What do Abraham Lincoln and the Nachusa Grasslands have in common? Find out Saturday, July 13 as Guy Fraker, local author and historian presents his new book “Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency: The Eight Judicial Circuit.” The presentation will be held at 1:30 p.m. at The Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Grasslands headquarters, 8772 Lowden Road in Franklin Grove, Ill., about two hours west of Chicago.
Fraker, also a Bloomington attorney, describes Nachusa as the “cradle” of his book, noting that the 16th president spent more than half of his life in central Illinois. In Fraker’s presentation about his pre-presidential biography, he tells about Lincoln’s time in the eighth judicial circuit.
Located in central Illinois, the eighth judicial circuit is where Lincoln spent the better part of his life as a politician and lawyer, making a name for himself as an anti-slavery leader in the Republican Party. While Fraker writes about Lincoln’s professional life in Illinois, part of Fraker’s own journey in Illinois stems from his work with The Nature Conservancy. In 2000 he helped the group purchase several areas of the preserve that became vital to the growth of the Nachusa project. He was also a trustee for the Conservancy and transitioned to Director of Protection as his concern for conservation of the prairie grew.
Although Lincoln’s advances for central Illinois were more about the improvement of society rather than nature, his work as a change agent in Illinois served as inspiration as Fraker developed the book.
“When I started to actually write the book back around 2003, I spent a monastic four days at the Yellow House [a house on Lowden Road often used by researchers and visitors to the site] by myself writing 12 to 14 hours a day,” Fraker said. “I completed the first three chapters during that retreat and it emerged relatively unscathed from editing.”
The Nachusa Grasslands is one of the Conservancy’s great success stories. Since the 1980’s, Nachusa has implemented strategies to restore the prairie to its pre-settlement splendor. The preserve, some 3,500 acres, is now home to over 700 plant species and 180 bird species and will soon be home to 30 – 35 bison.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Nachusa Preserve Project Director