Saddle Mountain, seen from the overlook above US Route 50, 4 October 2012
It was September 2010 and we were heading west on US Route 50, returning to West Virginia after a visit in Maryland. At some point along the way Lisa said “There’s Saddle Mountain. I think there’s an overlook.” And maybe she added something about Nancy somebody, but I’m not sure. I was focused on driving and didn’t quite catch all she said, and didn’t notice the mountain view — I probably said something like “uh” and drove on. So we continued on our way and missed the overlook that day (we have been back several times since).
A few miles farther west Lisa pointed out a small sign by the road. It said simply “Nancy Hanks Memorial”, and by implication invited us to turn onto a narrow side road in quest of this Memorial. We’ve had a few odd adventures incautiously driving down roads we didn’t know, often enough taking them simply because we didn’t know where they went, and occasionally finding ourselves driving for miles on barely-one-lane dirt paths through apparently uninhabited land with no clear notion of where we were. But the Nancy Hanks Memorial couldn’t be too far from the main road, right? And the road to it would undoubtedly be nicely paved, an easy drive, and a pleasant break from the traffic on US 50. And it wasn’t even close to getting dark yet.
So we turned down the little road and drove on. After a few miles, another sign appeared at the intersection of a narrower, but still paved, road and we turned to continue the quest. We drove for several more miles, beginning to wonder whether this Memorial actually exists or if we had passed it without noticing. After a bit more driving we came to another sign that suggested that we should turn onto a still narrower road that looked much more like a farm’s lane than a public road. I hesitated, not eager to drive into someone’s farmyard, but nevertheless we turned as if commanded, and shortly came to the Memorial.
This Tablet Marks the Site
of the Cabin Where
Nancy Hanks Association
Nancy’s birth date on the plaque is an error. According to reliable sources, Nancy Hanks was born 5 February 1784. When she was still a child her mother moved with her beyond the mountains to Kentucky. In 1806 Nancy married Thomas Lincoln in Hardin County, Kentucky. In 1816 the family moved to southern Indiana, where Nancy died on 5 October 1818, leaving an 11-year-old daughter named Sarah and a 9-year-old son named Abraham.
Across the road from the Memorial plaque is a log cabin, a replica of the original Hanks home. This cabin was built some time in the 1960s following typical construction methods and plans of nineteenth-century cabins, and resembles many other log cabin replicas at historical sites throughout the country.
The drive from US 50 to the Memorial totaled about 6 miles (something short of 10 km). The roads were all paved, although narrow, and there was nearly no traffic. When we left the Hanks homestead we continued on the small roads, eventually returning to US 50 some distance west of where we originally got off. All in all it was a wonderful bit of minor exploration, and I can recommend it to anyone with a bit of time and an interest in the countryside or in minor actors in United States history. But bring along a West Virginia topographical map, or you might end up wandering longer than you planned.