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The 12-foot-tall fiberglass statue of Lincoln is perched upon the world’s largest covered wagon. Hand crafted from oak by David Bentley, the wagon stands 24 feet tall, is 40 feet long, and weighs five tons. Recently relocated from Divernon, Ill., it now resides at 1006 Woodlawn Rd. in Lincoln, Ill. (Photo courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County.)

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln
It’s time to re-acquaint yourself with the man, myth and legend

by Jen Danzinger

Cities across the U.S. are planning ways to participate in the upcoming bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Kentucky, where Lincoln was born, Indiana, where the Lincoln family lived before heading further west, and Illinois have already formed a tri-state bicentennial to coordinate celebratory events. Here in the “Land of Lincoln,” many communities will be dusting off their connection to the Lincoln legacy and seeking ways to encourage tourism while re-invigorating pride in their local heritage.

Many towns will be offering celebrations a year in advance of the actual bicentennial. Lincoln, Ill. will be celebrating Lincoln’s birthday this Feb. 9, with music, crafts, a Lincoln interpreter, the reading of the Gettysburg Address and, of course, birthday cake and punch at the Postville Courthouse State Historic Site. Additional events across the state will periodically be listed in the Datebook section of this magazine.

You don’t have to wait until Feb. 12, 2009, to begin your investigation of Lincoln lore. Consider taking your family on a day trip to a historic site near you. Some destinations you may not have experienced yet are:

Charleston, Ill.

  • The Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site offers a re-creation of the farm where Lincoln’s parents lived, a museum and gift shop.

Lincoln, Ill.

  • For an offbeat destination, visit the only town named for Abraham Lincoln while he was still alive. Lincoln himself christened the town with a ripe melon on Aug. 27, 1853. To celebrate this legacy, the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce owns the “Mobile Melon,” a car painted to look like a watermelon. Here you can also find the Lincoln Watermelon Monument and a statue of Abraham Lincoln perched upon the world’s largest covered wagon.

Springfield, Ill.

  • The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is more than a collection of artifacts. The museum has something to engage visitors both young and old, including interactive displays, high-tech multi-media presentations and more.

Vandalia, Ill.

  • The Vandalia State House State Historic Site is the renovated location of the previous state Capitol building. Visitors can see where Lincoln spent his early years in state politics.

Did you know?

  • Abraham Lincoln had no middle name and hated the nickname “Abe.”
  • He only completed one year of formal education.
  • The outhouse behind the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Ill. is a three-seater.
  • He is the only president to hold a patent (for an invention to lift boats over shoals.)
  • When elected president, more than half of the U.S. labor force were farmers. Lincoln made it a priority to offer a means of education and a voice in government for farmers. Both land grant colleges and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were created during his presidency.
  • His presidential salary in 1860 was $25,000, which, when adjusted for time and inflation, is comparable to George Bush’s salary today.
  • Because he was shot on Good Friday and died the day before Easter, preachers nationwide included Lincoln in their Sunday sermons in 1865, quickly making him a martyr, myth and legend.

Additional Lincoln sites:

  • Don't miss Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, 2 miles south of Petersburg, IL, on Rt. 97 or 20 miles northwest of Springfield, IL, on Rt. 97. The 700 acre site is an important part of Lincoln's history, and the New Salem Lincoln League not only preserves the village but also hosts many special events.

Do you have a favorite Illinois Lincoln site? Email and have it listed here.

© 2008 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
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