By john g. Nioolay and john hay



Download 4.94 Mb.
Page5/45
Date conversion21.02.2016
Size4.94 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   45
LINEAGE 25

wedding gift to bestow upon her; he brought her to chap. i. a little house in Elizabethtown, where he and she and want dwelt together in fourteen feet square. The next year a daughter was born to them; and the next the young carpenter, not finding his work remunerative enough for his growing needs, re­moved to a little farm which he had bought on the easy terms then prevalent in Kentucky. It was on the Big South Fork of Nolin Creek, in what was then Hardin and is now La Rue County, three miles from Hodgensville. The ground had nothing attractive about it but its cheapness. It was hardly more grateful than the rocky hill slopes of New England. It required full as earnest and intelli­gent industry to persuade a living out of those barren hillocks and weedy hollows, covered with stunted and scrubby underbrush, as it would amid the rocks and sands of the northern coast.

Thomas Lincoln settled down in this dismal soli­
tude to a deeper poverty than any of his name had
ever known; and there, in the midst of the most
unpromising circumstances that ever witnessed the
advent of a hero into this world, Abraham Lincoln
was born on the 12th day of February, 1809. 1309.

Four years later, Thomas Lincoln purchased a fine farm of 238 acres on Knob Creek, near where it flows into the Rolling Fork, and succeeded in getting a portion of it into cultivation. The title, however, remained in him only a little while, and after his property had passed out of his control he looked about for another place to establish himself.

Of all these years of Abraham Lincoln's early childhood we know almost nothing. He lived a solitary life in the woods, returning from his lone-




Vi-g- £-"V ^r"f, >

%.k *%JtUX
£^


This Certificate, or Marriage List (here shown in reduced fac-simile), written "by the

Kev. Jesse Head, was lost sight of for many years, and about 1886 was discovered

through the efforts of W. F. Booker, Clerk of Washington County, Kentucky.

26

LINEAGE 27

some little games to his cheerless home. He never chap. i. talked of these days to his most intimate friends.1 Once, when asked what he remembered about the war with Great Britain, he replied: " Nothing but this. I had been fishing one day and caught a little fish which I was taking home. I met a soldier in the road, and, having been always told at home that we must be good to the soldiers, I gave him my fish." This is only a faint glimpse, but what it shows is rather pleasant — the generous child and the patriotic household. But there is no question that these first years of his life had their lasting effect upon the temperament of this great mirthful and melancholy man. He had little schooling. He accompanied his sister Sarah2 to the only schools that existed in their neighborhood, one kept by Zachariah Einey, another by Caleb Hazel, where he learned his alphabet and a little more. But of all those advantages for the cultivation of a young mind and spirit which every home now offers to its children, the books, toys, ingenious games, and daily devotion of parental love, he knew absolutely nothing.

i There is still living(l 88 6)near of partridges; in trying to "coon"
Knob Creek in Kentucky, at the across Knob Creek on a log, Lin­
age of eighty, a man who claims coin fell in and Gollaher fished
to have known Abraham Lincoln him out with a sycamore branch
in his childhood Austin Golla- —a service to the Republic, the
her. He says he used to play value of which it would be diffi-
with Abe Lincoln in the shavings cult to compute,
of his father's carpenter shop. 2 This daughter of Thomas Lin-
He tells a story which, if accurate, coin is sometimes called Nancy
entitles him to the civic crown and sometimes Sarah. She seems
which the Romans used to give to have borne the former name
to one who saved the life of a during her mother's life-time, and
citizen. When Gollaher was to have taken her stepmother's
eleven and Lincoln eight the two name after Mr. Lincoln's second
boys were in the woods in pursuit marriage.

