Boy Scouts place a wreath at the George Grey Barnard bust of Lincoln, February 12, 1947 Courtesy Heritage Room Archives, A.K. Smiley Library
History of the Boy Scout Pilgrimage to the
Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands, California
Originating in 1940 in Redlands, California, the
symbolic pilgrimage to a statue of Abraham Lincoln pays homage to
the martyred sixteenth President. The idea for the event was
borrowed from the Boy Scouts in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, who had begun
their own Lincoln pilgrimage in 1934. The pilgrimage coincides with
the celebration of Boy Scout Week, the anniversary of the founding
of the scouting movement in the United States.
Robert Watchorn, a wealthy winter resident of
Redlands, through his son had become interested in the life of
Abraham Lincoln. Watchorn wrote that he felt "so strongly that the
influence of Abraham Lincoln is powerful enough to help the whole
world, if it were widely enough realized and utilized, that I
should esteem myself very highly honored and especially favored if
I might be able to introduce this immortal personage...." Guided by
this sentiment, Watchorn funded the memorial shrine to Lincoln to
be built in his adopted city of Redlands. Although it was intended
to honor Abraham Lincoln, it also was dedicated to the memory of
Watchorn's son Emory, who had died of wounds suffered in WW I. The
centerpiece of the memorial was a marble bust of Lincoln created by
sculptor George Grey Barnard; books and a collection of Lincoln
memorabilia were also donated by Watchorn to the site in Redlands.
It is the only museum, archives and library dedicated to Abraham
Lincoln west of Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln's hometown.
Scouting executives of the Riverside County Council
first proposed a pilgrimage closely modeled on the Ft. Wayne event.
Following a parade with Scouts starting at the Chamber of Commerce
in Redlands and proceeding to the Shrine, a program was presented.
The program was to include a presentation of colors, the Scout
Oath, a welcome, an address promoting the strengths of Lincoln with
Scouting and its principles, and the presentation of a wreath at
the Barnard bust. Its success in its inaugural year caused the
Riverside Scouting executives to declare it an annual event. Over
the years, the starting point of the Parade and the site of the
address has changed and other groups from the community became
involved in the ceremonies, including drum and bugle corps,
military units, the Post Office, YWCA and others. The parade grew,
featuring floats, area beauty queens and area bands, and on one
occasion, the Air Force Band from March AFB. In 1970, Scouting
officials, wishing to re-emphasize the pilgrimage aspect and the
honoring of Lincolnian principles and values, scaled back the
popular parade to a march.
In 1949, the year of the 10th pilgrimage, for the
first time Girl Scouts and Brownies were included; the assembled
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Sea Scouts, Cub Scouts and Brownies taking
part numbered 2,000 that year. In the nation's Bicentennial Year
(1976), a Bicentennial Parade was combined with the Pilgrimage, and
2,500 youth attended. Today attendance at the Pilgrimage has
averaged about 1,000. Each year every Scout taking place receives a
patch with the profile of Lincoln and the words "Lincoln Shrine
Project documentation includes an 11-page history of
the Pilgrimage; a list of all the speakers at the Pilgrimage from
1940 on; pictures of ribbons, awards, patches and uniforms from the
Grayback District of the B.S.A. California Inland Council; and
photographs of past Pilgrimages and their descriptions from the
Archives of the Heritage Room, A.K. Smiley Public Library.
Originally submitted by: Jerry Lewis, Representative (40th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.