Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
Despite the grueling heat of the relentless sun while wearing seven layers of clothing, or the hours laboring away at tedious tasks, those who volunteer at Lincoln’s Cabin return each season to bring the 1800s to life.
“[Volunteering is] a family experience,” volunteer Cheryl Hawker said upon reflection of thirty-one years of service at the Cabin. Alongside Hawker, nineteen other volunteers return to Lincoln’s Cabin where they recreate the everyday lives of those in the Lincoln and Sargent families. “We came to some special events [here] and it looked fun,” she said.
Hawker’s children and grandchildren quickly became involved with the opportunity to volunteer, where they had attended a twelve week training session that had taught them how to fit into their characters and the Southern Kentucky speech patterns.
Originally, Hawker’s daughter had began volunteering before her mother, and the rest of her family had additionally stepped forward and joined her. Hawker became fascinated by the idea of becoming another person when it came to interpretation, and the aspect had encouraged her to offer her time to the historical site. Like others, she had don keynote characters of the time such as Sarah Lincoln and Elizabeth Burlingame. “I wanted to be someone else,” Hawker said.
Similarity to Hawker, who had soon enlisted as a volunteer after her daughter had initially taken interest, volunteer Shawn Ames had come to the Cabin after her son had spent time at the camps the organization offered. Ames mentioned that she grew up in Lerma, and frequently visited Lincoln’s Cabin with her grandfather at a young age and likes to belive that she ‘grew up’ at the landmark.
She stresses the dire need for volunteers as numbers dwindle, and claims that the organization is simply ‘wonderful.’ “I just love [it] all,” Ames said, “[I do] anything I can do to help.” Like Hawker, Ames does some interpretation with school groups, and assists on the days when they come to the Cabin. With the site hosting two neighboring farms- one belonging to the Lincoln family and the other the Sargent family,- she finds the lifestyle intriguing.
Before her time spent at Lincoln’s Cabin, Ames had been stationed in California and had served in the United States Marine Corps, and had returned to Illinois when she had left. “Being a pioneer woman was ten times harder than the Marine Corps,” Ames said.
Besides a handful of volunteers, Lincoln’s Cabin staffs approximately five paid employees such as Kate Gosnell. Though she doesn’t freely donate her time to the organization, her responsibilities include watching those who do volunteer or teaching visitors that pass through wherever she is stationed for the day. She also tends to children, who she said can cook, play games, or do chores around each farm. Gosnell told reporters that she had first gained an interest of working at the Cabin when her sister had volunteered.
Analogous to volunteering, Gosnell participates in live interpretation. “We are not doing first-person [interpretation] this year, more of a third-person [simplification],” Gosnell explained, and stated that she goes everywhere she is needed throughout each day.
She admits that she considers the food the most popular attraction and the visitor’s favorite experience at Lincoln’s Cabin while preparing sweet sausages and a dessert known as ‘cinnamon flop,’ “The food tastes much better with the Dutch oven, and it draws people [in,]” Gosnell said.