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Foundation pledges $150,000 in matching challenge grant for Black Hawk statue

The Black Hawk statue is need of repairs, as evidenced in this photo by the cracks on the right elbow. Photo by Earleen Hinton
The Black Hawk statue is need of repairs, as evidenced in this photo by the cracks on the right elbow. Photo by Earleen Hinton

Oregon Trail Days officials received some welcome news last week just in time for this weekend’s festival.

The Jeffris Family Foundation, Janesville, Wis., announced July 11 that it is providing a $150,000 challenge grant for the restoration of the historic Lorado Taft statue popularly known as Black Hawk.

“This is tremendous news,” Frank Rausa, Sterling, a member of the Friends of the Black Hawk Statue Committee, said in a news release. “The challenge grant means that 50 percent of each donation received for the restoration of the Black Hawk statue will be matched by the Jeffris Family Foundation.”

The challenge grant should boost local fundraising efforts.

“We’re very excited about it,” said Amy Trimble, event manager for Oregon Trail Days, an annual festival started two years ago to raise funds for the 101-year-old statue. “We hope people will continue to support the statue and realize that their donations are even more meaningful now that a foundation is backing it.”

Oregon Trail Days will be held this weekend, July 21 and 22 at Lowden State Park near Oregon, where the Black Hawk Statue is located.

Created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1911 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the statue needs $430,000 to $490,000 in repairs due to the ravages of weather and time.

“Our goal is to complete the fundraising campaign by the end of next year and begin restoration in the summer of 2014. But now the $150,000 grant could mean a much earlier start on the project,” Rausa said.

The 48-foot-tall landmark, on a 125-foot bluff overlooking the Rock River, sees 400,000 visitors a year.

“The Jeffris Family Foundation is dedicated to the Midwest’s cultural history and heritage through preserving regionally and nationally important historic buildings and decorative arts projects,” its president, Thomas Jeffris, said in the release.

“The restoration of the statue is not only restoring a work of art by a famous American sculptor, but... is also preserving a part of Native American history, as the statue commemorates Native Americans, especially Chief Black Hawk.”

To make a tax deductible donation to the Black Hawk restoration project, go to or send a check payable to the Illinois Conservation Foundation to: Illinois Conservation Foundation, Attention: Friends of the Black Hawk Statue, 1 Natural Resources Way,Springfield, IL 62702.

Sauk Valley Media contributed to this story

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