Tuesday, March 27, 2018

At the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Site

Amazing the adventures that you can have less than half a day from your home!

Day #1 of our Spring Break trip

We've seen where Abraham Lincoln grew up, right in our home state, and fortunately, where he was born is just the next state over,  less than three hours' drive and across the Ohio river.

We visited the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Site on the second day of our trip, and you can see that the bleak skies that were so apparent on the first day of our trip paid off overnight into this:

Yep, we drove due south from our frigid spring weather only to hit... frigid spring weather!

Ah, well.

This national park site is small enough that when we pulled up, almost two hours after its posted opening time, the gate was shut. I looked on the website, and it was listed as open; I called the park's phone number, and before being directed to endless phone trees, none of which led me to an actual human, it again listed the park as open. 

I found the main voicemail and left a message that read something like, "Hey, it's almost 11 am and we're outside the gates, which are shut, if anyone wants to come down and let us in..." The gate was at the very front of the drive, and I couldn't figure out how far away the visitor center might be--100 yards? Two miles?--but I decided to get out of the car and wander that way, anyway. Even if it was a mile, Matt or I could hike that and get someone to come back and let the rest of us in, I figured.

So I walked over to the gate, intending to climb over it, but I noticed that it wasn't actually locked--the padlock was holding it closed, but the padlock was open. See? There WERE people there! I figured that if the park was open, and the padlock was open, maybe I'd just open the gate, myself, and help myself inside. All would be well, and we wouldn't have to bother anybody.

Of COURSE it's as I'm in the process of opening the gate, looking guilty as hell, that a golf cart trundles up the drive towards me. I lost my head and scooted back to the car, and Matt got out to talk to the ranger, who didn't really seem to care either way about any of it.

I didn't mention any of this to the rangers in the visitor's center, although I kind of wondered if they were curious as to why they had received absolutely zero visitors in the first two hours of being open. Fifteen minutes after we arrived, the place was packed!

But first, we had some time to ourselves to explore:

Lincoln logs, because of course!

This display kind of bugged me. I couldn't stop imagining Thomas' parents, who'd carved that stone by hand and placed it as his memorial, not knowing that someday someone would remove it from their child's grave and put it away from him in a museum. I can't help but think that I wouldn't want that, if it were me.

I also felt kind of "eh" about this memorial:

It has an authentic log cabin inside--not Lincoln's, but a real log cabin--

--and it's very close to the spring where the Lincoln family drew water. You can see the kids there to the left of the photo below; they're next to the path that you take down to the spring:

Instead of a giant memorial on the land that the Lincoln family lived on, I'd rather see something more authentic. I mean, did they even do any rescue archaeology on that site before they built the memorial? It's just not a great preservation, in my opinion.

After a brief snowball fight--

--we went on a hike around the land:

It was a gorgeous day for a hike in the snowy woods, which, out of site of the memorial, looked old and magical and mostly untouched.

The hike ended in the Sinking Spring, former water source for the Lincoln family and our first example of the karst caves that we'd spend our late afternoon and most of the day tomorrow delving into: 

It's a short drive from the birthplace to the farm where the Lincoln family lived while Abraham was between two and eight years old:

Here is where they farmed:

The cabin on the site is actually the cabin of Lincoln's childhood bestie, who once saved him from drowning in the creek that lies just beyond that tree line on the right of the below image:

I noticed that in both of these sites, the information about Thomas Lincoln was fairly neutral. You'd see him as a fine family man, whose many moves were more bad luck than bad planning. I've read the first volume of Michael Burlingame's Abraham Lincoln: A Life, however, and in that one Thomas Lincoln does NOT come out smelling so sweet. Thomas used Abraham like a hired hand, and when he set out to seek a second wife, after Abraham's mother had died, he abandoned his children for six months, during which time they almost starved to death. 

I took it as my responsibility, then, to explain to the children that Thomas Lincoln was not so great, and Matt took it as his responsibility to pelt the children with snowballs:

And with that, we left the Land of Lincoln and drove off to do some spelunking!

Want to know more about Lincoln? Here's the time that we went to see the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. I include a LOT more Thomas Lincoln dish in this post. Here's the time that we went to the Lincoln Memorial.

And here are some other Lincoln-related resources that we've enjoyed in our various studies:


Ellen Schneider said...

There should be no Lincoln study without Mary, his partner in crime-- I LOVE https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/women-who-broke-the-rules-mary-todd-lincoln-9780802738240/ for folks looking for a delightful beginning chapter book and https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/hisn.12522 for those up for a tougher text. Both get into life as a Lincoln in Springfield and in the White House in super fantastic detail well situated in the social politics of the Victorian era

julie said...

Ooh, thank you! I can't believe that out of all the studying we've done of Abe Lincoln, I know next to nothing about Mary. I'm adding your suggestions to our must-read list right now.

Ellen Schneider said...

Mary's story is WILD. She was a well educated, politically aware badass (her personality in Vampire Hunter is probably the most accurate), but after Abe died one of her sons had her publicly tried for insanity--it was a huge scandal--and institutionalized against her will.


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