Bob Brown speaks during the rededication ceremony.

That didn’t stop Brown, Kelly, Hoffer and other local volunteers from moving forward, however. They launched a fundraising campaign to procure the $75,000 necessary to rebuild The Shaft. A $10,000 matching gift from the Springdale Historic Preservation Foundation, generous public donations and an appropriation from the state of Illinois for improvements at the cemetery made the reconstruction possible.

In an interesting twist of history, the new top of the column and the new eagle topper were reproduced by the same company that created the original monument.

Members of the “Restore The Shaft” team hope the rebuilt monument will stand for many more years than the original memorial, serving as a visible reminder to all to respect our nation’s fallen soldiers.

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