Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

Location: Lincoln City, Indiana

Webpage: National Park

General Description: After losing their second homestead in Kentucky over land title disputes, Thomas Lincoln purchased a 160 acre claim north of the Ohio River in the frontier land of Indiana.  It took two weeks to make the move as the last few miles had to be cut out of the forest.  Although Abraham was only 7 years old at this time, he was already assisting with felling trees during the journey in December of 1816.  As he grew older he became skilled with the plow and, especially, the axe.  For the first two years, life was good for the Lincoln family, however, in the fall of 1818, Nancy Hanks Lincoln went to help some neighbors ill with milk sickness.  We now know this is caused by cows eating the local white snakeroot plant, which not only sickens the cow but also passes the toxins along in their milk.  Nancy must have drank some of this poisoned milk while assisting the family as she contracted the sickness and died.  Abraham’s older sister, Sarah, now age 11 had to take over the daily chores of the household.  Within a year, Thomas visited Kentucky, where he married a recently widowed friend, Sarah Bush Johnston and brought her home along with her three children aged 12, 8 and 5.  Sarah proved to be a kind stepmother and under her guidance the family became one and Abraham found his love for reading and writing.  By age 16, Abraham was tall and muscular with a keen intellect.  In 1826, his sister Sarah, died in childbirth of her first child and the family was struck with another tragedy.  In 1828, he got a job piloting a flatboat loaded with produce down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans.  There he saw a slave auction on the docks, an experience that greatly disturbed him and along with the fact that the Indiana Territory was slave free, formed much of us views on slavery.  When the milk sickness once again became a problem two years later in 1830, Thomas Lincoln decided to move once again further west into Illinois.

Brochure

Impressions:

1) Following the Civil War, in 1879, researchers located the grave of Nancy Hanks Lincoln although efforts to create a memorial was not able to gain traction.  It was not until 1927 that the state purchased the area to create Lincoln State Park and not until 1944 was construction of the limestone memorial completed.  In 1962, the state donated the land around the memorial and home site to the NPS for the establishment of the National Memorial.  The National Memorial is a beautiful limestone building constructed in a horseshoe shape with five carved panels depicting five phases of Lincoln’s life.  Within the memorial is a small museum mostly of paintings of Lincoln and a short video about his childhood in Indiana.

2) Located at the top of a manicured grassy hill is the burial site of Abraham’s mother, Nancy along with over 20 other graves in this pioneer cemetery.

PioneerCemetery

3) Continuing on beyond the grave is a reproduction of a frontier farm with re-enactors working at various tasks around the farm.  There is also a stone outline of the cabin where the Lincoln family lived.

4) Beginning at the living farm there is a one-mile loop nature trail through the southern Indiana woods.  Along the way there are a few interpretive signs about the tree species to be found along the trail.

5) Also connecting the living farm with the memorial is a wooded trail called the “Trail of the Twelve Stones.”  As the name implies, along this trail are 12 stones from various places where Abraham Lincoln lived.  Most of the stones are from buildings near where he lived ranging from his birthplace in Kentucky to his adult life in Illinois and life in Washington D.C.  They make a unique trail leading back to the Visitor Center at the Memorial.