Dendrochronological investigation of the Knob Creek Cabin at President Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home, Hodgenville, Kentucky, USA

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


The Boyhood Home at Knob Creek is part of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Here, a replica cabin constructed in the 1930s by Chester and Hattie Howard is meant to represent the home where President Abraham Lincoln formed his earliest memories. According to oral histories, this replica, the Knob Creek Cabin, was constructed using timbers salvaged from a cabin found elsewhere on the Knob Creek Farm, believed to have been the home of Lincoln's childhood friend, Austin Gollaher. Therefore, the cabin is believed to be contemporary with Lincoln's childhood at Knob Creek (early 1800s), and represents what the original Lincoln family cabin may have looked like, despite the disappearance of the original Lincoln cabin during the late 1800s. To determine whether the Knob Creek Cabin truly dates to Lincoln's childhood, we extracted core samples from logs in the cabin and compared the tree-ring patterns to an absolutely-dated reference chronology from Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. We dated the oak chronology from the Knob Creek Cabin to the period 1712–1861 (r = 0.57, n = 150 years, t = 8.44, p < 0.0001). Several of the logs indicate cutting dates occurred during two different periods, 1847–1848 and 1861–1863, neither of which coincide with Lincoln's childhood at Knob Creek Farm. Based on these findings, we conclude that the Knob Creek Cabin could not have been originally constructed by the Gollaher family during Abraham Lincoln's childhood on the Knob Creek Farm. Instead, the Knob Creek Cabin likely was built using timbers that were salvaged from two different structures, one that was constructed during the period 1847–1848 and another that was constructed during the period 1861–1863. The origins of these logs are unknown.

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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2019.04.018

Publication Title

Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports