This month is the 205th birthday of our country’s beloved 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. While Illinois has been dubbed “The Land of Lincoln” and he is most closely associated with this state where he spent most of his adult life, Lincoln also has strong ties to the state of Indiana where he settled with his family settled as a young boy and where he spent his formative years.
Indiana: Lincoln’s Boyhood Home
Lincoln was born in Kentucky and moved with his parents and sister to Spencer County, Indiana when he was 7. For the next 14 years, Lincoln cleared forest area for the family farm to be built, worked with his father and got a minimal education in log cabin schools. Much of his education was self-taught as his formal education only totaled about one year, but whenever he wasn’t working he would likely be found with his nose in a book.
The homestead of the Lincoln family is now Lincoln City, Ind., which is home to the Lincoln State Park and the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and Living Historical Farm.
He lost his mother in 1818 of milk sickness, and she is buried on the grounds of the Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial in Lincoln City, Ind. The national park features a visitor center with exhibits and a theater that gives an overview of his time spent there. The exterior has a paneled exhibit depicting different times in Lincoln’s life. Also, the Living Historical Farm is a recreated working pioneer homestead with a log cabin, livestock, garden, field crops and outbuildings staffed by rangers in period clothing demonstrating various chores of the era. Call ahead to see what dates the farm is staffed.
“Lincoln's Indiana Boyhood Home gives families a way to learn about one of America's greatest presidents in a fun and interactive way," said Melissa Brockman, executive director of the Spencer County Visitors Bureau. With national and state parks along with several other historical sites, visitors can walk the same ground Lincoln walked as a boy, experience pioneer life reenacted by park rangers, browse hundreds of artifacts about the area's past, and more.
Lincoln State Park is a 1,700 acre park established in 1932 as a memorial to Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s mother. It includes the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Plaza, which was dedicated in 2009 and the gravesite of Lincoln’s sister, Sarah, who died during childbirth.
Also inside the state park is the 1,500-seat covered Lincoln Amphitheatre, which features a musical called "A. Lincoln: A Pioneer Tale" situated in the woods where Lincoln grew up. The show runs Wednesday through Saturday evenings from June 19 - July 26 with additional matinee shows on June 25 and July 13.
For more information about Lincoln attractions in Indiana, visit IndianasAbeLincoln.org
Illinois: Lincoln’s Professional Life
The majority of Lincoln’s professional career was spent in Illinois and in the Springfield area. You’ll find many sites that can be visited that related to his time spent there. “We’ve got many Lincoln sites here. Some you wouldn’t want to miss are the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, which is the only national park in Illinois,” said, Alicia Erickson, marketing and communications manager for the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is a state-of-the-art facility featuring interactive areas, multimedia exhibits, a true-to-size log cabin replica and a White House facade. Two theaters cover the life and times of this extraordinary president. Countless artifacts are on display that belonged to Lincoln and his family members along with other memorabilia of the era.
Give yourself ample time to see everything by allowing at least half a day at the site. Erickson suggests planning two days if you want to make it to all the Lincoln attractions in Springfield. Besides the museum, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site is an attraction not to miss. The only home Lincoln ever owned sits on a block of restored buildings blocked off to traffic where you can see what the entire neighborhood was like at the time Lincoln lived there. Admission is free, but is on a first-come first served basis, so early arrival at the visitors center is recommended to make sure you get timed tickets to one of the daily tours.
Among the other Lincoln related spots to see are the Old State Capitol where Lincoln gave his “House Divided” speech, the Lincoln Herndon Law Office and the Lincoln Depot.
Lincoln’s Tomb attracts a large number of visitors each year. Be aware that the interior of the tomb is under renovations until early April, but you can still stop to see the outside of the massive structure and rub the nose on the Abe Lincoln bust outside for good luck.
About 20 miles outside of Springfield is Lincoln’s New Salem, a restored pioneer village where Lincoln lived when he first came to Illinois, which is open year round.
For more information on Lincoln attractions in the Springfield area, visit visit-springfieldillinois.com.