The Lincoln Heritage Trail

It's been said that to truly understand someone, you must walk a mile in his shoes. The Lincoln Heritage Trail allows travelers to gain a greater understanding of one of the nation's most revered presidents by tracing his life from his modest birthplace in Kentucky, to his frontier youth in Indiana, to his early successes as a country lawyer in Illinois. The Lincoln heritage Trail takes you through the national park properties and state historic sites that mark the places where Lincoln lived, studied, played and worked. Travel the Lincoln Heritage Trail to follow the path of the great man.

"I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County Kentucky. My parents were born in Virginia, of undistinguished families -- second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name Hanks..."

"My father...removed from Kentucky to what is now Spencer County, Indiana, in my eight year. We reached our new home about the time the State came into the Union. It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up."

"At twenty one I came to Illinois, and passed the first year in Illinois -- Macon County. Then I got to New-Salem, (at that time in Sangamon, now in Menard County), where I remained a year as a sort of Clerk in a store. Then came the Black-Hawk War; and I was elected a Captain of Volunteers -- a success which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since."

Abraham Lincoln
"Not Much Of Me"

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Like many great men, Abraham Lincoln began life in a humble birthplace. But while each passing year gives us new perspective and new insight into America's 16th president, the tiny cabin where he was born remains virtually unchanged. Today, the place where Lincoln began life February 12, 1809 is enshrined in a granite temple at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site. Fifty-six steps, one for each year of Lincoln's life, lead up to the entrance of the building. Before the cabin was placed in the temple, however, it was a traveling exhibit -- making appearances in such places as the Nashville Centennial in 1897 and the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901.

Near the Memorial Building is a natural feature dating from the time of Lincoln's birth: the Sinking Spring. In addition, the nearby Visitors' Center depicts the early environment of Abraham Lincoln in pioneer America through exhibits and an audio-visual production.

Knob Creek, Kentucky

"My earliest recollection...is of the Knob Creek place," President Abraham Lincoln recalled in 1860. Today, you can visit the site where the Thomas Lincoln family, including young Abraham, resided from 1811 through 1816.

On the site where the Thomas Lincoln family lived is a replicated log cabin made of material from another cabin, this one erected in 1800 and moved from an adjacent farm in 1931. Highly typical of this era, the cabin consists of log construction with a prominent chimney of log and mud.

The 1800 cabin was once the home of the Gollaher family whose young son, Austin once saved the future president from drowning in the swollen Knob Creek.

In December of 1816, due to faulty land titles and ensuing disputes, the Lincolns left Kentucky for Indiana.

Lincoln City, Indiana

Abraham Lincoln grew from boy to man in the rugged wilderness of southern Indiana. In December of 1816, Thomas Lincoln brought his family, including seven-year-old Abe, to the nineteenth state.

Eventually, the family settled on the site that now serves as the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial . Here, a working farm depicts a typical Indiana farm of the era. In addition, a trail of 12 stones leads visitors from the Cabin Site memorial to the burial site of Abe's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Each stone comes from a structure that was part of Lincoln's life, such as the store where he worked as a teenager and the cottage in Washington, D.C. where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation.

Although educational opportunities were limited in Lincoln's frontier home, the industrious boy learned all the could. In his eleventh year, he attended his first Indiana school, where the teacher loaned him "Life in Washington," a book that had a profound effect on the future president. Lincoln also read, he later said, all the books he could lay his hands on within 30 miles of his Indiana home.

New Salem, Illinois

In 1831, Abraham Lincoln settled into the tiny log-cabin village of New Salem in the place that's now Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site. He was 22 years old and had recently moved from his father's household. Lincoln lived at New Salem for six years, supporting himself by doing odd jobs, keeping store, serving as village postmaster and working as deputy county surveyor. He also continued his education here, studying grammar with the local schoolmaster and reading law books borrowed from a Springfield attorney.

While in New Salem, Lincoln began his political career, earning a spot in the state legislature. Today, Lincoln's New Salem is a state-owned historic site covering approximately 700 acres. Its centerpiece is a reconstruction of the log-cabin village that Lincoln knew. Reconstructed New Salem features 23 log buildings erected in the 1930's and 1940's by the State of Illinois, assisted by the Civilian Conservation Corps. There are homes, workshops, stores, a carding mill, and a combination saw and grist mill.

Springfield, Illinois

In Illinois' capital city, Lincoln lived, worked and continued to develop the ideals for which he's remembered. Today, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site preserves those memories on four city blocks. The site's centerpiece is the only home ever owned by Abraham Lincoln. Erected in 1839, the house was purchased by Lincoln in 1844 shortly after the birth of his first son, Robert. The Lincoln family lived there for 17 years, until their departure for Washington in 1861. A tour of the meticulously preserved home offers a glimpse into the way the great man lived. A short walk away are the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, where he practiced law until he left town as president-elect.

The four-block memorial also includes a stop at the Great Western Railroad Depot, the station from which Lincoln departed for Washington, and the Old State Capitol State Historic Site. Here, Lincoln gave the famous "House Divided" speech in 1858. In this same building, the president's body lay in state after his assassination. A Visitor Center with an orientation film, bookstore and information services is located at the entrance to the site.