Historical voyage is coming our way

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2008

A highly unusual sight will appear on the northern horizon of the Mississippi River sometime early Monday afternoon, as a 60-foot pioneer era flatboat approaches the landing at Roth Hill, where it plans to dock around 3 p.m.

In 1828, the 16th President of the United States set out from Rockport, Ind., on course for New Orleans, transporting a load of produce for a local merchant.

The Spencer County Indiana County Visitors Bureau is re-enacting this journey with the assistance of Mercury Marine of Fond du Lac, Wis., in honor of President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. Lincoln was 19 years old when he embarked upon this voyage.

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Because the vessel is constructed of around 50,000 pounds of poplar, the Indiana state tree, and because of the difficult navigation on the Mississippi River, the flatboat is being assisted by 2-150 horsepower Mercury Verado outboard engines. The engines will be enclosed, however, to preserve the historic look of the boat.

Lincoln lived in Spencer County from age 7 to age 21, and it’s the objective of this Journey of Remembrance to educate people along the river cities in which the flatboat will stop about Lincoln’s Hoosier roots during his life there.

Lincoln’s mother and sister are buried in Spencer County, and there are a number of Lincoln-related sites to visit there, like the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Lincoln State Park and the Lincoln Pioneer Village, just to name a few.

There will be an exhibit traveling with the boat along the highway, that will join the flatboat at each of its stops along the way, and a program designed to educate and promote the area of Lincoln’s youth will be at each stop as well. The program will be shown at the Natchez Visitor Center Theater at 5:30 on the evening of Tuesday, which is free, and the public is invited to attend. Seating is limited to 70 people so please arrive early to get a seat.

The boat will also be available for viewing, so bring the kids down to greet them Monday after school, or take them by Tuesday any time during the day to see it.

The departure is set for 8 a.m. on Wednesday, where the voyage will take the boat to its next stop at the Angola Ferry landing, 58 miles downstream.

Sally Durkin is the media liaison for the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau.