Tag Archive | Land of Lincoln

Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln Boyhood NM

Day 28, Sunday, August 12, 2018

Lincoln City, Indiana

After I left the Indiana Military Museum, I had one more stop I wanted to make in Indiana.  I was headed to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

The site was home to Abraham Lincoln and his family for 14 years, from 1816 – 1830.  Lincoln was only 7 when Thomas Lincoln moved the family to Indiana, after losing his previous homestead due to bad surveying and challenges to land titles.

Unfortunately for the Lincoln family, white snake root plant grew widely in the area; cows ate the plant and their milk and meat became contaminated and poisonous to humans.  Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, ended up dying of the milk sickness in 1818, when Lincoln was 9 years old.

Lincoln’s older sister Sarah became Lincoln’s caregiver, until Thomas Lincoln remarried another Sarah, Sarah Bush Johnston, who nurtured Lincoln’s children as if they were her own.  The blended family and one of Lincoln’s cousins all lived in the one room cabin together.

Lincoln lived in the settlement until he was 21; in 1830 Thomas Lincoln moved the family to Central Illinois.  The homestead faded into obscurity until interest was renewed in 1879.  Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s grave was discovered, as well as the graves of several others who had died over the years at the settlement.

In the 1920s, funds were raised to do an archaeological study to learn more about life in the community during the time Lincoln lived there.  The site became Lincoln State Park in 1932 and ownership of the land was transferred to the National Park Service to create the National Memorial in 1962.  The living farm on site was created in 1968.

When I visited, I checked out the Memorial Building, which has a movie about Lincoln’s childhood, as well as exhibits about the Lincoln’s time in Indiana.  The Park Service has a few of Thomas Lincoln’s possessions on display.  After I saw the Memorial Building, I walked down the trail to see Lincoln’s mother’s grave, and the reconstructed settlement site.

The cabin where Lincoln lived with his family is long gone, but flagstones and a reconstructed hearth mark the outline of where the cabin was.

Me with the foundation of the original cabin

Reconstructed barns and cabins provide visitors a sense of what life was like on the frontier during Lincoln’s time there.  Historical interpreters are there to answer questions and describe what they are doing during their days.

There is also a trail where you can see various stones from important times in Lincoln’s life.  There is a stone from the store Lincoln owned in New Salem, Illinois, as well as a stone from the boarding house where Lincoln was taken after he was shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.  There are twelve stones in all, with explanations of where they came from.

A stone from the Berry-Lincoln store

It was interesting to see what life would have been like for Lincoln as a child and young adult.  The site has been planted with new trees that better represent what the land would have looked like 200 yeas ago, and about 150,000 people visit annually.   I enjoyed checking it out, and talking to the interpreters.  It was so profound to be able to walk where Lincoln had walked as a child and young man!

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library

Day 22, Monday, August 6, 2018

Springfield is home to the Lincoln Museum and Library, a fascinating place!  The museum has many interactive exhibits, which are fun for the whole family.

When you first go into the museum, there is a performance in the museum’s theater.  It is probably best described as a play, but features a live actor interacting with holograms as the other characters!  It takes place in the museum’s library and shows the viewer several items of historical significance to Lincoln’s life.  The technology also allows the live actor to fade out of the scene, and they literally disappear in front of the viewer’s eyes!  If you go, make sure you check this out!

The Lincoln Museum also has a number of exhibits.  I really enjoyed the live actor who discussed Lincoln’s draft of the Emancipation Proclamation and the events leading up to it.  The actor portrayed Francis Carpenter, the actor who painted the portrait of Lincoln and his cabinet members.  He was very well informed, and coherently expressed the arguments for and against issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.  I watched for quite a while and was impressed by his level of knowledge.

Another favorite of mine was the map that moves through the Civil War time period, showing the movement of battles throughout the country, the territory held by the Union and the Confederacy, and tallying up the toll of casualties.  The map moves at a consistent pace, so you can see how some periods of the war were much more active and deadly than others.  It is punctuated with significant events of the war – it was very well done!

There are also exhibits of Lincoln artifacts, as well as an interesting exhibit on the cartoons that ran in the media outlets during his presidential campaigns and presidency.  If you think the media is ruthless and not neutral now, well, it wasn’t any different back then.

And last, but certainly not least, the Lincoln artifacts.  The museum displays a number of items that once belonged to Lincoln and his family members, including letters Lincoln wrote, jewelry he gave to Mary, and various memorabilia associated with the family.  There are also Lincoln items of historical significance, like sculptures and photographs of Lincoln throughout his life.  It is powerful to be so close to these articles that Lincoln once held in his own hands and see items that are 160 years old.

