MICHAEL JOHNSON/Livingston County News
Molly French reads Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” at Memorial Day observance in Avon Monday morning.
Memorial Day Countywide
Sixth-grader’s ancestor was witness to history
Molly French, a sixth grade student at Avon Central School, had the honor of reciting the Gettysburg Address at the Memorial Day ceremonies held Monday at the Park Circle Soldiers’ Monument.
Molly was selected as the reader by her history teacher, Darren Leonard, because of her strong interest in American history. However, Molly has a link to the historic speech which is more direct than the description supplied by her text book.
Molly’s great-great-grandfather Charles Culp as a young boy was an eyewitness to the actual speech given by President Lincoln.
Molly’s grandmother, Jane Feeley, has a vivid recollection of Charles, who was her grandfather, and who died in 1953 at age 98 when Jane was 17.
Culps’ Hill, on which the family’s cobblestone homestead was situated, was a crucial location for Union defensive strategies during the Battle of Gettysburg. Charles had two cousins at Gettysburg fighting on opposites sides, one of whom was killed in action.
Jane’s own mother told her stories about the cannon ball hole in her bedroom wall, which had never been properly repaired and always caused a cold draft at night. Union artillery had supposedly mistaken the Culp house as the temporary headquarters of General Lee and thus targeted it.
When President Lincoln arrived in November, his fated-to-be-famous speech took just two minutes out of a program which was more than one hour in duration. The speakers were assembled on a large hay wagon. Family legend has it that several chairs were co-opted from the Culp kitchen for use of the speakers as they waited their turns. Jane’s sister remains in possession of two of the chairs, while a third identical chair resides in the Gettysburg Museum, labeled as furniture on which Lincoln may have sat while waiting to give his speech.
Young Charles Culp, settled in a loft of a nearby barn, had a birds-eye view of the proceedings on that afternoon of November 19, 1863.
Molly, who has the Gettysburg Address thoroughly memorized, was initially going to perform the recitation without notes. However, she was reminded by her mother that Lincoln himself read the original address from a paper.
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