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Springfield Dominican Sisters’ Connection to Lincoln’s Tomb
"If I had had my Sisters of St. Dominic near, they would not disappoint me!"
So said General Sherman the night before the planned unveiling of President Lincoln's Tomb and Monument. During the Civil War, then some nine years past, the "Nuns of the Battlefield" were well known to have served in conditions as harsh as those fighting the battles. President Grant wanted to acknowledge their sacrifice by having two sisters participate in the tomb unveiling.
Father Burke, an Irish priest from Springfield, was sent with a telegraph to Jacksonville, where the sisters had lived for just more than a year. Father Burke was well-known for his love of jokes and jests, so upon hearing the news, Sister Josephine did not take him seriously. It wasn't until he showed her the actual telegraph that she realized the gravity of the invitation. With just a few short hours to prepare, travel, and learn their roles in the ceremony, Sister Josephine and Sister Rachel made their way to Springfield and took their place beside President Grant to assist in the grand unveiling.
Sister Mary Josephine Meagher, OP
Sister Mary Rachel Conway, OP
This is an exact transcription of the text from the Illinois State Register, February 14, 1911. The transcription is faithful to the content of the original, including spelling and style anomalies. It is also inaccurate in some of its facts and details.
Death of Sister Rachael Conway on Sunday Night.
Half an Hour After 102nd Birthday Anniversary of Lincoln Ends, Nun who Pulled Veil Off His Bronze Figure Dies.
By peculiar coincidence, just one half hour after the passing of the one hundred and second anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, Sister Rachael Conway, one of the two Dominican sisters, who, on Oct. 15, 1874, unveiled the bronze statue of Lincoln on the stately monument that marks the resting place of the great emancipator in Oak Ridge cemetery, passed away at the Convent of the Sacred Heart at the mature age of 91 years.
She had been in failing health for some years past and her death occurred at 12:30 o’clock yesterday morning.
When seeking some one to unveil the monument of the martyred president, Governor Oglesby chose sister Rachael with sister Josephine, both of the Mother Convent of the Dominican Order at Jacksonville. Sister Josephine is still living at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in this city.
Many Notable Speakers
The dedication of the Lincoln monument on Oct. 15, 1874, was a brilliant affair, no less than six hundred of the officers of the Army of the Tenneesee being present. The Society of the Army of the Tennesse had made it a point to hold their annual reunion in this city on the occasion of the dedication of the monument, and in addition to Governor Oglesby, who presided at the ceremony as president of the National Lincoln Monument Memorial Association, the speakers were General William T. Sherman, president at that time of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, Geneal U. S. Grant and General U. F. Linder. Among other officers in attendance besides those named were General Phil Sheridan, General Irvin McDowell and General G. M. Dodge. General Dodge, who now resides in Omoha Neb., is now president of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee.
Major Edward S. Johnson, the present custodian of the National Lincoln monument, was the commander of the Governor’s Guard, which organization escorted the officers of the Army of the Tennessee to the National Lincoln monument.
The Society of the Army of the Tennessee held its sessions in the old Chatterton opera house, northeast corner of Sixth and Washington streets, which was burned, and their banquet was held at the Leland hotel on the night of the second days’ session.
Sixty-five years in the Order
Sister Rachel Conway was one of the pioneer members of the Dominican Order in this state, spending sixty-five years of her life in religious work.
Sister Rachael was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1820, and twenty years later joined the Dominican order of Nuns at Sinsinwa, Wis., and was sent some years later to a convent of the order in Kentucky, whence she came to Jacksonville which was then the headquarters of the diocese of Alton. She was a talented musician and while at Jacksonville, taught music.
She has been at the Sacred Heart Convent in this sty since 1893.
The funeral will be held at the convent at 9 o’clock to-morrow morning and the interment will be made in Calvary cemetery.
Dominican Sisters’ Invocation at Oak Ridge Cemetery Gate for 2015 Lincoln Funeral
Sister Philip Neri Crawford, OP delivered the invocation at the re-dedication of the Third Street gateway entrance to Oak Ridge Cemetery on December 3, 2014. Two of our foundresses, Sister Josephine Meagher and Sr. Rachel Conway, were called upon to unveil the statue at Lincoln's Tomb on October 14, 1874. The gate has now been recreated to appear as it was during Lincoln's funeral procession. We are honored to be a part of this legacy.