When planning a Lincoln trip, my first thoughts would be Illinois or Kentucky. But at a family reunion in Jasper, Indiana, a cousin changed all that when he asked, “Did you know that Lincoln grew up near here?” That launched my mom and me on a Bonus Nerd Trip to Lincoln’s Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana!
Lincoln spent many formative years (ages 7-21) in this pioneer frontier. The movie in the Visitors’ Center does a good job illustrating the very physical work of clearing the unsettled woods of southern Indiana. The Lincolns relocated from Kentucky in 1816. Two years later, when Abraham was 9-years-old, his mother died of “milk sickness,” caused when cattle graze on white snakeroot creating a toxin in their milk. (We did not have time to stop at the pioneer cemetery to see the marker for Nancy Hanks Lincoln; the exact location of her grave is unknown).
The year after Lincoln’s mother died, his father returned to Kentucky and married Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow who moved to the frontier with her three children (12, 8 and 5). The family stayed in Indiana until 1830 when they moved to Illinois. (Lincoln himself left in 1828 when he got a job on a flatboat).
We started our tour at the Visitor’s Center/Memorial. The building features relief panels showing events from Lincoln’s life. Inside we watched the movie, checked out several displays and picked up a map for the rest of the park.
Since this was a “bonus nerd trip” (meaning we hadn’t planned it, we discovered it while on another trip), we had to race through most of the exhibits. We had a long drive ahead, since we wanted to get to North Bend, Ohio, before William Henry Harrison’s memorial closed.
Back at the Lincoln site, my mom was not up for walking on the trail to the Lincoln home site, so I had a stealth visit to the reconstructed historical farm while Mom sat in the car with the air conditioning (We visited in mid-August, and it was super hot! It’s hard to imagine life there in the early 1800s).
I also felt bad for the historical “interpreters,” sitting in a cabin wearing 19th century garb (long pants and full length skirt) with a fire going in August – yikes!
Visiting Lincoln’s boyhood home gave me a renewed appreciation for our 16th president. Seeing these sites for yourself, you may also get an appreciation of the difficult, physical challenges of life back then, including how many people lived together in such cramped quarters. (Of course I am very much a product of the 20th and 21st centuries, so I couldn’t stay very long to appreciate all these things since I had to race back to my mom in the air-conditioned car!)
Next post: A pit stop in Santa Claus, Indiana.