Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

Abraham Lincoln was, of course, born in Kentucky in 1809. He spent most of his adult life in Springfield, Illinois prior to his election to the presidency and is entombed there as well. And he lived the final years of his life in Washington, D.C. where he was assassinated and died. In this year of Lincoln's birth bicentennial, much attention has been focused on the aforementioned locations.

The official bicentennial celebration kicked off last year in Hodgenville, Kentucky, near Lincoln's birthplace. A gala birthday celebration took place this year on February 12 in Springfield, with President Obama in attendance. And Washington, D.C. has been the setting for major exhibitions, the re-dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, and various artistic performances throughout the city to celebrate Lincoln.

Not to be overlooked during this or any year is the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. Located in southern Indiana near the small town of Lincoln City, the Memorial encompasses the area where Abraham Lincoln lived from the time he was a young boy until he grew to adulthood.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Boyhood Memorial for the first time just two weekends ago, on September 19, 2009. I've been to the Birthplace Memorial in Kentucky twice, Springfield twice, and to Washington, D.C. more times than I can remember. So I thought I should visit where Lincoln grew up during this bicentennial year. I'd like to share about my trip with my readers. But first some background.


In 1816, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln moved from Kentucky to Indiana along with their two children, Sarah (9) and little Abraham (7). Various reasons are given for the move away from Kentucky, but the most likely reasons are slavery and problems with land deeds. Lincoln's parents were Baptists and opposed slavery, which was legal in Kentucky, but not in Indiana. And Kentucky used irregular "meets and bounds" for land boundaries, which led to constant disputes and uncertainty whether the land a person inhabited was clearly owned by that person. Indiana used a more regular method of defining boundaries and a land owner could be reasonably sure that deeds were accurate.

Lincoln spent the next 14 years of his life living in this area of Indiana, until 1830 when his father decided that Illinois offered better opportunities for farming. It was in Indiana, though, where Abraham learned many of the values which served him so well as he matured into adulthood and as he ascended to the presidency.

After Lincoln's death in 1865, this area of Indiana became revered both for Lincoln and his mother, Nancy, who died there in 1818. At first the area was known as the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Memorial Park and was operated by the state of Indiana. The memorial building pictured above was constructed in the 1940's. Gradually, supporters of the park pushed for national status and in 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation which created the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. Since then it has been run as a unit of the National Park Service.

The park totals about 200 acres and contains the memorial building, a small graveyard which is the burial site of Lincoln's mother, a "living farm" depicting what frontier life was like in Lincoln's time, a small memorial to the cabin the Lincoln family began building in 1829, and a trail featuring twelve stones which came from various sites related to Lincoln.

I'll cover the major highlights of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in individual entries rather than have one post with a lot of information so as to not lose the attention of my readers. I'll be posting in the coming days about the Memorial Building, Lincoln's mother Nancy, and other Lincoln sites I visited within the park and the surrounding area.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Boyhood Memorial. First of all, it's heavily forested and it's a lovely setting. More importantly, I enjoyed this park far more than I ever have the Birthplace Memorial in Kentucky and, perhaps, even Springfield. Lincoln seemed to me to be more "accessible" at the Boyhood Memorial in some ways than he did at the Birthplace site. While it lacks the sheer historical setting of Springfield as it relates to Lincoln, the Boyhood Memorial also is simpler and helps us to understand the foundations of Lincoln's greatness.

The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial is open every day of the year, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and January 1. The admission fee is $3.00 per person.


Dave Wiegers said...

Did you go into the lincoln State Park south across the road? No more than 100 yards or so into the park there is a new memorial to Lincoln. I believe it is called the Lincoln Bicentennial Plaza. The memorial is interesting in that it traces Lincoln's time in southern Indiana.

Geoff Elliott said...


Yes, I visited the Bicentennial Plaza and enjoyed it very much. I'll be posting about it after I'm finished with the postings about the Boyhood Memorial.

I also visited an archaeological dig going on at the Colonel Jones House just a couple of miles from there. Lincoln was employed by the colonel.

Lots of postings coming up. Thanks for reading!

Rebecca said...


Great post! It sounds like this memorial is often overlooked by tourists than other more "important" ones, but it does sounds worth visiting nonetheless. I've found that the simpler memorials tend to make more of an impression than the flashy ones.

Geoff Elliott said...


Thanks for your comments. I did thoroughly enjoy the Boyhood Memorial as you can tell from my post.

In my next few posts, I'll discuss the Memorial Building itself, Nancy Lincoln's gravesite, and a few other things. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!


Abigail said...

Nice to have you back around

Anonymous said...

I've been to this site twice already and I've enjoyed it. Haven't seen the Bicentennial Plaza yet though (I last visited in 2001).

It's interesting how Lincoln's Boyhood Home in Indiana seems to be overlooked. I suspect this is because he was born in Kentucky and became the man he was in Illinois, so Indiana gets missed.

The most overlooked Lincoln place, though, has to be the Lincoln Homestead site 10 miles southwest of Decatur. It's the only place Lincoln lived that doesn't have an original building, replica, or other substantial memorial.

Naim Peress said...

I'm looking forward to this new series.

Naim Peress

Jel said...

Oh, it looks so beautiful's good to hear you had an ejoyable time!

Thanks for sharing :)

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