The Farmington Plantation in Louisville Hosted A Young Abraham Lincoln in 1841
In April 1837, Abraham Lincoln arrived in Springfield, Illinois to establish himself as a lawyer. There, he met Joshua Speed, a fellow transplanted Kentuckian who ran a general store. The two hit it off immediately, becoming roommates and lifelong friends. Speed was from a completely different background than Lincoln, having grown up on a 550 acre plantation near Louisville in the Bluegrass State. After his father’s death, Speed returned to Kentucky early in 1841 to run the family estate, called Farmington.
In the summer of that year, Lincoln paid a three week visit to Farmington to rest and recover from depression following his breakup with Mary Todd (whom he would reconcile with and marry in 1842). The time spent with his friend at Farmington rejuvenated Lincoln. It also provided the future president with a first hand look at slavery; the plantation had some 60 slaves doing the day to day work. Lincoln had had other contacts with slavery, including a flatboat trip to New Orleans a few years earlier, but here he saw it up close, and was a factor that influenced his opposition to it.
Even though Lincoln was at odds with Speed over the issue of slavery, their friendship remained strong. After Lincoln was elected president and the Civil
War began, despite his pro slavery views, Joshua Speed worked with Lincoln to keep Kentucky in the Union. Joshua’s brother, James Speed, was an antislavery lawyer in Louisville who helped recruit Kentuckians for the Union Army. In December 1864, James Speed was chosen by Lincoln to succeed Edward Bates as U.S. Attorney General.
Farmington Plantation Today
Louisville has greatly expanded since the time of Lincoln, and the Farmington Plantation property, now owned by the Historic Homes Foundation, Inc., is an 18 acre site. Farmington is located near the Interstate 264–U.S. Highway 150 interchange in eastern Louisville at 3033 Bardstown Road, tucked back off the road behind Sullivan University. The plantation house is a 14 room brick structure built in 1815-16, with much the same appearance today as it had in the past. Reconstructions of various outbuildings are also on the property, which also features some nicely maintained landscaping and grounds. Guided tours of the house are available for a fee, but there’s no charge for a self guided tour around the grounds (9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily). The site can also be rented for events like weddings.