Who’s Always Wanted to go to Lincoln’s Boyhood Home?

A little off the interstate west of Louisville lies the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s birthplace is in Kentucky, but his family relocated to southern Indiana in 1816. At the time, young Abe was about 8 years old.

My own eight year old was asleep when we arrived in the parking lot outside the visitor center. The older two lil’ Kaintuckeeans were disappointed they’d have to endure one of their dad’s historic jaunts, but were willing to placate me in order to make a bathroom pit stop. When he awoke, however, the li’lest Kaintuckeean exclaimed how he’d “always wanted” to come to the Lincoln Boyhood Home. No doubt my grin stretched from ear to ear.

Reading up on history. Author’s collection.

So the answer to who’s always wanted to go to Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home is: this guy.

As he read the plaque, he also learned that Honest Abe was his own age when his family relocated to this locale. In addition to the visitor’s center, there is a recreated farm homestead, the archaeological site of the original Lincoln homestead, and the cemetery where Nancy Hanks (the President’s mother) is buried.

I will study and get ready, and perhaps my chance will come.

A. Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln remained here for some fourteen years learning many of life’s lessons which he carried with him first to Illinois and then to our nation’s capitol.

Historic site of the Boyhood Home. Author’s collection.

A Coup in America

Cape Fear Memorial Bridge in Wilmington, North Carolina. Author’s collection.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Port City – Wilmington, North Carolina – several times over the past few years. It offers a busy and vibrant downtown, is the home of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and has nearby some beautiful beaches. Wilmington is nestled between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean.

Wilmington also has a most troubled history. As a southern town, it almost goes without saying that the early economy of New Hanover County prospered because of slave labor. As a major port, railroads crossed North Carolina toward Wilmington where goods were exported around the globe.

Following emancipation and during Reconstruction, Wilmington continued to grow in prosperity. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Black Republicans and their Fusionist allies saw the election of the city’s multiracial government. But underneath the success of progress, the sin of racism festered.

The Coup & Killings of 1898

White supremacists sought to defeat the elected multiracial government at the ballot box and to remove Blacks from power in Wilmington altogether. They threatened actions “by the ballot or bullet or both.” For months, the local newspaper had published misleading and outright lies in an attempt to divide the community and to incite white Wilmingtonians to fear their Black neighbors. On November 8, 1898, Democrats took every action imaginable to suppress the Black vote. Ballot boxes were stuffed with new ballots to the point where ballots far outnumbered the population.

But it was two days later, November 10, 1898, that the worst of the violence occurred. The Black-owned newspaper, the Record, was burned. Shots were fired in cold blood: at least sixty Black men were killed. Thousands more fled their homes and livelihoods; many were threatened to never return to the Port City upon threat of death.

I cannot even begin to fully lay out all that took place leading up to November 10, 1898, what took place that day, or what ensued for decades to come. I highly recommend David Zucchino’s Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy to better understand this terrible chapter in our American history.

A report prepared a century after the coup concluded that the events of 1898 led “directly to strict residential segregation in Wilmington, decades of Jim Crow discrimination, and the disenfranchisement of the state’s black citizens.” Wilmington’s Lie at 341.

A Memorial to 1898

Even after several visits to Wilmington, I knew little of what had taken place here in 1898. (Which is why I took Zucchino’s book with me on an early trip there in 2020.) And I did not know that there stood a memorial to what had taken place.

Wilmington’s 1898 racial violence was not accidental. It began a successful statewide Democratic campaign to regain control of state government, disenfranchise African-Americans, and create a system of legal segregation which persisted into the second half of the 20th century.

It would take Wilmington a century to recognize and begin the effort to memorialize “those who suffered as a result of the violence of November 1898.” An 1898 Foundation was established and, a decade later, the memorial was dedicated near the site where some of the worst violence occurred.

A plaque at the memorial reads:

These six bronze paddles stand as a memorial to those who suffered as a result of the violence of November 1898. The paddles refer symbolically to water, an important element in the spiritual belief system of people from the African continent. They believed water to be the medium for moving from this life to the next. Water is also incorporated into a diversity of beliefs throughout the world to symbolize purification, renewal, rebirth, forgiveness, cleansing and wholeness.

