Day 31, Wednesday, August 15, 2018
I have for so long wanted to visit the site where our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln was born. I have seen where he was a young man, where he was a lawyer, where he was President, and where he died… It was so humbling to stand at the place where this great man began his life!
Lincoln was born here at Sinking Spring Farm (named for the water source) on February 12, 1809; he lived here for the first two years of his life. His parents, Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln made their living as farmers, and contrary to the usual story, Lincoln didn’t grow up particularly poor, by the standards of the day. He did move around a lot though, as the family had to leave Sinking Spring Farm after a dispute about the ownership of the land. They moved to nearby Knob Creek Farm in 1811, when Lincoln was two years old.
The birthplace memorial here was completed in 1911, a few years after the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. A huge marble and granite Memorial Building was built between 1909 and 1911, in Greek and Roman architectural styles. It has 56 steps up to the building, to represent the 56 years that Lincoln was alive. Sixteen windows on the building and sixteen rosettes on the ceiling represent the fact that he was our nation’s 16th President. Inside, a symbolic birth cabin gives visitors an idea of what the cabin where Lincoln was born might have looked like.
The symbolic birth cabin was moved to the site when the Memorial Building was constructed, and had to be made smaller to fit inside the building, and to more accurately represent what Lincoln’s first home probably looked like. At the time the Memorial Building was constructed, many people actually believed that this was the cabin where Lincoln was born. Later technology allowed them to do dendochronology (tree ring analysis) in 2004 to determine that the cabin was not built until the 1840s, so it could not have been Lincoln’s birthplace.
When I first arrived, it had been pouring down rain, so I hurried into the Visitor’s Center and then hurried over to the Memorial Building. When I went back outside, the sun had come back out! I went down the 56 steps of the Memorial Building to check out Sinking Spring, the water feature which gave the farm its name. Sinking Spring is an underground spring, with an outlet to the surface set down into a hole; this was certainly the first water Abraham Lincoln ever drank!
Knob Creek Farm is also part of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park; it is located ten miles away from Sinking Spring Farm. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, this portion of the park was not staffed, so I didn’t get to see inside this cabin. It was also not original to Lincoln or his family, but belonged to the family of one of the Lincolns’ neighbors. The young boy who lived in this cabin is thought to have once saved young Abe Lincoln’s life when he fell into Knob Creek. The cabin was moved here when the historical park was created. It was peaceful and quiet and interesting to see another place where Lincoln spent time as a child; he lived here from the ages of two to seven. Another land ownership dispute caused the family’s move to Indiana.
There were several signs posted indicating that Copperhead snakes make their home in the area. I didn’t see any, but also didn’t go tromping off through the field to the creek!
After leaving Lincoln behind for the day, I made my way to Lexington, Kentucky, where I would be stopping for the night. I saw a highway sign advertising Wildside Winery and decided to check it out! They had good wines, and a nice selection of both dry and sweet wines. I enjoyed talking with my server – it was his first day working at the winery – but he had lived in Brookings, Oregon for eight years, so we had the Pacific Northwest in common! I purchased four bottles; one was their Wild Duet. Sadly, they are all long gone now – but they were delicious!
That evening I camped at Boonesboro State Park in Lexington; the first of two nights I would spend there!