Abraham Lincoln's Kentucky connections

Historical marker at Knob Creek, Ky., where Abraham Lincoln spent part of his formative boyhood...

Historical marker at Knob Creek, Ky., where Abraham Lincoln spent part of his formative boyhood years. (MITCHELL SMYTH/Special to QMI Agency)

MITCHELL SMYTH, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:20 PM ET

KNOB CREEK, Ky. -- The little log cabin sits 20 paces off Hwy. 31E. Greensward separates the cabin from the road.

Two centuries ago this grassy area was the front yard for the family that lived in the cabin and the present-day blacktop was the old Cumberland Trail.

In that front yard a little boy played, did his minor chores like drawing water from the well, and watched people passing. The Cumberland Trail was the main route between Louisville, Ky. and Nashville, Tenn. It was much used by slave-traders moving their human cargoes to lucrative markets in the plantations of the Deep South.

The curious young boy asked his father about the people in chains, and his father explained slavery to him. The father told the boy he was what was called an abolitionist, and that his family had left the local church because it supported slavery. They had joined a congregation with an abolitionist minister.

The young boy was Abraham Lincoln, and his Knob Creek childhood and abolitionist parents' teachings set the course of his life and career, culminating in his 1863 proclamation, as president, abolishing slavery. "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong," he said at the time. "I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel."

The Lincoln cabin is long gone, but a reproduction sits on the original spot. The former Lincoln farm is now a national park.

The Great Emancipator is much in the news right now with the Nov. 9 release of Stephen Spielberg's film Lincoln, the earlier release (in June) of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and the buzz about the late Tony Scott's Killing Lincoln, which the National Geographic channel will screen early in 2013.

The Knob Creek farm is one of three Lincoln shrines in and near Hodgenville, in west-central Kentucky. His birthplace -- the family moved to Knob Creek when he was two--is 15 km to the south, on the outskirts of Hodgenville.

It, too, is a national historic park. The cabin in which he was born, in 1809, is in a climate-controlled building, a huge neo-classical structure that, as one writer observes, "may seem grandiose for a man who wrote 'I was born and have ever remained in the most humble walks of life.'"

The visitor centre tells more of the story of "Honest Abe's" Kentucky days. We learn that although slavery was legal in Kentucky, it wasn't as rampant as in the Deep South. Many of the Lincolns' neighbouring small farmers kept a few slaves. But Abe's father, Thomas, was uncomfortable with this so in 1816, when the future president was seven, he moved the family to Indiana, where slavery was illegal.

The third Lincoln venue in this area is in the central square in Hodgenville. It's a museum devoted to the entire career of America's 16th president. The story is told in pictures, graphics, artifacts, dioramas and markers. Many visitors are surprised to learn, while viewing a diorama of Lincoln writing the Gettysburg Address -- one of the most famous orations in history--that his speech lasted just three minutes.

It all leads up to his assassination by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, five days after the Confederate army had surrendered, ending the Civil War.


More information may be obtained from the following web-sites: nps.gov/abli (for the birthplace and boyhood home sites); lincolnmuseum-ky.org (museum). For Kentucky tourist information check kentuckytourism.com.