The desire to honor the memory of Mankato's Civil War dead prompted a citizens' committee headed by John Ray to purchase the triangular parcel of land in the Warren's Addition, bordered by Broad, Lincoln and Grove streets, and dominated by a massive elm tree. On September 1, 1886, Trustees to Lincoln Park turned over the deed to the City of Mankato. In the mid-1880s, the Alexander Wilkin Post of the Grand Army of the Republic erected a bronze monument of a Civil War soldier standing on guard at the center of a stone basin. Together, they formed a fountain. The soldiers' monument was referred to as The Boy in Blue. It was dedicated in 1893, a year after Mankato author, Maud Hart Lovelace was born. Thirty years had passed since the Civil War had torn the nation apart. Mankato's efforts to memorialize its fallen heroes was part of a national trend to build monuments and hold commemorative encampments on Civil War battlefields. A 3,000 pound mortar-gun completed the veterans' memorial.(Continued on other side)
(Continued from other side)A notable incident occurred on July 4, 1909, when seven boys set off the old cannon as a prank. The recoil of the blast shattered windows throughout the neighborhood; the gun was lifted and deposited on the grass 17 feet from its original position. No injuries were reported, but the boys spent the summer working to repay damages. Today, no traces of the soldiers' memorial remains. A windstorm toppled the statue and destroyed it. The cannon was sold to a junk dealer, and even the stone basin was eventually removed.
The park's most notable living memorial, the Lincoln Elm was designated as Mankato's official symbol in 1976, the year of America's Bicentennial celebration. Despite efforts to prolong its life, the stately old tree succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease. When it was cut down in 1980, tree ring dating revealed it to be 315 years old.
The park remains the focal point of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, just as it did during Lovelace's childhood. In several of her Betsy-Tacy stories, Maud referred to Lincoln Park as "the end of the neighborhood." To go beyond it was a rite of passage for her and her friends, Frances Kenney (Tacy) and Marjorie Gerlach (Tib).
Erected by City of Mankato
Researched by Bryce O. Stenzel, MA