From Elizabethtown, Kentucky we moved to our first location with Indiana about 2 hours to the north and west. It basically followed the path taken by Thomas Lincoln when he moved his family from Kentucky, north of the Ohio River into the frontier of Indiana. We were looking for a campground near Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home in Indiana and settled on the US Forest Service campground at Tipsaw Lake. This campground is situated well within the Hoosier National Forest just north of the Ohio River. We were somewhat surprised with the landscape, expecting a wide flood plain along the Ohio River. However, the Ohio River is anything but a flat plain. The terrain on both sides of the river is very hilly and the Hoosier National Forest is within this terrain. Just north of the National Forest, the terrain does level out into what we were expecting for Indiana. However, this week we would be staying in the hills surrounded by the Eastern hardwood forest. The Tipsaw Lake Campground is a secluded campgrounds with large spacious sites organized in five loops. Only one of the loops, with about 15 campsites, have electric and water hookups. Most of the campground is laid out for tents and small units, except for this one loop. We had a reserved site, but upon looking at the size of our RV, the volunteers offered to move us to the next site over which was not only longer, but also a pull-through site. We immediately took them up on the offer, sight unseen, and were glad we did. The site we had reserved would have been a challenge to fit into with our length and I don’t think we would have been able to level the RV. The pull-through site was also far from level. It took both boards to level the RV from side to side and this was the first time I had to raise the front of the RV off of the truck to level it back to front. In fact, we had to hook up to the truck a second time to put more boards under the front legs since they would not extend far enough without them to level the RV. Even then, I wished we had put more than 3 boards under the legs ( could have put up to 5) as the legs were still extended further then they have ever been and the RV “popped” all week like something was breaking. However, it does not appear that we have caused any permanent damage, but I will not do that again!! Except for not being level, the site was very nice with a lot of room and trees. This was also our first experience with porous cement bricks for paving on the site. It made the ground look and feel grassy, but the bricks provided a firm surface with no mud after a rain. I would like to have this more often. There was only two negatives about the campground, First, the RV and phone reception was terrible, only PBS would come in reliably. Second, the restrooms were pit toilets, the first we have run into over the past 2.5 years. In addition to being just a covered hole in the ground, there was also no electricity and very little light even during the day. Thankfully, the campgrounds were nearly empty all week so they were not heavily used and did not smell.
As I stated before, our main reason for choosing this location was the proximity of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, about 30 miles to the west. So on Tuesday we went to check it out. I know that Abraham Lincoln was a very important historical figure, but since his family moved multiple times he has numerous very impressive memorials. First, his birthplace in Kentucky has an impressive granite memorial built around what they long thought was the log cabin of his birth. Then the family moved to Indiana for 14 years where Abraham grew up before they moved on to Illinois. At his Indiana home near Pigeon Creek they have again constructed an impressive memorial, this time out of limestone. This memorial is horseshoe shaped with five life size murals carved into the limestone depicting five phases of Abraham’s life. I was disappointed with the inside since the museum consists solely of paintings of Abraham Lincoln and a short film about his boyhood. The major attraction of the National Memorial are the grounds outside the memorial. Walking up a well manicured grassy hill that is reminiscent of the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial in D.C., you come to a small pioneer cemetery where Abraham’s mother, Nancy, is buried. She died just two years after the family moved from Kentucky of milk sickness. This was a deadly ailment of the times caused by drinking milk poisoned by cows eating white snakeroot. While this plant can also kill the cows who eat it, it also poisons their milk with toxins that were almost always fatal at the time. Of course, at the time they did not know the cause of the illness and it was in large part a re-occurrence of the sickness 14 years later that prompted Thomas Lincoln to once again move west. Abraham’s older sister, Sarah, had to take over as housewife for the family, which at the age of 11 was not an easy task. Thus, Thomas went back to Kentucky in 1819 to marry a widowed friend of theirs, Sarah Bush Johnston and bring her family of three children to Indiana. Under her guidance the family became one and Abraham grew up to be a tall, muscular young man with a keen intellect. He often supplemented the family income with the spitting of firewood, as his reputation with an axe was well known. In 1828, he took a job piloting a flatboat down the Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans. Along with his anti-slavery upbringing, since slavery was not allowed in Indiana according to their constitution, his experiences watching the slave auctions in New Orleans strongly influenced his views on slavery.
From the cemetery it is a short walk through the woods to a Living Historical Farm where interpreters use pioneering methods to maintain the farm. We had a nice talk with the interpreter about wild game at the time before walking around the small farm. At this location they have also constructed a metal framework of the foundation of their log cabin. Leading off of the farm is a one-mile nature trail through the Indiana woodlands. It was a nice walk in the mid-morning on a warm spring day. There is also an alternate trail back to the Visitor Center along the Trail of Twelve Stones. As the name implies there are 12 stones along the pathway from all the places Abraham Lincoln lived, from his birthplace in Kentucky, to his life in Illinois, and finally his years in Washington D.C. Of course I expected them to be examples of the stones you would find in those places, and some of them were. However, the majority were from old historical buildings from the area including taverns, stores, and even the home across from the Ford Theater where Abraham Lincoln died. Each stone has a plaque giving information about where it came from. Even with the walk, the site took only a few hours to explore, so we ate a picnic lunch on a bench outside the Visitor Center and headed back to the campground for the afternoon.
