In last week’s post we visited Lincoln’ birthplace in Kentucky. This week we visit his boyhood home in Spencer County, Indiana. Truth be told, we actually toured this site before his birthplace but editorial prerogative allows me to publish posts in Lincoln’s real sequence!
Abraham Lincoln was seven years old when his family left Kentucky after his father lost a land title dispute on their Sinking Springs Farm. One can imagine the family of four setting out in a wagon to the new frontier of southern Indiana. Likely accompanying them were some farm animals like chickens, pigs, maybe a cow, maybe oxen and surely a team of horses. While the distance from their previous farm at Knob Creek, Kentucky is about only 130 miles or so, the trip took weeks (two hours by car today) and required the travelers to cross the Ohio river by ferry. Once the family reached the Little Pigeon Creek community, Abraham’s father Thomas built a cabin completing it just before winter set in. The next spring Thomas began clearing the land assisted by his son who became skilled with an axe, later making money by helping others clear their land.
After about two years in Indiana, tragedy struck the family. Abraham’s mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln became a victim of “milk sickness” a kind of poisoning caused by ingesting milk or meat from cows who ate white snakeroot plant. Abraham helped his father make a coffin for her burial and they said farewell to their beloved wife and mother. She was buried in an unknown location near their home. In this photo, a memorial to Lincoln’s mother is included in the Pioneer Cemetery where a number of other area residents are buried.
Within a year, Thomas Lincoln visited Kentucky and married a widow, Sarah Bush Johnson. By all accounts she was a kind and loving stepmother to the Lincoln children. In addition to three young children, Sarah brought with her many books. There were few educational opportunities on the frontier and lots of work to be done so young Abraham was afforded little schooling, a few three month sessions, when he wasn’t needed on the farm. But he loved to read and it was said he was seen carrying a book as well as his axe. He was tall and had a keen intellect and would often carry on informal political discussions at the nearby general store where he developed his debating skills. Later he took a job on a flatboat carrying produce down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, where he observed a slave auction on the docks. Another experience that he would never forget and shaped his thinking. In 1830, the family left Indiana for Illinois where Abraham spent the next thirty years until he was elected President.
After Lincoln’s assassination, this boyhood memorial site became a place to honor the fallen president. This is the site where he worked alongside his father, mourned the loss of his mother, read books that opened his mind, developed a strong work ethic, and grew from a boy into a young man.
The Memorial site is quite impressive. When approaching the Visitor Center, one can’t help but be awed by the sculptured panels that depicts places where Lincoln lived. Each of the panels has a quotation from one of his speeches.
Inside the Visitor Center there are exhibits, a bookstore and film about Lincoln’s life in Indiana.
At one end of the Center is a meeting hall similar to those used in the 1830’s. It can be rented for weddings and events.
Venturing outside the Visitor Center, one can help but notice the long “allee” toward the memorial flagpole at the top of the knoll.
The path to the flagpole and beyond, leads visitors to the Living Historical Farm that sits on four of the 160 acres once owned by the Lincoln’s. The homestead is a re-creation of a 1820’s farm right down to the heirloom plants found in the garden.
In the cabin, two young women were demonstrating spinning wool and some of the tools used in the household.
Outside Mark Gentry shows off his woodworking skills using tools of the day. Thomas Lincoln was an accomplished carpenter, it was said that he could build a log cabin in four days!
Then there was Dan, the manager of the Living Historical Farm. He shared a little of his story, he’s been at this location for 25 years doing what he can for it to be as an authentic experience as is possible. The fields are worked with horses, the garden is planted similar to the frontier days right down to the correct type of heirloom potatoes. He came to this location following his now ex-wife, come to think of it, he mentioned a couple of ex-wives! A real interesting guy with a very interesting job.
Nearby the Farm is believed to be the original foundation of the Lincoln cabin. It’s now preserved and protected in bronze for future generations.
At the nearby Lincoln State Park (where we stayed during our visit) is another memorial to our 16th President. Another reminder to us that the right man came along at the right time and said the right things at the time to help our country through one of it’s greatest difficulties.
I keep repeating this statement in many of my posts, “I recommend a visit to this historical site.” And I do mean what I say, it’s very well done and the Living Historical Farm is a prefect accompaniment to this site. Plan to take 2-4 hours to visit the exhibits and walk the path to the Farm, on ground that Lincoln himself explored.
Next up Mammoth Cave National Park.
Until next week, travel safe.