- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

DELAVAN, Ill. (AP) - Glenn Holmes will talk about Delavan’s history to anyone willing to listen.

But the Delavan native and historical society member is finding fewer and fewer people wanting to hear about the town’s rich history - especially among the younger generations.

“Our society is an old group of people and we need young people to keep it going,” Holmes said. “If we don’t get them in a few years it’ll die out. It’ll go. It’s unfortunate really, because we have a world of history here.”

Over years of time and devotion, Holmes has worked to preserve several Delavan historical landmarks.

“We are proud of our artifacts. We want to show them off,” Holmes said. “You gotta get people’s interests first. Once you get people’s interest, then you can do anything you want to do. One thing you got to do is talk it up and get their interest to where they will help you.”

One mission Holmes is on, is to properly mark two Underground Railroad spots and potentially get them listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

The sites - now empty fields - were once the homes of Daniel Cheever and George Tefft. Cheever and Tefft played crucial roles in aiding in the escape of several runaway slaves as they made their way through Tazewell County.

“There’s not much documented because they didn’t write too much about the runaway slave houses. They kept it pretty quiet,” Holmes said. “We know on several occasions Abraham Lincoln visited the Cheever house. We know on the third floor there were false walls and the people stayed in there so they could move around in the house until it was safe to get outside.”

The two Delavan Underground Railroad sites are among several sites throughout Tazewell County. There are other sites in Tremont, Mackinaw and Washington.

Along with his work on the Underground Railroad, Holmes was instrumental in establishing the “Lincoln Mile.”

The mile is a path around Delavan of 10 sites that have an attachment to the 16th president. Lincoln rode through Delavan several times when he was a circuit lawyer in the early to mid-1800s. The mile is marked by wooden Lincoln heads atop posts.

“There’s a lot people that don’t know about Lincoln and his involvement in Delavan,” Holmes said. “A lot of people think you have to go to Springfield to learn about Lincoln, but you don’t. He was right here in Delavan.”

Recently, as part of an annual field trip, Holmes took Delavan 4th graders on the “Lincoln Mile.”

“I do it every year and the kids just love it,” Holmes said. “You have to get them interested in it because hopefully, they will be the next ones to preserve our history.”

For Holmes, the hope of instilling the same love of his town’s history in the next generation is his ultimate goal.

“Somebody will have to take my place in the future and I hope these kids will,” Holmes said. “I love Delavan and I’ll talk to anyone wanting a history program done. I’ll do it.”

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Source: The Pekin Times, http://bit.ly/1roPML8

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Information from: Pekin Daily Times, http://www.pekintimes.com

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