CHAPTEE II

INDIANA

chap. ii. T3 Y the time the boy Abraham had attained his isTe. JD seventh year, the social condition of Ken­tucky had changed considerably from the early pioneer days. Life -had assumed a more settled and orderly course. The old barbarous equality of the earlier time was .gone; a difference of classes began to be seen. Those who held slaves assumed a distinct social superiority over those who did not. Thomas Lincoln, concluding that Kentucky was no country for a poor man, determined to seek his fortune in Indiana. He had heard of rich and un­occupied lands in Perry County in that State, and thither he determined to go. He built a rude raft, loaded it with his kit of tools and four hundred gallons of whisky, and trusted his fortunes to the winding water-courses. He met with only one accident on his way: his raft capsized in the Ohio River, but he fished up his kit of tools and most of the ardent spirits, and arrived safely at the place of a settler named Posey, with whom he left his odd invoice of household goods for the wilderness, while he started on foot to look for a home in the dense forest. He selected a spot which pleased him in his first day's journey. He then walked

28

INDIANA 29

back to Knob Creek and brought his family on to chap. u. their new home. No humbler cavalcade ever in­vaded the Indiana timber. Besides his wife and two children, his earthly possessions were of the slightest, for the backs of two borrowed horses sufficed for the load. Insufficient bedding and clothing, a few pans and kettles, were their sole movable wealth. They relied on Lincoln's kit of tools for their furniture, and on his rifle for their food. At Posey's they hired a wagon and literally hewed a path through the wilderness to their new habitation near Little Pigeon Creek, a mile and a half east of Gentryville, in a rich and fertile forest country.

Thomas Lincoln, with the assistance of his wife and children, built a temporary shelter of the sort called in the frontier language "a half-faced camp "; merely a shed of poles, which defended the inmates on three sides from foul weather, but left them open to its inclemency in front. For a whole year his family lived in this wretched fold, while he was clearing a little patch of ground for planting corn, and building a rough cabin for a permanent resi­dence. They moved into the latter before it was half completed; for by this time the Sparrows had followed the Lincolns from Kentucky, and the half-faced camp was given up to them. But the rude cabin seemed so spacious and comfortable after the squalor of " the camp," that Thomas Lin­coln did no further work on it for a long time. He left it for a year or two without doors, or windows, or floor. The battle for existence allowed him no time for such "superfluities. He raised enough corn to support life; the dense forest around him

30 ABEAHAM LINCOLN

chap. ii. abounded in every form of feathered game; a little way from his cabin an open glade was full of deer-licks, and an hour or two of idle waiting was generally rewarded by a shot at a fine deer, which would furnish meat for a week, and material for breeches and shoes. His cabin was like that of other pioneers. A few three-legged stools; a bedstead made of poles stuck between the logs in the angle of the cabin, the outside corner supported by a crotched stick driven into the ground; the table, a huge hewed log standing on four legs; a pot, kettle, and skillet, and a few tin and pewter dishes were all the furniture. The boy Abraham climbed at night to his bed of leaves in the loft, by a ladder of wooden pins driven into the logs.

This life has been vaunted by poets and roman­cers as a happy and healthful one. Even Dennis Hanks, speaking of his youthful days when his only home was the half-faced camp, says, " I tell you, Billy, I enjoyed myself better then than I ever have since." But we may distrust the reminiscences of old settlers, who see their youth in the nattering light of distance. The life was neither enjoyable nor wholesome. The rank woods were full of ma­laria, and singular epidemics from time to time ravaged the settlements. In the autumn of 1818 the little community of Pigeon Creek was almost exterminated by a frightful pestilence called the milk-sickness, or, in the dialect of the country, "the milk-sick." It is a mysterious disease which has been the theme of endless wrangling among West­ern physicians, and the difficulty of ascertaining anything about it has been greatly increased by the local sensitiveness which forbids any one to admit

