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Jefferson County
Historical Society Annual Dinner

Lincoln Home director to speak
at Madison fundraising event

Townsend will talk about
the only home Lincoln owned

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(November 2008) – Abraham Lincoln has held a special place in the minds and hearts of many Americans, for quite some time, according to Timothy Townsend. With time fast approaching the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, Townsend is in high demand as a speaker on one of his most favorite subjects.
Townsend began working in 1991 as a seasonal park ranger at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Ill. He has assumed the position of historian since 1995.

Timothy Townsend

Photo provided

Timothy Townsend
has been working as
historian of the Lincoln
Home National Historic
Site since 1995.

It is in this role that on Nov. 7 he will present “Saving and Restoring President Lincoln’s Home and Neighborhood” for the Jefferson County Historical Society’s Annual Award Dinner, held at the Venture Out Business Center in Madison. A social hour will begin at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. Cost is $25 per person and “is money well spent for an enjoyable evening,” said Jefferson County Historical Society President Joe Carr.
Reservations must be made by Nov. 5 for this event. Catering will be provided by the Rolling Pin.
“There is a lot going on nationally and in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois,” said Carr in reference to Lincoln Bicentennial events. “We wanted something connected to Lincoln.”
Townsend will present the story of the Lincoln Home, family and neighborhood from the time that the home was constructed on the corner of Fifth and Adams streets in 1839 until present. He will also discuss the evolution of the Lincoln neighborhood from the time the Lincoln’s left for Washington, its evolution to a modern urban residential and commercial area, and the current ongoing restoration efforts of the National Park Service.
The importance of the home lies in the fact that “Lincoln is so often viewed as the larger than life statue in the Lincoln Memorial, that it is hard to imagine him as a regular person,” said Townsend. “The Lincoln home provides visitors with a unique opportunity to gain insight into Abraham Lincoln as a husband, father and neighbor.”
The home reveals details into the life of the other members of Lincoln’s family: his wife, Mary, and their four sons, Robert, Eddie, Willie and Tad. Approximately 50 original pieces from the Lincoln era are contained in the home and include parlor furniture, a book case and bedroom pieces.
“This is the only home Lincoln ever owned,” said Carr. The National Parks Service spent millions of dollars refurbishing the home Lincoln lived in for 17 years of his life.
Lincoln, his wife and young son, Robert, moved into the home in May 1844. It was a one and a half story cottage which they eventually expanded into two stories. Lincoln’s story is one of inspiration, said Townsend. He rose “from humble beginnings to the presidency; (had) a humble and honest character; and a steadfast defense of democracy and faith in the character of people.”
The Lincoln Home lends insight into the issues that divided the nation and thrust him into the presidency, Townsend said. His life story appeals to many because he was assassinated at “the height of his victories with the end of the war and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery.”
The thing that interests Townsend the most about Lincoln is “the way in which Lincoln maintained a humble sense of humor throughout his life and the way in which he was willing to admit to and learn from mistakes,” he said.
There are about 400 members in the Jefferson County Historical Society, which began during Lincoln’s lifetime, in 1850. The society will display a national traveling exhibit titled, “Lincoln’s Family Album” from April 27 to July 5, 2009.

• To reserve for the Annual Dinner, call the Jefferson County Historical Society at (812) 265-2335.

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