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.