Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

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Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial is a United States Presidential Memorial
United States presidential memorial
The Presidential memorials in the United States honor the various Presidents of the United States and seek to perpetuate their legacies.-Living and physical elements:...

, a National Historic Landmark District in present-day Lincoln City, Indiana
Lincoln City, Indiana
Lincoln City is an unincorporated community in Carter Township, Spencer County in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of Indiana. It lies five minutes south of Interstate 64, northeast of Evansville, and approximately twenty miles north of the Ohio River. It was laid out in 1872 on the site...

. It preserves the farm site where Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 lived with his family from 1816 to 1830. During that time, he grew from a 7-year-old boy to a 21-year-old man. His mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and at least 27 other settlers were buried here in the Pioneer Cemetery. His sister Sarah Lincoln Grigsby
Sarah Lincoln Grigsby
Sarah Lincoln Grigsby was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Lincoln on February 10, 1807. She was the older sister of the future president Abraham Lincoln and cared for him when they were young...

 was buried in the nearby Little Pigeon Baptist Church cemetery, across the street at Lincoln State Park
Lincoln State Park
Lincoln State Park is an Indiana state park. It is east of Evansville, IN.Lincoln State Park is located in southern Indiana in Spencer County approximately east of Evansville. The park was established in 1932 and encompasses . There are of trails in the park...


Included in the park is the Lincoln Living Historical Farm. The Lincoln Boyhood Home was named a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 in 1960. In 2005 the site was visited by 147,443 people. On site is a visitors' center, featuring a 15-minute orientation film about Lincoln's time in Indiana, and museum and memorial halls. The site is located about ten minutes off the Interstate 64
Interstate 64
Interstate 64 is an Interstate Highway in the Midwestern and Southeastern United States. Its western terminus is at I-70, U.S. 40, and U.S. 61 in Wentzville, Missouri. Its eastern terminus is at an interchange with I-264 and I-664 at Bowers Hill in Chesapeake, Virginia. As I-64 is concurrent with...

/U.S. 231 junction and near the new U.S. 231 Route, named the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Parkway in his honor.

Memorial building

The centerpiece of the memorial is a one-story limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

Ashlar is prepared stone work of any type of stone. Masonry using such stones laid in parallel courses is known as ashlar masonry, whereas masonry using irregularly shaped stones is known as rubble masonry. Ashlar blocks are rectangular cuboid blocks that are masonry sculpted to have square edges...

 memorial building completed in 1944 that features five sculpted panels portraying different phases of Lincoln's life. The building has an entrance fee. It has a small theater featuring a 15-minute film about Lincoln's life in Indiana. The museum features several exhibits and artifacts related to Lincoln's life, which are located in an adjoining hall. A private gallery displays Lincoln-related artwork, including numerous portraits and lithographs of Lincoln and his family. The park holds an oil portrait of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, done by an artist long after her death. A chapel and meeting hall can be rented for private weddings and other gatherings.

Historical farm

Nearby is the site of the original Lincoln cabin; the sandstone
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

 foundation clearly outlines the boundary of the house and is visible to visitors. Discovered through a professional archeological excavation, it is now preserved and protected by a wall. A short distance from the original cabin site stands the replica farm house. Park rangers in full period clothing work the 1820s-style farm, making it a living history site. Visitors can talk with them, take classes and learn more about the many activities and items at the farm. The Living Historical Farm is open seasonally, from mid-spring to early fall; it cultivates crops, raises livestock, and uses and displays historic farm implements.

Lincoln in Indiana

Abraham's father Thomas Lincoln
Thomas Lincoln
Thomas Lincoln was an American farmer and father of President Abraham Lincoln.-Ancestors:Thomas Lincoln was descended from Samuel Lincoln, a Puritan from East Anglia who landed in Massachusetts in 1637...

 had lost two previous homes in Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, one at the Sinking Springs farm where Lincoln was born, in part through problems with land titles. Because Kentucky had not had proper land surveys in its early years, many residents were forced off their farms after surveys were completed and land titles were challenged. The Lincolns were one such family: after Thomas had built some economic and social success in Kentucky, he lost everything. In 1815 he went to Indiana to locate a new homestead for his family. He wanted to live in a free state
Free state
Free state may refer to:* Free state , a loosely defined term used by various states at different times and places to describe themselves...

 rather than compete with farmers who used slave labor.

