Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Few Days with Abe and Family

Our first stop upon leaving Indiana to head southwest for the winter was Springfield, Illinois. It was a good day’s ride for us, about 250 miles. What reason to go to Springfield? We both enjoy a great museum. And we had excellent recommendations on the new Lincoln Museum. They were right! This one was exceptional. The varied types of exhibits and presentations keep your interest and give you lots to think about. Among our favorites were the 3D audio/video presentation depicting people’s views and opinions of the Emancipation Proclamation. We also enjoyed seeing the display of Lincoln family artifacts. For instance, within this display are an axe used by Abe and a few pieces of Mary’s favorite jewelry. For museum and/or Lincoln enthusiasts, this is definitely a place to spend a day or two.

During our first day in town we also learned about other sites relating to the Lincoln family. The family home is preserved along with the neighborhood as it was when the Lincolns lived there, just a few blocks south of downtown. We decided to go there, but didn’t really expect too much beyond a well preserved 1800s home. Again, there was more. The presentations and tour by the national park rangers kept us captivated. We heard stories of the actual experiences of the residents of Springfield during the 1840s through early 1900s.

This photo is the Lincoln’s kitchen. Their stove was recovered from a house in Chicago where it was taken after a renter moved out. Listening to the documented history and walking through the homes and streets of the time, gave a clear picture of not only Abe’s life, but Mary Todd Lincoln’s and their children and extended family, friends and colleagues.

The final stop on our historical foray was our visit to the Lincoln Tomb. Abe and Mary and three of their four sons are buried there. We were partially motivated to visit Oak Ridge Cemetery when we learned that it is the second most visited cemetery in the U. S. behind Arlington.

What other surprises about the tomb? The magnitude of the 117 foot tall monument, surrounded by bronze statues. The Gutzon Borglum bust touched by many for luck. The burial chamber’s beauty. And, again, our host’s presentation included several fascinating stories about the tomb and the members of the family. In the early 1900s, after a grave robbery attempt, Lincoln’s body was exhumed, identified by opening the coffin and reburied. But this time they put him ten feet deep and surrounded by cement. I’ll leave the details of that story and others for you to hear on your own when you visit the Lincoln resting place.

It was an interesting glimpse into the lives of this 19th century family, which most decidedly had an effect on all of our lives.

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