Abraham Lincoln slept here. At least, we assume he did, since he visited often. Today, the 86-acre Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, the last farm Lincoln’s father owned, serves as a living history museum in Central Illinois.
The Lincolns Planned to Move Out of Illinois
After Thomas Lincoln and Abraham’s step-mother, Sarah, suffered through three winters of deep snow in Danville, Illinois, they decided to move back to Indiana. On the way, they stopped to visit Sarah’s niece, Hannah, in Coles County. Hannah talked them into settling there instead of moving to Indiana. The Lincolns lived on three farms in the area before Thomas bought the farm that today is the historic site.
Start in the Visitor Center
Begin with the orientation film in the visitor center. Then, follow the history timeline to get an understanding of the Lincolns’ life in the area. Thomas Lincoln farmed using the “old school” method. He farmed just to fulfill his family’s needs. The museum contrasts Lincoln’s farming method with the progressive methods his neighbor, Stephen Sargent, used. Sargent farmed with the intention of making a profit.
Reconstructed Lincoln Log Cabin
Outside, stroll through the Lincoln farmstead. The original cabin had been dismantled and sold to Chicagoans for display at the 1893 World’s Fair. However, the house never did make the fair, and its whereabouts were lost. So, when the state purchased the Lincoln farm in 1929, the log cabin no longer existed, However, archaeologists found the fireplace foundation, as well as other traces of the building. Those elements, together with photographs, the Civilian Conservation Corps reconstructed the cabin on the original site.
Sargent Farmstead Moved to Site
To compare the lives of the two neighboring families, the Lincolns and the Sargents, the state moved the Sargent family farmstead buildings to the Lincoln Log Cabin Historic Site.
Time Travel to 1845
Visit in season, especially on weekends, to experience living history. Volunteer interpreters take on the roles of folks living in 1845 and stay in first-person roles. They “won’t know” what an automobile is, much less a cell phone. We visited at the beginning of May, during the week. Volunteers were readying the grounds for the season, but the living history role playing hadn’t yet begun.
If you go…
The Lincoln Log Cabin is located at 402 South Lincoln Highway Road in Lerna, Illinois, about eight miles south of Charleston. Check the website for hours and other details.