Nestled in a shallow valley, eight miles south of Charleston, is Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. This 86 acre site was established to help preserve the last home of Abraham Lincoln’s father and stepmother, Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln. The Lincolns lived in a ‘Saddlebag’ cabin (two rooms with a central chimney) on the site in the early 1840’s with as many as eighteen people. After Thomas and Sarah’s deaths, the original cabin was disassembled in 1892 and transported to the Columbian Exposition

in Chicago and was lost soon after. In 1929 the state of Illinois acquired the land and a cabin was constructed based on photographs and affidavits. The cabin stands today as the center piece in what is now a wonderful state historic site. In 1976 work began to reconstruct an authentic 1840’s farm around the cabin with some of the original buildings that were moved to the site.

Adjacent to the Log Cabin site is the Sargent Farm.

The original 1840’s timber frame house was moved from its original location in 1985 to add a second living historical farm to the site. Having the Sargent farm close by shows the sharp contrast between the lifestyles of the Sargents, somewhat of a well to do ‘modern’ farmer of the time, and the Lincolns, who were subsistence farmers.

The site is a wonderful display of the architecture of the period, complete with ‘log cabin’ structures of the day. It’s amazing how our modern perception of ‘Log Cabins’ is of deep brown, round logs, when in reality, the timbers are weathered grey, hewn square and very carefully dovetailed together at the corners. Brick mortar like ‘chinking’ seals the gaps between the timbers to hold back the frigid winter winds of the Illinois prairie. Authentic split rail fences abound, separating livestock areas from living areas.

The ‘nailess’ construction of these fences provides insight into the cleverness and ingenuity of these settlers. Several of the pens house sheep and chickens.

During the summer months( May-October), interpreters recreate the farming and household activities of an 1840’s farm. To see these volunteers dressed in period dress and going through the motions of farmers of the day is to take a jump back in time and is not to be missed!

Over 130 volunteers help with the site, as interpreters, cooks, maintenance, greeters or creators and maintainers of the huge store of period clothes, shoes and hats.

The visitors center is a wonderful, modern building constructed in 1998 with an auditorium (decorated with very nice hand-made quilts), looms and weaving equipment of the day and a self guided tour area explaining life at the time of the Lincolns in Illinois. There are also several large pavilions and picnic areas, making this a perfect place for a family get together. The site hosts regular events, with the Day of Public Thanksgiving taking place this month on November 27th from 10am to 4pm, in honor of Abraham Lincolns signing of the proclamation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863.

Take some time to enjoy downstate Illinois and visit this wonderful site for a look at life as it was……….

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– Ed Baumgarten