A Piece of Lincoln History Comes to Lincoln Elementary

Photo by Michael YEGHIAYAN
Photo by Michael YEGHIAYAN

A rare piece of marble from the president’s tomb is displayed to students.

Students at Lincoln Elementary School enjoyed a unique American artifact on Wednesday when a local family shared a piece of President Lincoln’s tomb. On the morning following the 16th president’s birthday, Chloe Jang’s kindergarten class received a hands-on history lesson as they learned about President Lincoln’s life and importance to the United States alongside a piece of marble from the original tomb.

Currently in the possession of Michael and Diane Brewster, whose granddaughter Amanda attends Lincoln Elementary, the piece of marble slate was formerly a part of the former president’s original tomb in Springfield, Ill. After the tomb was rebuilt in the 1930s, a piece fell into the hands of Herbert Wells Fay who was the custodian of the tomb from 1920 to 1948.

The Lincoln Tomb was designated one of the country’s first National Historic Landmarks in 1960 and currently houses President Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their four children.

Over the past century, this piece of marble has changed hands a number of times before finding its way to the Brewster family. Fay, who collected and archived a sizable assortment of American artifacts in addition to his duties as custodian of the tomb, offered it to biographer and historian Guy S. Allison in 1948. Years later, Allison gifted the slate to Bill and Marie Russell from Glendale. It would finally find its way to the Brewster family in the 1980s when discovered by Diane Brewster in a hutch at an estate sale.

“We didn’t know what we had until I brought it home,” said Diane. “We were ready to throw it away while preparing the furniture for sale.”

The Brewster family recently took the piece of tomb to be authenticated on History Channel’s “Pawn Stars.” On the show, it was verified as authentic by the Clark County Museum Administrator based on the accuracy of the writing on the tile and the yellowed color of the marble. The piece is considered to be very rare and it is unlikely that many like it are in private circulation.

Regardless of the value of the marble, the Brewsters have no intention of letting it change hands again.

“This is something we look to keep in the family. I’d like to pass it on to my granddaughter someday,” said Michael. “We have considered loaning it to a museum, but haven’t pursued that yet.”

To Ms. Jang’s kindergarteners, the piece of marble helped bring context to a historical figure as important as President Lincoln.

“This brings the kids something from history they can keep their hands on,” said Principal Stephen Williams. “History is so abstract, something like this helps bring clarity.”

In addition to learning about the tomb, the students were read Bernard Waber’s, “Just Like Abraham Lincoln” and were given the opportunity to ask questions about the former president’s life.

“Lincoln is someone we always talk about,” said library assistant Jo Van Amburg. “It is always interesting when a family is able to bring something to contribute to the class.

“The book cannot be replaced, but it gives the message an extra layer.”