Whether true or not, it makes for a good story, but Honest Abe never said it was true.
Here is the background.
In 1805, Lewis and Clark had not yet returned from their historic march across the United States, when Congress enacted a law authorizing the construction of a National Road from Cumberland, in the state of Maryland, to the state of Ohio. President Thomas Jefferson signed the legislation and construction began in 1811. The road reached the Ohio River in 1818.
In 1828, Joseph Shriver surveyed the crossing of the Embarras (the “s” is silent) River in Cumberland County, Illinois. Local history claims that in 1832, a twenty-three-year-old Abe Lincoln, while visiting his area with his father Thomas and his cousin Dennis Hanks, helped build the bridge.
By 1839, the road reached its western terminus at Vandalia, Illinois.
For years, huge Conestoga wagons lumbered down the road carrying settlers and their supplies heading west until the quicker railroads made transportation quicker and cheaper.
The development of the automobile in the twentieth century saw the return of popular use along the route, which became U.S. Highway 40. The construction of the Interstate system again shifted traffic patterns and the road became a scenic route to be enjoyed.
The other local story.
In 1847, Abe Lincoln was back at Greenup in Cumberland County defending Abraham Sigler H. Lester on a manslaughter case. Abe lost and Lester was found guilty. Afterwards, Abe drew up a petition to the Governor to have Lester pardoned which was promptly granted.
Local history says Lincoln came back to the bridge and went for a swim in the Embarras River waiting for the governor’s reply.
Swimming is one way to relax. Sitting in a Stressless recliner is another way.