INDIANA 31

that any well-defined case has ever been seen in his chap. n. neighborhood, " although just over the creek (or in the next county) they have had it bad." It seems to have been a malignant form of fever attributed variously to malaria and to the eating of poisonous herbs by the cattle — attacking cattle as well as human beings, attended with violent retching and a burning sensation in the stomach, often ter­minating fatally on the third day. In many cases those who apparently recovered lingered for years with health seriously impaired. Among the Pioneers of Pigeon Creek, so ill-fed, ill-housed, and uncared for, there was little prospect of recovery from such a grave disorder. The Sparrows, hus­band and wife, died early in October, and Nancy Hanks Lincoln followed them after an interval of a few days. Thomas Lincoln made the coffins for his dead. " out of green lumber cut with a whip-saw," and they were all buried, with scant ceremony, in a little clearing of the forest. It is related of young Abraham, that he sorrowed most of all that his mother should have been laid away with such maimed rites, and that he contrived several months later to have a wandering preacher named David Elkin brought to the settlement, to deliver a funeral sermon over her grave, already white with the early winter snows.1

This was the dreariest winter of his life, for before the next December came his father had brought from Kentucky a new wife, who was to

1 A stone has been placed over Hanks Lincoln, mother of Presi-
the site of the grave "by P. E. dent Lincoln, died October 5th,
Studebaker, of South Bend, In- A. D. 1818, aged 35 years,
diana. The stone bears the Erected by a friend of her mar-
following inscription: "Nancy tyred son, 1879."

32 ABBAHAM LINCOLN

chap. ii. change the lot of all the desolate little family very much for the better. Sarah Bush had been an acquaintance of Thomas Lincoln before his first marriage; she had, it is said, rejected him to marry one Johnston, the jailer at Elizabethtown, who had died, leaving her with three children, a boy and two girls. When Lincoln's widowhood had lasted a year, he went down to Elizabethtown to begin again the wooing broken off so many years before. He wasted no time in preliminaries, but promptly made his wishes known, and the next morning they were married. It was growing late in the autumn, and the pioneer probably dreaded another lonely winter on Pigeon Creek. Mrs. Johnston was not altogether portionless. She had a store of household goods which filled a four-horse wagon borrowed of Ralph Grume, Thomas Lincoln's brother-in-law, to transport the bride to Indiana. It took little time for this energetic and honest Christian woman to make her influence felt, even in those discouraging surroundings, and Thomas Lincoln and the children were the better for her coming all the rest of their lives. The lack of doors and floors was at once corrected. Her honest pride inspired her husband to greater thrift and industry. The goods she brought with her com­pelled some effort at harmony in the other fittings of the house. She dressed the children in warmer clothing and put them to sleep in comfortable beds. With this slight addition to their resources the fam­ily were much improved in appearance, behavior, and self-respect.

Thomas Lincoln joined the Baptist church at 1823. Little Pigeon in 1823 ; his oldest child, Sarah, fol-



SAKAH BUSH LINCOLN AT THE AGE OF SEVENTY-SIX.

INDIANA 33

lowed his example three years later. They were chap. it.
known as active and consistent members of that
communion. Lincoln was himself a good carpenter M%.J^ter
when he chose to work at his trade; a walnut table t!v. ko!>
made by him is still preserved as part of the furni- etor°of'&es"
ture of the church to which he belonged. Pigeon

Such a woman as Sarah Bush could not be care- church. less of so important a matter as the education of her children, and they made the best use of the scanty opportunities the neighborhood afforded. "It was a wild region/7 writes Mr. Lincoln, in one of those rare bits of autobiography which he left behind him, " with many bears and other wild ani­mals still in the woods. There were some schools so-called, but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond (reading writing and cipherin* to the Eule of Three.' If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard. There was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education." But in the case of this ungainly boy there was no necessity of any external incen­tive. A thirst for knowledge as a means of rising in the world was innate in him. It had nothing to do with that love of science for its own sake which has been so often seen in lowly savants, who have sacrificed their lives to the pure desire of knowing the works of Gf-od. All the little learning he ever acquired he seized as a tool to better his condition. He learned his letters that he might read books and see how men in the great world outside of his woods had borne themselves in the fight for which he longed. He learned to write, first, that he might have an accomplishment his

vol. 1—3

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   45


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page