The Visitor Center houses an auditorium, museum, exhibits, restrooms and administrative offices. An eighteen minute orientation film is offered in the auditorium. Exhibits focus on New Salem and its most famous resident, Abraham Lincoln. Featured are a statue of Lincoln, murals, original Lincoln items, and a unique "time walk" that leads visitors through the village's history.
Behind the Visitor Center, this modern 475 seat outdoor amphitheater is home to Theatre in the Park. Designed for comfort, with auditorium-style seating, concession stand and a unique multi-level stage, the Kelso Hollow Amphitheater is the venue for family-friendly programs of all kinds.
Near the Visitor Center, the Railsplitter Gift and Book Shop offers a nice variety of souvenirs for all age groups. Home-cooked food, baked goods, and other refreshments are also available at OMGosh Snack Shack. Profits from these business go directly to the New Salem Lincoln League in its mission to support the historic site. Closed during the winter months. Phone 217/632-2277.
The gift shop, a stone structure which was originally built as the museum for the reconstructed village, now houses the New Salem Lincoln League Museum Shop. Featuring a wide selection of gift items in a unique atmosphere, many hand-crafted by Illinois artisans, the proceeds from this shop help the Lincoln League support the historic site. Closed during the winter months. Phone 217/632-2277.
This statue, entitled "The Resolute Lincoln," was sculpted by well-known Lincoln sculptor Avard Fairbanks. The statue depicts Lincoln at a pivotal time in his life, reflecting the changes that Lincoln went through while at New Salem. Here he resolves to put down the ax and pick up the book. The statue, a gift from the National Society of the Son of Utah Pioneers, was dedicated in 1954 and was featured on the Illinois quarter issued by the US Mint in 2003.
There are two wooded picnic shelters; one near the campground and the other located along the Sangamon River. Each shelter is electrified and have fire rings or grills located around them. There are also two bathroom facilities located in the Sangamon River Picnic Area, as well a playground. Visitors can reserve these shelters for $25. If you are interested please contact the site office and fill out an application.
Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site has a modern campground consisting of two shower buildings located within the campground. It has 200 campsites, of which 100 are electrified. The sites do not have hookups for water nor sewer, however, hydrants are available for campers to fill their storage tanks. There also exists a sewage and gray water dump station at the edge of the campground. Please do not dump gray water on the ground.
Onstot, a native of Kentucky, was the community cooper. He built his first home and shop in the eastern portion of the town upon his arrival at New Salem about 1830. From 1833 to 1835 the Onstots lived at the tavern, which they opened after the Rutledges moved to Sandridge. Onstot built a home on the village's west end in 1835. He lived there until 1840, when he moved to Petersburg and re-erected his home and cooper shop on Main Street.
The cooper was a very important part of the village economy. Buckets, tubs and barrels were made. Almost all produce was shipped in barrels at that time - wet barrels for transporting whiskey or meat products in brine and dry barrels for corn meal, beans or flour. Onstot charged from 40 cents for a flour barrel to $1 for a pork barrel and $1.50 each for wash tubs and well buckets. In 1922 this log building was located in Petersburg and returned to its original site. This shop is the only original building left.
On August 27, 1832, Alexander Trent bought a lot where he and his bachelor brother, Martin, built a house for his family. Alex was a corporal in Lincoln's company during the Black Hawk War. In the autumn of 1832, he bought William Clary's store and was issued a tavern license that December. On June 6, 1833, Alex was issued a license to operate the New Salem Ferry. Trent renewed his license once on March 6, 1834, but then sold the enterprise to Jacob and Hardin Bale.
In 1995 archaeologists discovered the remains of two previously unknown house sites and a road that once crossed the hilltop. On-site displays describe the remains found there, and a remnant of the early road can be seen at the end of the trail.
Married to sisters, Joshua Miller and his brother-in-law Jack Kelso came with their wives to New Salem. On November 17, 1832, Miller purchased two lots from John Camron for $25. The two families shared the "dog-trot" house with Joshua and Nancy Miller living on one side with their children, the childless Jack and Hannah Kelso living on the other. Kelso, a hunter, fisherman, and "jack of all trades," introduced Lincoln to Shakespeare while the Miller home was headquarters for Baptist preachers who came to the neighborhood. The open area between the homes (known as the dog-trot) was used as an eating or sitting area.
Joshua Miller, the village and community blacksmith, carried on a flourishing business. He shod horses, furnished iron parts for wagons and farming implements and did general metal work for the community. The ring of his anvil was a familiar sound in New Salem. This reconstruction was made with the assistance of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The tools, forge, and hand bellows have all seen many years of service. Recently the roof on the building was replaced with funds from the New Salem Lincoln League used to purchase the wooden shake shingles.
