At the Visitor Center an informative 15-minute video is shown about Abraham Lincoln's Kentucky years every thirty minutes. We already knew a lot about Lincoln from visiting his home and museum in Springfield, IL, but this park focuses on his early life. There is a small gallery here with several exhibits about Abraham Lincoln's years here at Sinking Springs.
Here's a timeline of the Lincolns' journey to Kentucky:
- 1637: Abraham Lincoln's family arrived in America settling in Massachusetts. The descendants subsequently moved to New Jersey and then Pennsylvania.
- 1768: John Lincoln and his family of 10 moved to Virginia. Lincoln's grandfather, also named Abraham, was one of John's sons. He settled in the Shenandoah Valley.
- 1782: John Lincoln and his family migrated west to the Kentucky wilderness (near present-day Louisville) through the Cumberland Gap of the Appalachian Mountains.
- 1786: Abraham (his grandfather) was killed during an Indian raid. His 10-year-old son, Thomas (and the future father of Abrahman Lincoln, the president) survived the attack. As Thomas grew to adulthood he moved around Kentucky.
- 1803: Thomas (Abraham's father) settled in Hardin County in 1803.
- 1806: Thomas married Nancy Hanks.
- 1808: The Lincolns purchased the 300-acre Sinking Springs Farm for $200 (money Thomas saved while working as a carpenter). They lived in a one-room, 16x18 log cabin with one window, door, and fireplace. There is a reproduction of the interior of such a cabin at the Visitor Center.
- 1809: Thomas and Nancy had their second child, a son, they named Abraham after his grandfather. This bronze sculpture of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, their daughter, Sarah, and son, Abraham (being held by his mother) are representative of this time period.
- This is the spring (for which the Sinking Springs Farm is named) where Abraham filled water buckets for the farm. It is a "karst window," a type of sinkhole created by underground streams common to this area of Kentucky. A paved staircase provides easy access.
- 1811: The family moved to a farm in Knob Hill where the soil was more fertile. It is located about 10 miles away and is now a part of the National Historical Park.
- 1812: Thomas and Nancy's third child, Thomas, Jr., died only a few days after his birth. This is the small field stone marker from his grave.
- 1816: The Lincolns moved northwest crossing the Ohio River into Indiana. The family chose to leave Kentucky due to their opposition to slavery (also active members of an antislavery church).
- 1818: Abraham's mother, Nancy, died when he is just 9 years old. As President, he always attributed his accomplishments to the values she taught him.
- 1893: The Lincoln family Bible was displayed at the Chicago World's Fair (on loan from the family). It was subsequently sold ($125) and then acquired by the US Government. Printed in 1799, it is on display at the Visitor Center. A record of family births, marriages, and deaths are recorded in it (including Abraham Lincoln's grandfather, Abraham Lincoln). Lincoln continued to update the Bible throughout his life. This is likely the first book Lincoln was exposed to as a child.
- 1906: The Lincoln Farm Association was formed with a mission to preserve Lincoln's birthplace and establish a memorial. They purchased a cabin that is called a "symbolic" cabin as it is built with logs of the same period of his birth, but is not the actual cabin where he and his family lived.
- 1909: President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone for the granite and marble building.
- 1911: President Howard Taft dedicated the memorial. The cabin was reassembled inside the building where it can be seen today. The entrance is in the rear.
- 1928: The Nancy Lincoln Inn was built next to the memorial. It was named in honor of Abraham Lincoln's mother. There is a small museum inside that houses Lincoln-related memorabilia and souvenirs. It was, however, closed during our visit.
- 1959: Sinking Springs Farm and the memorial were designated the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site.
This site is dog-friendly, so we took our doggy, Sadie, for a hike along the Boundary Oak Trail. She was not permitted in any of the buildings, of course.
There is no admission fee to visit this site. For additional information, go to www.nps.nps/able.
From here we drove about three miles west to the small town of Hodgenville, KY, where there are two statues of Lincoln in the town square. The one of Lincoln seated (by well-known artist Adolph Weinman) was dedicated in 1909, 100 years after his fifth. The one of the Lincoln as a 7-year-old boy was added in 2008. An Abraham Lincoln Museum is also located very nearby.
We enjoyed our side visit to this part of Kentucky because we were already nearby. It only takes n hour to see all there is to see here! Our primary interest in this area is Mammoth Cave.