For this city that grew up beside the waters of the Cape Fear, these paddles symbolize a type of passage as well. The memorial stands here on the banks of this river as a testimonial to a community that, one hundred years later, strove to acknowledge injustices of the past and worked to move forward together towards a society of greater justice and inclusiveness for all its citizens.

We believe these slender yet strong paddles, though rooted in this soil of past memories, rise skyward to the future in a spirit of reconciliation and hope.

Members of the 1898 Foundation, 8 November 2008
The 1898 Memorial in Wilmington, North Carolina. Author’s collection.

I visited the 1898 Memorial and learned about this horrible tragedy during the summer of 2020 while America again reeled from the killings of Black men and women. In the wake of these tragedies, Americans have again examined the importance of which people and events are memorialized, honored, and glorified. In Wilmington, North Carolina, police officers were fired after for “brutally racist” language. News of this broke as I departed Wilmington; when I returned home to Kentucky, two Confederate monuments were removed albeit for “safe keeping” in order to comport with laws passed by the North Carolina legislature to protect these kinds of monuments. And as with other Confederacy-glorifying monuments, the future of the two in Wilmington remains unclear.

I will not include photographs in this post of the two Confederate monuments which, for now at least, are in an undisclosed location. I bring them into this discussion only because, for a decade, they stood in Wilmington near the 1898 Memorial honoring completely two different things.

But as it states on the plaque to the 1898 Memorial, we ought to “move forward together toward a society of greater justice and inclusiveness for all its citizens.” It is a long, slow, but important road. And as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Breaking the Bronze Ceiling

Only 7% of the 5,193 monuments in the United States presently recognize women. A movement in Lexington, Kentucky is underway to build a monument here recognizing the contributions of women.

During Lexington’s Fourth of July celebration this year, I was impressed by the “Breaking the Bronze Ceiling” group promoting more statues honoring the accomplishments of women. News of the removal from the courthouse lawn the two monuments honoring two Confederate men drew much attention and focus behind the meaning of monuments as well as their context.

Those same considerations help to remind us of the great disparity by gender in monuments which honor our historic leaders. According to breakingthebronzeceiling.org, only 7% of the 5,193 monuments in the United States presently recognize women.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Lexington, Kentucky

Breaking the Bronze Ceiling in Lexington, Kentucky. Author’s collection.

News has broken that a location has been selected for Lexington’s sculpture which will honor women who are as-of-yet-to-be-determined.

A Monument for Suffrage in Nashville, Tennessee

Suffrage Monument in Nashville, Tennessee. Author’s Collection.

The monument in Nashville recognizes five important women who sought suffrage both in Tennessee as well as nationally. Anne Dallas Dudley of Nashville “was known for her persuasive eloquence.” Carrie Chapman Catt of New York “came to Tennessee to direct the pro-suffrage forces.” Sue Shelton White of Jackson was among “Tennessee’s most effective suffragists.” Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga led the movement for women’s rights in eastern Tennessee and was the first president of the Tennessee League of Women Voters. Finally, Nashville’s J. Frankie Pierce sought equal suffrage an d is also recognized for organizing “protests against the lack of restroom facilities for blacks in downtown Nashville.”

Nashville’s monument also has significant signage about the 19th Amendment and also identifies other “Tennessee Trailblazers.”

Suggestions for Recognition in Lexington

So who might appear on Lexington’s monument once it is constructed? There are many fine candidates to be recognized for their groundbreaking contributions. Laura Clay who was profiled in Lost Lexington certainly tops my list: a leading suffragist, her name was the first nominated at a major political party convention for President of the United States. Madeline McDowell Breckinridge strongly supported the 19th Amendment’s ratification and once told the Kentucky governor that “Kentucky women are not idiots—even though they are closely related to Kentucky men.” Dr. Mary Britton was the first female granted a license to practice medicine in Kentucky. Georgia Davis Powers was the first woman elected to the Kentucky State Senate and Martha Layne Collins was Kentucky’s first female governor. There are several contenders for the monument and there are more to be learned about at breakingthebronzeceiling.org!

Inauguration Day in America

Old Post Office in Washington, D.C. in 2009. Today, it is the home of the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.

I have loved politics ever since I was five, probably because I’m a political news junkie. At different times I’ve been a conservative Republican, an independent thinker, and a rather liberal Democrat.

