Abe Lincoln: Tall Hat. Honest. Concerned About Grammar.

By July 30, 2009 culture, language No Comments

Summer allows for some special day trips with my sister and her kids—which I love! Back in June, I asked my nephews and niece what sorts of activities they hoped to experience before going back to school. I made a list of these ideas; then my sister and I thought of a few more places we hoped to take them.

This week we were able to make arrangements for a full day’s outing, so we decided to take one of the trips that we added to the kids’ list: a visit to the Abraham Lincoln sites in and near Springfield, Illinois, which is just more than an hour from us.

Our first stop was Lincoln’s New Salem Historic Site, which is a restored 1830s village where Lincoln lived for a few years when he was a young man. There are cabin homes and stores and mills, all constructed and arranged to mirror life in those days. My sister and I wondered at the simplicity of a life contained within a three-block area, which is so very different from how we live.

One cabin that captured our attention was designed in the dog-trot style. The two, one-room cabins were connected by a covered-porch common area. History has it that the home was designed and built by two men who had married two sisters; this style home allowed the couples to share a single plot of land as well as responsibilities for managing daily life.

Abe Lincoln's grammar book

Abe Lincoln's grammar book

The New Salem visitor center featured a timeline display of Lincoln’s life and even housed some of Lincoln’s possessions and other period items from New Salem families. One display described Lincoln’s educational pursuits. As a young adult, he was encouraged by a friend to educate himself, so he began delving into books covering various subjects. How thrilled I was to learn that grammar was one subject that Lincoln spent time on! His grammar book was encased in glass, as it should be, but how I longed to flip through its pages to see how grammar was presented in the 1830s. A photographer I am not, but I think even the blurry picture shows the charm of this old text.

After a picnic lunch in this wooded retreat, we headed off to Springfield to visit Lincoln’s home there. The visitor center offered a superbly made film covering Lincoln’s life in Springfield until he left for the presidency. It was informative and moving. I loved every bit.

My sister and I could have soaked up the Lincoln history for hours more—we wished we could go to the museum and library—but three little ones were quite done after five hours. We headed home, but we’re sure to make this a regular summer trip, with so much more to see and learn and discover. If you get the chance, be sure to visit.

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