Starting in 1868, there was interest in marking and caring for the gravesite of Nancy Hanks Lincoln. In 1874, a two-foot marker was placed on the site, but with years of neglect it became overgrown with vegetation. In 1897, the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Memorial Association was formed to maintain a site and promote the idea of an Indiana Memorial to the Lincolns. Money was appropriated by the county to buy the 16 acres surrounding the site. In 1902 J.S. Culver resculpted a discarded stone from the Springfield, Illinois monument for Abraham Lincoln's grave and presented it to the Memorial Association. However, after negative reports on the grave's upkeep, the Indiana Governor called for a state commission to care for the 16-acre park in 1907.
In honor of Indiana's centennial in 1916, an initiative was undertaken to identify locations important to the state's history. In 1917, Spencer County's centennial commission requested the assistance of older residents of the county in determining the approximate location of Thomas Lincoln's cabin. Twenty such residents assembled on the historic property and pointed to a site they believed to be the location. A marker was erected on the site on April 28, 1917. After deciding that it would be inappropriate to construct a replica of the Lincoln cabin, the state hired architect Thomas Hibben, a native of Indiana, to design this memorial which includes a bronze casting in the shape of the historic cabin sill and hearth surrounded by a stone wall.
For over 30 years, the State of Indiana administered and operated the Memorial--which included the grave and cabin site--to Abraham Lincoln and his mother. In 1962, in recognition of its national significance, Congress authorized the creation of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial--Indiana's first National Park--to be cared for and interpreted by the National Park Service.
Visitors to the park today can tour the museum and memorial halls, visit the Memorial Building's sculptured panels depicting Lincoln's life from a cabin to the White House, observe pioneer skills demonstrations at the living history farm, and walk the historic Trail of Twelve Stones-commemorating major events in Lincoln's life and career--from the cabin site to the Pioneer Cemetery where Nancy Hanks Lincoln's gravesite rests.
Questions for Photos 1 & 2
1. Do you think it was important for the people of Indiana to mark the grave and cabin site? Why or why not? What value do memorials such as this have to us today?
2. What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of using people's memories to determine a historic site's location? Can you think of any other ways besides relying on people's memories in which the location of a historic site that has been destroyed might be discovered?
3. Why do you think the memorial became a unit of the National Park Service? Do you think it is important to preserve historic sites such as this one? Why or why not? What are some other ways in which the park is telling the story of Lincoln's life?
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