No, this is not a political blog (nor is it becoming one). And this is not intended to be a political post. It’s just my recounting of a few of my favorite political memories: attending presidential inaugurations in both 2001 and 2009. They were different experiences and, today, I’m in a unique position as I am not attending an inaugural of a new president for the first time since 1993.


2001: President George W. Bush

Invitation and Photo from 2001 Inauguration of
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

In 2001, my father and I travelled to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of George W. Bush as the 43rd President of the United States. It was a cold January and we had booked a room in Virginia, taking subway in from the end of the line. When we got off the Metro, we made our way toward the Capitol. Although security seemed tight, the 9/11 attacks later that year would forever alter our collective perception of tight security. As a result, it may very well have been the last inauguration where you could maneuver from a position on the Mall to watch the inaugural then meander to Pennsylvania Avenue for a spot along the parade route.

We secured a position just behind the Capitol Reflecting Pool with an excellent view of the Capitol itself. Of course, we couldn’t see the individuals on the temporary stage – but we could feel the excitement in the air.

At the time, I was a junior at a private Christian high school. My family was conservative and I lived in a conservative, red state. I was among those who were quite happy that the Supreme Court had resolved Bush v. Gore in the way that it did. Americans were largely pleased the election was over and, despite the bitter election, Bush’s pre-inaugural approval ratings had jumped to around 65%.

I went to Washington that year with my father optimistic about America. It was thrilling to see a “peaceful transfer of authority” as President Bush called it in his inaugural that day. He said, “with a simple oath, we affirm old traditions and make new beginnings.”

During the course of the Bush presidency, my conservativism waned. In 2007, I switched my political affiliation in time to become a strong supporter of a lanky African-American from Illinois, Senator Barack Obama. His campaign challenged supporters to hope and to dream in America’s opportunity. He offered the “audacity of hope.”

2009: President Barack Obama

Almost immediately after his election was clear, my father-in-law and I plotted my return to Washington for the inaugural in 2009. We booked a room at a hostel near K and 11th streets and took the Amtrak train from Ashland, Kentucky to Washington, D.C. The train had originated in Chicago, Illinois and most aboard were “fired up, ready to go” for the inauguration of the 44th President. It was a festive mood!

My father-in-law joined for a photo with Rednecks for Obama in 2009. Washington, D.C.

We arrived in our Nation’s Capital on the 19th of January, one day before the inauguration. Due to a delay in the train’s arrival, we missed the concert at the Lincoln Memorial and instead my father-in-law and I meandered to many of Washington’s sites. It was an awesome evening, but we didn’t want to stay out too late.

We, and many others, were up by 6:00 a.m. to make it through the security lines. We’d hoped to make it to the Mall to watch the inauguration and I had strategized a plan to do so. The maps indicated there was a pedestrian cut-through across Pennsylvania Avenue (at least early) which would have enabled us to make it to the Mall. But so many people were in town for Obama’s 2009 inauguration that the Mall was filled to capacity (even despite our early morning start) and we ended up on Pennsylvania Avenue at 11th Street for about 12 hours.

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Police keeping the peace at the 2009 inauguration.

But, as you can see, we were joined by some of Lexington, Kentucky’s finest who were working the rope line along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Our spot was directly across from the splendid Old Post Office (see picture at top of post), and loudspeakers allowed us to hear the swearing-in and the inaugural address that concerned the economic crisis and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As it turned out, that pedestrian cut-through was a blessing. Check out the pictures:

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walking along Pennsylvania Avenue during the
2009 Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.
Vice President Joe Biden walking along Pennsylvania Avenue during the
2009 Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.

Yes, we were that close! It was an incredible, unforgettable experience! As the door to the Presidential limo was opened just beyond us to allow President Obama back into the vehicle, I caught a glimpse of Sasha’s peach coat jumping from one seat to another. She was having fun during this amazing experience and we certainly did as well!

The memories made in 2001 with my father and in 2009 with my father-in-law are forever. Unfortunately, the lack of a digital camera makes it exponentially more difficult to find the photos from 2001.

On this inauguration day, I think back to all of those memories made. Today, our spot across from the Old Post Office in 2009 will now witness something entirely different: a Trump-branded hotel and a President Trump.

Along the Great Allegheny Passage: Confluence

Me. At Confluence, Pa.

