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Hodgenville and the Presidents, 1909-1936

Two with strong ties to Columbia, KY, Marse Henry Watterson and Favorite Grandson of the Shire Mark Twain, were members of the Board of Directors of the Lincoln Farm Association, formed in 1906, to build a memorial to Abraham Lincoln

By "Jim"

Between 1909 and 1936, no fewer than four presidents visited Hodgenville. Teddy, the first President Roo-suh-velt, came there in 1909, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, less than three weeks before he (Roosevelt) left office. Two years later, his successor, William Howard Taft, breezed into town to dedicate the Lincoln birthplace site.

An article in the Courier-Journal Sunday Magazine of May 1, 1979 noted that the Lincoln Farm Association, formed in 1906, had raised enough money to buy part of the old Lincoln home site and "to design and build a Lincoln memorial." One member of the Board of Directors of the Association was Charles Evans Hughes, who, ironically enough, very nearly defeated Wilson in his bid for re-election in 1916. Another was Henry "Marse" Watterson of Courier-Journal fame, who had ties to Adair County, and a third member was Adair County's own forever favorite grandson, Samuel L. Clemens.

Come early September, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson, then on the campaign trail in a hotly contested bid for re-election, also made a hit-and run appearance in Hodgenville "on the occasion of the acceptance by the War Department of a deed of gift to the nation, by the Lincoln Farm Association, of the Lincoln birthplace farm." (His speech that day ran considerably shorter than had Teddy's seven years earlier and considerably longer than did Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.)

For President Wilson's 1916 Presidential visit, a pair of "official" delegates were selected to represent each county. For Adair, the chosen two were Messrs. J.N. Coffey and J.O. Russell. Other than that brief announcement, the News gave short shrift to the goings-on in far-off Hodgenville on that Labor Day of 95 years ago. As a matter of fact, the only post-visit report appeared in the September 6, 1916 edition as an indirect mention in the "Personal" column: "Chelcie Barger, Robt. Summers, Shreve Davis, Stewart Hutchison, Alex Chewning, Wade Helm, and Oma Barbee motored to Hodgenville." (Although the political leanings of the these young men are not known, it takes little stretch of the imagination to believe they comprised a healthy quorum of the Young Turks division of the Adair County Democratic Party.)

(Those wishing to read President Wilson's speech on this auspicious occasion may do so here Addresses of Presidents. There are a number of ways to access the speech under the "view" the book" sidebar on the left side of the screen.)

A notation found here History Online mentions that President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the park on June 14, 1936 and that "He was greeted by...a cheering crowd estimated at 50,000 to 60,000 people." (This is the same source previously sited on ColumbiaMagazine in February, 1908 by Carol Goodin Parker, but the URL has changed.)

In Images of America: Hardin County (Ky.) (2006), author Meranda S. Caswell wrote that "[President Roosevelt] passed though Elizabethtown on June 14, 1936. He visited the Lincoln Farm at Hodgenville, then he returned to Elizabethtown where he boarded a train for Louisville."

Franklin Roosevelt, as Woodrow Wilson had been almost exactly 20 years earlier, was on the campaign trail for re-election in the summer of 1936. On the same day as his visit to Hodgenville, he dedicated the George Rogers Clark Memorial Building in Vincennes, Indiana, and apparently took a side trip into Illinois for an encore.

by "Jim."

This story was posted on 2011-07-27 12:46:32
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