Wednesday promised to be another beautiful warm spring day, so I decided to do something a little different. We drove to the east to the little town of Corydon, Indiana which is the site of the first state capitol of Indiana. From 1800 to 1813 the territorial capitol of the Indiana Territory was in Vincennes, which we will be visiting next week. The Indiana Territory included what would become the states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. Shortly after the outbreak of the War of 1812, they decided to move the territorial capitol to a more centrally located site as this part of the Indiana Territory moved toward statehood. While the location this far south may seem strange, you have to know that most of the population of the area was along the Ohio River, north of Kentucky and thus Corydon made sense. The first state constitution was drafted in Corydon and it became the first capitol when Indiana became a state in 1816. By 1825, the population of the state had continued to push northward and they decided to relocate the capitol in the geographic center of the state so they created the town of Indianapolis. For 9 years, Corydon was the state capitol of Indiana thus solidifying its place in history. However, it has remained a small town with all of its charms. The centerpiece of the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site is The Old Capitol building on one side of the town square, which is very beautifully maintained today. We started our exploration of the town at the small Visitor Center across from the town square where they provided us with a nice brochure, ” A Walking Tour of Corydon, Indiana”. We were hoping to see a number of buildings from that time period, however, this has been a dynamic town over the years and very few buildings have survived. We did walk north a couple of blocks to the Branham Tavern, which is the oldest building in town built before 1807 by General William Henry Harrison as his Corydon headquarters as territorial governor. Nearby is the remains of The Constitutional Elm under which the delegates drafted the first state constitution since the log home they were officially meeting in was too cramped and hot during the summer. Only part of the trunk remains today since the tree was killed by the Dutch Elm disease in 1924. We then walked around the downtown area looking at all the old store fronts, all of which have a small plaque giving the history of the building. As you would expect they have gone through a lot of owners and uses over the years. We ended up at the Zimmerman Art Glass factory, which is an old gas station from the early 1900s. We spent about an hour watching the artist quickly craft a couple of glass vases from scratch. The process was very entertaining, especially with his running commentary about the procedure. For lunch we ate at a local brewery, the Point Blank Brewing Company, where we got to sample their brown ale and porter beer while we split a wonderful calzone.
After lunch we got in the truck and drove out of town to the only Civil War battlefield in Indiana. In July of 1863, General John Morgan invaded the north on a lengthy raid with about 2400 cavalry troops at the same time that General Lee was attacking Gettysburg. This raid extended all the way up to northwestern Ohio before turning back south and one of the only places of resistance was at Corydon. Around 450 “Home Guard” militiamen faced off against the Confederate soldiers withstanding a couple of attacks. However, when the Confederates brought up their heavy cannon, the home guard wisely fled back into town. As this was a fast moving raid, the Confederates did not stay, but left after resupplying by sacking the town and trading for fresh horses. Within a couple of days they were gone. We also stopped just north of the Little Indian Creek where they have on display all 35 flags that have flown over Corydon. I could not for the life of me think of 35 different flags, however, once I saw them I understood. I expected the Spanish, French, British, and early US flags. I even expected a Confederate flag, although they had two on display as the official Confederate flag changed in 1863. The rest of the flags are all the US flags that changed every time a state was added to the Union! Thus, there have been 35 flags that have flown over Corydon. This was a fitting end to our day in the small town of Corydon, Indiana.
Thursday was spent doing laundry, working on the blog, and figuring out how we would be traveling through Michigan in July and August. We were both ready for something different on Friday and since it had been quite a while we had been to a casino, we headed north to French Lick, Indiana. Unlike nearly all of the Indiana casinos which are on river boats, French Lick is a resort in the midst of Hoosier National Forest. We understood that at one time the casino was originally technically a riverboat sitting on a man-made lake. However, we could see no evidence of this today. It should be noted that the casino is a very small part of the entire resort which consists of multiple restaurants, two hotels, two golf courses, and event centers. However, all we were interested in was the casino. It is advertised to be a Vegas-style casino and while I have never been to Vegas, I can state that it has everything I would expect to find there. They have all the table games, roulette, craps, and many slot machines. While most of the slot machines cost a minimum of $0.50 to play, we did manage to find enough cheaper machines to keep us busy for a couple of hours. We both did alright, losing about half our money, which for us is a good day at the casino.
We spent the weekend relaxing in the campground, although we did break out our bikes to ride on the asphalt roads in the campground. However, we soon discovered that we are not ready for this hilly terrain. While the grades were not really that steep, they were more then we were ready for. After trying to go up and down these hills, we decided to limit ourselves to circling the campsites in our loop. The grade was much more level and 10 times around was a pretty good workout.