The Warrick County Museum, located in Boonville, celebrated the opening of its brand new elevator with their fourth presidential lecture series Saturday, Sept. 10. In the past, speakers have performed as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and George Washington. Last Saturday, they invited historical actress and author, Donna McCreary, to perform as Mary Todd Lincoln.
Gretchen Powers, museum president, said the night would not have happened without the generous grant from the Alcoa Foundation.
Powers said the purpose of the grant is to expand education, which is why she and the other museum board members decided to focus on presidents.
“Part of our mission is history,” she said, “and we thought that past presidents would be something people could easily wrap their minds around.”
Past speakers have also made their way to Boonville and Tecumseh high schools to give their presentations to students.
Powers added that their new elevator would not have been possible without the generous donation of Louise Johnson.
Powers said Johnson paid for the elevator before she passed away and she was sad she was not there that day to see it.
“I had promised her that she could be the first person to ride down it,” Powers said. “I always call Louise Johnson a benefactor. She gave to us not just in terms of money, but in encouragement.”
Powers said Johnson also donated air conditioning units and a new heater as well as the new roof and bannisters.
“She was the driving force behind the renovations,” Powers said.
The evening began at 6 p.m. on the main floor, with hors d’oeuvres of assorted fruit, sandwiches and pastries provided by Commander’s Grill.
Around 7 p.m., guests moved upstairs, where Colleen Talley, museum treasurer and board member, gave a speech dedicating the elevator to Johnson, her husband, Dick, and Joe Simpson, who oversaw the roof installation.
“He always found a way to turn the improbable into the possible,” Talley said.
Talley then showed the crowd of over 60 attendees the plaque dedicated to the Johnsons and Simpson, which would be installed in the elevator.
“[Louise] didn’t want her name on the plaque,” Talley said, “but she didn’t always get what she wanted.”
Afterwards, McCreary began an hour-long performance as Todd Lincoln. She rebuffed rumors from newspapers that she was a “traitor to the union, Republican queen, tightwad and insane” and told childhood stories about being spoiled, growing up with five siblings and nine stepsiblings and how President Abraham Lincoln courted her.
McCreary, of Charlestown, has been performing as Todd Lincoln for more than 24 years and still loves it to this day.
“I’ve had an interest in Mary Todd Lincoln since I was 10,” she said. “I always thought behind every good man is a good woman and I didn’t want to believe her horrible reputation.”
She said she has a lot in common with Todd Lincoln, including the facts that they are both of Scottish descent and are Presbyterian. She said her favorite part about playing Todd Lincoln is rectifying false stories about her.
“When someone says to me, ‘Oh she died in a mental institution,’ I say, ‘No, she died in bed!’”
McCreary is a member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters and has won several awards for her historical acting such as the Lincoln Legend Award and has authored several books including “Lincoln’s Table: A President’s Culinary Journey from Cabin to Cosmopolitan,” “Fashionable First Lady: The Victorian Wardrobe of Mary Lincoln” and “The Kentucky Todds in Lexington Cemetery.” She also sews all of her own wardrobe as Todd Lincoln.
To book McCreary for one of her one-woman performances as Todd Lincoln, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.