Though the second town on our journey, we bypassed altogether on Confluence en route to our stayover in Meyersdale. The trouble of a late start. On our rainy third day, however, we didn’t miss this trail town. We were glad we visited.

Confluence sits at the (you guessed it) confluence of the Youghiogheny and Casselman Rivers. In 1754, General Washington arrived at Confluence nee Turkeyfoot. From his diary, May 1754:

The 20th … we gained Turkeyfoot, by the Beginning of the Night. We underwent several Difficulties about either or ten Miles from thense, though of no great Consequence, finding the Waters sometimes deep enough for Canoes to pass, and at other times more shalow.” 

The 21st, Tarried there some time to examine the Place, which we found very convenient to build a Fort, not only because it was gravelly but also for it being that the Mount of three Branches of small Rivers… We went down the River about ten Miles, when at last it became so rapid as to oblige us to come ashore.”

The rapids referenced by General Washington are, of course, those that now draw tourists to Ohiopyle. But Confluence is a quieter place.

To reach the town square from the GAP, one must cross two pedestrian/bike bridges. Signage is excellent, even on a rainy Sunday. (Note to self: riding on Sunday mornings isn’t the wisest decision, given that everything is closed due to church).

Sister’s Cafe – Confluence, Pa.

Confluence, as the trail brochure reads, is “a classic mid-mountain town complete with a town square and Victorian bandstand.” The town is dotted with B&Bs, cafes, and shops.

A simple meal at Sisters Cafe was complete with warm coffee for cold and weary bones. The hospitality in small town America remains present in Pennsylvania, just as it exists in Kentucky.

One shop – the Confluence Cyclery – is a gem. Located on the town square in the old ca. 1905 Kurtz Department Store, the Cyclery provides repairs and other services for those travelling along the Great Allegheny Passage. Owners Brad and Maureen Smith were both there during our visit and they shared about Confluence’s growth as a result of the GAP (they ‘retired’ here themselves in 2008). The Smiths take photos of their customers (see below) and share them on their Facebook page – it becomes an annual scrapbook of whose travelled the GAP.

The town of Confluence was one of our favorite. A term used to describe parts of Pennsylvania outside of the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia metro areas is Pennsyltucky. Some consider the term pejorative, though I would use it to describe the sense felt in this northern community of hospitality and warmth like that felt here in the Commonwealth.

Me and my brother outside Confluence Cyclery

Along the Great Allegheny Passage: Ohiopyle

Ohiopyle Low Bridge Spanning the Youghiogheny River

Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania had as of the 2010 population a permanent population of 59. This small borough, however, comes alive during the summer months. Arriving in April, we beat the summer rush of adventure seekers on the rapids of the Youghiogheny River.

Restored Ohiopyle Rail Depot

Ohiopyle is also a trail town along the Great Allegheny Passage, a rail-trail linking Cumberland, Md. to Pittsburgh, Pa. Ohiopyle was also our starting point for our first venture on the GAP which would take us along the route of the old rail lines of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, Union Railroad, and the Western Maryland Railroad. Our journey would extend from Ohiopyle to Frostburg, Md. and back.

Ohiopyle and the Low Bridge

We arrived in Ohiopyle later than expected, but early enough to get a bite to eat before beginning our day’s trek to Meyersdale, Pa. A tasty lunch at the Ohiopyle Bakery & Sandwich Shoppe was both tasty and filling. The bakery/cafe opened in 2011 and is one of many eateries in this community – a testament to the tourism brought to this trail town of 59!

The Yak and the Trail

Our first 11 miles of trail, between Ohiopyle and Confluence, are five-star rated by National Geographic. They write, “The beauty of the Southern Ohiopyle section of the trail rivals that of the Northern section. Rapids abound and there are plenty of places to leave the trail and find your way down to the rivers edge.”

One cannot overstate how gorgeous this part of the ride was; the rapids of the Yak River and the just-beginning-to-bloom flora around the trail were simply picturesque.

There is also history along the trail. The occasional marker recalls the mills and pioneers that once settled this wilderness. Maple syrup, rye whiskey, grist and saw mills were all trades undertaken by these early settlers.

Dry laid stone wall along the GAP

Little is remaining from the earliest settlers, but a marker near a dry-laid stone wall recalled these early Scots-Irish and German pioneers. Looking carefully, one can also spot what would have been the channels diverting water to and from the mills in the area.

