It is, perhaps, a little known fact that every year around this time, people all over the country gather to celebrate and honor our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.
Certainly one of our most revered and respected presidents, Lincoln, who was a Republican, is universally regarded as one of our best.
So it should come as no surprise that even today, 148 years after his life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet, admirers of Lincoln who are members of Lincoln Clubs across the nation still meet once a year to reflect upon his service and leadership during one of the most tumultuous times our country has known.
“We are a small, core group that meets to put on this event and honor President Lincoln every year,” said Barbara Campbell Harvey, president of The Lincoln Club in Maine and host of Sunday evening’s 128th Annual Lincoln Club Dinner held at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland. “Ours is one of the only nonpartisan Lincoln clubs in the country, thanks to Cora Brown.”
Cora L. Brown, of Portland, who at 102 did not attend Sunday’s festivities, is not only a beloved past president of the Lincoln Club, but also a longtime, ardent champion of Republican causes in the state of Maine.
“Cora insisted this club be nonpartisan,” Harvey continued, “to talk about freedom and liberty for all people.”
The audience was indeed a diverse one, from Civil War re-enactors from the Third Maine Regiment Dan and Lucy Cunningham, who also work at Bowdoin College, to young political upstarts like Gwen Tuttle, a former House of Representatives candidate from Portland and member of the Portland Republican City Committee.
“Essentially, we work to get Republicans elected,” said Tuttle about her work within the committee.
John Noisy Hawk, who originally hails from the West Coast but is now a resident of Portland, is vice chair of the Portland Republican City Committee.
“I’ve met a lot of great people and we’ve had a fun campaign season,” he said cheerfully. “Economic policy, non-intervention foreign policy … we’re able to find a lot of common ground with progressives here in Portland.”
Occasionally, the conversations turned a bit more opinionated.
“I don’t think we have people with the historical perspective of bipartisanship. We need to have people run for office that have peaveys!” said Gail Rae Carter of Portland, emphatically referring to the old logging tool used to control and organize the logs as they flowed downstream. “Many great things have happened because Republicans and Democrats could step across the aisles. I don’t think it’s happening now. We’re in a time of no consensus.”
Her dinner companion, Arline Waecker, a nurse from Portland, cut to the chase. “I am a staunch Republican.”
Not all guests were as politically charged. Some turned out because of their genuine appreciation and interest for all things historical.
“I’m interested in the Civil War in general,” said Greg Babine of Brunswick. “I am a part of the Joshua Chamberlain Civil War Roundtable.”
Joining him was Noma Petroff Thompson, academic coordinator for theater and dance at Bowdoin College.
“This is my first time coming to this,” she said. “I’m writing a book on Ulysses S. Grant.”
Halsey B. Frank, past president and historian of the Lincoln Club, gave a recognition of retired Sen. Olympia Snowe, while Patrick Rael, associate professor of history at Bowdoin, was guest speaker.
Barbara Campbell Harvey ended the dinner by thanking everyone who helped to make it such a success, and awarded the evening’s raffle: a flag to be flown over the U.S. Senate, at the date of one’s choice, compliments of Sen. Susan Collins.
The winner was none other than Collins’ own chief of staff, Steve Abbott, who graciously shared it with fellow guest Patrick Calder, a merchant marine from Eastport and resident of Portland.
For more information on the Lincoln Club of Maine, contact Barbara Campbell Harvey at [email protected]
Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be contacted at: