In the Land of Lincoln

We visited the re-created village of New Salem, Illinois, a few days ago. In the 1930s Abraham Lincoln spent his young adult years there. It's been painstakingly recreated with archeological research to show where the original sites of the buildings were and using no metal nails in building some of the buildings (we noticed wooden hinges and pegs on a door).

When Lincoln steps out on his own, away from the shadow of his parents, he settles in New Salem. It is an obscure village northwest of Springfield--which, if I recall correctly, wasn't the state capital then; Lincoln would lobby for that move later--with just twenty some buildings.

He gained respect there (it is where the legendary wrestling match occurred). But he also experinced much failure. He ran for a state congressional office and lost. He went in with another village to start up a new store (which there was already one in town, so I'm not sure what they were thinking trying to succeed with a second store in a town that small). After a couple of years it went belly-up.

While becoming a reputable surveyor (a job for which Lincoln had no training), the local law enforcement seized his surveying tools as well as his horse and saddle to auction off for paying off what was owned on the store. Then he turned to law. He had only about a year of formal education, but Lincoln managed to become a lawyer. It was because of his love for books--as well as learning in general. He never gave up.

The village of New Salem only started a couple of years before Lincoln arrived. A couple of years after he left, and the village had pretty much disappeared. But, at least as they like to entice the tourists with, the small little town of New Salem seemed to have had a swaying impact on the man who would become our nation's sixteenth, and arguably the greatest, president.

May wherever we land ourselves shape us for the best.

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