Across the street from the Lincoln Museum is an additional exhibit in the historic train station.  The exhibit when I visited was the movie Lincoln.  They had costumes and props that were used in the movie.  They also showed photos of the original clothing that the costumes were based upon.  Sally Field bears a resemblance to Mary Lincoln, especially when she was made up and costumed for her role in the movie, and it shows in the photos of the two that were displayed side by side.  They did a great job in the movie making things historically accurate, and it was interesting to see some of the props up close.

After I left the Lincoln Museum, I continued my journey east and arrived in Indiana.  I was going to be staying two nights in Dana, Indiana, with Marilyn, my brother’s mother-in-law.  It would be nice to be sleeping in a real bed, in a real house!

I got to Dana around dinner time, and Marilyn and I went out for dinner at a brewery in Terra Haute.  It was nice to be a passenger in a car and not have to drive!

Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln’s Home

Day 21, Sunday, August 5, 2018

Lincoln lived and worked in Springfield, Illinois for 17 years.  It is where he established his law practice with William Herndon, and where he purchased his only home.  The home he owned, and several of the neighboring homes, have been preserved as the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

Sign posing…

When Lincoln first purchased the home, it was a one and a half story cottage, with three rooms on the first floor and three sleeping lofts above.  Even though the home was only five years old when he bought it, Lincoln did extensive renovations, raising the roof to make a full second story, adding an addition on the back, and probably removing a large columned front porch.

After Lincoln’s death, the home was rented to a series of tenants, who began charging visitors to take a tour of the home.  This, and the fact that they did not leave the home in good condition, prompted Robert Lincoln to donate the home to the state of Illinois in 1887, with the stipulation that the home be available to the public at no charge. The home was restored to the period when Lincoln last lived in the home – 1861, so the home looks today like it did in the photographs taken at the time.

Ownership transferred to the National Park Service and it became a National Historic Site on August 18, 1971.  The site preserves the home and other period structures within a four block area around the home.

 

You have to sign up for a tour in order to see the home, but as agreed, it is free of charge.  The rangers take you through both levels of the home, from the public living areas to Lincoln’s and the children’s bedrooms.  The rugs and wallpapers are so loud and busy!  Most of the furniture is not original to the Lincoln’s time but is period.  However, Lincoln’s writing desk is the one he used, and it is humbling to see.  This is the desk where he wrote letters, studied and did his legal work at home.

 

I visited Lincoln’s Home once before, over 10 years ago, and really enjoyed the tour.  It was no less incredible this time around.  The rangers are great about telling the story of the home and answering questions.  The tour moves fairly quickly, because Lincoln’s Home is always a popular tourist attraction, so depending on the size of the group and the time of day you may feel a bit rushed.

A neighborhood home

 

Homes in the neighborhood

Be sure to take some time to wander the neighborhood as well; there are several other historic homes that have been preserved as a part of this historic site, and some interesting exhibits.

If you love Lincoln, you have to visit!

Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln’s Tomb

Day 21, Sunday, August 5, 2018

On this trip, I was really looking forward to seeing the place where Lincoln is buried.  On my visit to Springfield several years ago, I didn’t have enough time to make it there, so it has been on my list for a while!

Lincoln, as you know, was assassinated in Washington, D.C. in April 1865.  His last wishes, however, were to be buried in Springfield, which had been his home for 17 years, and was the only place where he and Mary ever owned a home.  Lincoln and his son Willie, who had died in the White House, were both carried home from Washington, D.C. by train, and Lincoln’s body laid in state in various locations along the way.

The train carrying Lincoln departed Washington, D.C. on Friday, April 21, 1865 and largely traveled the route that Lincoln had traveled to Washington as President-elect in 1861.  The train never traveled faster than 20 mph on the journey, and hundreds of thousands of people watched the train pass by, and waited in the lines to see him lying in state.  He passed through 444 communities in seven states on his way to Springfield.

When he got back to Springfield, Lincoln, and his two sons Willie and Eddie, who died before him, were interred in the vault.  Mary and his son Tad were buried there later.  Robert, Lincoln’s oldest son, is the only member of the immediate family who is not buried in Springfield; he long outlived the rest of the family and chose to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Lincoln’s monument took several years to build, in the meantime Lincoln’s crypt was an above ground crypt that was not particularly secure; an attempt to steal his body in exchange for the release from prison of a counterfeiter was very nearly successful.  After the body snatching attempt, security at the crypt was beefed up (not for a while though) and Lincoln’s coffin was eventually encased in concrete ten feet under the ground.

Outside the monument is a bronze bust of Lincoln – be sure to rub his nose for good luck.  And please don’t ask why you are supposed to rub Lincoln’s nose for good luck, as he was one of our unluckiest Presidents – maybe we shouldn’t explore that too deeply.

