Ten years ago, Rosemary Schallhorn of Seatonville painted a collage of images representing the Cherry Mine Disaster. She has given prints to several local libraries over the years, and recently her artwork was discovered by a visitor from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Her painting will soon be part of an exhibit in Springfield honoring the 100th anniversary of the Nov. 13, 1909 disaster. "The Flames Caught Us: Cherry Mine 1909" will open Nov. 1 and will run through March 31, 2010, at the ALPLM.
Schallhorn said she was surprised when she received a letter two weeks ago after someone from the Springfield museum had seen a print of her painting in Princeton Public Library and asked to borrow her original for the exhibit.
"They hadn't even seen the real thing," Schallhorn said.
The artist has been painting since the 1970s and has taught painting for 35 years. Her subjects vary, but many of the paintings leaning up against the walls lining her studio depict family pets and other wildlife and country landscapes.
"I've never painted anything like that (the Cherry Mine Disaster) before and I probably won't again. It's not my style, but it's just something that came to me."
She has a personal connection to the Cherry Mine Disaster, though. Her mother's first cousins, the Le Howard brothers, ages 16 and 20, both worked in the mine. In her painting, small illustrations of an engagement ring and a letter appear through the smoke, representing the final memory of her family members.
Schallhorn said the younger Le Howard brother was waiting for a diamond ring to arrive in the mail to give to his girlfriend, and when he realized he was going to die in the mine he wrote a letter to his brother asking him to retrieve the ring from the post office and give it to his girlfriend. He didn't know the fire would claim his brother's life, too.
"Both boys perished in the fire, but the girl did get the ring," Schallhorn said.
Prints of Schallhorn's painting are available for purchase. Call the artist at (815) 894-2089 for more information.