Photo by Stacy N. Hawks (c) 2008
Inscription reads: This stool, including the legs are of whit eoak from the "Boundry Oak" at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, Hodgenville, Kentucky. Made 1968. Photo by Stacy N. Hawks (c) 2008
To say that Abraham Lincoln is one of my utmost favorite Presidents to study is an understatement. I have spent years, and I mean years, reading biographies, papers, letters, even addresses, and speeches he has made. Some of his writings can be considered obscure, others are well known, such as the Gettysburg Address or the House Divided Speech.
Along the way, I have picked up interesting facts about Lincoln too. From the truly amazing to the conspiracies, everything about the 16th President consumed me from the moment I memorized the Gettysburg Address in 8th grade. Several years later, I still find time to go back and re-read a speech or a letter if needed.
In 2008, during the Spring, I arrived home from college on break to complete a paper due for a history course. It was a final paper and called for me to interview an individual residing in my county. The gentleman was a veteran who had served our nation in World War II and Korea. He spoke about many of his experiences during our interview but the one that stood out to me was the conversation when the tape was not rolling. Looking back, I wish I had captured those moments, but they forever live in my memory because of what happened next.
This man who had worked on the Blue Ridge Parkway in my county with his own father had taught men at the local Civilian Conversation Corps camp in Laurel Springs, NC and who had later gone to war for his country, had also been a POW and a National Park officer in Hodgenville, Kentucky.
What is special about Hodgenville, Kentucky? It is the site of Lincoln's birth in 1809. The site is home to a symbolic cabin, the big field at Knob Creek, but most importantly it is home to the first Lincoln Memorial. Construction of the memorial occurred between 1909 and 1911, and according to my interviewee, the site was a big draw for many. Before he left he was given a piece of furniture carved from a tree on the property in 1968 from the "Boundary Oak" there. Underneath a small wooden stool was a label detailing as much.
To this day that conversation, we shared held so much history, genealogy, and importance that I felt compelled to preserve it. Once the paper was submitted for review worried it was not what my instructor had asked for, but to my surprise, they wanted to hear more about my experience and the interviewee. Stories shape all of our life, some we can only read about, others we can connect with.
If you want to preserve stories some of the best ways to do those is to speak to veterans, you never know what story will touch you, what story will inspire you, or what story will bring a piece of history to life. Branch out.
To learn more about Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace in Hodgenville, KY visit their website at https://www.nps.gov/abli/index.htm.