Kentucky

Abraham Lincoln's earliest recollection of his youth was of the Lincoln homestead on Knob Creek in Kentucky, but that farm was not his birthplace. Instead, Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a log cabin 3 miles south of Hogdenville, Kentucky, on the south fork of Nolin Creek. That was in Hardin (now Larue) County. In 1811 the Lincolns moved to the Knob Creek farm, a 230 acre spread which Abraham's father purchased. Abraham and his older sister, Sarah, "were sent for short periods, to A.B.C. schools, the first kept by Zachariah Riney, and the second by Caleb Hazel." Lincoln was only 7 years old when he and his family moved to Indiana "partly on account of slavery; but chiefly on account of the difficulty in land titles in Kentucky," as he recalled in 1860.

Difficulties with land titles were plentiful in Kentucky and Thomas Lincoln had more than his fair share of them. Inaccurate private surveys and conflicting government land policies made Kentucky a crazy quilt of overlapping claims. Thomas Lincoln owned three farms while he lived in Kentucky. The first proved to have fewer acres than he thought, and he sold it at a loss in 1814 after 11 years of ownership. The second (on which Abraham was born and which Thomas owned concurrently with the first from late 1808) became the object of litigation, and another claimant sued to dispossess him of the third one, on Knob Creek.

That was enough to drive anyone out of the state, and the recollection that slavery played a role in their removal to Indiana came only after Lincoln was active in the political antislavery cause. Nevertheless, slavery may well have genuinely troubled Thomas. In 1811 Hardin County had 1007 slaves and only 1627 white males over 16 years of age. The Lincolns attended the Little Mount (Baptist) Church, which had been founded in 1811 by former South Fork Church members who had left their church as a result of a controversy over slavery.

Since Lincoln left Kentucky when he was 7, one should not exaggerate the influence of his early environment. On the other hand, he married a Kentuckian, his three law partners were born in Kentucky, his best friend (Joshua Speed) was a Kentuckian, and his political hero (Henry Clay) was a Kentucky senator. When he ran for Congress in 1846, over 80% of Springfield voters who came from Kentucky voted for him.

As soon as Lincoln became President, Dr. George Rodman recognized the historical value of the birthplace cabin and purchased the farm in March 1861. He moved the cabin to his own neighboring farm, and controversy still rages over its precise original location.

In 1895, New Yorker A. W. Dennett purchased the cabin and returned it to the Lincoln farm. The cabin was dismantled several times for display at expositions across the country. It was subsequently stored on Long Island until the Lincoln Farm Association purchased it in 1906. The Association also raised money and purchased the Lincoln Farm. In 1911, it completed a granite and marble building to hold the cabin. Five years later the Association donated the cabin and the land around it to the federal government.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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