Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cookies and Lincoln’s Springfield Home

In 1844 successful lawyer Abraham Lincoln moved into the one-and-a-half story home at the corner of 8th and Jackson Streets in Springfield with his wife Mary and their young son, Robert. The family lived there for seventeen years until they left for the White House on February 11, 1861. At that farewell Lincoln spoke eloquently of his years in Illinois and Springfield: “Here I have lived from my youth until now I am an old man. Here the most sacred ties of earth were assumed; here all my children were born; and here one of them lies buried. . . . To you, dear friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am.”

By all accounts the family was a lively one. The Lincolns added a full second story to the home to accommodate the growing family of boys. Eddie, born in 1846, died just before of his fourth birthday in 1850. Two other boys grew up in Springfield. Willie was born in December 1850 and Tad in April 1853. Neighbors spoke of both Abe and Mary spoiling their sons and of the house being overrun with children and pets. Lincoln pulled the boys in a wagon on the streets of Springfield. He read them stories and tussled with them in the White House. Sadly, only Robert Lincoln survived into adulthood. Willie caught typhoid fever and died in Washington on February 20, 1862. Tad died of tuberculosis in Chicago when he was 17.

Neighbor children recall Mary Lincoln making cookies for them. These simple, easily made cookies from 1851 are tasty and suitable for grabbing by the handful by boys rushing through the kitchen on the way out to play. The National Park Service offers a virtual tour of the Lincoln’s Springfield house:

Basic 1851 Cookies
1/3 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 2/3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup milk
2/3 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in half the flour and the baking soda. Mix until smooth. Gently stir in the milk and when completely blended, add remaining flour. Stir in the nuts, if desired. Drop by teaspoons on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until tops are a golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Cookies puff up while baking and sink a bit as they cool. Yield: about 5 dozen 1 1/2-inch cookies.

Copyright 2009 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

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