National Geographic : 1952 Feb
Vacation Tour Through Lincoln Land Our tent was headquarters for four days while we visited the shrines in the hills of southern Indiana (page 158). By camping, we felt we were re-creating in small degree the rugged conditions the Lincolns lived under during their first winter in Indiana. Winter had already set in when they arrived at their quarter-section claim. At once they threw up a "half-faced camp"-a three-sided cabin of poles and brush. At the open southern side a fire burned day and night. A few yards away the father built a snug, roomy log cabin. On this farm on a high knoll at the headwaters of Little Pigeon Creek he and his son lived 14 years. Abe grew from a child of 7 to a strapping 6-foot 4-inch giant of 21. After a camp breakfast we drove the short distance to Lincoln City, which grew up on the historic land long after the family had moved on to Illinois. The storekeeper told me he recently bought two acres just north of the village. "The abstract was six inches thick and went back to the original paper of Thomas Lincoln," he said. "Across the road there is where his cabin stood." We entered the quiet, wooded area of Nancy Hanks Lincoln State Memorial. At the cabin site we were interested to see that, instead of a complete restoration, only the sill logs and fireplace were reconstructed (page 169). The Indiana Lincoln Union, which deserves much of the credit for the impressive memorial lay out, explains: "For countless generations mankind has held the hearthstone as the altar of his home, a place of joy in times of prosperity, as a refuge in adversity; a spot made sacred by the lives of those spent around it. This is the hearth set here to mark the place where Lincoln at his mother's knee learned . . . in tegrity and strength . . . kindliness and love." "Milk Sick" a Dreaded Scourge The close communion between mother and son was soon to end. A scourge called the "milk sick" swept the Little Pigeon commu nity. Cattle and people died after a violent and mysterious sickness. Nancy Hanks Lincoln, a weary and worn old woman in her middle thirties, was one of the victims. Her husband and Dennis Hanks whipsawed planks from a log. Abe, 9 years old, whittled pegs to hold the planks together for a coffin. On a wooded knoll they buried Nancy Hanks among the "friendly trees" (page 170). As we walked from the cabin site along the Trail of Historic Stones to the grave, the friendly trees were still there, mostly second growth timber and plantings allowed to flourish after the Indiana Lincoln Union and the State of Indiana initiated their memorial plans in the late twenties. It heightened our sense of history at this hallowed spot when Judith looked down at the rocky path and by good fortune picked up a perfectly shaped Indian arrowhead. Beyond the burial knoll the land slopes to the south. Here lies the front approach to the grave and cabin site. The great flag at the top of a massive shaft rippled and snapped in the stiff breeze as we walked down the Allee, a grassed swath connecting grave and Memorial Plaza (page 171). Two Indiana limestone structures front the plaza-the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Memorial Hall and the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hall. They are connected by bas-relief scenes from the Eman cipator's life (page 165). Where the memorial grounds end, the State park begins. Little Pigeon Creek is dammed, forming a lake in which hundreds of visitors swim every summer week end. We took dips at every opportunity, walking to the lake from our tent. A Stray Dog Shares the Pillow One night I awakened to hear rain drum ming on the canvas above us. Lightning ripped the sky. During flashes my wife and I glimpsed the untroubled faces of our sleep ing children. We dropped back to sleep. In the morning Jean said, "It must have rained cats and dogs last night. Look!" Sharing Mary Ellen's pillow was a stray mongrel (page 158). Dog and girl were sound asleep. I attempted one flash-camera shot, whereupon the stranger bolted! That day we drove to Dale, Indiana, larg est town in the vicinity of "Nancy Hanks," as we began calling the memorial area. Here S. Grant Johnson, O. V. Brown, and others keep alive Lincoln traditions of the area. Both the Johnsons are descended from neighbors of the Lincolns. Their home is filled with books, implements, and other Lin colniana. A froe, an almost forgotten wood working tool, interested me. Mr. Johnson, 83 years old, took me outside and showed me how Abe and other pioneers used the maul and froe to slash thick shinglelike clapboards for roof ing log cabins. I wanted to find out more about the milk sickness that took Nancy Hanks away. One of my forebears had died of the same cause in southern Illinois Virginia to Missouri, the scourge obliterate( "What made milk asked Mr. Johnson. "It hasn't," he said. of two or three cows eat snakeroot blossom while migrating from and I had read how i whole communities. sickness die out?" I "Every year you hear dying from it. They and get the trembles."