Following Lincoln: From the woods of Kentucky to Springfield, Illinois

Dark green trees flew past the window of the silver Buick that drove along the paved road through the Kentucky woodlands. Occasionally a horse or cow could be seen grazing on one of the hills or behind a wooden fence. This was the area surrounding Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace and his childhood home. Growing up in semi-rural Hemet California, I was used to the smell of horse and cow manure so the environment was not unfamiliar, but the landscape looked largely different than what I was used to growing up.

This summer I traveled with my parents and younger sister Jasmine across the United States. The furthest east we went however was Tennessee.

Some of the places we visited include the log cabin Lincoln was born in, the wooden house he grew up in, and the city of Springfield, Illinois where Lincoln practiced law before he started in politics.

In Springfield, we drove past Lincoln’s law office, we visited his presidential library and we stopped and saw his tomb.

The tomb of Abraham Lincoln.

We did not set out to visit every important place of Lincoln’s life when the trip began but we have always been flexible with our stops and destinations. When we found out that his childhood home was close to the log cabin he was born in, we had to stop by. When we realized Springfield was only an hour and a half from Saint Louis, another destination on our trip, how could we not stop and see it?

Visiting places that are important to American history is a valuable but different kind of learning than reading articles and textbooks about the people or place. I strongly encourage you not to just take my word for it on these places but to visit them in person when you have time.

When we visited Lincoln’s childhood home, it was fascinating to realize that Lincoln had also walked these grounds as a child. Being able to see the places that had important significance to him adds an aspect of reality to the stories we hear or read.

My favorite part of his childhood home was the meadow behind his house. The view to me was remarkable.

Sometimes words aren’t enough to describe how beautiful a place is. Jasmine Severi stands in awe of the meadow behind Lincoln’s childhood home.

My favorite place on this trip was Springfield, Illinois. It is small by California standards, a population of 100,000 which is about a third of the size of Riverside, but it is the perfect destination for any Lincoln scholar. It is also the state capital (not Chicago) for those interested in Illinois politics.

The presidential library had a recreation of Lincoln’s casket and catafalque in a replica of his “lying in state” in Springfield’s old capitol building. This was where people came to bid Lincoln a final farewell. According to records, 25 million people in total came to say goodbye to Lincoln whether it was in D.C. or along the procession route back to Springfield.

I thought I knew a lot about Lincoln, I thought I understood many aspects of him. But I want to emphasize that as valuable as going to Civil War reenactments or taking history classes and reading books on him is, there is something even more personal when you visit these places and walk the paths he ran down as a child.

I walked away from these places with a better understanding of the humanity of Lincoln over the perfect figure we have the danger of creating in our minds.

Even though we can never meet Lincoln face-to-face, visiting the places that were important to him is still honoring the legacy that he left behind. For Americans interested in history, I think we owe it to him and each other to stop by and visit.

For more information on the locations mentioned in this article, you can visit these websites:


Childhood home:

Presidential library: