Macoupin County Historical Society
920 W. Breckenridge St. Carlinville, IL 62626 (217) 415-3458
WHAT: 112 Years Later, Local Carnegie Hero Awardee Honored with Memorial
WHEN/WHERE: Plaque ceremony, 11am, Bunker Hill Cemetery (115 N. Washington St, Bunker Hill, Ill. 62014) on Wednesday, August 24
Reception/exhibit unveiling, 1pm, Ruyle Building (920 W. Breckenridge St, Carlinville, Ill. 62626) on Wednesday, August 24
WHO: Macoupin County Historical Society, Carnegie Hero Fund Commission,
Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists
112 Years Later, Local Carnegie Hero Awardee Honored with Memorial Plaque, Exhibit
CARLINVILLE, Illinois—It was a typical June evening when Ivah Coles, age 21, and Richard Cromwell, age 20, went for a swim in the reservoir near Benld. While attempting to climb up the steep, high bank, Cromwell fell back into the water and began to sink. From the bank, Coles waded into the water toward Cromwell but sank within eight feet of him. The men’s bodies were found in water 10 to 12 feet deep; the reports indicated that they were victims of cramps, caused by the chilliness of the water due to springs nearby. That was June 8, 1904.
Though newspaper accounts of the incident gave no stirring account of bravery or heroism on Coles’ part, recognition would come later. In 1908, Coles’ mother was presented with a silver Carnegie Hero Medal, Coles’ act being among the first few dozen recognized by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission (CHFC), which since 1904 has recognized nearly 10,000 acts of heroism throughout the United States and Canada.
The Coles medal was recently put up for sale on eBay by a jeweler in O’Fallon, Mo., who had acquired it from someone selling it for its 5 ½ ounces of silver. The medal was purchased by Matthew Campbell, a member of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN), of Washington, Pa., who contacted the Commission, based nearby in Pittsburgh. Rarely seen for sale, these medals are usually held by the recipients and families as heirlooms.
When Campbell contacted the Macoupin County Historical Society (MCHS) for research assistance, the society seized on the story, gathering information and locating Coles’ grave at Bunker Hill Cemetery.
“When Ivah went to his final resting place,” said David Jokisch, MCHS web developer and manager of the plaque project, “by all accounts, it was quietly. But it is never too late to honor a hero. Thanks to the Carnegie Hero Commission, the Macoupin Historical Society, and the generosity of Carlinville Monument, Mr. Coles will receive more permanent recognition.”
Finding Coles’ grave site to be unmarked, MCHS, PAN, Campbell, and various individuals contributed money to install a memorial plaque and a Carnegie Hero grave marker supplied by CHFC. The plaque will be installed at Bunker Hill Cemetery during a ceremony at 11am on Wednesday, August 24.
The Coles medal, which traveled from O’Fallon to Pennsylvania, will return to Illinois to be shown at MCHS’s
Ruyle Building at a reception at 1pm, also August 24. A photographic display will remain at MCHS, while the
medal will be displayed at PAN’s semiannual conventions in Pittsburgh and potentially travel nationally for other events.
MCHS has invited many involved in the project as well as Macoupin county and state officials to the dedication at Bunker Hill Cemetery. The public is welcome to attend both the ceremony at the cemetery and the reception. CHFC Executive Director Eric P. Zahren will attend both events.
“We were impressed with the work done by the Macoupin County Historical Society,” said Zahren. “We were happy to support their project to honor Coles and make his inspiring story known to the community.”
Images of the Coles medal and grave marker are available at www.mchssociety.org/medal.html. Images of the installed memorial plaque will be available after August 24.
The Macoupin County Historical Society is dedicated to the study of Macoupin County history and its people and the preservation of related sites, artifacts, and memorabilia. In 1973, members purchased the historic house known locally as Anderson Mansion, located in northwest Carlinville. Visit www.mchssociety.org for more information.
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, established by Andrew Carnegie in 1904, has awarded the
CARNEGIE MEDAL to 9,868 individuals in recognition of their outstanding heroism, defined by the Commission as acts of lifesaving done at extraordinary risk to the rescuer. Grants totaling $38.2 million have been given to the awardees or their survivors and include scholarship aid, continuing assistance, and death benefits. Fuller information on the CARNEGIE MEDAL and the history of the CARNEGIE HERO FUND COMMISSION can be found at www.carnegiehero.org and on Facebook: facebook.com/carnegiehero.
The Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN) is a non-profit educational organization founded in 1978 consisting of individuals and coin clubs throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States. A life member of the American Numismatic Association, PAN is dedicated to promoting the hobby of coin collecting through coin shows, lectures, seminars, a published journal, and an electronic newsletter. Our primary focus is learning about art, history, and world cultures through coinage, medals, and paper money. Go to www.pancoins.org for more information, or visit us at facebook.com/pancoins.