While it was Kentucky that gave him birth, and Illinois was the home of his maturity, it was Indiana, which nurtured him. Here we stand on hallowed ground, for it was in Spencer county that he lived from the age of seven to twenty-one. These were the formative years, the impressionable years of his youth, when amid the silence of the woods and streams, while doing his homely chores, his mind was free, his character was forming and his ideals were taking shape. It was during this period and amid this homely pioneer environment that he emerged as the honest, humane and dauntless soul who was destined to save our nation from disunion and to free an oppressed race from bondage.

As he tramped over the hills and through the woods and along the banks of the majestic Ohio he drew from nature the inspiration for the clean living and straight thinking which marked his mature years. As by the light of the log fireplace he poured over the books he walked seventeen miles to borrow from Judge Pitcher, he acquired the lucidity of expression that marked his speeches and state papers as President and found its climax in the immortal Gettysburg address, a masterpiece of literary expression. Here was developed that sense of humor that must have saved his reason in the dark days of the civil war. And from the landing not far from where I stand he set forth on that memorable journey on a flat boat to New Orleans, which bore fruit in the Emancipation Proclamation. For it was on this trip that, visiting the slave market, he saw a negro girl sold to the highest bidder and, turning to his young friend, Allen Gentry, he said: "If I ever get a chance to hit that thing, I’ll hit it hard."

So it is fitting that here, on the soil where he spent his boyhood, a memorial should be erected to Lincoln in the form of this Pioneer Village. It is also fitting that the government he died to save should have a hand in making it a reality.

The Lincoln Village was started in 1934 and under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration eleven buildings were constructed. The Village has been expanded under the Works Progress Administration with the construction of several other buildings, and new stands as a memorial not only to Lincoln but to his pioneer neighbors.

Here have been reproduced, as faithfully as patient research and skill in construction can make possible, the homely structures, which had such intimate association with Lincoln’s youth. We see here the home of John Pitcher, the sympathetic friend who lent him law books and encouraged him in his youthful aspirations; the Jones store, ever the counter of which he sold the simple merchandise in demand in those days; the log school house where he learned his three R’s, and other buildings which were dedicated a year ago.

We have not here today to dedicate the later buildings constructed under the Works Progress Administration. One of these is the Barter House, or market place, where the pioneers settlers came from their log cabin homes to exchange their wares with their neighbors. Another is the home of Daniel Grass, who, as a member of the constitutional convention which met at Corydon in 1816, helped to write the first constitution of Indiana. Lincoln spent two weeks in the Grass home, a pretentious double cabin, just prior to his flatboat trip to New Orleans, and a letter written in that early day tells us that while there he read all the books that he found on the place. Lying on his back, his head to the fire, his feet supported on a puncheon bench, and the book held alert to catch the firelight, he read far into the night.

The unfinished structure on the lake adjoining the village is a reproduction of the "corn cracker mill", which the Lincoln family patronized. It was at this mill that Lincoln, according to local tradition, was the victim of an accident, which nearly ended his life, when a horse kicked him in the head and he was unconscious for hours.

Of the building just completed, the last home of the family in Spencer county, the Lincoln cabin, which Lincoln’s father built after the coming of the step-mother, and a more pretentious one than the first rude cabin wherein his real mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died, holds our first interest. It was in this cabin, by the light of the rude log fireplace, that he studied Shakespeare and memorized Hamlet’s soliloquy and other immortal passages which he was so fond of quoting in later years. Here also he sat on long winter nights, reading the story of the father of his country in Weem’s "Life of Washington", and gaining inspiration for the great task which he was to assume at a grave crisis in his country’s history.

Here he conned the pages of Scott’s "Elocution Book", and laid the groundwork for the eloquence which characterized all his utterances in later years. Here he read the Bible and found, in the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments, the basis for the simple creed and the sublime faith that sustained him through the tragic years of the civil war.