Waddell and his family arrived at New Salem and built their residence in 1832. Waddell was a hatter who made rabbit fur hats for 50 cents, coonskin hats for $2, and wool felt hats. The large iron kettle in front of this residence was used by Martin Waddell to make felt. Waddell had a wife, a son and several daughters to support. Considering the number of children he had, one room might have served as both a shop and bedroom. The Waddell family left New Salem by 1838.
Mentor Graham moved to this area in 1826 and built a brick house on his farm one mile west of here. He first taught school in a log church on the Felix Green farm. After New Salem was laid out in 1828, the growing community erected a round-log schoolhouse. Graham moved his school to the building. He ran a subscription school, charging from 30 cents to 85 cents per month depending on the age of the child. Commonly called a "blab" school, the students learned by repeating their lessons out loud over and over.
Isaac Gulihur was born in Hopkinsville, KY on June 23, 1815. While living at New Salem he married Isaac Burner's daughter Elizabeth, built a residence and had one son. Gulihur served with Lincoln during the Black Hawk War. Following his discharge, he ran for coroner in the election of August 11, 1832, and lost. The Gulihurs left New Salem in late 1834 and moved to Knox County, IL. The property had two separate cellars; the North cellar had an outside entrance. There was also a root cellar.
Johnston and his family moved to New Salem and built a residence in 1832. He was a wheelwright, woodworker and cabinet maker who also repaired furnishings and implements for local residents and made wooden gears for the two mills in town. The Johnstons were Cumberland Presbyterians and regularly attended the Rock Creek camp meetings conducted by Rev. John M. Berry. Mrs. Johnston often experienced a common spiritual exercise call "the shakes".
Isaac, his wife Susan, and his family moved in October 1832 to New Salem where he bought two lots for $10 and erected a residence. His daughter, Elizabeth, married Isaac Gulihur, whose home site is to the west. Lincoln reported boarded with the Burners and Isaac's son, Daniel Green Burner, worked at the second Berry-Lincoln Store for a while. When Burner family left New Salem in 1835, they moved to Knox County about six miles south of Knoxville, IL. This house features a sleeping loft which was common in many early log homes.
Many years after Lincoln's assassination, 80-year-old Daniel Green Burner told THE SUNDAY TRIBUNE: "When Lincoln first came to New Salem, he boarded with old man Rutledge. Then for four years he boarded with my father . . . For his board and lodging Mr. Lincoln paid us $1 a week. It wasn't much, but corn was then worth only 10 cents a bushel, wheat was 50 cents . . . . People didn't strive then as they do now. But we all liked Lincoln. He was a good man in the house."
On April 24, 1835, Samuel Hill advertised in the Sangamo Journal that he would commence operation of his carding mill on May 1. "The machines are nearly new and in first rate order, and I do not hesitate to say, the best work will be done. Just bring your wool in good order and there will be no mistake." Hardin Bale later moved it to Petersburg. The double carder is typical of the inclined wheel, powered by walking animals. Patrons could pay in cash, or a toll (a portion of the wool) might be taken as payment.
James and Rowan Herndon had arrived at New Salem by the Spring of 1831. They built a store and opened it that fall. In the summer of 1832, James sold his interest in the store to William Berry. Rowan became dissatisfied with Berry and later that same year sold his interest to Lincoln for a promissory note. Stores were popular gathering places. Not only was merchandise bought, but stories were swapped and anything from weather to politics discussed. When a larger store and better stock of goods became available across the street, Berry and Lincoln recognized its value and moved there in mid January 1833.
Here, in late 1831, Henry Sinco erected a residence. On October 10, 1832, Dr. Francis Regnier purchased the property from Sinco and set up his practice. Regnier came to Illinois from Marietta, OH, where at 20 he was licensed to practice medicine and surgery. In August 1834, Dr. Regnier married Sophia Ann Goldsmith and moved to nearby Clary's Grove. He apparently kept the building until the late 1830s for use as an office. Regnier later moved to Petersburg.
Peter Lukin, a former Kentuckian who made and repaired a variety of leather goods, built a home and shop in 1831. In 1832 Lukins and George Warburton left New Salem to develop nearby Petersburg in which they had invested. Peter Lukins won the card game with Warburton to determine the name of Petersburg, but soon sold his interest to John Taylor. Alexander Ferguson moved into Lukins' house and took up leather work in 1832. Ferguson left New Salem in 1840.
