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he bought six hundred acres of land near Harrisonburg, in the original county of Augusta, of which the chief town was Staunton, just across the Blue Ridge from Charlottesville, not then boasting of its University or its Jefferson. The next three generations of this family were to differ widely in environment from the three which preceded. The nearest capital towns were Philadelphia — accessible by wild and tedious ways, across the Potomac and South Mountain — and Williamsburg, Virginia, to which the journey was compara.tively easy. On the west were the great Alleghanies, and a world unknown beyond. Here pioneer life was to begin anew, without advantage from nearness of seaboard or city.
John Lincoln lived until 1792, and had five sons: John and Jacob, who remained in Virginia, and Abraham, Isaac, and Thomas, who in early manhood moved on into remoter wilds across the mountains. Abraham entered three separate tracts of land in Kentucky, on one of which, in what is now Bullitt County, he settled about the year 1784. Here the rifle-shot of an Indian, who had stolen upon him unawares while at work, suddenly ended his days. His widow and their five children, all of whom were born in Virginia, thereupon moved to the neighborhood of relatives in Washington County. The oldest son, Mordecai, aged about fourteen at the time of his father's death, was legal heir to his titles of land — a nominal estate of seventeen hundred acres, promising to be of a value greater than the estate of any of his American ancestors, but proving, through conflicting or defective records and surveys, to be of little real worth. He became a man of prominence and good standing. * Josiah, the second son, early removed to Harrison County, Indiana; and two daughters, Mary and Nancy, married and settled in Kentucky. The youngest son, Thomas, a mere child when the family came from Virginia, was the father of President Lincoln.
*“I remember to have heard my uncle, Judge Paul I. Booker, remark to some hotheads when Lincoln was first elected President: "I do not know Abraham Lincoln, but if he is as good a man as his uncle Mordecai, whom I served with in the Legislature of Kentucky, you need have no fears.' "-W. F. Booker, Clerk of Washington County, Kentucky, to the writer, March 26, 1895.
Parentage — Childhood in Kentucky – Youth in Indiana.
Much has been inconsiderately written and said about Thomas Lincoln. The violent death of his father suddenly and sadly deranged the affairs of the family, and the loss of paternal care was especially unfortunate for one of such tender age. As he grew up, he became more unsettled and less thrifty than his brothers. Once, before he came to his majority, he went off to find his uncle Isaac in Eastern Tennessee; succeeded in his quest; and worked for a year or more on his uncle's farm. * Later, he was employed for a time in Elizabethtown, Hardin County, where he learned carpentry, and perhaps cabinet-making, in which he afterward showed some skill. He was not lacking in an honest inclination to earn his own living, though he was too readily content with what barely sufficed for the simplest wants. Reared to labor, much in the open air, and used to hardship, he had great physical strength, with a certain robust relish for the rough life of the border. He had no opportunity for even rudimentary schooling, yet he could write his
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*It was probably a son of this uncle whose name appears in the following quotation from the family record of a noted personage: “Married, at Greenville, by Mordecai Lincoln, Esq., on the 17th day of May, 1827, Andrew Johnson to Eliza McCardal.”
name legibly, as proved by his signature to the bond given on procuring his marriage license. He was a religious man, with human limitations; companionable, having a store of shrewd maxims and apt stories; and withal one of those peaceable men who are not to be scornfully trifled with. An octogenarian clerk of court, who knew him during his residence in Elizabethtown, said more than fifty years afterward: “He was a hale, hearty-looking man, of medium height, rather clumsy in his gait, and had a kind-looking face. He was a moderately good house-carpenter, some of his work remaining to this day in the neighborhood. He was quite illiterate, and was regarded as a very honest man.”
On the 12th of June, 1806, when in his twenty-ninth year, Thomas Lincoln was married to Nancy Hanks, six years younger, whom he had known from her childhood. The wedding was at “ Beechland,” near Springfield, in Washington County — the place of Richard Berry, in whose family she had lived as a ward for many years. It appears from The Genealogy of the Hanks Family* — the best authority known on this subject that she was born in Amelia County, Virginia, February 5, 1784, and was the youngest of nine children of Joseph Hanks by his wife Nancy, whose maiden name was Shipley. The father died in Nelson County, Kentucky, in 1793, and his will, of that date, naming all his children, is on file at Bardstown. Her mother dying not long after, Nancy went to live with Mrs. Berry, her mother's sister. This definite account of the parentage and early life of President Lincoln's mother sufficiently disposes of an unfortunate hallucination of Mr. Herndon. According to the personal description of Nancy Hanks by those who knew her, — all substantially agreeing, with one or two exceptions, due to mistaken identity, she was slight in form and rather above the medium height of her sex; her features were regular, her hair dark, and her brown eyes bright and gentle. She had a ready sense of the ludicrous, and there was a vein of pleasantry in her talk. She was amiable, devout, and naturally cheerful. Though living where education was slighted, she early learned to read — a slender fact on which weighty events were to depend.
*MS., compiled by Mrs. Caroline Hanks Hitchcock, of Cambridge, Mass., to whom thanks are due for information kindly furnished to the author.
For a year or two the wedded pair lived in Elizabethtown, where their first child, Sarah, was born, in 1807. The carpentry which detained them here being finished, the next year they went to live in another part of the county, occupying land in Nolin Creek valley, near “Hodgen's Mills” — bought before their marriage, and known to-day as Rock Spring Farm. Here, in a log cabin, their son Abraham was born on Sunday, the 12th day of February, 1809.
Much of the State was yet as wild and woody as when the Lincolns first crossed the mountains. The third President was still in office, and the Emperor, of whom he had lately purchased “ Louisiana,” was at the height of his power. This very year Bolivar, the South American Liberator, visited England and our Republic, intent upon political schemes which were to have fruit on his own continent and in Mexico. Henry Clay was just rising to high rank in the party called Republican, whose creed embraced the Resolutions of '98.