The family took two weeks in 1816 to move to Spencer County
Spencer County, Indiana
As of the census of 2000, there were 20,391 people, 7,569 households, and 5,752 families residing in the county. The population density was 51 people per square mile . There were 8,333 housing units at an average density of 21 per square mile...

 in southern Indiana, settling at what was known as Little Pigeon Creek. Lincoln was a talented carpenter
A carpenter is a skilled craftsperson who works with timber to construct, install and maintain buildings, furniture, and other objects. The work, known as carpentry, may involve manual labor and work outdoors....

 who owned better carpentry tools than the average settler. He could build cabins in as little as four days, and was able to have their new home built before the winter began. The next year he built up the homestead, cleared land of trees and rocks before plowing, and planted crops. In early September 1818, some residents started coming down with milk sickness
Milk sickness
Milk sickness, also known as tremetol vomiting, or in animals as trembles, is characterized by trembling, vomiting, and severe intestinal pain that affects individuals who ingest milk or other dairy products, or meat from a cow that has fed on white snakeroot, which contains the poison...

. It was caused by the settlers' consuming dairy products or meat of cows that ate the white snakeroot plant, which had the toxin temetrol. Cows often roamed in woods and underbrush, where the white snakeroot grew. Most of those in Little Pigeon Creek with milk sickness became deathly ill, including Abraham's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. She succumbed and died on October 5, 1818. She was buried in a gravesite behind the family cabin next to the Lincolns' closest neighbor, Nancy Rusher Brooner. Brooner had also been ill with milk sickness, was nursed by Nancy Lincoln, and died two weeks before on September 18. Nancy's maternal aunt and uncle, Elizabeth and Thomas Sparrow, with whom she had grown up, also died of the illness and were buried nearby, at what became known as Pioneer Cemetery. A minister could not reach the frontier settlement until the following spring, when he conducted a funeral service for all of the dead.

Following his mother's death, young Abraham Lincoln continued to work on the farm and was cared for by older his sister Sarah. In 1819 their father married Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow of Elizabethtown, Kentucky whom he had known from the years there. She had three children, all of whom came with her to share the Lincoln cabin. Abraham shared the cabin's loft with his two stepbrothers for the rest of his time in Indiana. Sarah treated the Lincoln children as her own, and Abraham grew especially close to her. Early on, the Lincoln family had joined the nearby Little Pigeon Creek Primitive Baptist Church
Primitive Baptist
Primitive Baptists, also known as Hard Shell Baptists or Anti-Mission Baptists, are conservative, Calvinist Baptists adhering to beliefs that formed out of the controversy among Baptists in the early 1800’s over the appropriateness of mission boards, bible tract societies, and temperance...

, where Thomas served as a trustee and Abraham briefly as a sextant. The church is preserved in the Lincoln State Park
Lincoln State Park
Lincoln State Park is an Indiana state park. It is east of Evansville, IN.Lincoln State Park is located in southern Indiana in Spencer County approximately east of Evansville. The park was established in 1932 and encompasses . There are of trails in the park...


In November 1819, the area's first school was opened by Andrew Crawford, and at age 10, Abraham attended a school for the first time, at a cost of two dollars per year. He was a student there for two school years, which were three-month intervals held during the winter months when the children were not needed for farming. In 1822 the Lincolns enrolled the boy in a new school taught by James Swaney. As it was more than 4 miles (6.4 km) away and Abraham had to walk there, his attendance was poor. In 1824 he was transferred to another school closer to home, which he attended until age 16, when he ended formal schooling. In January 1826, Abraham's only sister Sarah died during the birth of her first child, who was stillborn. She was buried in the Little Pigeon Creek Primitive Baptist Church cemetery.

As he grew, Abraham began taking outside jobs, often working for twenty-five cents a day clearing land, plowing fields, and building fences. When he was not working, he spent a great deal of time at the James Gentry General Store and the two nearby grain mills in the small town, where he liked to tell stories and listen to those of older men. He also read widely and borrowed books from anyone who would lend them. During his several trips into the county seat
County seat
A county seat is an administrative center, or seat of government, for a county or civil parish. The term is primarily used in the United States....

 of Rockport
Rockport, Indiana
Rockport is a city in Ohio Township, Spencer County, Indiana, along the Ohio River. The population was 2,160 at the 2000 census. The city is the county seat of Spencer County.-History:...

, Abraham became acquainted with the lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

s John Pitcher and John Breckenridge, who inspired his interest in the law. Later he followed that profession. During this period, he made his first trip with the businessman Allen Gentry by flatboat down to New Orleans to sell produce and bring home supplies. He earned eight dollars from the trip. It is traditionally believed that this was when he first saw a slave market. From his experiences and the influences of the anti-slavery men in Indiana and locally, Abraham began to form his opinions against slavery. After fourteen years in southern Indiana, in March 1830, Thomas Lincoln moved his family to central Illinois.

Making the memorial

The site attracted little attention as a link to Lincoln's past until 1879, during a period of increased activity in the North and the South of memorializing following the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. When researchers located the grave of Nancy Hanks
Nancy Hanks
Nancy Hanks Lincoln was the mother of Abraham Lincoln and of Sarah Lincoln after her marriage to Thomas Lincoln. After the family moved from Kentucky to Spencer County, Indiana, Nancy Lincoln died of milk sickness at the Little Pigeon Creek settlement...

, Peter Evans Studebaker
Studebaker Corporation was a United States wagon and automobile manufacturer based in South Bend, Indiana. Founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1868 under the name of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, the company was originally a producer of wagons for farmers, miners, and the...

 (of the South Bend, Indiana
South Bend, Indiana
The city of South Bend is the county seat of St. Joseph County, Indiana, United States, on the St. Joseph River near its southernmost bend, from which it derives its name. As of the 2010 Census, the city had a total of 101,168 residents; its Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 316,663...

 Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company
Studebaker Corporation was a United States wagon and automobile manufacturer based in South Bend, Indiana. Founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1868 under the name of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, the company was originally a producer of wagons for farmers, miners, and the...

) arranged for a headstone to be placed at the site. For decades local groups tried to gain recognition for the site as one of historical importance. In 1917 they located the foundation of the cabin and officially marked it on April 28.

In 1927 the Indiana Lincoln Union was formed to raise funds and encourage support for a memorial to recognize Lincoln's years in the Hoosier state. In 1932 the state established the adjacent Lincoln State Park
Lincoln State Park
Lincoln State Park is an Indiana state park. It is east of Evansville, IN.Lincoln State Park is located in southern Indiana in Spencer County approximately east of Evansville. The park was established in 1932 and encompasses . There are of trails in the park...

 to protect the area and preserve the historic homestead site. The state transferred part of that area to the memorial district, including the grave site of Nancy Lincoln (and what was found to be 29 other graves), now included in what is called Pioneer Cemetery. The Union continued to raise funds to make improvements to the site in the 1930s and 1940s, during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 and World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. It completed construction of the Memorial building in 1944. It has five bas-relief panels portraying different periods of Lincoln's life. (See photos below in gallery.)

In 1962 the Indiana legislature approved donating another 114 acres (46.1 ha) to the district and the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial was created. The U.S. Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 authorized the National Memorial on February 19, 1962, placing it under the National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

. The memorial district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

, on October 15, 1966. In 1968 the NPS created the Living Historical Farm after "meticulous research" about the period, to help visitors better understand the lives of Lincoln, his family and neighbors during the frontier years in the area.

External links