Sunday, May 27, 2012

Abraham Lincoln's Boyhood Home

We have seen the roadsigns pointing to the boyhood home of American President, Abraham Lincoln, and mentioned several times that we should pay a visit to the site located in Hodgenville, KY.
Lincoln is one of the heros of history whom J. admires.
G. decided she would go along on this outing, so we collected her mid-morning and
drove into LaRue County.The two sites commemorating Lincloln's early years are less than 10 miles aprt, both maintained by the National Parks system.
The trend is so often to romanticize any place associated with a figure of national importance, but Lincoln's humble birthplace could scarecly be glamorized.
The building in the photo houses a replica of the Lincoln homestead cabin in a climate-controlled granite space.  The 56 steps leading up the hill represent the years of Lincoln's life prior to his assassination.

Steps of stone and concrete lead into this grotto-like hollow around the clear cold spring which supplied the Lincoln home and farm with water.
In the time that they were living there I expect their footsteps had worn small depressions in the slope leading down to the spring. At wet times of year the ground would have been muddy and slippery.
The Linclon homested was known as 'Sinking Spings.'

Moss and ferns cling to the rock wall that backs the spring.
I was surprised to notice that a considerable amount of poison ivy had been allowed to invade the vinva planted along the banks which rise on either side of the stone steps.
Inside the visitor center we watched a 15 minute documentary and viewed such things as facsimilies of the marriage certificate of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, and the recorded deed to the homestead.
As it turned out, the Lincoln's deed was contested and the family--Tom and Nancy and two children--were evicted.
Abraham Lincoln was 2 years old at the time and had no later recollection of his birthplace as a home.

This replica cabin is at the Knob Creek farmstead where the Lincolns lived until Abraham was 8 years old.
The cabin is thought to have been constructed from logs salvaged from the cabin of the Lincoln's neighbors, a family called Gollaher.
The interior of the replica cabin is sparsely furnished--a bed in the corner, cast-iron cooking utensils in the hearth, a churn, a few dishes.
There is a narrow loft where Abraham and his sister Sarah would have slept.
If you would like to read more about this site and its significance in Lincoln's life, go to this link:

The grounds here were quiet.
I followed the sun-splashed path down to the creek.

The stream bed is nearly dry.

An attempt has been made to cultivate a small garden such as the homesteading family might have had.
Corn and pumpkin plants, beset with weeds, stood limply in the hot afternoon sun.
Herbs flourished at one end of the garden patch.  This stand of camomile was labeled "DILL."
In an odd twist of fate, the Lincolns and several of their neighbors lost their claim to this small farm as well as the first one.
Fed up with Kentucky the family loaded their sparse belongings and headed toward Indiana
to make a fresh start.
Nancy Hanks Lincoln would die there little more than a year later, victim along with her aunt, uncle and several neighbors, of 'milk sickness'--an often fatal poisoning caused by drinking the milk of cows who had ingested the weed known as white snakeroot. [ageratina altissima]

Walking around the quiet grounds it was not difficult to imagine living there in the early 1800's.
The crude cabin would have been hot in summer, cold in winter, redolent of woodsmoke, cooking odors, and the scent of a family living with very little in the way of niceties, with difficult arrangements for bathing and laundry.

As we walked toward the car, G. noticed this oddly coiled limb of a catalpa tree
[above photo and this one zoomed in on the burled formation.]

It was a hot day--harbinger of many to come.
On a back road not far from home we noticed these cattle wallowing in a scum-covered pond, cooling their massive bodies.
We had driven in an air-conditioned car;
We left our house with the windows shut and the curtains drawn, blocking out the heat of the day.
The fridge hummed, the ice-makers' bin was full.
We could shower at bedtime, tossing our clothing into the laundry basket to be washed and line-dried
in the morning.
J. turned on the ceiling fan, dropped into his recliner.
I tended the cats and retreated to my cool basement sewing room.
The conveniences I take for granted are little more than a century old--a sharp contrast to the harsh life that was common for so many years of earth's history.


  1. I really like the fact that Abraham Lincoln came from such a humble background to be President of the USA. It couldn't happen these days I don't think, from what I can gather you need a considerable amount of money if you're going to run for President! I would really enjoy seeing these two places and it looks as though they were quiet and peaceful too.

  2. Really interesting MM. Lincoln - although an important figure in history is mentioned only briefly in passing here, famous ony for being shot and emancipation of slavery. I never considered his early life, which is of course crucial in forming the character etc.

    I'll try and come back and follow the links when I have a bit more time.

    Thanks for this.

  3. That sounds and looks like a wonderful outing.

    A visit to see how things were in years past and to realize how little they had, makes us really appreciate the comforts we have now.

    Thank you for sharing and have a nice holiday.


  4. I visited there with the kids about 35 years ago. We need to get back for another visit.

  5. Interesting, always forget about LIncoln coming from Kentucky, always associate him with Indiana.

  6. Isn't it amazing all the trials the earlier generations had to endure? I just finished reading a journal from the colonial era and the lived on nothing but maple syrup for a month! And the canoed across Lake Huron. When I see modern day survivalist on TV, I have to laugh, imagine what people in the olden days would think? Thank you for the tour. Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents.