New Salem, Illinois

Day 435

     Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville on the western frontier in Kentucky, in a log cabin…….. yea, yea, we all know that. Ok, how about this?

     As a teenager and young man, Lincoln did not get along with his father, and decided to strike out on his own. He went to the recently established town of New Salem, Illinois.

     In 1829 a saw and gristmill was built on the Sangamon River and the town of New Salem laid out. The settlers believed that the river would provide a trading connection to St. Louis by way of the Mississippi.  In 1831, at age 22, Lincoln arrived. He worked numerous jobs and eventually Lincoln and a partner bought a small general store on credit.  It did not do well and he ending up leaving the venture with a large debt. 

     New Salem only existed about 10 years. The village declined when it was determined that the Sangamon River could not be navigated by steamboats. Lincoln lived there for 6 years from 1831 to 1837. Admitted to the Illinois bar in 1836 he moved to the Capital of Illinois, Springfield, and began to practice law. By 1840 New Salem ceased to exist.

     The town was never re-established, but because Lincoln became President, it was re-created for us tourists. 

Tidbits of Information: 

1)  In 1849, Lincoln received a patent for a flotation device for the movement of boats in shallow water. The idea was never commercialized, but Lincoln is the only President to hold a patent.

2)  Grace Bedell, born November 4, 1848, at age 11, wrote Lincoln a letter when he was running for President saying his face was too thin and he should grow a beard to help him win. Not only did he do that, but later actually met with the little girl.


Litchfield, Illinois

Day 434

     For our next spot, we wanted to go to Springfield, Illinois, the land of Lincoln. The closest RV park was here in Litchfield.

     The town was developed in 1853 and was incorporated April 21, 1856. It was named for Electus Bachus Litchfield, who worked for the railroad and developed the route here.  

     In expanding the west in the prairie State of Illinois, small towns would spring up trying to anticipate the path of the railroads. When the railroad came here, those other small towns migrated here, leaving those other towns to fall into dust.   

Technical Stuff:

Rockville, Indiana to Litchfield, Illinois: 172.4 miles

3 hours 41 minutes

9.2 MPG

Diesel: $2.48


Parke County, Indiana

Day 432

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     Parke County lies in the western part of Indiana along the Wabash River and was formed in 1821. The County has 31 covered bridges and describes itself as the Covered Bridge Capital of the World. At one time as many as 53 covered bridges existed.

     These are actual covered wooden bridges, not like the bridges of Ashtabula County, Ohio (see day 412).

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     To access some of these bridges, we had to drive through corn fields:

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     In our travels today, looking for the covered bridges, we came across this history on a stick:

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     Having no idea what the 10 O’clock line was, but suspecting it was an Indian line cast by the sun’s shadow on a stick, this is what I found: The Treaty of Fort Wayne, sometimes called the Ten O’clock Line Treaty, is a 1809 treaty that obtained 3,000,000 acres (yes, that’s 3 million acres) of American Indian land for the white settlers of Illinois and Indiana. The Indians did not trust the surveyors’ equipment, so a spear was thrown down at ten o’clock and the shadow became the treaty line.

     I learn something new everyday. 

     Of course, you knew the state’s name means “Indian Land”.

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Rockville, Indiana

Day 431

     Rockville is a town in Parke County, Indiana, and was laid out in 1824, three years after the county was founded, when it became the county seat. We went to this county seat because they had a museum.

     Parke County is known for it’s many covered bridges, and we were looking for information before our trip tomorrow to tour the bridges.

     What we found was a hodgepodge collection of memorabilia of the town. More interesting than the items, was it’s curator, a 75 year old women who lived in this town her entire life. 

    Despite her age, no matter what item you picked up, and you could touch everything, she gave you it’s personal history. I can’t remember where we visited last week, much less events that happened 50 years ago. 

     For example, I picked up some letter, and she told me that those letter were written by her school teacher, who’s son she once dated. No matter what you were looking at, she related it to someone she knew, or an event that happened. She was fascinating. 

Technical Stuff:

Goshen, Indiana to Rockville, Indiana: 222.5 miles

4 hours 54 minutes

11.1 MPG

Diesel: $2.48


South Bend, Indiana

Day 429

     South Bend, Indiana, is a city on the St. Joseph River near its southernmost bend, from which it derives its name. The area was originally settled in the early 19th century by fur traders and was established as a city on May 22, 1865.

     Barbara wanted to go to South Bend to see the campus of Notre Dame, more correctly called The University of Notre Dame du Lac. Notre Dame du Lac means “Our Lady of the Lake” and refers to the university’s patron saint, the Virgin Mary. The main campus covers 1,250 acres, and it seems we walked it all. The school was founded on November 26, 1842, by Father Edward Sorin, who was also it’s first president, as an all-male institution (women started sneaking into the university in 1972).

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     In the main hallway they had a series of paintings of Columbus’ travels to the new world. The first painting was a depiction of his blessing before his departure at 3 1/2 AM Friday, August 5, 1492. I wonder if that was daylight savings time?

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     We saw “Touchdown Jesus”:

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     Tidbit of information: Chaplain William Corby, of Notre Dame, is only one of three non military individuals to have a statute on the Gettysburg Battlefield. The others were President Lincoln, and the only civilian casualty of the battle. I told you about that person on Day 80. You remember, of course.