The uniqueness of Methodist Park with its century old gardens is a treat in itself, and rich with local history.

Those who attend the June 20, Parisienne Garden Walk and Art Faire from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. will stand under the canopy of trees where Abraham Lincoln stood.

Garden Faire co-coordinator Mary Geekie explained that Methodist Park occupies property purchased in 1853 by Col. William Palmer Dole, who was in the mercantile business.

He and his wife began to create gardens among the native trees on the property after building a Greek Revival house on the west side of the property.

The grounds were the site of many gatherings of the infant Republican Party in the 1850s.

Local historians report that Lincoln stayed at the Dole home and attended gatherings in this garden on a regular basis as a lawyer on the judicial circuit.

A desk and chair believed to have been used in the Dole home by Lincoln are now on display at the Edgar County Historical Society.

The property passed to a cousin, George Dole, when William Palmer Dole was appointed by President Lincoln as U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs and moved to Washington, D.C.

Because the Dole family was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, church receptions were often staged on these grounds, as well as tea parties for Paris High senior classes. In recent years, baccalaureate services were scheduled in the park.

The lawn and gardens were maintained by the last residents, Mary Dole Bryan and family, for close to a century. Many old plant varieties still grow there, such as pink and white blue bells, sweet rocket, hibiscus, rare plantain lilies, wisteria, boxwood, peonies and blue scilla, which cover the area with a blue carpet in early spring.

A variety of old trees and shrubs, including paw paws, catalpa, and shingle oak, dapple the grounds with shade.

Many of the peony plants were brought in a touring car from the East in 1936 when Mary and her mother drove to Dartmouth College to attend the graduation of her brother, George V. Dole.

The pergola in the park is a duplication of the original. The elaborate but deteriorated house was removed in the 1990s.

The First United Methodist Church acquired the property in 1999, with the covenant that the grounds will remain a quiet garden sanctuary near the center of Paris for future generations.

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