THE EVERY-DAY LIFE OFABRAHAM LINCOLN
Ancestry—The Lincolns in Kentucky—Death of Lincoln's Grandfather—Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks—Mordecai Lincoln—Birth of Abraham Lincoln—Removal to Indiana—Early Years—Dennis Hanks—Lincoln's Boyhood—Death of Nancy Hanks—Early School Days—Lincoln's First Dollar— Presentiments of Future Greatness—Down the Mississippi—Removal to Illinois—Lincoln's Father— Lincoln the Storekeeper—First Official Act—Lincoln's Short Sketch of His Own Life.
The year 1809—that year which gave William E. Gladstone to England—was in our country the birthyear of him who wears the most distinguished name that has yet been written on the pages of American
history—ABRAHAM LINCOLN. In a rude cabin in a clearing, in the wilds of that section which was once the hunting-ground and later the battle-field of the Cherokees and other war-like tribes, and which the Indians themselves had named Kentucky because it was "dark and bloody ground," the greatWar President of the United States, after whose name History has written the word "Emancipator," first saw the light. Born and nurtured in penury, inured to hardship, coarse food, and scanty clothing,—the story of his youth is full of pathos. Small wonder that when asked in his later years to tell something of his early life, he replied by quoting a line from Gray's Elegy:
"The short and simple annals of the poor."
Lincoln's ancestry has been traced with tolerable certainty through five generations to Samuel Lincoln of 2Norfolk County, England. Not many years after the landing of the "Mayflower" at Plymouth— perhaps in the year 1638—Samuel Lincoln's son Mordecai had emigrated to Hingham, Massachusetts. Perhaps because he was a Quaker, a then persecuted sect, he did not remain long at Hingham, but came westward as far as Berks County, Pennsylvania. His son, John Lincoln, went southward from Pennsylvania and settled in Rockingham County, Virginia. Later, in 1782, while the last events of the American Revolution were in progress, Abraham Lincoln, son of John and grandfather of President Lincoln, moved into Kentucky and took up a tract of government land in Mercer County. In the Field Book of Daniel Boone, the Kentucky pioneer, (now in possession of theWisconsin Historical Society), appears the following note of purchase:
"Abraham Lincoln enters five hundred acres of land on a Treasury warrant on the south side of Licking Creek or River, in Kentucky."
At this time Kentucky was included within the limits and jurisdiction of Virginia. In 1775 Daniel Boone had built a fort at Boonesborough, on the Kentucky river, and it was not far from this site that Abraham Lincoln, President Lincoln's grandfather, located his claim and put up a rude log hut for the shelter of his family. The pioneers of Kentucky cleared small spaces and erected their humble dwellings. They had to contend not only with the wild forces of nature, and to defend themselves from the beasts of the forest,—more to be feared than either were the hostile Indians. The settlers were filled with terror of these stealthy foes. At home and abroad they kept their guns ready for instant use both night and day. Many a hard battle was fought between the Indian and the pioneer. Many an unguarded woodsman was shot down without warning while busy about his necessary work. 3Among these was Abraham Lincoln. The story of his death is related by Mr. I.N. Arnold. "Thomas Lincoln was with his father in the field when the savages suddenly fell upon them. Mordecai and Josiah, his elder brothers, were near by in the forest. Mordecai, startled by a shot, saw his father fall, and running to the cabin seized the loaded rifle, rushed to one of the loop-holes cut through the logs of the cabin, and saw the Indian who had fired. He had just caught the boy, Thomas, and was running toward the forest. Pointing the rifle through the logs and aiming at a medal on the breast of the Indian, Mordecai fired. The Indian fell, and springing to his feet the boy ran to the open arms of his mother at the cabin door. Meanwhile Josiah, who had run to the fort for aid, returned with a party of settlers. The bodies of Abraham Lincoln and the Indian who had been killed were brought in. From this time forth Mordecai Lincoln was the mortal enemy of the Indian, and it is said that he sacrificed many in revenge for the murder of his father."
In the presence of such dangers Thomas Lincoln spent his boyhood. He was born in 1778, and could not have been much more than four years old on that fatal day when in one swift moment his father lay dead beside him and vengeance had been exacted by his resolute boy brother. It was such experiences as these that made of the pioneers the sturdy men they were. They acquired habits of heroism. Their sinews became wiry; their nerves turned to steel. Their senses became sharpened. They grew alert, steady, prompt and deft in every emergency.
Of Mordecai Lincoln, the boy who had exhibited such coolness and daring on the day of his father's death, many stories are told after he reached manhood. "He was naturally a man of considerable genius," says one who knew him. "He was a man of great drollery. It would almost make you laugh to look at him. I never saw but 4one other man who excited in me the same disposition to laugh, and that was Artemus Ward. Abe Lincoln had a very high opinion of his uncle, and on one occasion remarked that Uncle Mord had run off with all the talents of the family."
Thomas Lincoln was twenty-eight years old before he sought a wife. His choice fell upon a young woman of twenty-three whose name was Nancy Hanks. Like her husband, she was of English descent. Like his, her parents had followed in the path of emigration from Virginia to Kentucky. The couple were married by the Rev. Jesse Head, a Methodist minister located at Springfield,Washington County, Kentucky. They lived for a time in Elizabethtown, but after the birth of their first child, Sarah, they removed to Rock Spring farm, on Nolin Creek, in Hardin (afterward LaRue) County. In this desolate spot, a strange and unlikely place for the birth of one destined to play so memorable a part in the history of the world, on the twelfth day of February, 1809, Abraham Lincoln the President was born.