The Indiana Insider Blog

Spencer County – Lincoln Pioneer Village and Museum

My family and I took a quick trip to Spencer County, Indiana to visit several Abraham Lincoln historic sites and Santa Claus. This is one of our stops.

Spencer County can lay claim to being a pivotal point of American history, having been the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln, where he learned the values and morals that he brought to the presidency during the nation’s most trying period.

While there are both an Indiana state park and a National Lincoln memorial, Spencer County itself doesn’t want to be left out.

My family and I had a chance to visit the Lincoln Pioneer Village and Museum near the end of our first day in Spencer County. Not only does the museum contain a large collection of Lincoln memorabilia and collectibles, it also serves as the museum for the history of Spencer County.

The museum contains Lincoln items, like a broad axe he used in his jobs as a rail splitter and wood chopper, a cabinet built by Lincoln’s father, Thomas, and Abe himself — one of the only surviving examples of basic Abe’s handiwork, a dress owned by Sarah Lincoln-Grigsby, and even a cast iron pot owned by the Lincoln family.

There are also several replica cabins built in the area behind the museum. Originally built by the WPA in the 1930s, these cabins are full-sized models that show what the cabins and homes were like on the Indiana frontier back in the 1820s and 1830s. Visitors can experience the Lincoln home, the Grigsby home, and several other homes associated with the Lincolns’ time in Indiana.

The cabins were so real and exact, the museum was used as the set for the filming of the 1955 movie The Kentuckian, starring Burt Lancaster and Walter Matthau. In fact, this was Matthau’s first movie, which was filmed in 1954.

It was here that my daughter and I learned the origin of the term “living room.” Back in the 1800s, a lot of cabins were built with a second room that was separate from the rest of the house. Doctors and lawyers would practice in the room so it wouldn’t disturb their family, and because these rooms were taxed differently than the rest of the house. These rooms where they made their living were called the “living room.” While it has come to mean the public room where we entertain our guests (what used to be the parlor in fancier homes), back then, it was the first home office.

The Lincoln Pioneer Village and Museum is a great way to get a close look at 1820s life in Indiana. While the Lincoln State Park and Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial give you a detailed look at the life of Lincoln, Spencer County’s contribution to Lincoln history has some of the best pieces of actual Lincoln memorabilia available to the public.

Photo credit: Erik Deckers (Picasa)

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