SPRINGFIELD - Historians might have to
rethink the image of Abraham Lincoln as a
carefree, cash-strapped young adult who only
later developed qualities of character that
helped make him one of this nation's most
New artifacts and documents found
recently at New Salem, an Illinois historic
site near Springfield where Lincoln lived in
his 20s, indicate the 16th president owned
property and one or more buildings, said Tom
Schwartz, Illinois' state historian.
The discovery, he said, "completely
changes" the picture of Lincoln as
someone who relied on New Salem townsfolk in
his younger years for lodging and meals.
Instead, it paints a picture of a
well-focused, financially secure young
"It immediately roots him, makes him
a gentleman of property," he said.
"He's not living this Bohemian life
where it's kind of carefree, no property, no
worries, where he can sit under the trees
New Salem, about 20 miles northwest of
Springfield, features rebuilt log cabins and
other structures that existed when Lincoln
lived there for six years. Lincoln left New
Salem to become a lawyer in Springfield in
Lincoln had his own place in New Salem
but might have dined with neighbors, not out
of poverty or because he was lazy, but
simply because he wasn't a good cook,
Schwartz said, citing the new research.
If Lincoln was more financially secure
and rooted in the community at an earlier
age, that could help historians understand
his decisions as president, added Schwartz,
who is also interim director of the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Lincoln watchers said the latest
discoveries are part of an ever-changing
historical picture of the Great Emancipator.
"Just when you think you know
everything about Abraham Lincoln you're
proven wrong," said David Blanchette,
spokesman for the Illinois Department of
Historic Preservation, which oversees New