Learning Lincoln On-line

Topic- Virtual Field Trip Through Coles County for Lincoln and Grant Sites

#3.)  Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln Farms in Coles County 

These are historical spots only, with the 4th farm reconstructed by WPA crews in the 1930's.  Abraham Lincoln never lived on the farm, but visited several time.

*The First Farm of Thomas/ Sarah Bush Lincoln, 1831-1834
North side of Lincoln Heritage Road (Coles County 3399 N), 1/2 miles east of Meadow View Golf Course  N  39o 25.299   W 088o 20.747

From 1831 to 1834 Thomas and Sarah Lincoln, father and stepmother of Abraham Lincoln, lived in a cabin which stood a short distance to the north. It was their first home in Coles County, and their second home in Illinois.

*The Second Farm of Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln , 1834-1837
North side of Lincoln National Memorial Highway, one mile southwest of Lerna   N  39o 24.294   W 088o 18.230

In 1834 Thomas Lincoln purchased 40 acres situated about 400 yards north and east of this point. Here, with his wife Sarah, he lived until 1837, when he sold the land. It was his second home in Coles County.

*Site of the Third Thomas and Sarah Lincoln Cabin
Extreme southern part of Lincoln Log Cabin State Park, facing south, north side County Road 30N, end of Lincoln Highway Road

 N  39o 22.725   W 088o 12.144       The Lincoln Cabin stood approximately 200 feet north of this point

*The Fourth and Last Thomas and Sarah Lincoln Farm
Location: West entrance to Lincoln Log Cabin State Park, County Road 1668    N  39o 22.812   W 088 o 12.567

The old state memorial sign (newly replaced by a Looking for Lincoln sign in 2009, for the Lincoln Bi-centennial)

 Photo from the west (back side of farm from road)

Photo from the west (back side of farm from road)

The Lincoln Log Cabin and Farms

       In 1837, Thomas Lincoln erected a cabin on a tract of land situated one-half mile to the east. Here he resided until his death in 1851. Abraham Lincoln visited here frequently, and after 1841 held title to forty acres of land on which his parents lived. The State of Illinois now owns most of the Lincoln farm.

       Our 16th President never lived here, but was known to visit on occasion, and would visit his step mother, Sarah Bush at the Moore House, before leaving for Washington D.C. upon his election as President.  Much history occurred in and around Charleston.  It is a major section of the Lincoln Heritage Trail.  Thomas Lincoln and his family would separate from the oldest son, Abraham who desired to go his own way, to make his own fortune.  The winter in the Macon County log house was devastating and the Lincolns headed back to Indiana.  On the way back they stopped in nearby Coles County, where friendly neighbors there would convince him to give that area a chance.  The Lincolns, without Abraham, would live in three cabins and on three farms before settling at Goosenest, near Charleston.


Known as Lincoln Log Cabin 
Once a walk-through and view log farm, is now a living farm with animals, crops and interpreters. 



The Visitor Center

This building has a large hands on and visual museum and a video history presentation


Photos of Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln, parents of Abraham Lincoln.  Both would live their last years at Goosenest Farm, near Charleston


       Thomas Lincoln would be the subject of many letters sent to and from President Lincoln, his son.  These letters are available for viewing on the Library of Congress "Lincoln Papers" site.  Thomas was a sustenance farmer. He was always able to grow enough, and do enough on his farm to support his wife for the level of living that they were used to.  The President (always without his family) made several trips to Charleston and probably often to Goose Nest Farm, but the most famous visit was after his father had passed (1851) and was on January 30, 1861.  That was the trip in which he would visit his father's grave at Shiloh, enjoy a dinner with his step-mother and step-sister Tildy, and many others at the Farmington house (now called Moore Home).  Sarah Bush Lincoln was not in the cabin during this time of the year.  She was frail.  She would end up back in the cabin during the year of her own death.  According to Dr. Coleman in Lincoln in Coles County, 1955, page 191, the President-elect was only in the Charleston area for some eight hours and twenty-five minutes.  This time included train waiting time at Tolono. Some time was spent in Mattoon on his trip to Charleston, where he had to wait for a train.  He would stay in the Essex House Hotel (near the depot, on now Broadway Ave.) in Mattoon.  The travel to Charleston from Springfield would have been a very slow one.  The trains burned wood, and had to be "wooded up" to allow for such a long journey.  It could have been a several-hour trip. 

       Another aspect that Coleman brings up, is that it would seem the trip to Charleston was not announced publicly.  It was a secret trip.  Lincoln had received threats of his life on his big trip to Washington, so perhaps the trip was made very secretly.  Three or four "old law friends" accompanied him on the train trip.

       The Lincoln farm, the cabin, and most-of-all contain a busy family history, often involving the President.  There was a step-brother of Abraham by the name of John Johnston. Abraham really liked his step-brother, but at the same time had to suffer much worry and grief because of his step-brother's  problems in "idleness," "no special virtue but good temper.  He never make money, was always needy, and always clamoring for the aid of his friends. 

       The Halls, Hanks, Johnston's and Lincolns had typical pioneer-time links and relations.  Many relationships were "by marriage," and the blood-line for each was not real long.  Dennis Hanks was a second cousin, and lived until his 90's.  He would relate a lot stories about his famous cousin.  He, though, ended up a city person, being a cobbler and a hotel owner.  Some of the Johnston's were not happy with Mr. and Mrs. Hanks. 

       Thomas Lincoln would have financial problems at times, especially in 1841.   Abraham would purchase for $200 the east forty acres of the 120-acre farm.  This was to aid his father, and ensure there would always be a place to live.  Abraham would put write in the deed, that his step-mother would always be allowed to live on these acres.  Abraham always tried to help his parents as much as he could.  In an old Gridley family tradition, the story is told by John J. Hall "... Uncle Abe use to come down every six months and pay off the interest... He done that until he had money enough to pay the hull debt, and kept up the interest, too."

       Thomas would have more financial problems, but Abraham never sold the acres that he had purchased.  The Johnston's were in a bundle of financial problems, but Abraham couldn't seem to straighten them out for them.  Thomas died in 1851, Abraham died in 1865, and the land dealings were never thoroughly solved.

       It was in the 20th century that this same stretch of acres that Abraham Lincoln would see new legal battles.  A person in our own time tried to sell brick-sized portions of the land that A. Lincoln owned.

       To top it all off the original log cabin disappeared after being loaned to the Chicago World's Fair.  A similar fate had happened to the cabin at Lincoln's birthplace.

       Lot's of personal letters are available for reading on the Library of Congress "Lincoln Papers."

       Near the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site is the Moore Home. Visit my Website to tell the story of Abraham Lincoln's last visit to Central Illinois after being elected the 16th President.

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