The Quaker-Brown residence, where the Abraham Lincoln family lived for seventeen years was the only home the Lincolns ever owned.
Abraham Lincoln was born and raised in a one-room log cabin; Mary Todd was born and raised in a fourteen-room house. Abraham received less than one year of formal schooling; Mary received education throughout her childhood. Despite these opposite backgrounds, they met one night at a dance in Springfield, Illinois. Abraham approached Mary, and told her that he wanted to dance with her in the "worst way." As she later related the story, she said he did just that - danced with her in the worst way. She overlooked his two left feet and they began courting. However, her eldest sister - Elizabeth - and her husband - Ninian - disapproved of Abraham. The young couple broke off their courtship on what Lincoln referred to as the "fatal first of January" 1841.
For over a year, Abraham and Mary avoided each other, until mutual friends brought them back together, and they dated in secret. Mary did not tell Elizabeth until their wedding day, November 4, 1842, that the couple was courting again. Elizabeth apparently gave in, and permitted the wedding to be held in her house. Afterward, the couple went to the place where they spent their first year of marriage- a single room on the second floor of a rooming house. In those humble dwellings, Mary gave birth to their first child - Robert Todd Lincoln. After renting a small house, Abraham Lincoln purchased his first and only house. In May of 1844, Abraham, Mary, and Robert moved into a one-and-a-half-story cottage - a house which they eventually expanded into two stories, and a home where they raised their family for seventeen years.
The house today reflects the Lincoln Home of 1860. By that date, the Lincoln family numbered five - Abraham, Mary, Willie, and Tad, although for much of that year, Robert was away at preparatory school.
In 1861, the Lincolns left their home forever. Willie died in the White House in February 1862 at the age of eleven. President Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865. Tad died in 1871 at the age of eighteen. Mary eventually returned to Springfield, but she never again lived in her home. She passed away in 1882 in her sister Elizabeth's house, the same house where she married Abraham Lincoln forty years earlier.
By 1887, Robert was the only living member of the Lincoln family. In that year, he donated his family's home to the State of Illinois on the condition that the public would always have free access to it. He died in 1926.
Today, thousands of visitors come every year to see the Lincoln Home. They must first receive a free ticket at the Visitor Center. (Tickets are free because of Robert's wishes.) The house has been restored by the National Park Service, and appears much as it did when the Lincolns called it their home.
Author: Tim Good
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