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Take a step back in time, two centuries in time, as you stroll through the reconstructed village now called Lincoln’s New Salem. The village is located just 20 miles Northwest of Springfield. Lincoln’s New Salem has 12 log homes, 10 workshops, stores, mills, the Rutledge Tavern and a schoolhouse/church. All have been reconstructed and furnished as the might have been in the 1830s.
New Salem was founded in 1829 when James Rutledge & John Camron built a mill on the Sangamon River. Land was sold to commercial business and families. Buildings and homes started going up and families started making the village their home. The village grew rapidly with anywhere from 20 - 25 families living there at a time. Home to many things, the village had a blacksmith shop, wool mill, four general stores, a tavern, schoolhouse/church, 2 doctors offices, a shoe and hat maker. Unfortunately by 1840 the village had become abandoned due to other towns being developed around the village.
Lincoln at New Salem:
In 1931 Lincoln along with a few friends floated down the Sangamon River and arrived at New Salem Village by flatboat. Here is where Abraham Lincoln spent 6 years, from 1831 - 1837, of his early adulthood before moving to Springfield. It’s said that his years here formed the turning point of his career. Lincoln never owned his own home here but he was engaged in a variety of activities. He enlisted in the Black Hawk War, clerked a store, served as a postmaster, deputy surveyor and many other positions that influenced him to eventually become the Great Emancipator. Also while he was here he was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1834 and 1836.
Becoming a Historic Site:
In 1906 after being invited to speak at the New Salem Chautauqua, William Randolph Hearst, a congressman and a wealthy newspaper owner from New York purchased the 62 acres site for $12,000. He then gave it to the leaders of the New Salem Chautauqua’s with agreement to restore the area. After no movement for 10 years, in 1917 a group called Old Salem Lincoln League started raising money and by 1918 a few cabins had been built. Then on May 22, 1919 the organization was granted permission by Hearst himself to give the land the State of Illinois to be used for a State park. Now, 101 years later, the site has expanded to 750 acres and sees hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. Including school groups, pilgrimages by scout troops and tourist from all over the world.
Fun Fact: In 2018 it was voted the most popular historic site in Illinois.
Another Fun Fact: On June 19, 1972 Lincoln New Salem was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Engaging special events, including music festivals like the Bluegrass Festival and Traditional Music Festival as well as a weekend long Candlelight Tour through the village, and many more that take place throughout the year. They also put on summer production in the outdoor theatre called “Theatre in the Park”
Currently Lincoln’s New Salem is partially closed due to COVID-19, click here to stay up to date.
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