The Log Cabin in the Temple



A visit to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace in Hodgenville, Kentucky. What expectations! It was my first venture there two years ago in 2007. I didn’t really know what to expect. I pictured the Lincoln cabin sitting on a hill somewhere, beautiful not for it’s appearance-after all Lincoln was born in 1809 (it was more than 200 years old).  It would have a beauty of it’s own because it was what it was: the home where Lincoln was born. The birthplace is a National Historic Park. It’s well kept. There are 116 acres of Thomas Lincoln’s farmland preserved. The Sinking Spring, which was the water source for the Lincoln family, still runs. The area is quite lovely. The park has activites and planned events on a regular basis. What I was not prepared for on that day was the temple. Instead of seeing a log cabin on a hill my eyes gazed on a temple on a hill. My immediate thought was: What would the Lincoln family have thought of that? To be fair, I think the temple is traditionally thought of as a “memorial building.” It’s now one hundred years old. At the building’s dedication President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone before 12,000 people on a cold and rainy day. Two years later in 1911, President Taft presented the dedication speech. Since then, many luminaries, including other Presidents, have visited it for one reason or another.

The stairs are 56 in number-representing the years of Abraham Lincoln’s life. I understand that the building was made to honor Lincoln. I’m okay with it, I guess. Upon entry, I saw the cabin in the center of the room. There was a park docent there to greet visitors and answer questions. I asked a few questions. Then I asked the big one: Is this really the cabin Lincoln was born in? She answered “no.” That was shocking. She explained that it is a representation of the kind of cabin Lincoln was born in. It probably looked very much like the structure. It is now known scientifically from carbon dating that the cabin is, indeed, not Lincoln’s cabin because the wood is not old enough. It was thought to be the actual cabin for many years by many people up until recently. The cabin in the temple however does have a very interesting story. I won’t detail that for this posting.

In the end, I left the Lincoln cabin in the temple somewhat discouraged. I could only imagine how children must feel when they visit the place only to discover that it’s not the real deal. I’m not blaming anyone for the situation. The real cabin is long gone. So I appreciated the site as a place of respect and honor, nevertheless. Afterall, it is still the actual birthplace. Even though it’s been modernized and made into a park, one gets a sense of the place as the Lincolns must have felt for it. It still retains a natural beauty. And the cabin itself does reflect certainly that the Lincolns had a rustic dwelling place, indeed. Let’s face it, it didn’t have air conditioning or plumbling! Life was certaining challenging enough for the young family at the time. Most of all, it reminds visitors of Abraham Lincoln’s beginnings. It’s still true: he rose from that situation in a little log cabin on the frontier to become the President of the United States. That’s the miracle of the log cabin in the temple.

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