There is a sense of place!
This past weekend (July 11) I enjoyed visiting some of the places in Kentucky and Indiana associated with Abraham Lincoln’s birth and early years. On Saturday morning Park Rangers Jenny Jones and Doug Richardson hosted me on a tour of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, the Sinking Spring farm where Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809. The farm derives its name from the underground stream which emerges in a cave which became the family’s source of water as well as a cool place to store certain foods.
Later in the morning Jenny and Doug drove me the nearly ten miles to the Knob Creek Farm where Thomas and Nancy Lincoln moved when Abraham was two. He would live there until he was seven. This land was acquired by the Park Service in 2001 and it was unchanged from the time that Lincoln remembered helping his father plant corn. Young Abraham, who would live at the Knob Creek Farm until he was seven, would plant pumpkin seeds between the rows of corn. To walk to the edge of Knob Creek, and out into the green fields where Lincoln romped with other young boys, not only gives one an emotional sense of place but asks the larger question: how could such greatness come from such a humble beginning?
Jenny Jones told me that of the nearly 200,000 visitors who come each year, easily a third are European who are fascinated by what Lincoln called “the right to rise” that is the American story. As we were about to leave, a family, with a Florida license plate on their car, pulled up. A young boy, probably about seven or eight, popped out of the back seat. As he did, his mother said to us, “he has been so anxious to get to this place.”
In the next days I will say more about my visit to Mary Todd’s family home in Lexington, Kentucky, and Farmington, the estate in Louisville, that was the home of Lincoln’s best friend, Joshua Speed. Lincoln visited Farmington in 1841. On Sunday, July 12, I had the great pleasure of delivering a lecture at Lincoln’s Boyhood home (now a National Memorial) in southern Indiana.