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Kentucky Lincoln Heritage Trail

Lincoln Heritage Trail

The Kentucky Lincoln Heritage Trail features twenty historic sites with ties to Abraham Lincoln.

In addition to being the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, Kentucky has many ties to the sixteenth president. Lincoln’s parents, wife, best friend, and political idol were all Kentuckians. Although he left the bluegrass state as a boy, Lincoln’s relationships with Kentuckians played a critical role in forging his personal and political life.

Lincoln’s ties to Kentucky became even more pronounced during the Civil War. “I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game,” Lincoln wrote in 1861. “Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri, nor, as I think, Maryland. These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for us. We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of this capitol.”

The trail covers the following site:

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park - Hodgenville

The early 19th-century cabin, symbolic of the one in which Lincoln was born, is preserved in a memorial building at the site of his birth. Thomas and Nancy Lincoln settled on the 348-acre Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville in the Autumn of 1808. Two months later, on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. Here the Lincolns lived and farmed before moving to Knob Creek, a few miles away. On July 17, 1916, Congress established this memorial as a national park site.

Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate - Lexington

Senator Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln's political mentor and hero, built his home on this site. After his death in 1852, Clay's heirs sold the land to his son, James Brown Clay. He built the current house, now on the National Historic Register, in 1857. During the Civil War, James Clay and his family moved to Canada because of his Confederate sympathies. James subsequently died in Canada in 1864 and in January, 1866, his widow, Susan Jacobs Clay, sold the estate to Kentucky University, now the University of Kentucky.

Mary Todd Lincoln House - Lexington

The Todd family moved to this two-story Georgian-style house in 1832 when Mary was 13 years old. After their marriage, Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln stayed here when they visited Lexington. In the fall of 1847 the family stayed for three weeks on their way to Washington for Lincoln's only term in Congress. The Mary Todd Lincoln house has the distinction of being the first historic site restored in honour of a First Lady.

Camp Nelson Civil War Park - Nicholasville

Camp Nelson, located south of Nicholasville in Jessamine County, was the largest African American recruitment camp in Kentucky and the third largest in the nation. Many of the black recruits, who were emancipated upon enlistment, brought their families with them to Camp Nelson in the hope that they would also be freed or at least escape slavery. About 5,400 slaves enrolled at Camp Nelson. Designated a U.S. cemetery for Union dead in 1867, Camp Nelson remains a military cemetery.

Farmington Historic Plantation - Louisville

Farmington, a fourteen-room Federal-style home, was the centre of John and Lucy Speed's nineteenth-century hemp plantation. Abraham Lincoln, a close friend of John Speed's son, Joshua, spent about three weeks at Farmington in 1841. Designed from plans drawn by Thomas Jefferson and completed in 1816 with slave labour, the newly restored house features original paint colours, historic wallpaper and carpets, and is furnished with Kentucky period furnishings.

Kentucky Historical Society - Frankfort

The Kentucky Historical Society's Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History has a number of Lincoln-related collections, including the pocket watch Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated. The Old State Capitol and the Kentucky Military History Museum are also part of the Society's campus, offering numerous connections to Kentucky's Civil War history.

Lincoln Museum - Hodgenville

The museum's main exhibit includes twelve dioramas showing pivotal times in Abraham Lincoln's life - from his boyhood in Kentucky to his assassination. Other exhibits include rare newspaper clippings, campaign posters, and Lincoln memorabilia. An art gallery on the second floor features paintings, drawings, and other artworks portraying Lincoln.

Lincoln Homestead State Park - Springfield

Lincoln Homestead State Park features the original home of Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks, as well as replicas of the 1782 cabin and blacksmith shop where his father was raised and learned his trade. The park also includes the home of Mordecai Lincoln, the president's favourite uncle, and showcases reproductions of traditional pioneer split-rail fence and pioneer furniture.

Lincoln Legacy Museum and Statue - Springfield

The Washington County Courthouse houses the Lincoln Legacy Museum, which highlights the major parts of Abraham Lincoln’s story with special emphasis on his family background. The Courthouse also contains the marriage bond of Lincoln’s parents, Thomas and Nancy, who were married near Springfield in 1806. A statue of Lincoln was erected in 2009 across the street from the courthouse, interpreting Lincoln’s confusion about where- and perhaps whether- his parents were actually married.

Lincoln Memorial University - Near Middlesboro

Located just over the Kentucky boarder in Harrogate, Tennessee, the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum serves an important constituency in Southeast Kentucky. The museum houses one of the most diverse Lincoln and Civil War collections in the country. Exhibited are many rare items: the cane Lincoln carried that fateful night at Ford's Theatre, two life masks, the tea set he and Mary Todd used in their home in Springfield, and numerous other artefacts. Approximately 30,000 books, manuscripts, pamphlets, photographs, paintings and sculptures tell the story of President Lincoln and the Civil War period in America's history.