Next in interest perhaps is the Little Pigeon Baptist Church, where the Lincoln family worshipped. This church was built in 1820 under the direction of Thomas Lincoln, and young Abe, and then only eleven years old, helped to fell the trees from which the lumber was made that went into the building. This church stood to the south of where Lincoln City now stands, near the present park.

It was within this church, with its rude benches, puncheon floor and rough pulpit, that Lincoln sat with his family, listening to the exhortations of the pioneer preachers and occasionally joining in the singing. Tradition has it that when Abe was fifteen he often repeated the sermons of the preachers, imitating their tones and gesture, no doubt to the consternation of his parents.

Although his father, his mother, his step-mother and his sister Sarah were all Baptists, Lincoln never allied himself with this church or with any other throughout his life. One who writes with authority says there were probably two reasons why the young Lincoln developed little interest in the affairs of the family church. In the first place, through his incessant reading he was becoming familiar with the world lying far beyond the horizon of the average lad of the community. The newspapers which he read diligently whenever one came his way, and the conversation around the stove a Jones’ store doubtless satisfied some of his youthful curiosity, and the monthly church meetings apparently afforded nothing to which his mind could respond. The second reason was found in the issues and controversies which were being agitated among the factions of the Little Pigeon Baptist Church and the Goshen Baptist Association in Kentucky, to which it belonged.

According to the writer I have just quoted these controversies undoubtedly left an unfortunate impression on the young Lincoln. It is not surprising that he became more interested in listening to the lawyers and to the court proceedings at Boonville than to abstract theological discussions.

Many years later, in a statement explaining why he had never joined a church, Lincoln said: "When any church will inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualification for membership…the Saviour’s condensed statement of both Law and Gospel, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’, that church will I join with all my heart and soul."

Though Lincoln’s formal education was limited to the meager schooling he received in Spencer county, he made up for his lack of advantages by schooling himself and was, in the highest sense of the term, and educated man. Though he never joined a church, he showed throughout his life a depth of religious feeling that transcended any more formal creed.

In a recent tribute to Lincoln, Dr. Harry Emerson Fesdick wrote:

"The least among us can always stand for the greatest things. It is not difficult to see the operation of this principle in those capacious personalities that have bestridden the world.

"One sees is plainly, for example, in a character like Abraham Lincoln. Abstract from Lincoln the things he came to stand for and we have a queer reminder. For Lincoln, taken by himself, was unprepossessing and ungainly. He came from lowly origins and small opportunities. He had no superficial graces that cover inward lack. Rather, like a very plain wire grown incandescent, Abraham Lincoln shone with what he came to stand for. He achieved a personal suggestiveness that is one of the marvels of our history.

"Think of him and see how inevitably you are reminded of magnanimity, patience, steadfastness under strain, devotion to the nation’s unity, love of liberty, deepening faith, and spiritual life. He came to stand for those things which man must love or else perish."

"And so, plain man though he was, he achieved an undying name."

In completing the Lincoln Village project the Works Progress Administration and the agencies which preceded it in carrying on the works program have done more than merely provide needed employment to citizens of Spencer county and reconstruct history scenes. The project has been in fact an industrial school, where three score men have acquired skill in handicrafts, and have learned to use the hammer, the saw and the plane in useful construction work. As the result of this training these men will be more useful members of society when the opportunity for private employment if offered to them.

Working hand in hand with the WPA in this work of perpetuating the Lincoln story in Indiana have been the Spencer County Historical Society, The Rockport city council and Mr. George Honig, the Indiana artist and sculptor. It was Mr. Honig who designed the memorial and it was under his supervision that the work has been carried out. In the year since its dedication more then 20,000 persons of all races and nationalities, from many countries of the world, have visited the village to pay their respects to Lincoln’s memory. Due to this wide interest the village has now become self-sustaining.

As administrator of the WPA in Indiana I am proud to have had a part in this accomplishment. Surely, the Lincoln Village is rapidly becoming a great national shrine, which will take a prominent place amount those others which have been erected by a grateful people.

(This paper has been copied from the original.)