The Indiana Insider Blog

Spencer County Lincoln State Park

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.

Indiana has a strong claim to American history as the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln. I took my family to Spencer County so we could see the true land of Lincoln (Illinois may claim him, but Indiana made him). After a visit to the , we drove across the street to the Lincoln State Park, which is maintained and operated by the Indiana DNR.

The park was originally established in 1932 as a memorial to Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, who died from milk poisoning when Abe was 9 years old.

We had a chance to visit the Lincoln State Park with naturalist Michael Crews, who also owns the Buffalo Run Farm, which is the home to a few log cabins, including one where Lincoln slept before he left for Illinois, and another owned by Lincoln’s cousin, Dennis Hanks.

We also had a chance to see some examples of Indiana’s creatures, including a rat snake, which my two youngest were more than happy to check out, but for which I was thankful to have a zoom lens on my camera.

After we checked out the Nature Center, we hopped in the cars and drove a few miles away to the home of Colonel William Jones, a former colonel, politician, and merchant employer of Abraham Lincoln. This is an 1834 Federal-design home that was restored in the 1970s by the Cook family, as a way to honor another facet of Lincoln’s life in Indiana.

The home had a few interesting architectural features, like a widow’s walk, which is usually only found on the east coast on homes of sea merchants and fishermen. Colonel Jones’ home is far enough from the river that it wouldn’t have even been useful then, unless Jones just wanted to survey his lands.

The other feature was the “2nd floor,” at the top of the stairs. It was basically 12 – 15 feet wide and 5 feet deep. It was more of a loft or study, and was not even as wide as the entire house. Apparently, people in the 1800s used to put a staircase and loft in their house like this so they could appear more wealthy than they actually were they looked like they had a whole second floor, although they didn’t have to pay for one.

We also learned that in most of these 1800s-era homes had an interesting practice for cooling: every door in a house had another door across from it, and every window had another window across from it. If you opened one, you opened another, and it kept the breeze flowing through the house to help keep it cool. We don’t do this in houses these days, because we have air conditioning, which makes architectural-cooling unnecessary.

We enjoyed our time at the Lincoln State Park with Mark Crews. Mark was a gracious and knowledgeable host, and we enjoyed spending some time with him, learning not only about Lincoln’s employer, but Indiana’s animals as well. He can keep the rat snake to himself though.

Photo credit: Erik Deckers (Picasa)

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