This is the first part of a multi-part series on the Great Allegheny Passage. The next segment will be about the community of Confluence, Pa. The remainder of my photos from the GAP Trip are available on flickr.

A Slideshow from the Great Allegheny Passage

Me riding the GAP Trail between Ohiopyle and Connellsville, Pa. 

Last weekend, my brother and I rode our bikes on the Great Allegheny Passage – a rail-trail from Pittsburgh, Pa. to Cumberland, Md. Our ride covered 133 miles from Ohiopyle, Pa. to Cumberland, Md. and back.

It was an incredible journey full of history and natural beauty. I’ll post more on this trip later, but wanted to go ahead and share with you the photos.

If you don’t want to look at the pictures through the slideshow, you can view the flickr set here.

Finding Kentucky in the North Carolina’s Outer Banks

Wild Horses of Corolla – Outer Banks, North Carolina

I returned a couple of weeks ago from a vacation to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Completely unlike Kentucky, the fresh seafood and oceanic views both did not disappoint. But I’m always curious as to how and where I will find a “Kentucky connection.” Wherever you go, you can find one (or more).

Bottles of Daniel Boone Ale

While driving to my destination, I found myself headed south from Charleston, W. Va. and into North Carolina’s Yadkin River Valley. From his home here, Daniel Boone made his multiple excursions through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. On our return trip, we stopped for supper in Hickory, N. Car. at the Olde Hickory Brewery. While tasting a flight of several brews, I narrowed in on an immediate favorite. After reading the description, I knew why! The limited release “Daniel Boone” is a vanilla-hinted brown ale aged in bourbon barrels.

At the coast, we spent a morning enjoying a wild horse tour in Corolla and Carova Beach. There, a population of feral horses  run freely through a 1,800 acre animal sanctuary enclosure. The enclosure was erected in 1989 after twelve of the horses and been struck by automobiles. According to veterinary researchers at (you guessed it) the University of Kentucky, the number of alleles in the Corolla horse population are the fewest number found within any equine population. Accordingly, the Corolla horses are categorized as a unique species of horse rather than a mixture of other breeds. Of the different herds roaming North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the Corolla stock particularly resemble the Iberian horses brought from Spain the 1500s.

It is disputed how the horses particularly arrived (and remained) in North Carolina. Some believe a Spanish vessel shipwrecked and that the horses swam to safety or that the horses were thrown overboard to free a beached Spanish galleon. A third theory suggests that a Spanish settlement in the area, including their horses, was abandoned after relations with the natives proved too challenging.

Horses, beer, and bourbon. Yessir, I found my Kentucky connection in the Tar-heel State.

Gone Fishin’

Gone Fishin'
Fishing near the Oregon Inlet, Outer Banks, North Carolina

I’ve spent the past week in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It was a great time – beautiful weather, spectacular beaches, lots of history and delicious food. There was a lot to see and do … and I also enjoyed some great down time. Of course, all this mean that I didn’t spend much time on the Kaintuckeean (though I did find a Kentucky connection, which I’ll post on soon.) So, consider this my gone fishin’ post.

Also, in an unrelated matter I’ve partnered with KyForward.com – a new local news organization committed to “community building.” They will be utilizing some of the content here at The Kaintuckeean. I’m excited about the possibilities of this new partnership! Be sure to check out (and keep checking out) KyForward.com – it is going to be a tremendous resource!

Election Results

Yesterday, I reminded you that politics is the damnedest in Kentucky. But today, I want to draw our attention outside of Kentucky (yes, a first for this blog). You’ve probably figured out by now that history is important to us. Particularly preserving history.

And that is what the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations did yesterday. You see, they had a ballot measure which would effectively do this: Rhode Island and Providence Plantations to their state’s name. Remember, America was founded as a number of small colonies (Jamestown, Plymouth, etc). In Rhode Island, these included (i) Rhode Island and (ii) Providence Plantations.

Opponents of the state’s name thought the word “plantation” was a reminder of slavery and were offended by it. These opponents are clearly not historically savvy – plantation simply meant “a newly established colony.” Plus, in all of the state’s early slavery debates it was Rhode Island (not the anti-slavery and anti-slave trade Providence Plantations) which favored the position of slave traders.

History won (with 99% of precincts reporting), 78%-22%. We still have a State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.