A couple hundred miles from where the Jefferson Davis Monument stands- mentioned in a previous History Traveler blog-another Kentuckian was born eight months after Davis. Near Hodgenville, Kentucky, is the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site. It is a neo-classic building that seems as out of place among the trees of what was once known as Sinking Spring Farm as the Davis obelisk does among rolling fields. A long flight of wide stairs-56, to be exact, one for each year of Lincoln’s life-lead to an impressive structure of marble and granite with bronze doors. Surely, it is the only building of such elegance ever built for the purpose of housing a log cabin.
The rude pioneer-style cabin inside the memorial building’s marble walls was long purported to be the very one Lincoln was born in on February 12, 1809. In reality, the one-story cabin you’ll see was originally a two-story house from a farm nearby, purchased by speculator A. W. Dennett who trimmed it down to one story and toured the country with “the house Lincoln was born in.” He also had a cabin he claimed was Jefferson Davis’ birthplace. For an entertaining read on Dennett and the history of the “Lincoln cabin,” check out Did Lincoln Own Slaves? and Other Frequently Asked Questions, by Gerald J. Prokopowicz (Pantheon Books, 2008).
Take Highway 84 east from the birthplace site and, after a short drive though some pretty country, you’ll come to Route 31E and Knob Creek, where the Lincoln family moved to when Abraham was two. It has another reconstructed log cabin and offers a nice spot for a picnic, away from the crowds at the birthplace site. Or, if you go due north from the birthplace site you’ll soon be in Hodgenville, where a statue of a seated Lincoln is at the center of town. Kentucky’s Official Lincoln Museum is on the town square, with memorabilia and dioramas of his life, from “The Cabin Years” to “The Berry-Lincoln Store” in which he was a partner to scenes of his great speeches, the Matthew Brady Studio where the photo was taken that graces our five-dollar-bills and on through to the assassination at Ford’s Theater.About the Author: I regard historic research as a never-ending Easter egg hunt: You never know where you'll find a hidden treasure. Growing up with parents who told stories of family history probably had a lot to do with that. I realized early on that history is about lives already lived. I've met war veterans, early aviators, friends of Abraham Lincoln's in-laws, and a host of others who shared their histories with me – and it was never boring!