“If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think and feel.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
A sunny autumn day seemed the perfect time to visit the site where one of our most influential US Presidents took his first breath on February 12, 1809, at the Sinking Spring Farm in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Abraham Lincoln’s journey, from child born to a hardscrabble frontier farmer, to occupying the greatest house in our nation, the White House, speaks to the limitless possibilities available to each of us in this country.
Today we walked the grounds of Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park, the very site where our 16th President took his first steps, perhaps his first sip of water from the spring that still runs here today. This very spring was most likely one of the prominent reasons for Abraham’s father, Thomas, settling at Sinking Spring Farm. However, less than fertile soil and a property title dispute forced them to move a short two years later to 30 acres at Knob Creek, ten miles further down the road, where the soil was rich and a farmer could more easily raise corn, pumpkin, vegetables to eat fresh during the summer and dry for the winter months, and herbs for medicine.
It was at Knob Creek where Abraham Lincoln got his first taste of education at Caleb Hazel’s “ABC School”. This may be where his early views on slavery were formed, as Hazel was an outspoken emancipationist and the Lincoln family belonged to an anti-slavery church. In 1816, plagued by lawsuits over his farm titles and the slavery issue in Kentucky, Thomas Lincoln moved his family to Indiana, then on to Illinois where Abraham grew to manhood.
In 1909 the cornerstone for the memorial that now stands at Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace was laid by President Theodore Roosevelt. The building was dedicated in 1911 by President William Howard Taft and almost 100 years after Lincoln moved from Sinking Spring Farm, a symbolic birthplace cabin was placed inside the memorial building.
This first memorial to one of our most beloved Presidents features 16 windows, 16 rosettes on the ceiling and 16 fence posts, representing our 16th President. Fifty-six granite steps leading up to the memorial represent the number of years Abraham Lincoln walked this earth, far too few even in those early hard times.
Abraham Lincoln’s humble beginnings likely shaped the character of the man he became. He will always be known as the President who guided our nation through the bloodiest conflict on American soil, the Civil War, and for his staunch passion to abolish slavery at all costs.
With everything he accomplished as our 16th President, it is the virtues he embodied that solidified his legacy as one of the most venerable men of all time. He stood for tolerance, fairness, equality, had a clear vision of right and wrong, the capacity to forgive, and an intense desire to help those in great need. Sadly these seem to be some of the very same qualities lacking today by many of our politicians.
For those interested in learning more about the presidency of this great man, I urge you to read Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.