Guest post by Park Ranger, Paula Alexander
A visit to the farm is what most visitors to the park remember. And, for many, the farm is Lincoln Boyhood.
But the farm wasn’t always a part of the park. In fact, the early development of the park was designed as a memorial to Abraham Lincoln and his mother; a place to “remember” Abraham Lincoln’s early life. But, by the late 1960s this idea changed, and to simply remember wasn’t enough. People wanted to know more about what life was like for Abraham Lincoln before he became President.
The idea of the Lincoln Living Historical Farm evolved in 1966. And in 1968, clearing of the site began. In March, a construction crew of ten local men were hired. They dismantled logs from existing structures in Spencer County, transported them to the site, and reassembled the logs, although not in their original configuration, as farm buildings. In all, three structures were used to build the existing cabin, smokehouse, chicken coop, and barn. They were the Reisz barn, from just west of Chrisney; the Bryant house, from near Gentryville; and the Butler house, from between Grandview and Rockport.
On March 11, 1968, the footing for the cabin fireplace was laid. Over the next several weeks the buildings began quickly to take shape. As much as it was possible to do, the work of cutting and shaping and fitting the logs was done using traditional hand tools, including the cutting of the front cabin door opening with a cross-cut saw. By April 26, the construction of the first four structures was complete. In the spring of 1969, the carpenter shop was added and the farm attained the appearance that it has today.
The “living” effect was achieved by the addition of interpreters in period clothing who worked the farm much like the pioneers would have using historic tools and techniques to depict daily pioneer life. This understanding of Abraham Lincoln’s life, growing up in Indiana in the 1820s, is what visitors to the farm still experience today.