HENDERSON, Ky (WEHT) – Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky all have something in common: each state was once a home for Abraham Lincoln. Despite Illinois’ nickname of “The Land of Lincoln”, America’s 16th president did not live in the state until he was 21 years old, and he spent most of his formative years in the Hoosier state.
According to the National Park Service, the Lincoln family moved from Kentucky to a tiny settlement along Little Pigeon Creek in northern Spencer County, Indiana, during the winter of 1816, around the same time Indiana would gain statehood. During the first winter, the family lived in a temporary shelter living off wild game, corn and pork bartered from nearby settlers, until Thomas Lincoln was able to construct a log house for the family of four.
“It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods,” Lincoln said about his time in Indiana. “There were some schools, so called; but no qualification was ever required of a teacher, beyond ‘readin, writin, and cipherin,’ to the Rule of Three.”
Despite this, Lincoln read often and gained a reputation for his oratory skills, with his neighbors reporting his two favorite tools were a book and an axe. Between 1828 and 1829, Lincoln traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, where he witnessed a slave auction. The National Parks Service says this event irrevocably shaped his position on slavery. During these years, he also began attending court sessions in neighboring county courthouses until the family left Indiana for Illinois in 1830.
In 1879, Peter Studebaker placed a headstone to mark the approximate grave site of Lincoln’s mother, who was buried between a quarter and a half-mile from the home. The landowners of the site donated it to the county, and Indiana eventually acquired the grave site, purchased additional acreage, and marked the probable location where the Lincoln cabin once stood.
Today, the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial can be found on Indiana Highway 162, approximately two miles east of Gentryville, and the site has been designated a National Historic Landmark. For more information about Lincoln’s time in Indiana, you can read more on the National Parks Service page.