Hill was born in New Jersey in 1800 and came to New Salem in 1829 where he started a store in partnership with John McNamar. Hill was a small slender man with an irascible temperament but usually gallant to the ladies. After the dissolution of his partnership in 1832, Hill expanded his investments by erecting a carding mill in the spring of 1835. That July, Hill married Parthena Nance from nearby Farmer's Point. By 1840 Hill had moved his family and store to nearby Petersburg.
Dr. Allen was born on March 30, 1801, near Chelsea VT. He received his medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School in 1828 and went west to set up his practice. On August 13, 1831, he purchased lots three and four from James Pantier and build his home. By December 1831 Dr. Allen had organized a temperance society and held meetings at his home. He married Mary E. Moore on March 27, 1834. Mary died two years later. By 1840 Dr. Allen remarried and moved to Petersburg.
Samuel Hill constructed a store building on this lot. The partnership with John McNamar, who took the alias "McNeil" to disguise his identity until he could make a fortune and bring his family to Illinois, was dissolved eight months later. Mail deliveries were probably made here until May 7, 1833, when Abraham Lincoln, who operated a store next door, was named postmaster. Hill moved to Petersburg in 1839 where he continued his successful business
John McNamar, it's believed, had a building - probably the village's first - constructed here in 1829. It is remembered as the town's only frame structure. McNamar and Samuel Hill, operated the store until 1831. They sold it to Henry Sinco, who rented it to the Chrisman brothers. William Green later bought the building and rented it to Reuben Radford. Green eventually sold the building to William Berry and Abraham Lincoln, whose shop here "winked out".
James Rutledge, a native South Carolinian who co-founded New Salem with John Camron, erected a building as a residence in 1828. Once New Salem began to prosper, he converted it to an inn or tavern where travelers could enjoy a meal and bed. The Rutledge family left New Salem in early 1833. Nelson Alley purchased the tavern and rented it to Henry Onstot and later michael Keltner. In 1837 Alley sold it to Jacob Bale. By 1880 it had decayed to ruin.
Herndon had married Mentor Graham's sister, Elizabeth, in Kentucky in 1827. By the spring of 1831, they were living at New Salem, where Rowan and his brother James built a log residence and later in the fall built a store. In the summer 1832, James sold his half-interest in the store to William Berry and moved away. Rowan, not liking Berry for a partner, sold his half-interest to Abraham Lincoln. On January 18, 1833 Rowan accidentally shot and killed his wife. Soon afterward he moved to Island Grove Township in Sangamon County.
Offutt first employed Abraham Lincoln in the spring of 1831 to take his goods by flatboat from Springfield to New Orleans. Due to a delay in crossing the milldam, Offutt and Lincoln first visited New Salem. On July 8, 1831, Offutt was licensed to retail at New Salem. It was here that Lincoln received his first exposure to the business of merchandising. Within a year, Offutt's enterprise had failed. He left New Salem for Kentucky to help his brother raise horses.
Clary's store was probably one of the earlier structures built at New Salem. It catered to men waiting for grain or lumber from the saw and grist mill and was a popular with the "Clary's Grove Boys." The store sold liquor as its main stock in trade, selling brandy, gin, wine, rum and whiskey. Rough "sports" like gander pulls, cock fights and wrestling were held here. Clary also established a ferry. As a Southerner, Clary left for Texas in 1833, leaving the store to Alexander Trent and the ferry to James Richardson.
In 1828 John M. Camron purchased the property where New Salem was later to be laid out. That same year Camron and his Uncle, James Rutledge, petitioned the state for permission to dam the Sangamon River in order to power the mill. By the next year, the mill was running. The mill was sold to Jacob Bale in 1832 and was operated by him with his son until 1844, when Jacob died. It was then bought by Jacob's brother and operated until 1853 when it was torn down and replaced.
Wagon Wheel Meeting Center - Built as the Wagon Wheel Restaurant when the village was reconstructed, this building now serves as a meeting center. Used as headquarters by the Pioneer Life Day Camp, it also hosts workshops and meetings for various groups. Not generally open to the public.
The equestrian statue at the entrance to the historic site depicts young Lincoln studying law on horseback. It was a donated to the people of Illinois by the sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and Dr. Carleton Smith, president of the National Arts Foundation. This statue also appears on the logo of the New Salem Lincoln League.
Ash Hopper - a real "what's-it" for modern visitors, the ash hopper was used to make lye. When the "funnel" was filled with wood ashes, water was poured over them, resulting in lye leaching out the bottom. The lye was collected and commonly used for making soap and whitewash, toughening leather (for shoe and boot soles) and making hominy. There are several in the village.
Explore the village by clicking on the buildings, click next arrow on the popup to take a virtual walk through the village!
*** You may "click" on any of the buildings to learn more about each one or start your tour at the Visitor Center and click through all of the buildings