Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Despite its Name Abe Lincoln Did Not Live Here

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For a guy who traveled a lot on horseback, Abraham Lincoln sure got around in his adopted state of Illinois.

It seems that just about everywhere you go in the self-proclaimed “Land of Lincoln” you see signs for the Lincoln Heritage Trail. Many communities like to proclaim in their history that Lincoln visited here or Lincoln stayed there.

My hometown of Mattoon, Illinois, has a few of those stories to tell.

While growing up in Mattoon, I made occasional visits to a state park that now goes by the name Lincoln Log Cabin Historic Site. Located south of Charleston, we knew it simply as Lincoln Log Cabin.

The name notwithstanding, Lincoln never lived there. In fact he never visited the two-room cabin located there today.

That cabin is a reconstruction that was built in 1935-1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It is said to have been built on the site of the original cabin.

The cabin is a representation of the last home owned by Lincoln’s father (Thomas Lincoln) and stepmother (Sarah Bush Lincoln). He did visit them in the original cabin whenever he was in Charleston in the 1840s, the county seat of Cole County, on court business.

Lincoln also owned a portion of the farm where his parents lived although he deeded it to them.

As a child I had a great interest in Lincoln history and living in Illinois was a good place to be for that given all of the Lincoln shrines located there.

Yet when I was quite young it was tough to grasp that Lincoln never lived here and the cabin was a reproduction. That knowledge sank in as my understanding of history became more sophisticated.

I can’t remember the last time that I visited Lincoln Log Cabin, but it might have been in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It might have been on the day that I made these photographs.

Then, as now, the site is a living history museum with people in period dress playing the part of 19th century Illinois residents and members of Lincoln’s family.

The images above are scanned from slides that I created in October 1978.

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