Henri D. Grissino-Mayer - University of Tennessee
Dwight T. Pitcaithley - National Park Service
Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Kentucky, in a log cabin built by Thomas Lincoln on Sinking Spring Farm. By 1865, the year of Lincoln’s assassination, the log cabin had fallen in disarray and reportedly been dismantled, the usable logs incorporated into other local cabins. Entrepreneur Alfred W. Dennett bought the site of the Lincoln Farm in 1894 and instructed a colleague to build a log cabin on the exact spot as the original. The cabin made several appearances and journeys at expositions, eventually earning a reputation as the original birthplace cabin, and protected in a spectacular granite and marble memorial building. To determine whether the log cabin may contain logs that belonged to the original cabin, we (1) extracted increment cores from selected logs for tree-ring dating, (2) evaluated the species, shape, and end cuts of the individual timbers, (3) counted rings at both ends of all logs, and (4) compared the information with a nearby cabin most likely dating to the early 19th century. We found that some logs dated conclusively to two periods, the mid 1840s and mid/late 1850s. The logs themselves (and cabin as a whole) had been altered considerably, and round and squared logs were found in the one structure. Ring counts indicated trees younger than normally found in cabins dating to this period. These results confirm that the Lincoln birthplace cabin is not authentic, but rather a poor replica of the original well-made cabin made by Abraham Lincoln’s father.