We spent some time in Illinois following Lincoln’s life. We started with the courtroom in which he argued the famous almanac case and it is still an active court today. It is in Beardstown. We thought we would have a quick stop, check out any memorabilia that was there, take a picture of the courtroom, and head to New Salem. Our plans were extended a bit when the woman managing the building decided to give us a private tour. Although she knew a lot of information, it was a bit rambling and sometimes difficult to follow. She was super sweet though and we appreciated her midwestern hospitality.
After Beardstown, we drove to New Salem. There was a road closure, so we had to find our way around. New Salem is a reconstructed town where Lincoln lived as a young man. He worked in two different stores, was a postmaster, and was involved with two different women. Sadly, the first woman died before they could be engaged. The second relationship did not work out at all. (She was not very nice about it.) It caused Lincoln to declare that marriage would not be for him. New Salem was really well done. There were people dressed in the times stationed in different houses and told you more information, but there were also placards in each building. I would have enjoyed this town more, but it was 90 something degrees and the heat totally sapped my energy. We didn’t walk all the way to the river because we were so hot. I loved that each building was filled with artifacts from the time period and they even reconstructed the outhouses!
After New Salem we drove to Springfield. We stopped at Lincoln’s home. Unfortunately there were no more tours left by 4:30 that day. There are two blocks around his house that have other reconstructed houses from that time period. We decided to walk around and check out the other houses. There are two houses that you can enter. The one across the street from the Lincoln house has some interesting displays with the history of the family’s time there. The part that interested me the most was about the family itself. They had four children. The oldest, Robert, was the only one to live into adulthood. The second son, Eddie, passed away a month before his fourth birthday. He was born and died in their house in Springfield. The next son, William, was born less than a year after the death of Eddie and he died at age 11 in the White House from possible typhoid fever. The youngest son, Thomas, who they nicknamed Tad, lived six years after his father was assassinated (he died at the age of 18 of perhaps tuberculosis). The amount of death that Mary (Lincoln’s wife) had to endure is unreal.
We returned to the house the next morning and got free tickets for a tour 45 minutes later. In the meantime we took a drive over to Union Station (which was closed) and to the Lincoln museum. We looked at a small exhibit and headed back to the house. We had a quick chat with the tour group in the visitor center and then headed to the house. The neatest thing about the house is that almost every room had a piece of furniture that originally belonged to the Lincoln family.
The formal parlor was an important area in the house. It was here that they met with Lincoln to convince him to run for president. It was also where they held the funeral for their son Eddie. You can see the railing in the second picture and that is how they preserve the rooms from people getting too close.
There were a couple of interesting facts about the bedrooms. Lincoln was 6´4, as you may know. The bed they put in the room is long enough for him, but it is not his original bed. In reality, he probably had to sleep diagonally to fit. You can see from the picture how small his writing desk was…it was built for a man who is 5´6 (the average size for a man at that time). The wallpaper is a replica of the original paper that was in the bedrooms. They found a piece of it in the wall while they were renovating. It was popular in Paris at the time, so it was very expensive. It’s overwhelming in the small space.
The stove in the kitchen is an important gift from Lincoln to his wife. Before she had this stove she had to cook everything over an open fire. Can you imagine? I can’t even cook a marshmallow correctly over an open fire. She loved it so much that she wanted to bring it to the White House with her. It weighs about 500lbs. Lincoln managed to convince her that she would have no need to cook while in Washington and the stove remained in Springfield.
After the house tour we returned to the museum. They had very thorough displays of his childhood, growth into adulthood, marriage and time in Springfield, and his trials and tribulations in the White House. I learned a lot by reading the exhibits. They also had an exhibit on the music from bands in Illinois and two videos which we did not get to see because the times did not match up with our visit.
Our last stop was obviously at his tomb. His wife and three younger sons are buried with him. His oldest son is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at the request of his wife. They moved the two sons that passed away before Lincoln to be with the whole family. The inside of the tomb is a circle that has many different sculptures of Lincoln along with several of his famous speeches. It was a fitting memorial for an important man in our history.