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Lincoln’s Indiana and Historic Spencer County
Saturday and Sunday, April 13-14, 2002

By Joan Bey | Photos by Leigh Morris

The spring pilgrimage of the Society of Indiana Pioneers planned by the Indiana Historical Society for Saturday, April 13, and Sunday, April 14, 2002, was led by Tom Krasean. Members met and left their cars overnight at the Indiana Historical Society parking lot in Indianapolis. Dorothy and Jerry Spore joined the group in Bloomington, and Evansville residents Robb Kell and his wife Judy joined the group in time for lunch Saturday at the Schnitzelbank in Jasper.

On both days, the plentiful family-style foods served for lunch made it possible for everyone to select their favorites from the German menu Saturday and the fried chicken dinner with all the Southern Indiana trimmings Sunday at Windell’s Café in Dale.

Guest master and tour director Benedictine monk Brother Maurus Zoeller guided Pioneers through the Church and monastery buildings at Saint Meinrad. The Archabbey was founded in 1854 by monks from Switzerland and is one of two in the United States and one of seven in the world. Remodeled in 1968 and again in 1997, the church now houses a central altar with 17 gilded bronze panels each depicting a particular theme from the life of Christ and the Scriptures. While Brother Maurus explained how the church was constructed from sandstone quarried on the Archabbey’s property from blocks as large as three feet thick, his description was accompanied by softly played organ music. The organ was rebuilt in 1997 to improve its musical range. The 3,844 pipes are grouped into 70 ranks forming 55 stops.

One of the beatitudes is pictured in the eight stained glass windows. The top section of each window shows one of the Benedictine saints of the Catholic Church in a scene that exemplifies the beatitude. A smaller stained glass picture at the bottom of each window displays an Old Testament story that illustrates the same beatitude.

One of the three shrines in the church is the Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln, patroness of the Archabbey Church. The “Black Madonna” statue is a gift from Saint Meinrad’s mother abbey in Switzerland. Brother Maurus explained that the faces of Mary and the infant are black from the candles burned near the statue in the Swiss abbey. A second shrine honors Saint Meinrad. The Archabbey collection of relics of the saints and a list of all monks who have died since the founding of the monastery are located in the third shrine.

High in the Apse of the church is the painting of Christ holding the Book of Life, completed in 1943 by Belgian monk Gregory DeWitt, OSB, who was visiting the Archabbey. He was assisted by now 85-year-old Father Donald Walpole.

When the church was remodeled five years ago, water pipes were placed 18 inches below the Archabbey floor for winter heat and summer cooling.

While the church was the main attraction of the tour, other areas of the property included a visit to the monastery Chapter Room where the monks receive their daily work assignments from the Abbott. The frosted window glass is decorated in black with various illustrations of the virtues and vows of the monastic life. Two hand-carved hooded monks grace the exit. One holds a bowl for the holy water the monks use to make the Sign of the Cross when entering and leaving. The other holds a cross. The ceiling of the Chapter Room tells the story of the Canticle of the Three Children or the story of the Earth. The 12 side panels represent the 12 months of the year, and the walls illustrate the Rule of St. Benedict and are the instruments of the Benedictine Monks’ good works. The entire theme of the room comes together in the front of the room in the painting of Christ on the Judgment Seat, with monks receiving their Heavenly Rewards. The Chapter Room paintings were retouched two years ago by Father Donald who also painted the Stations of the Cross in St. Joseph’s Oratory and the Flight into Egypt.

Following a visit to the Abbey Press on the edge of the monastery property, Pioneer members traveled to Santa Claus for overnight accommodations at Santa’s Lodge and dinner in the nearby Sandtrap Restaurant at Christmas Lake Golf Course Country Club. Kathleen Crews, a former teacher living with her husband and family in Lincoln City, entertained everyone with Lincoln Lore and her experience as an entrepreneur raising buffalo and ostrich for meat products and breeding stock.

The Sunday agenda for the trip thoroughly covered Lincoln’s Indiana, beginning with the post-breakfast devotions conducted by the Reverend Robb Kell (far right in the photo above). Drawing on his Southern Indiana Roots, the retired Methodist minister incorporated hymns from Lincoln’s Indiana boyhood and portions of Lincoln’s second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, to provide a spiritual picture of devotions used during the first 14 years of Lincoln’s life in the Hoosier state. Mrs. Kell led the singing of the two hymns written in the 1500s which pioneers knew by heart.

The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and Living History Farm is the location of the grave of Nancy Hanks Lincoln and where the family lived from 1816 to 1830. National Park rangers described the 160 acres the federal government manages. After the orientation film, rangers described the land when Lincoln arrived from Kentucky with his family at seven. Indiana was granted statehood that year. From 1941 to 1943, the area was a state park. The Indiana legislature voted in 1962 to donate the land to the National Park Service. Building materials native to Indiana are used throughout the Visitors’ Center, including sandstone from Saint Meinrad Archabbey (the spring pilgrimage group is shown in front of the Visitors’ Center in the photo above). The stone was placed using gin poles and pulleys before being sculpted in place. Using pioneer tools, craftsmen hand-hued yellow poplar and black cherry to mimic the carpentry used by Tom Lincoln, the former president’s father.

Curt Morris and a park interpreter are shown in the doorway of the replica Lincoln family cabin.

Designed as a meeting house of the Lincoln period, Abraham Lincoln Hall is often used for weddings these days, according to the rangers. The Nancy Hanks Lincoln Hall at the opposite end of the Visitors Center complex was designed with a hearth and home theme using walnut wainscoting and red oak flooring. A painting by Clifton Wheeler hangs over the fireplace. Indiana craftsmen kept busy from 1941 to 1947 dressing stone on the walls and hand-hewing beams. Rangers explained that Lincoln’s father, Tom, paid two dollars an acre for the land 19 miles north of the Ohio River. An 1805 government survey of the Indiana territory established the land boundaries. Tom Lincoln was allowed, by law, to pay for the land by returning half of the original purchase to the federal government.

Both Kathleen Crews and Lincoln Living History Farm re-enactors described the living conditions in Southern Indiana when Lincoln’s mother died of “milk sickness.” The poisonous snakeroot plant blooms from June through August. While the pioneers knew the value of milk as a nutritious beverage, they did not know that if the cows ate the snakeroot plant, the milk would carry the poison to those who drank the milk. While the plant still grows wild in Southern Indiana, it is no longer a problem. In Lincoln’s time, cows were allowed to “free range” instead of being pastured as they are today.

The interior of the Lincoln cabin

Following Sunday’s lunch, Pioneers visited the Colonel William Jones State Historic Site, where the Colonel and his wife settled in a log house also used as a store and post office. This store is where Abe did odd jobs for the owner before he built a Federal-style brick home in Gentryville. The home and store combination was built in 1834 and restored by the Cook family of Bloomington. Tour guide Peggy Brooks pointed out the “turkey tail” design at the hip of the roof. She explained that allowing half of the wood shingle to extend above the cap of the roof on one side lets the wind divert snow and saves the roof cap. This is the only roof construction of its kind on any of the buildings visited on this trip.

The Lincoln Pioneer Village and Museum was dedicated on July 4, 1935, after being conceived by noted Rockport artist and sculptor George H. Honig. A Lincoln scholar, Honig supervised the construction of the museum with its seven cabins and 13 buildings, each carrying the name of some person or family known to Lincoln. According to project coordinator Lila Daniels, the recently rebuilt cabins were restored using green logs and no two are alike. Hollywood filmmakers have used the property on more than one occasion. Burt Lancaster and Walter Matthau are both fondly remembered by locals.

Society of Indiana Pioneers members returned to the Indiana Historical Society parking lot Sunday, April 14, 2002, but not before Bob Everitt took the opportunity to point out the historic brick farmhouse along I-65 in Scott County where his family roots are buried. The six-lane highway now intersects the former Everitt farm with the family burial grounds on the west side of the highway and the homestead on the east side.