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New Salem Village Scene
© Abraham Lincoln Online

Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site

Petersburg, Illinois

Take a Photo Tour

Park Events and Performances

While you're touring Lincoln sites in Springfield, allow a few hours to explore New Salem, the pioneer village where Lincoln lived as a young adult. You'll find the village about 20 miles northwest of Springfield on highway 97. It's a great place to bring kids (by the carload or busload) or take a leisurely walk through the woods.

Head for the Visitor Center first to see exhibits and watch a short orientation film about the six years Lincoln spent in the village. Inquire here about seasonal activities, such as special events and entertainment. Look up to see the Conestoga wagon made in 1821 by Emanuel Custer (George's father). Look around to see Lincoln's surveying instruments and other period artifacts in the exhibit area.

Avard Fairbanks Statue of the Young Lincoln
© Abraham Lincoln Online
Next to the Visitor Center stands a famous nine-foot bronze sculpture by Avard Fairbanks, presented to the State of Illinois in 1954. It portrays a young Lincoln in the symbolic act of discarding his axe and taking up his law books because Lincoln first started studying law while he lived at New Salem.

With one exception (the Onstot Cooper Shop, which was discovered in nearby Petersburg, moved to its original foundation and restored), all buildings at the park are reconstructions furnished with period antiques, including ones from original settlers.

When Lincoln arrived in 1831 at age 22, the settlement was only a few years old, rising above the Sangamon River where James Rutledge and John Camron constructed a grist and saw mill. Ironically, only two years after Lincoln left the town, nearby Petersburg gained the county seat, causing New Salem to dwindle and die as rapidly as it once grew.

As you walk New Salem's pathways, you'll get a glimpse of life in an 1830s trading center -- a place with a fluid enough social structure to allow a rough, uneducated young man like Lincoln to gain acceptance and try out several occupations -- clerk, laborer, merchant, postmaster, surveyor, before focusing exclusively on law and politics.

From the first cabin you pass to the stores opposite the river, you will encounter memories of Lincoln and the people who befriended him -- Jack Kelso with his love of Shakespeare and Burns ... Mentor Graham who helped Lincoln figure surveying calculations ... James Rutledge who organized the debating society where Lincoln honed his public speaking skills ... Ann Rutledge, who apparently captured Lincoln's heart.

Visiting Information

The village is open November through February from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; March through April 15 it is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; April 16 through September 15 it is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; September 16 through October it is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. Closed on holidays. Donation suggested.

Picnic and camping sites are available at the park, and food service is available April through October. There are two gift shops on the park grounds, one with a good selection of Lincoln books. For more information about the park call 217/632-4000.

Related Links

Lincoln Early Life Timeline (ALO)
Lincoln's New Salem (Illinois Historic Preservation Agency)
Lincoln Owned Property in New Salem (State Journal-Register)
Lincoln-Era Building Discovered in Menard County (State Journal-Register)
Lincoln the Wrestler (State Journal-Register)
Looking for Lincoln
Making the Lincoln Statue for New Salem (Avard Fairbanks - JISHS)
New Salem "Dig" Reveals Artifacts (State Journal-Register)
New Salem Historical Images (NIU)
Petersburg Accommodations
Places Lincoln Lived
Successful Launch for Lincoln Flatboat Replica (SJ-R)
Television Program about New Salem (Illinois Channel)

Related Reading

  • Davenport, Don. In Lincoln's Footsteps: A Historical Guide to the Lincoln Sites in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Revised edition, Trails Books, 2002.
  • Gary, Ralph. Following in Lincoln's Footsteps: A Historical Reference to Hundreds of Sites Visited by Abraham Lincoln. Carroll & Graf, 2001.
  • Mazrim, Robert. The Sangamo Frontier: History and Archaeology in the Shadow of Abraham Lincoln. University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  • Thomas, Benjamin. Lincoln's New Salem. Revised edition. Southern Illinois University Press, 1988.
  • Walsh, John E. The Shadows Rise: Abraham Lincoln and the Ann Rutledge Legend. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.
  • Wilson, Douglas L. Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln. Knopf, 1998.
  • Wilson, Douglas L. and Davis, Rodney O. Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998.
  • Winkle, Kenneth J. The Young Eagle: The Rise of Abraham Lincoln. Taylor Trade Publishing, 2001.

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