“I don’t know who my grandfather was: I am much more concerned to know who his grandson will be.”~~~Abraham Lincoln
It’s been like a time loop from the movie Groundhog Day. I’ve had the same conversation over and over for the last month or so. It goes like this:
Random Friend: “Where and when is your next trip?”
Me: “Well, the next big trip is down the eastern side of Africa starting in the Seychelles, but before that, we are taking our favorite seven year old to Kentucky to see Mammoth Cave and the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.”
Random Friend: “Abraham Lincoln was born in Illinois.”
Me: “Nope. He was born in Kentucky and lived there until he was about eight.”
Random Friend: “I didn’t know that.”
Me: “Neither did I until I started planning this trip.”
How did we all (except Kathleen) get it so wrong? I can’t help but think Illinois peddled disinformation or misinformation, whichever you want to call it. Hello? “Land of Lincoln” license tags ring any bells? And Kentucky just stood by and let it happen. If it had happened on Twitter, I just know it would have been flagged. We are doing our part to correct that disinformation in our little corner of the world.
No big deal. I had other issues to worry about. Numero uno: I really didn’t want to be the person to have to explain slavery to a seven year old. In the first place, you can’t explain it and you can’t rationalize it. All you can do is state the facts, but seven year olds always have a zillion questions and that’s what had me concerned. But a few weeks ago, I found out that the subject had already been broached. He and I were talking about our little house near his home and I was pointing out that it had been built in 1914. He asked me if George Washington Carver was alive then. Huh?? See what I mean about seven year olds and questions? Who saw that coming? You just never know where a seven year old’s mind is going in any given situation. Their little brains just trespass all over the place. I pretty much had nothing in the way of a response. All I had was a vague recollection of Carver’s association with peanuts but truly didn’t know exactly when the man lived, which was OK because Harvey proceeded to explain it all to me, telling me that Carver was enslaved for a year. Whew! Subject already covered. It’s going to be OK going to Abe’s birthplace. Nonetheless, I hit Amazon Prime for a couple of books on Abe so my sketchy knowledge of history wouldn’t be exposed. Plus, books would keep him busy on the flight to Louisville.
The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville, Kentucky is a fitting tribute to the sixteenth United States President. The actual log cabin fell apart years ago, but they constructed a copy and it is housed in a beautiful memorial building. The architectural design of the building is pretty fancy for bluegrass country, but it works somehow. The cornerstone for the memorial building was laid on the one hundredth anniversary of his birth: February 12, 1909. President Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the ceremony that day and the memorial building was completed in a few years.
Abe’s father, Thomas, worked as a carpenter as well as a farmer. There was a property dispute and Abe’s parents had to leave the Sinking Spring Farm in the Hodgenville area. From there, they went to Knob Creek. Later, they moved to Indiana, partly because his parents were very opposed to slavery and Indiana was not a slave state. Abe didn’t end up in Illinois until he was about 21.
The park is simple, much like the Lincolns’ life in Kentucky. It’s rather out of the way and probably only catches the eye of people who, like us, are traveling to Mammoth Cave. Oddly enough, there was an editorial about this somewhat obscure historical site in the Wall Street Journal on the day we visited. The writer points out that a mere 250,000 people visit the memorial in Kentucky yearly whereas over eight million people visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC every year. But if you ever find yourself in this part of the country, it’s worth an hour of your time.