Madison County Historical Society

Exploring Lincoln's Indiana Heritage

Indiana's Lincoln was a boy of 7 when his father and mother, Thomas and Nancy, brought him and his nine-year-old sister, Sarah, to live on the southern Hoosier frontier in 1816.  Here in Indiana, Abe Lincoln formed his ideas about character, honesty and a love of learning that would stay with him his entire life.

The Lincolns came from Kentucky for several reasons.  First, the Kentucky uncertain land titles and, secondly, migrating to a new land would put distance between them and pro-slavery sentiments.  They were eager to enter a new state that they could claim land with good title.  The Lincolns were opposed to slavery and were anxious to move away from that controversy.   

They, along with eleven other families, crossed into Indiana on the Thompson Ferry to a place near the mouth of Anderson Creek, later known as Gates Landing.  From there, the Lincolns traveled along the old Vincennes-Troy Road to their new farm.  The farm was located in what was known as Hurricane Township of Perry County, but later became Carter Township of Spencer County.

It was not until three years later that Sarah and Abe were able to attend a school.  In the winter of 1819-20, Andrew Crawford opened a small one-room school about a mile south of the Lincoln farm.  The children would attend school for about two 0r three months in the winter which costs the parents about two dollars a child.  Two years later, Abe attended his second school in Indiana, this one taught by James Swaney and located over four miles from his home.  Because Abe had to walk the distance each day, his attendance was poor.

In 1824, Abe attended a school run by Azel Dorsey.  The school was a log building erected near the Little Pigeon Baptist Church.  Abe Lincoln's formal education ended when he reached sixteen.  Abe worked on the farm and learned about the woods and river.  When he was not working at home, he was hired out for twenty-five cents a day to plow, clear brush, or cut fence rails or cord wood.

In October, 1818, Nancy Hanks Lincoln died and was buried on a knoll just north of the cabin.  It was not until the next spring that Rev. David Elkin arrived in the community and could deliver a funeral service.  Ten years later, Lincoln would suffer the loss of his sister, Sarah.  She had married Aaron Grigsby in 1826.  She died in childbirth in January 1828 after just eighteen months of marriage.  She is buried in the churchyard at the Little Pigeon Church, which today is in Lincoln State Park.

As Abe grew into manhood, his interest turned to the law.  On several occasions, he would travel to Rockport, where he had discussions with the great pioneer lawyers of the days, such as John Pitcher and John A. Brackenridge.  During this time, he often took long trips away from home.  Abe and Allen Genry went on a flatboat loaded with produce down the river to New Orleans where the produce and boat were sold.  During this trip, he first saw slaves being bought and sold.

By this time, Tom Lincoln had married Sarah Bush Johnson from Elizabethtown, Kentucky.   Sarah brought her three children to live in the Lincoln cabin.  They also took in Dennis Hanks who had been living with the Sparrows.  Abe Lincoln was now twenty-one years old and six foot, four inches tall.

Finally, after fourteen years in Indiana, Tom Lincoln decided to take his family to Illinois.  Many of his family and relatives were already across the Wabash River and he saw this as a opportunity for a new life.  In 1830, he sold his two tracts of land, about 100 acres, and prepared to move to Macon County, Illinois.

 

The farm on which Abe Lincoln and his pioneer family lived was the first National Park established in Indiana.  On February 19, 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed the act authorizing the establishment of the park.  The story of the Civil War era President's 14 formative years spent in Indiana comes alive at the Living Historical Farm, in the Visitors Center Museum and along the park's scenic hiking trails.  The Memorial Visitor Center features two Memorial Halls, a museum with a variety of exhibits and a 15-minute orientation film called Forging Greatness - Lincoln in Indiana.  The Lincoln Boyhood Trail will take you to the grave site of Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln and the Cabin Site Memorial.  The Lincoln Living Historical Farm is a working pioneer homestead with a cabin, outbuildings, split rail fences, animals, gardens and field crops.  Rangers, in period clothing, perform a variety of activities typical of the 1820s.

Location:  Lincoln City, Indiana on Highway 162.  For more information, please call (812) 937-4541 

The Lincoln State Park is located across from the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.  The park of 1,747 acres was originally established as a memorial to Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln.  A special feature at the park is the Lincoln Amphitheatre which produces plays on Lincoln's life.

Location:  Lincoln City, Indiana on Highway 162.   For more information about the State Park and its activities, please call  (812) 937-4710.  To learn more about the Amphitheatre, schedules and activities, please call (800) 264-4223 or (812) 937-4493.

Madison County Historical Society|15 West 11th Street, P. O. Box 696, Anderson, Indiana 46015-0696|(765) 683-0052|madisonchs@sbcglobal.net

 

 

 

 The Faces of Lincoln

The most significant and comprehensive Lincoln visual image collection in the country is at the Indiana Historical Society.  Original pieces from the Lincoln collections are featured in the permanent changing exhibition of The Faces of Lincoln.  This exhibition is devoted to images of Abraham Lincoln, his significance as the 16th President and his status as an American icon.  The collection can be seen in the William Henry Smith Memorial Library of the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center,  450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more information, please call (317) 232-1882 or (800) 447-1830.

The following are just a few of the books about Lincoln that you may find at your local library or book store:

  • Looking for Lincoln by Phillip B. Kunhardt III, Peter W. Kunhardt and Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr.
  • President Lincoln - The Duty of a Statesman by William Lee Miller
  • Lincoln's Rise to the Presidency by William C. Harris
  • Lincoln the Lawyer by Brian Dirck
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin