Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Louisville in Jefferson County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)
 

Abraham Lincoln & Farmington — 1841

 
 
Abraham Lincoln & Farmington — 1841 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, November 28, 2020
1. Abraham Lincoln & Farmington — 1841 Marker
Inscription.  In early fall of 1841, thirty-two-year-old Abraham Lincoln, then a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, visited his friend Joshua Speed at Farmington. Lincoln stayed here for a three-week period. At the time, both he and Speed were second-guessing their respective courtings of future wives, Mary Todd and Fanny Henning. Lincoln spent the visit walking the plantation fields and socializing with the Speed family. The future president also traveled to James Speed's law office in downtown Louisville to read his law books.

At Farmington, Lincoln was again introduced to slavery. Although he most likely witnessed slavery during his childhood in Kentucky and later during trips to New Orleans, his visit to Farmington gave him a closer view of the institution. At the time, the Speeds owned about sixty enslaved African Americans. During this visit, Lincoln likely observed these enslaved African Americans engaged in a range of tasks, including preparations for the fall hemp harvest.

Most of these slaves provided the labor force for the cultivation of hemp, which was grown in these fields.

Abraham Lincoln encountered slavery firsthand
Farmington Main House image. Click for full size.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, November 28, 2020
2. Farmington Main House
both on this plantation and on the Louisville waterfront.

On two occasions Lincoln noted in letters to Mary Speed and Joshua Speed his encounter with enslaved African Americans aboard the steamboat trip home to Springfield in 1841:

A fine example was presented on board the boat for contemplating the effect of condition upon human happiness. A gentleman had purchased twelve negroes in different parts of Kentucky and was taking them to a farm in the South. They were chained six and six together. A small iron clevis was around the left wrist of each, and this fastened to the main chain by a shorter one at a convenient distance from, the others; so that the negroes were strung together precisely like so many fish upon a trot-line. In this condition they were being separated forever from the scenes of their childhood, their friends, their fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, and many of them, from their wives and children, and going into perpetual slavery where the lash of the master is proverbially more ruthless and unrelenting than any other.— Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Mary Speed, September 27, 1841

In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a Steam Boat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio there were, on board, ten or a dozen
Paid Advertisement
Click on the ad for more information.
Please report objectionable advertising to the Editor.
slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continual torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border. It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable.
— Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Joshua Speed, August 24, 1855

Timeline
1809 — Abraham Lincoln born at Sinking Spring farm, in present-day Larue County, Kentucky
1816 — Lincoln family moved from Kentucky
1841 — Abraham Lincoln visited his friend Joshua Speed at Farmington, the Speed family plantation, in Louisville, Kentucky
1841 — Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd of Lexington, Kentucky
1847 — The Lincoln family visited Lexington, Kentucky, en route to Abraham's only term in Congress
1860 — Abraham Lincoln elected President of the United States in November
1865 — Abraham Lincoln assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Captions
Bottom left: Above is a pencil sketch of the bustling Louisville waterfront created by D. McNaughton in a March 24, 1840, letter to friend John Bruton (Edinburgh, No. Britain). Courtesy of the Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Ky.
Center, left to right:
Paid Advertisement
Click on the ad for more information.
Please report objectionable advertising to the Editor.
This watercolor of the John Speed plantation, Farmington, was created by John Rutherford in 1820. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Music Division
• Joshua Fry Speed as he would have appeared during Abraham Lincoln's visit to Farmington. Courtesy of the Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Ky.
• The image to the left depicts a man working a hemp break during the fall hemp harvest. Hemp was Kentucky's cash crop during much of the 19th century. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society
 
Erected by Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Heritage Trail, Kentucky Heritage Council, Kentucky Historical Society and Kentucky Department of Highways.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Notable Events.
 
Location. 38° 12.864′ N, 85° 40.159′ W. Marker is in Louisville, Kentucky, in Jefferson County. Marker can be reached from Farmington Access Road. Marker is in the parking lot closest to the main house. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3033 Bardstown Road, Louisville KY 40205, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within one mile of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Brothers Speed — Joshua and James (within shouting distance of this marker); Farmington (approx. 0.2 miles away); Bowman Field (approx. 0.6 miles away); Bray Place / Scoggan-Jones Horse Farm (approx. 0.8 miles away); Alonzo "Lonnie" Clayton / African American Jockey (approx. 0.9 miles away); Bashford Manor (approx. one mile away); Hayfield (approx. one mile away); Aero Club of Louisville (approx. 1.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Louisville.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 12, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 7, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 24 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on December 7, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.   2. submitted on December 12, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
 
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Wide shot of marker and surrounding area. • Can you help?
Paid Advertisement
Mar. 6, 2021