Learning Lincoln On-line

Topic Sets to Study Abraham Lincoln His Life and Before the Civil War


Topic Six: Abraham Lincoln at New Salem Trivia Hunt and Fact Finder & Topic Five (Follow the Lincoln Heritage Trail):  New Salem)





Abraham Lincoln Moves to New Salem

information, and then complete the New Salem Picture Puzzle

Also visit the "New Salem & Lincoln Trivia Finder"


When finished reading this introduction go to the "Lincoln Careers" site for information about Lincoln's life and

means of making a living before becoming the 16th President.




       This information is from the website "Lincoln's New Salem."  Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, about 2 miles South of Petersburg and about 20 miles Northwest of Springfield, is a reconstruction of the village where Abraham Lincoln spent his early adulthood.

       New Salem State Historic Site proudly preserves one of the most historic villages in the Americas. This 19th Century community is accurately restored and adapted to the lifestyles of the 1830's.

Original New Salem

Main Street

       New Salem was founded in 1828, when James Rutledge and John Camron built a gristmill on the Sangamon River. They surveyed and sold village lots for commercial business and homes on the ridge stretching to the west above the mill. Over the first few years of its existence, the town grew rapidly, but after the county seat was located in nearby Petersburg, the village began to shrink and by 1840, it was abandoned. The fact that the Sangamon River was not well-suited for steamboat travel was also a reason for the town's decline.

      In 1831, when Abraham Lincoln's father, Thomas, relocated the family from Indiana to a new homestead in Coles County, Illinois, 22-year-old Lincoln struck out on his own. Lincoln arrived in New Salem by way of flatboat and he remained in the village for about six years. During his stay, Lincoln earned a living as a shopkeeper, soldier in the Black Hawk War, general store owner, postmaster, land surveyor, and rail splitter, as well as doing odd jobs around the village. As far as historians know, Lincoln never owned a home in the village as most single men did not own homes at this time; however, he would often sleep in the tavern or his general store and take his meals with a nearby family.

      He ran for the Illinois General Assembly in 1832, handily winning his New Salem precinct but losing the countywide district election. He tried again in 1834 and won. Lincoln left New Salem and moved to Springfield, also in his election district, around 1837.

      When Lincoln lived in New Salem, the village was home to a cooper shop, blacksmith shop, wool carding mill, four general stores, a tavern, a grocery, two doctors' offices, a shoemaker, a carpenter, a hat maker, a tanner, a schoolhouse/church, several residences, common pastures, and kitchen gardens. During its short existence, the village was home to anywhere from 20 to 25 families at a time. It is important to remember that New Salem was not a small farm village, but instead a commercial village full of young businessmen and craftsmen trying to start a new life on the frontier.

       A young Abraham Lincoln decided to live in the village of New Salem while co-piloting a flatboat down the Sangamon, Illinois and Mississippi waterways. New Salem was a growing community, boasting a sawmill and gristmill, a tavern, general stores, a post office, stagecoach stop and several craftsmen.

The Keel Boat and the Flatboat (lower left) were common means of transport on America's Rivers.  Young Abraham would use the flatboat to move from Macon County to New Salem, along the Sangamon River.

The sculpture above depicts Abraham on horseback
and reading from a book while riding along.

       Abraham would work at many jobs while at New Salem.  He would own his own general store, work at surveying, was postmaster, and would enter the field of law.  Also at New Salem, he would run for his first public office.  The pictures depict the living site, with a rail splitter.  At right is the first Lincoln owned general store, with partner, Berry.

What Abraham Lincoln Thought of New Salem

       Lincoln considered the potential of the village boundless and decided to settle there. As the town developed, so did his career. Lincoln developed from a self-admitted "aimless piece of driftwood" to a merchant, surveyor, postmaster and captain of the local militia. And finally it was here, where by the flicker of candlelight, he began to study law.

       Today, you can touch the history and feel the emotion of yesterday as you walk through the winding paths of the village. Smell the fresh bread baking. Hear the rat-tat-tat of the blacksmith's hammer. Watch the hands of the candle maker dipping the village light. And wonder to the skills of a woman performing magic with her spinning wheel.

       A village brought back to life with oxen, farm animals, craftsmen and interpreters giving you a historic overview of an era gone by. And a final walk through the famed New Salem will recreate for you the history you and the family will enjoy.

Lincoln At New Salem

       The six years Lincoln spent in New Salem formed a turning point in his career. Although he never owned a home here, Lincoln was engaged in a variety of activities while he was at New Salem. He clerked in a store, split rails, enlisted in the Black Hawk War, served as postmaster and deputy surveyor, failed in business, and was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1834 and 1836 after an unsuccessful try in 1832.
Twelve log houses, the Rutledge Tavern, ten workshops, stores, mills and a school where church services were held have been reproduced and furnished as they might have been in the 1830s. The furnishings, including many articles actually used by the New Salem people of Lincoln's time and others dating back to the same time period, were assembled and donated to the state by the Old Salem Lincoln League. The collection includes such early-nineteenth-century articles as wheat cradles, candle molds, cord beds, flax hackles, wood cards, dough and cornmeal chests and early American pewter.

Map of New Salem, Illinois (near present Petersburg)

A Site map of New Salem State Historic Site.  The "living" community also has an outdoor theatre with summer musicals concerning the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.  It is a major stopping point on the Lincoln Heritage Trail.

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