Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site is a reconstruction of the village where Abraham Lincoln lived from 1831 to 1837. The village was abandoned by about 1840. Although he never owned a home here, Lincoln was engaged in a variety of activities while he was at New Salem. He clerked in a store, split rails, enlisted in the Black Hawk War, served as postmaster and deputy surveyor, failed in business, and was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1834 and 1836 after an unsuccessful try in 1832.
Twelve log houses, the Rutledge Tavern, ten workshops, stores, mills and a school where church services were held have been reproduced and furnished as they might have been in the 1830s. The furnishings, including many articles actually used by the New Salem people of Lincoln's time and others dating back to the same time period, were assembled and donated to the state by the Old Salem Lincoln League. The collection includes such early-nineteenth-century articles as wheat cradles, candle molds, cord beds, flax hackles, wood cards, dough and cornmeal chests and early American pewter.
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.
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. By 1880 it had decayed to ruin.
William Clary's store was probably one of the earlier structures built at New Salem. It catered to those waiting for products from the mill and to the "Clary's Grove Boys." The store sold liquor as its main stock in trade, selling brandy, gin, wine, run and whiskey. Clary also established a ferry. As a Southerner, Clary left for Texas in 1833.
Joshua Miller and his brother-in-law Jack Kelso came with their families to New Salem. Miller’s home was headquarters for Baptist preachers who came to the neighborhood. The open area was usually used for eating or as a sitting area.
Henry Onstot residence. 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.
On August 27, 1832, Alexander Trent bought a lot where he and his brother Martin built a house for their families. Alex was a corporal in Lincoln's company during the Black Hawk War.
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.
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.
James and Rowan Herndon had arrived at New Salem by the Spring of 1831. They built a store and opened it that fall. When a larger store and better stock of goods became available across the street, Berry and Lincoln recognized its value and moved there in 1833.
Dr. Allen 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 1840 Dr. Allen moved to Petersburg.
Denton 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.
Samuel Hill 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. Samuel Hill constructed a store building. Mail deliveries were probably made here until May 7, 1833, when Abraham Lincoln, who operated a store next door, was named postmaster. By 1840 Hill had moved his family and store to nearby Petersburg.
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."
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. 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.
Text source: lincolnsnewsalem.com