Centre College Lincoln Statue

The Lincoln statue at Centre College commemorates the many ties Lincoln had to this campus. Lincoln’s first law partner, two of his wife’s brothers, and his judge advocate general during the Civil War all attended school here. In addition, John C. Breckinridge, who ran against Lincoln for president in 1860, also graduated from Centre. Today, the Lincoln statue on the Centre campus reflects the president’s ideals and commemorates his connections to the college.

Lincoln Heritage National Scenic Byway- Hodgenville to Danville

The Lincoln Heritage Scenic Byway, a 72-mile stretch of US 31E and US 150, travels through six communities as it winds its way through the knobs of Kentucky. The corridor passes through Hodgenville, New Haven, Bardstown, Springfield, Perryville and Danville. This corridor exhibits significant historic and cultural resources around every turn. It embraces a set of four strong aspects: Abraham Lincoln, US History and the Civil War, Bourbon Heritage, and Religious Heritage.

Joseph Holt Home - Cloverport

This location features the birthplace and grave of Joseph Holt. Holt was Commissioner of Patents, Postmaster General and Secretary of War in President Buchanan's Administration, 1857-1861. Lincoln named him Judge Advocate General of the Union army in 1862. Holt prosecuted conspirators in the assassination of Lincoln, 1865.

Jefferson Davis State Historic Site - Fairview

Completed in 1924, this 351-foot obelisk marks the birthplace of Lincoln's adversary, Jefferson Davi, President of the Confederate States of America. The site is now home to the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site, where visitors can tour a museum about Davis and ride an elevator to the top of the monument.

State Capitol Rotunda - Frankfort

Donated in 1911 by James Breckinridge Speed, the nephew of Lincoln’s best friend, Joshua Speed, the Lincoln statue in the capitol rotunda is one of the most impressive artistic renditions of the sixteenth president. Created by renowned artist Adolf A. Weinman, the sculpture stands fourteen feet tall and is surrounded by other significant Kentucky politicians, such as Alben Barkley, Henry Clay, and Jefferson Davis.

Hardin County Lincoln Sites - Elizabethtown

The Lincoln family has a long history in Hardin County. Bathsheba Lincoln, Captain Abraham Lincoln’s widow, spent the last thirty years of her life living with her youngest child, Nancy, in the Mill Creek area. She and Nancy Lincoln Brumfield are buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, located on the Fort Knox Military Reservation. In addition Thomas Lincoln lived in or near Elizabethtown from about 1796 to 1808. Find out about their story in the Hardin County History Museum and Lincoln related sites at Freeman Lake Park.

Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site - Danville

On October 8, 1862, cannon explosions shattered the rural peace of this tranquil countryside, along with the death moans of young soldiers. Perryville became the site of the most destructive Civil War battle in the state, which left more than 7,600 killed, wounded, or missing. The park museum tells of the battle that was the South’s last serious attempt to gain possession of Kentucky. The battlefield is one of the most unaltered Civil War sites in the nation; vistas visible today are virtually those that soldiers saw on that fateful day in 1862. A self-guided walking tour on the battlefield interprets battle events.

Civil War Museum of the Western Theater

The Civil War Museum of the Western Theater features extensive exhibits and artefacts related to what were then known as the "western" states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and others. Key artefacts include the flag of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, the presentation sword of Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, and a silver flask presented to Confederate General John C. Breckinridge just after he joined the Confederate Army. Visitors can also enjoy the nearby reproduction colonial village and Women's Civil War Museum.

Whitehall State Historic Site - Richmond

White Hall was the home of Cassius Marcellus Clay: emancipationist, newspaper publisher, and friend to Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln appointed Clay as minister to Russia. Clay's restored 44-room Italianate mansion was built in 1799 and remodeled in the 1860s. In addition to the heirloom and period furnishings, White Hall has many features which were unique for its day, including indoor running water and central heating.

Lincoln Memorial at Waterfront Park - Louisville

The Lincoln Memorial at Waterfront Park is a large interpretive landscape facing the Ohio River featuring a 12' statue of Lincoln, four bas reliefs, and a stone amphitheatre. The memorial uses sculptural elements, artistic expression, and Abraham Lincoln’s own words to convey Lincoln’s lifelong ties to Kentucky and the state’s influence on his life. The memorial offers glimpses of different stages of Lincoln’s life, including his childhood in Kentucky, his political and social rise, the impact of the Civil War on Lincoln, his family, and the nation, and the roots of his abhorrence of slavery.

Lincoln Marriage Cabin at Old Fort Harrod State Park

Harrodsburg is the city in which the Rev. Jesse Head, the Methodist minister who performed the marriage ceremony of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, lived and is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery. In the early twentieth century, concerned residents of Harrodsburg began a successful effort to preserve the log home in which Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were married. Those efforts ultimately led to the construction of the Lincoln Marriage Temple on the grounds of what became Old Fort Harrod State Park.


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