March 4, 2008

Lincoln Log Cabin in Lerna, Illinois

Welcome to 1845!

Put on your work clothes and become a farmer in Central Illinois. You'll have to learn the dialect too. Instead of saying "Hi" you say, "How do, ma'am?" or "How do, sir?" And Mom and Dad become Mammy and Pappy. And if you want to say something is far away, you'd say, "That's a fer piece from here."

Abraham Lincoln was born 200 years ago in Kentucky, then moved to Indiana where his mother died and his father remarried Sarah Bush. He spent most of his childhood in Indiana, but when he was around 20 years old, his family moved to Illinois. They spent one cold winter near Decatur, then decided to move a little south. At that point, Abraham decided it was time for him to go off on his own, so he moved west into Sangamon County (near Springfield, the capitol of Illinois), and his parents moved southeast into Coles County (near Charleston, Illinois).

His parents built a cabin here in Coles County, (this is a replica, but on the exact spot) and at one time, eighteen members of the extended family lived in the cabin, including his cousin, Dennis Hanks. Abraham would visit once in awhile when he was a circuit-riding lawyer working in Charleston, but his most remembered visit is the one he took before moving to Washington D.C. His father had been dead many years, but he came to say goodbye to his beloved step-mother. His father and Sarah Bush Lincoln are both buried nearby.

This place, called Lincoln Log Cabin is a State Historical Site and has a museum and historical interpreters. It's usually open to the public but was closed last fall by Governor Blagojevich due to budget cuts. We are hoping our new governor will reopen it soon.

One year our family went through training to be interpreters. Peter was 16, Meg was 14, and Missa was 12. We learned how to be farmers in 1845!

Missa churns butter. You can too!

Making candles: Attach cotton string to sticks. Dip the strings into the hot wax, then lay the stick across the saw horses to harden, grab another stick, repeat. When you've dipped all the strings once, go back and start again. Each layer makes the candle thicker. But don't try this on a really hot day--your candles will never harden. They'll just keep dripping on the grass.

Peter feeds a hungry calf.

Peter stokes the fire.

Boiling "taters" for lunch: When they get soft enough, drain the water and smash them so you can have "smashed taters."

cleaning vegetables and chopping them

Volunteer interpreters get to eat the food.

Water is carried in from the well and put in a tub for washing. Scrape dishes with a corn husk, and when you're done cleaning a cast iron pot, don't forget to wipe it with lard before you put it away.

Throughout the year, Lincoln Log Cabin hosts special events. The following is a post I wrote about our visit to the site during their Sheep-to-Clothing demonstration:

natural dye for woolThis past weekend my daughter Meg and I went to Lincoln Log Cabin to see their "Sheep to Clothing" event. We live only a few miles from this place, and we've volunteered, but we've never come to the wool event. It was sparsely attended, but I thought it was great. My favorite part was seeing all this wool hanging in these glorious colors. I liked it so much, I turned it into my blog banner.

natural dye for woolThis man raises sheep, spins the wool and dyes it using pioneer methods.

natural dye for woolWith onion skins clinging to the yarn, here is a pot of simmering yellow. The other pot has yarn turning red because he added a particular insect. He recommended The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Useas the best book on this topic.

natural dye for wool

natural dye for wool
Before he can dye the yarn, he has to have clean wool to work with. I don't think the girl is enjoying her job very much.

This lady was knitting and demonstrating spinning with a drop spindle. I definitely want to give this a try. Here's a link to making a drop spindle with a CD.

Inside the Lincoln cabin, an interpreter was knitting. Learn more about dyeing and spinning wool.

More resources and things to do:

an online game: help Lincoln build a log cabin

10 Abraham Lincoln printable activity sheets for various ages

a short bio and favorite children's books about Lincoln

Coloring Page below that illustrates Abraham Lincoln's Administration (click "more" to print and set your printer to "landscape"):

Abraham Lincoln's Administration Coloring Page-Download location


Kat said...

How fun that your family got to 'be' apart of history. :) I loved learning more about dying wool. I have an acquaintance that pulls, dyes & spins wool for different cultural type things like this. I have always found it very interesting. Thanks for all the extra printables too. :)

Karen said...

Luke and I LOVED this post so much! He just played the Log Cabin Building game, and we loved finding out where your blog banner came from. Off to Kansas next!

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