Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Location: 3027 East South Street; Lincoln City, IN 47552
Smashed Penny Machine: No
Lincoln Boyhood Park is about an hour East of Evansville and about an hour and fifteen minutes West of Louisville. The park is fairly small containing a small visitor’s center, a living historical farm, a few hiking trails and a small picnic area. The park is directly across the highway (and is connected via trails) to Lincoln State Park which is run by the state of Indiana. The state park is quite a bit bigger and offers more hiking, several picnic areas, two lakes (one of which has a swimming beach), a campground and cabins for rent. You can find out more information about the state park here: https://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2979.htm
We started our afternoon at the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center has a short film (about 15 minutes) that tells about Abraham Lincoln’s childhood and young adulthood in Southern Indiana. There is also a small museum that details about Lincoln’s life and about pioneer life in the early 1800’s. In the main hall way of the visitor’s center is a small selection of books and souvenirs available for purchase. If you have kids in your group, you can also get the Jr Ranger booklet from the front desk. I would also highly encourage you to use the restroom at the visitor’s center. The other bathrooms in the national park including the ones by the picnic area are primitive, outhouse style restrooms.
After exploring the visitor’s center, we decided to hike to the living historical farm. After leaving the visitor’s center follow the trail past the flag pole and then stay on the left path for the shortest distance to the farm. Along this route you will also pass the Pioneer Cemetery. This is the resting place for several people who once resided in the general area as well for Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln. The trail will also walk directly past the picnic area and the primitive restrooms. Just before the farm, there is a very short path to the left which is a memorial built on the site of the cabin where the family lived.
The living history farm is a depiction of what a typical early 1800’s farm would have looked like in the area. The farm is open and staffed from about mid-April through the end of September. During offseason you can walk to the farm but none of the buildings are open. The farm is staffed by people in period clothing. Throughout the day the staff does typical chores a family farm would have had to complete from cooking meals, sewing, caring for animals and crops and chopping firewood. Since the needs of the farm are ever-changing each visit is somewhat unique. On this visit, a staff member was spinning wool into thread on a spinning wheel. Other members of the staff were telling stories of frontier life and answering questions. The staff is very good at interacting with kids and recruiting them to help around the farm. It’s a neat hands-on experience that helps bring a little bit of history to life.
The farm’s main building is the family one-room cabin. There is also a smoke house (they had bacon curing during our visit), a woodworking shop, chicken cope, barn (sheep, horse, cow) and family garden. Kids are free to gently explore the cabin and grounds.
Past the farm there is a short hike (maybe 200 yards round trip) to the well the family would have used for water. There is nothing very exciting to see and the trail dead ends here. We took the hike because one of the farm workers sent the girls on a “mission” to bring back a bucket of water so they could see what chores would have been like for kids on the farm. It wasn’t a bad hike just nothing exciting.
The hike back from the farm we took the Trail of Twelve stones. The trail (about a half mile) passes twelve stone from various buildings that were important to Lincoln’s life and small plaque explaining the stone. They aren’t very exciting stones unless you are really, really into history from this time period. However, it’s an easy hike through the woods and it brings you back to the pioneer cemetery so it makes a nice loop from the farm back to the Visitor’s Center. The kids then turned in their Jr Ranger books and received their badges.
Overall: This is not a very large park (especially by Federal park standards), but a very nice park to visit. You could spend easily two to three hours exploring but could see the highlights very easily in an hour if you were pressed for time. There are a lot of other things to do in the general area so it would be easy to make this part of a longer day trip or even a small weekend getaway. Other things in the area include Lincoln State Park, the town of Santa Claus and Holiday World theme park.