Since, with football this all gets taken care of without the participation of Mom and Dad, Ken and I tried to take our mind off our concerns by visiting the nearby Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site.
Good ol’ Governor Rod Blagojevich had this site targeted for shutdown last year as part of his budget cuts. We are really glad that didn’t come about.
This is the site that was home for Lincoln’s parents in Illinois. While Abraham Lincoln went on his own to Springfield and did not actually live here he was a frequent visitor as this was part of the judicial circuit he rode in his early career.
The site is totally free, although there is a place for donations – a good idea to help keep such history alive in these tough economic times.
There are a combination of volunteer and paid interpretors onsite. Too bad they don’t have some RV sites hidden away somewhere on the farm because I think they could get more volunteers as RV workampers to reduce their costs a bit more.
There is a 14-minute film that we viewed that explained the site. There are actually two farms reconstructed. One is the Lincoln farm which is based on subsistence style farming, basically growing and making enough for your family to get by. The other farm, the Sargent farm, was organized in line with the ‘market revolution’ taking place at the time, where farmers were using more mechanization, growing more crops and livestock for sale and using the proceeds to buy more of their other needs from the local town markets.
The exhibits inside the Visitor's Center give a real flavor for the 1845 lifestyle. Ken and I approach these places very differently than we did when travelling with children—its possible now to take as much time we want. By taking some time to follow through the exhibits I really felt like I had a better feel for Lincoln, the man. For example, he lost his mother at 9 years old and his father remarried shortly after. That is why Sarah Bush Lincoln, his stepmother, was to him his real mother. Having lost a parent when I was eight, this made a lot of sense to me.
He also spent quite a bit of time with the Sargents at the farm nearby. The exhibits described Mrs. Sargent as a well-educated woman who was very interested in reading works on the Swedenborg philosophy regarding a less literal interpretation of the Bible and a more universalist view of humanity. It’s thought that Abraham Lincoln’s views were influenced by his frequent visits to the Sargent household where he sometime took part in Swedenborgian religious services and study.
Totally Handmade Quilt
They have a display to totally handmade quilts in the center. The intricacy and delicacy of the stitches was spectacular.
Inside the Lincoln home with one of the 1845 Pioneers
The interpretors at the site are expected to stay in character at all times. They are very friendly, use the dialect of the time, and treat you as an unexpected but welcomed travel who has happened by their farm. Our hometown of Quincy was very familiar to them but someplace that would be many days travel. They acted confused when we mentioned Eastern Illinois University (founded later-1895) or even the game of football (first game was 1869, Rutgers vs Princeton). When they talked of Charleston, they called it Charles-town. Since its summer the women’s activities were mostly focused on cooking outdoors in a wide variety of cast iron skillets and dutch ovens, as well as garden harvesting and canning. The men were mostly busy mending the fences since there were people arriving for a Sunday horse-pull and they needed to be sure they had fenced pasture for the draft horses.
Entering the Sargent farm
There was a special new arrival that day at the Lincoln farm. Their cow had given birth to a new baby calf that morning. We couldn’t get a picture of it because it was too far under the brush keeping cool. The men were keeping a close eye on it, however, and would have to bring it in before dark. Apparently there is a healthy coyote population in the area and the coyotes, hunting in packs, would work to separate cow and calf in order to make a meal of the little calf.
Compared to the Lincoln log home the timber-frame Sargent home with its separate summer kitchen must have seemed a luxury in 1845.
Outside the Sargent house, one of the interpretors was working on furniture repair. The shavings from his work would be used to start the fires.
While the chickens do end up on the dinner table, it can be difficult since they seem to make friends with the family.
The summer kitchen at the Sargent farm is fully functional and the ladies cook a full meal for all the families ‘living’ on the farms at lunchtime using only the tools and techniques available in 1845. We realized that the term ‘summer kitchen’ was actually a bit misleading in this case. This was the ONLY kitchen on the Sargent farm. When it was hot outside during the summer, the women were more likely to cook over an open fire pit outside of the kitchen. The fireplace in the main house was more shallow and designed to transfer heat in to the rooms so it was not set up for cooking.
This is a great place to visit if you’d like to step back in time and get to know some folks from 150 years ago. It’s best enjoyed if you step up and start a conversation and try to envision the world from their eyes. If we have a choice I think we will visit again on a weekday when we get this amount of one-on-one time but also try to make it just before lunch when we can see the real meal preparation going on.
The website also give a calendar of special events going on throughout the year that reflect the various annual festivities and events that would take place in such a setting. In fact we’d hoped to stay an extra day in the area to attend the horse-pull but changed our minds when the forecast indicated we needed to get home to mow grass before an upcoming week of rain – alas, still tethered to our sticks n’ bricks!!
We leave you today with a picture of the lovely wild daisies, apparently well ‘fertilized’ right beside the Lincoln’s hog pen.