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Memorial to Peoria's former Moffatt Cemetery set for spring 2023 installation

Tim Shelley
The three markers for the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial will be on display at the Peoria Riverfront Museum until a dedication and installation next spring at the corner of Griswold and Adams streets, near the site of the former Moffatt Cemetery. The cemetery was closed in 1905, and poorly maintained up until it was razed in the 1950s.

The culmination of a years-long effort to commemorate the site of the former Moffatt Cemetery in South Peoria is set to come to fruition next spring.

Three plaques will be installed at the corner of Griswold and Adams streets, near the site of the razed cemetery where more than 2,600 people were interred. Many are still there.

"They lie buried under a truck dock, storage yard, and a parking lot down there," said Bob Hoffer, a leader on the effort to create the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial commemorating the cemetery.

Research was facilitated through the Peoria Public Library, Pekin Public Library, Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, and the Peoria County Genealogical Society.

The markers tell the stories of the cemetery itself, the 52 veterans buried there, and the life of Nance Leggins-Costley, the first enslaved person freed through Abraham Lincoln's efforts in an 1841 case before the Illinois Supreme Court.

"This ruling reaffirmed Illinois' standing as a free state, and it helped close that indentured (servant) loophole by which slavery had endured for decades," Hoffer said.

The land for the memorial was donated to the city of Peoria by the United Union of Roofers Local 69. The markers funded by grants and donations will also be donated to the city. The Peoria Park District will install the markers and maintain the site.

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln Association, William G. Pomeroy Foundation of New York, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Illinois State Historical Society also helped fund the memorial, along with several private local donors.

The markers will be on display soon.

Fundraising is now ongoing for a 30-foot lighted flagpole and storyboard on the memorial site.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.