Then step inside the tomb – there is a ranger inside who can answer questions and explain the details of Lincoln’s tomb.  They have a passport stamp too – although it is not officially a National Parks site.

Once inside, you go into a hallway at the base of the monument; it goes around to the back of the monument where Lincoln’s crypt is.  Lincoln has a beautiful marble crypt, but remember that he is not inside.  Rather, he is about ten feet below.  Mary and their sons are in wall niches on the opposite wall.  The vault room is simple and somber, and it was truly a humbling experience to be where this great man is buried.

Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln’s New Salem

Day 20, Saturday, August 4, 2018

As I drove toward Springfield, Illinois I was lured away by the sign announcing Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site.  My eyes lit up…  New Salem!  (Note: Does this not happen to everyone?!!?)

New Salem was the town where Abraham Lincoln lived as a young adult, between 1831 and 1837, while he was in his twenties.  During that time he worked as a boatman, a soldier in the Black Hawk War, a general store owner, postmaster, surveyor, and of course, what he is most known for in his young life – a rail-splitter.  It was here that he was first elected to the Illinois General Assembly.  New Salem is also where he met and fell in love with Ann Rutledge, the young woman who many believe was the true love of his life.

New Salem as an actual town no longer exists.  It had a very short life; it was founded in 1829 and it was abandoned by 1840, in part because the nearby Sangamon River was not well suited for steamboat travel, and after the county seat was located in Petersburg people just naturally drifted away.  During its existence though, between 20 and 25 families lived in New Salem, and it was an active commercial center.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) reconstructed New Salem, using the original foundations and historical information about the town and what it once looked like.  There are 22 recreated structures, from homes to the types of businesses that once existed there.  One log cabin is original – it was built in New Salem, moved at some point to Petersburg, and later moved back to New Salem when the village was reborn.

New Salem flowers

I arrived in time to have a late lunch and see the village.  I purchased my admission and checked out the museum first.  The museum has artifacts on life in New Salem, information about Lincoln’s time and experience here, and of course, they dive into the Lincoln/Ann Rutledge saga.

There are conflicting opinions on Lincoln’s relationship with Rutledge.  Some believe that Lincoln held Rutledge very close to his heart and was interested in marrying her.  Others believe that their relationship was simply a friendship, and that Lincoln’s affectionate way of writing about her was simply because he wrote the same way about everyone he cared for.  There are also those who believe that William Herndon, Lincoln’s former law partner, spun up the Rutledge story after Lincoln’s assassination in order to take a jab at Mary Todd Lincoln, whom he despised.  We will probably never know, and perhaps all that is known is that Rutledge died in New Salem in 1835 at the age of 22, and that Lincoln sunk into one of his many severe depressions after her death.

The village site itself is amazing.  The reconstructions are very well done and look like the original (I think – given that I wasn’t around to see the original).  It probably helps that these reconstructions aren’t too far from their 100th birthdays…  They are decorated with period artifacts and there are period costumed docents stationed at various places to answer questions and tell you about what their lives would have been like when Lincoln lived here.  One young woman told me that she was refusing to go inside her home because she had been surprised by a snake inside the previous day!  Things we don’t have to consider in Western Washington, but I would have liked to have seen the snake!

I enjoyed wandering around and checked out all the buildings.  The village contains homes, a post office, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and various other businesses reminiscent of the time period.  Even though Lincoln did not work in these buildings, the post office and general store he worked owned would have been similar to these reconstructions.

I took my time, checking out the interiors of each building, enjoying the leisurely afternoon!  There were lots of butterflies and bees on the flowers, and New Salem even has a horse!  It was a great place to learn about Lincoln’s young adult life!

Circus Trip 2018: In the Land of Lincoln

This morning I am in Springfield, Illinois.  I have been touring some of the Lincoln sites for the last two days, and loving it!  I did throw in a Frank Lloyd Wright house too, for good measure – it was really cool!  I am so enjoying this!

The last couple days have been hot, hot, hot – temps at 90 with high humidity, but it’s been ok.  It did mean I set up the tent because the car would have been too hot!  I have been serenaded with a cacophony of cicadas, and the birds start up about 5 am.  My earplugs come in handy!

My view on 8/6/2018 – Springfield, Illinois

Yesterday I visited Lincoln’s tomb, which is one place I didn’t get to on my only other trip to Springfield.  It was humbling to stand where Lincoln is buried (safe from the graverobbers now…).  Of course, I had to rub his nose for good luck!  I made a wish, but I can’t tell you, or then it won’t come true!

Who wouldn’t want to rub his nose for luck!? I made a wish…

I’m off to see some more sights – just wanted to update everybody on my progress!