We stopped at an old fashioned soda fountain for a sweet treat and talked with the lady who served us. We asked her if there were any little-known sites we should see and she sent us up the street to the cemetery where Ann Rutledge (supposedly first love of Abe) was buried.

We hesitated, but it was only blocks away, so we went.

Edgar Lee Masters, author of the classic Spoon River Anthology, wrote the poem on the tomb. (Masters’ Anthology is a collection of poems about people in a fictional small town – probably Petersburg (where we were) or Lewistown, Illinois. Because of his anthology and that the “fictional” people could often be identified – he couldn’t live in either town. (One source said that if you looked at the area cemeteries, you would find tombs with most of the surnames used in the book.)

Take the time to read the poem on Ann’s grave – it is QUITE dramatic.


The last two times I have been to New Salem – it’s been in February. Which means that the last two times I’ve been to New Salem, we’ve been the only tourists there.

Last time there wasn’t anyone in the village (just in the visitor’s center). This time, there were two “costumed people” in the first cabin. Mostly the kids had the run of the village (well, so did we – but we didn’t actually run).

Lincoln moved to New Salem when he was 22 and he lived there for six years. It was here he read law text books and learned to be a lawyer. Also, this was the place that Ann Rutledge’s father owned the tavern – historians have debated ever since whether or not Ann was Lincoln’s first true love. She died of typhoid at age 22 and many say her death sent Lincoln into depression. But no one really knows.


Here are some more house pictures from when Ken, and I, Roger and Sally (and Beth) went back in the 90s.

An outside view of the fort.
The house in the mustard-colored days (with broken windows, too). So glad they restored it and it's once again white.

The barn (now the gift shop and a place for wedding receptions).  So strange.

My brother in my parent's old bedroom. My dad had the room panelled in this pine which (according to one of my notes) used to be the floorboards of the attic. But I'm wondering about that - because the attic DID have a floor!


So, life went on.

A few years back I met a girl who  lives in Tyrone – the town where I went to school when we lived at the house.  I told her that I used to live in Sinking Valley in the Fort Roberdeau farmhouse. I asked her if she had ever visited the fort.

Well, not only had she visited it – she works there as a volunteer taking part in reenactments and talking to the tourists and school groups – while dressed in costume.

Interestingly, she is a pastor’s daughter and at least one of the men who attends her dad’s church attended my dad’s church when I was a kid in PA. (My mom has remained in touch with him and his wife.)

Here are some pictures of Noelle at the fort. She is also looking for a better picture of the house  for me to post. (Maybe I’ll actually have her write a post about working at the fort.)

What a cool chain of events!

Noelle looking out the barn where I used to play.
Leaning against the barn.
Noelle with a young Colonial. See the house in the background?


Our family moved to the Midwest and the house faded into the background (but not that far in the background).  Sometimes I dreamed we still lived there.

Then I went to Moody and met and married a guy who lived – well, 90 miles down the road from Altoona. (We often talked about how funny it was that we lived so close to each other as young kids – relatively close anyhow.)

One time when we were visiting Ken’s parents, Ken and I drove up to the house. A teen and his girlfriend were walking down the road and I talked with them. The boy lived there but wasn’t all that excited about it. (I could not understand his lack of enthusiasm.)I can’t remember, but I think they had painted the house red or something.

Then in 1976 we heard (through our Altoona friends) that they were restoring the fort for the Bicentennial. Interesting.  Later we were back in the area for a church anniversary, so made another visit.  The house was now the ugliest mustard color you would ever want to see and the excitement at the fort was two guys in costume – one who gave us multiple rifle-shooting demonstrations. Seeing the land cleared and the fort restored was a surreal experience for me – as was seeing the Coke vending machine in the barn where I used to play.

In the mid 90s, Ken and I, Roger and Sally went back to the church one Sunday and then drove out to the fort. The house was still ugly mustard-color, but had been somewhat restored. (Not that it didn’t need a paint job when we lived in it – but at least it was farmhouse white.)  The house was now part of the fort property, but they hadn’t really done anything with it yet.  The cave- side of the yard was marked off with police tape and until we found someone to talk to, I had the frightening feeling they were planning on tearing the house down. In reality, they had discovered 10,000 Revolutionary War relics in the yard and the police tape was to keep people away.

When we told Dad he sighed and said, “I guess we put our garden on the wrong side.” Here he was inside writing kids’ books about the Revolutionary War and right outside our door we had 10,000 artifacts.

The barn I used to play in was now a large meeting room and a gift shop.

When we said we used to live in the house, they let us go inside and asked us a lot of questions about what it used to looked like. The biggest problem was a window where we used to have a door. They seemed kind of skeptical, but I sent a picture and the door has reappeared.

They also asked me about the cave but I said I never played near the cave because my parents told me not to. “Oh, come on,” the man said, “Don’t tell me you never went down there and explored when your parents weren’t looking.”  Obviously, that man had never met my dad.

The visit was fun. And afterwards, I kept up to date by checking the website. I saw that the house was now a place for school kids to learn about 1800 farmhouse living. Each year they added more hiking trails and more special events to the fort complex. You can even get married there if you’d like!

But the story of the house goes on …