Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

Location: Hodgenville, Kentucky

Webpage: National Park

General Description: Before the Lincoln’s came to Kentucky, their family had a long and restless history of leaving their father’s home seeking new land and fewer constraints.  By 1782, Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather and namesake once again sold their farm in the Shenandoah Valley and followed Daniel Boone’s seven year old blazed trail into Kentucky.  This was the frontier of the time fraught with many hardships and dangers, not the least of them being native Indians.  In fact, Abraham was killed in an Indian raid leaving Thomas Lincoln the head of the family at age 10.  After Abraham’s death, the Lincoln’s moved to what is now Washington County.  After roaming up and down Kentucky for years, Thomas and his family settled in Elizabethtown in 1803 where he learned the carpentry trade earning enough money to buy a farm.  Sinking Spring Farm was a 300 acres of stony land and marginal cropland, but it had it’s own spring.  The couple’s first child, Sarah, was a old and Nancy Lincoln was pregnant with their second.  On February 12, 1809, Abraham was born to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln.  Abraham Lincoln had no memories of Sinking Spring Farm as the family lost the farm in 1811 over a land dispute that was common in those days on the frontier.  The family moved to a much small farm on Knob Creek, 10 miles northeast, where they leased 30 acres along with other families. Knob Creek Farm was much richer farmland, however, 30 acres was barely sufficient to sustain a family.  Their primary crop was corn and pumpkins.  Once again the family stayed their for only a few years, until 1816 when the land was again lost in the courts.  Rather than dealing again with a long court battle, Thomas moved his family once again into the frontier by crossing the Ohio River and into the Indiana Territory.  Today the National Historical Park consists of the two farms around Hodgenville where Abraham Lincoln was born and lived for the first 7 years of his life.  In 1911, President Taft dedicated a marble and granite memorial at Sinking Springs Farm to house and protect the log cabin, that at the time was believed to be where Lincoln was born.  Subsequent carbon dating has established that this log cabin is not old enough, but it does represent the style and size of the cabin for the time period.  In 1916, the memorial and Sinking Spring Farm became the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.  The Knob Creek Farm was added as a second unit in 2001.

Brochure

Impressions:

1) Since the central feature of the National Historical Park is the marble and granite memorial, the Visitor Center for the park is not very special.  They do have a short movie about the family history and birth of Abraham Lincoln and a few exhibits about life in the frontier.

VisitorCenter

2) The marble and granite memorial that covers and protects the log cabin is an impressive structure.  The 56 steps leading up to the memorial represents the 56 years of Liincoln’s life.  The log cabin in the interior is very small, as your would expect.  While it is not the original cabin within which Abraham Lincoln was born, it is the cabin that was on the farm when it was purchased by the Lincoln Farm Association in 1906.  It itself had a rich history of being moved to various large cities as a tourist attraction before being permanently placed in the memorial.

3) While only a few acres of the original 300 acre farm is owned by the NPS, it does include the natural spring that provided much needed fresh water.  Due to the cave systems throughout the area, there are very few above ground streams, so these natural springs were very important.  There are also a couple of hiking trails through the farm, of which we took the trail that passes by the location of the Boundary Oak that was a sapling next to their cabin and lived until 1976.

SinkingSpring

4) The second unit of the park is the Knob Creek Farm located about 10 miles to the northeast of Sinking Spring Farm.  There is not very much to see at this location except for a few interpretive signs about his early childhood at the farm.  There are two historical structures at the site.  One is a 19th Century log cabin that is believed to be the home of Lincoln’s neighbor at the time. The other is a 20th Century tavern and tourist site that has been used for many purposes throughout the years to capture the interest of tourists in the site.