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Tracing Abraham Lincoln’s Life in the Midwest

By Marilyn Jones

Photo courtesy Springfield CVB

Photo courtesy Springfield CVB

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is Feb. 12, a time when American’s reflect on this hero of the people and the 16th president of the United States. Fortunately for Midwesterners, there are plenty of historic sites to visit in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois offering a look into Lincoln’s life including his childhood, law career and married life.

 

Kentucky

The Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln National Historical Park near Hodgenville features a marble, neoclassical monument. Inside is a symbolic cabin representing Lincoln’s humble entry into the world in 1809. For more than a century travelers from around the world have visited the shrine.

There is an orientation film and a museum explaining what life was like for the Lincolns and other early settlers. The site also includes the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek. It is a short walk from the birthplace shrine to Knob Creek where visitors are able to retrace areas Lincoln talked about when recalling his childhood, his sister Sarah and his parents Thomas and Nancy.

Indiana

The Lincoln family lived at Knob Creek from the time he was 2 until he was almost 8 years old when, due to a land dispute, the Lincolns were forced to move from Kentucky to Indiana. A year later, Abraham’s mother died of tremetol (milk sickness). Young Abraham was devastated.

A few months after Nancy’s death, Thomas married Sarah Bush Johnston, a Kentucky widow with three children of her own. She and Abraham quickly bonded and she encouraged Abraham to read. Neighbors recalled how Abraham would walk for miles to borrow a book.

The Lincolns lived at Knob Creek from the time Abraham was 2 until he was almost 8 years old. – Photo courtesy Kentucky Tourism and Travel

The Lincolns lived at Knob Creek from the time Abraham was 2 until he was almost 8 years old. – Photo courtesy Kentucky Tourism and Travel

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, near Lincoln City, helps illustrate what it was like for Abraham as he grew from boyhood to his early 20s. Here guests learn about the lives of the Lincoln family who lived here in the pioneer community from 1816 to 1830. The Visitor Center features an orientation film and museum. The wooded Lincoln Boyhood Trail leads to Nancy Lincoln’s gravesite.

The Lincoln Living Historical Farm is another excellent part of the park where guests can learn about daily life in the 1820s. The homestead includes a log cabin, outbuildings, split rail fences, livestock, gardens and field crops. Rangers dressed in period clothing perform a variety of activities typical of daily life in the 1820s.

Illinois

From 1831 to 1837 Lincoln lived in New Salem Village where he studied law. He was also a store clerk, served as Postmaster and deputy surveyor, and general store owner. Working with the public, he acquired social skills and honed story-telling talent.

Today at Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site visitors will find timber houses, shops and stores in a reconstructed village. Period reenactors

From 1831 to 1837 Lincoln lived in New Salem, Ill. Photo courtesy Illinois Office of Tourism

From 1831 to 1837 Lincoln lived in New Salem, Ill. Photo courtesy Illinois Office of Tourism

take on the characters of people who lived and worked here more than 150 years ago.

After being admitted to the bar in 1837, he moved to Springfield and began practicing law. In 1842, Lincoln married Mary Todd, a well-educated woman from a distinguished Kentucky family. The couple had four children, of which only one, Robert, survived to adulthood.

One of the most visited Lincoln attractions is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, completely restored to its 1860

The Lincoln-Herndon Law Office offers insight into Lincoln’s law career. - Photo courtesy Springfield CVB

The Lincoln-Herndon Law Office offers insight into Lincoln’s law career. – Photo courtesy Springfield CVB

appearance. Here much about Lincoln as a husband, father, neighbor and politician is revealed.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln left his home of 17 years—the only home he ever owned—to serve as the 16th president of the United States.

Tours are conducted by National Park Service Rangers.

Other Springfield sites include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Lincoln-Herndon

Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln National Historical Park is a shrine visited by tourists for more than a century. – Photo courtesy Kentucky Tourism and Travel

Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln National Historical Park is a shrine visited by tourists for more than a century. – Photo courtesy Kentucky Tourism and Travel

Law Office and the Lincoln Tomb where Abraham, Mary and three of their four sons are laid to rest. Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

These historic sites offer a glimpse into the life of this complex man who helped abolish slavery and kept the nation together—a hero for all generations

 

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