Hope everyone had a safe and fun July 4th holiday (for my U.S. followers). Last week, my post featured the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park located in Vincennes, Indiana. Clark was a prominent figure in the Revolutionary War that helped the 13 colonies secure their independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain so a fitting post during the Independence holiday week. My post this week and next will feature another historical figure, Abraham Lincoln, with visits to his birthplace in Kentucky and boyhood home in Indiana.
While the State of Illinois rightfully calls itself the “Land of Lincoln” as this where Lincoln lived in adulthood and launched his political career, he was born February 12, 1809 on the Sinking Spring Farm near present day Hodgenville, Kentucky. Lincoln lived on this farm the first two years of his life, later moving with his family to the Knob Creek Farm after a land dispute. Both farms are part of the Birthplace National Historical Park.
Let’s start our visit at the Sinking Spring Farm where the National Park Service visitors center is located. When entering the visitors center, visitors are greeted with a sculpture of the young Lincoln family and quotes by Lincoln during his time as the 16th President of the United States.
The visitors center contains murals about his early life in Kentucky. It also contains a replica of what a typical frontier cabin looked like at the time of Lincoln’s birth. The visitor center also offers a short movie about Lincoln’s early life.
The centerpiece of this National Historical Park is the Memorial Building, The neoclassical structure was designed in the early 1900’s with the cornerstone laid by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909 and dedicated in 1911 by President William Howard Taft.
This Memorial is filled with symbolism, there are 56 steps leading up to the Memorial Building, one for each year of Lincoln’s life. The Building contains 16 windows, 16 rosettes on the ceiling, and 16 fence posts each symbolic of Lincoln being the 16th President. The caption over the columns reads “With malice toward none with charity for all.”
Inside the memorial is a preserved cabin, similar to the one Lincoln lived in at Sinking Spring.
A short drive takes us over to the Knob Creek Farm site that was officially added to the National Birthplace Historical Park in 2001. Lincoln wrote in his 1860 campaign autobiography, “My earliest recollection is of the Knob Creek place.” He recounted events and memories from this peaceful, beautiful farm valley. He recalled planting pumpkins only to watch them wash away in a flash flood. He nearly drowned in Knob Creek only saved by the quick action of his neighbor and boyhood friend, Austin Gollaher. He also recalled that his baby brother died at Knob Creek and is buried nearby.
It was also here that young Lincoln first witnessed slavery with the Lincoln family moving their church membership to a Separatist Baptist congregation over the objection to slave ownership. It was partly because of slavery that the Lincoln’s moved to Indiana in 1816. That and the fact that his father, Thomas, lost his legal dispute to regain the Sinking Spring Farm.
The Knob Creek Farm was preserved by a family interested in memorializing Lincoln. They purchased the property in the late 1920’s, moved a cabin once owned by the Gollaher family to the property. Here’s a photo from inside the cabin.
They also built an inn and tavern to serve the tourists who would stop by the cabin and farm. The tavern is still there and we learned from the rangers on duty that there is an effort to raise the funds, private and public, to restore the building and make it a visitors center. Apparently, the inn and tavern offered live music on weekends and many traveling musicians played on the stage at the tavern.
As with all National Historic sites, I recommend a visit to Lincoln’s birthplace. Plan on taking a 1/2 day to enjoy both the sites.
After leaving the Knob Creek Farm and needing some refreshments, we stopped by the nearby Lincoln’s General Store. It is truly a “general” store, one can buy gas, food, refreshments, wood and they even had a tanning salon! When we pulled up we saw these six amigos rocking a way on the porch and I asked if I could take their photo. They consented and then struck up a conversation that went something like this. ‘We’re Lincoln’s great grandchildren’ followed by howls of laughter. Then a guy drove up to the gas pumps and they started giving him a hard time asking if they could borrow money and etc. Then the guy second from the right said he was a farmer and the other guys started giving him a hard time. When he found out that I was from Wisconsin, he shared that his dad used to go to Wisconsin and buy Guernsey cows and bring them back to Kentucky. He countered that most of them were just passing the time but the two guys on the end were fixing to get into a fight! He didn’t say about what but implied it was an everyday occurrence. An enjoyable stop and cultural experience with the locals!
Hope you enjoyed this brief visit to Lincoln’s birthplace. Next week join me at his boyhood home in Indiana.
Until next week, travel safe.