Rural Missouri - February 2014 - (Page 22)
by Heather Berry
t ﬁrst glance, Mark Rehagen looks like someone
you've already met. His face
is long, eyes deep-set and
framed under dark brows. His frame,
lanky. His sideburns are long and
lead to only a chin beard. But Mark's
resemblance to Abraham Lincoln
goes beyond superﬁcial likeness. The
larger-than-life persona that made our
16th president one of history's most
unforgettable men has made Mark a
talented presenter of Lincoln history.
Mark, 55, has been an Abraham
Lincoln re-enactor for more than
a decade. His journey to becoming
Lincoln began in 2002 when he was
asked to play the president in a Civil
War production with the Capital City
Players theater group in his hometown of Jefferson City.
"When director Rob Crouse
approached me with the idea, I said,
'Why me?'" recalls Mark, who is vicepresident of cash management operations for Central Bank. "Crouse said,
'Well, you're really tall, and if you
grow a beard, you'll do ﬁne.'"
Mark adds, "An amazing thing happens when you grow a beard and cut
off the moustache - people start saying you look like Lincoln."
Oddly enough, the similarities go
beyond Mark's 6-foot-4-inch frame
and facial features. Like Lincoln, Mark
has four sons. "But I wasn't born in a
log cabin," he says.
He's a member of the Association
of Lincoln Presenters and attends the
national group's annual meeting each
"You don't have to look exactly like
Lincoln to join," Mark says, adding
that the group has short Lincolns and
pudgy Lincolns, too. "We even have
some Mary Todds who attend with
Mark says Lincoln always has been
one of his favorite presidents, but he
wasn't really an enthusiast beyond
that. He did dress up as Lincoln one
Halloween while in college because
he saw a top hat in the costume room
while attending Josephinum College
in Columbus, Ohio.
Following his theatrical Lincoln
debut, Mark began making presentations at local schools on Feb. 12, the
president's birthday, and speaking
at several festivals across the state
throughout the year. For the past several years, he's worked with Missouri
Secretary of State's ofﬁce, making 30
appearances each spring to school
groups on trips to the state Capitol.
While he does receive a small stipend for those appearances, any other
appearance is done free of charge.
Tracy Wegman, eighth-grade teacher at St. Francis Xavier School in Taos,
says Mark's portrayal of Abraham Lincoln is spot on.
"He not only looks like Lincoln,
but he is a great researcher and is able
Mark Rehagen has been what he calls "an Abraham Lincoln presenter" since 2002.
One man's hobby takes him back in time
to adapt the history to the age level
he's speaking to," says Tracy.
The teacher says her interest in
Mark's presentations are personal, too.
"Abraham's mother, Nancy Hanks,
had one sister," says Tracy, "And that
sister is my great-grandmother."
Becoming Lincoln has been a
process for the presenter. While he
learned about the president in history
class, Mark has studied Lincoln's life,
experiences and writings even further.
He feels he can now embody the
things the president was most known
for - honesty, character and integrity.
When he portrays Lincoln for
school groups at the Secretary of
State's ofﬁce, he comes to the future
in a time machine, which intrigues
the kids. Of course, one of the ﬁrst
know is if
Mark is really
"I can usually talk around
the question at ﬁrst, but of course, I
later tell them I am only a presenter
of Lincoln's life," says Mark, who
appears before the group wearing a
custom-made costume complete with
Lincoln's iconic stovepipe hat and
long frock coat. While his own hair is
gray, Mark brushes in the black color
to bring his Lincoln look to life.
"The second thing they usually
ask is how tall my hat is and can they
wear it," adds Mark. "They ask if the
beard is real and, since Lincoln was
a permissive parent, I usually let the
kids give it a gentle tug."
While he answers the children's
questions during the presentations,
Mark talks about the "not so Civil
War" and why neighbors were ﬁghting neighbors. He discusses slavery
and Missouri's 1,162 battles and skirmishes during the Civil War, the third
most of any state.
Mark says if he could go back in
time and meet Lincoln, he'd ask him
more about his childhood because
little is known about his early life
growing up in Kentucky. He'd also ask
the president if he was shocked to win
the 1860 presidential election.
"There were more well-known
people running," says Mark, referring
to Lincoln's opponents, slavery supporters Stephen Douglas and John Bell
and Vice President John Breckenridge.
Mark's wife, Susan, doesn't mind
the Lincoln look. While she's never
appeared with him, he hopes one day
she'll want to become a Mary Todd.
"She's also used to people coming
up to me and telling me I should dress
up as Lincoln," Mark says.
When he is dressed as Lincoln,
Mark keeps in character, speaking
with the verbiage of Lincoln's time. It
appears Lincoln truly is there.
"I also talk to the kids about Abraham Lincoln being a self-made man,
how he came from nothing," says
Mark. "He had virtually no education
and look what he became, so I always
talk about the importance of getting
"I want the kids to know they can
become anything they want to, just as
Lincoln did," he adds. "I'm glad I can
do that by bringing history to life."
To contact Mark Rehagen, email
firstname.lastname@example.org or call
To learn more about bringing a school
group to hear Mark's Lincoln presentation
at the Missouri State Archives, contact
the Secretary of State's ofﬁce by emailing
email@example.com or calling 573526-5296. Presentations are offered in
March, April and May.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2014
Rural Missouri - February 2014
Ministering to motorists
A mid-winter read
Fighting more than fires
Out of the Way Eats
Metal & music
Hearth and Home
The Missouri Dinosaur
Rural Missouri - February 2014