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1816. That same winter Indiana was admitted to the Union as a State. There were as yet no roads worthy of the name to or from the settlement formed by himself and seven or eight neighbors at various distances. The village of Gentryville was not even begun. There was no sawmill to saw lumber. Breadstuff could be had only by sending young Abraham, on horseback, seven miles, with a bag of corn to be ground on a hand grist-mill. In the course of two or three years a road from Corydon to Evansville was laid out, running past the Lincoln farm; and perhaps two or three years afterward another from Rockport to Bloomington, crossing the former. This gave rise to Gentryville. James Gentry entered the land at the crossroads. Gideon Romine opened a small store, and their joint efforts succeeded in getting a post-office established, from which the village gradually grew. For a year after his arrival Thomas Lincoln remained a mere squatter. Then he entered the quarter-section (one hundred and sixty acres) on which he opened his farm, and made some payments on his entry, but only enough in eleven years to obtain a patent for one half of it.
About the time that he moved into his new cabin, relatives and friends followed from Kentucky, and some of them in turn occupied the half-faced camp. In the ensuing autumn much sickness prevailed in the Pigeon Creek settlement. It was thirty miles to the nearest doctor, and several persons died, among them Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the mother of young Abraham. The mechanical skill of Thomas was called upon to make the coffins, the necessary lumber for which had to be cut with a whip-saw.
The death of Mrs. Lincoln was a serious loss to her husband and children. Abraham's sister Sarah was
only eleven years old, and the tasks and cares of the little household were altogether too heavy for her years and experience. Nevertheless, they struggled on bravely through the winter and next summer, but in the autumn of 1819 Thomas Lincoln went back to Kentucky and married Sally Bush Johnston, whom he had known and, it is said, courted when she was merely Sally Bush. Johnston, to whom she was married about the time Lincoln married Nancy Hanks, had died, leaving her with three children. She came of a better station in life than Thomas, and is represented as a woman of uncommon energy and thrift, possessing excellent qualities both of head and heart. The household goods which she brought to the Lincoln home in Indiana filled a four-horse wagon. Not only were her own three children well clothed and cared for, but she was able at once to provide little Abraham and Sarah with home comforts to which they had been strangers during the whole of their young lives. Under her example and urging, Thomas at once supplied the yet unfinished cabin with floor, door, and windows, and existence took on a new aspect for all the inmates. Under her management and control, all friction and jealousy was avoided between the two sets of children, and contentment, if not happiness, reigned in the little cabin.
The new stepmother quickly perceived the superior aptitudes and abilities of Abraham. She became very fond of him, and in every way encouraged his marked inclination to study and improve himself. The opportunities for this were meager enough. Mr. Lincoln himself has drawn a vivid outline of the situation:
"It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up. There were some schools so called, but no qualifica
tion was ever required of a teacher beyond readin', writin', and cipherin' to the Rule 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."
As Abraham was only in his eighth year when he left Kentucky, the little beginnings he had learned in the schools kept by Riney and Hazel in that State must have been very slight—probably only his alphabet, or possibly three or four pages of Webster's "Elementary Spelling Book." It is likely that the multiplication table was as yet an unfathomed mystery, and that he could not write or read more than the words he spelled. There is no record at what date he was able again to go to school in Indiana. Some of his schoolmates think it was in his tenth year, or soon after he fell under the care of his stepmother. The school-house was a low cabin of round logs, a mile and a half from the Lincoln home, with split logs or "puncheons" for a floor, split logs roughly leveled with an ax and set up on legs for benches, and a log cut out of one end and the space filled in with squares of greased paper for window panes. The main light in such primitive halls of learning was admitted by the open door. It was a type of school building common in the early West, in which many a statesman gained the first rudiments of knowledge. Very often Webster's "Elementary Spelling Book" was the only text-book. Abraham's first Indiana school was probably held five years before Gentryville was located and a store established there. Until then it was difficult, if not impossible, to obtain books, slates, pencils, pen, ink, and paper, and their use was limited to settlers who had brought them when they came. It is reasonable to infer that the
Lincoln family had no such luxuries, and, as the Pigeon Creek settlement numbered only eight or ten families, there must have been very few pupils to attend this first school. Nevertheless, it is worthy of special note that even under such difficulties and limitations, the American thirst for education planted a school-house on the very forefront of every settlement.
Abraham's second school in Indiana was held about the time he was fourteen years old, and the third in his seventeenth year. By this time he probably had better teachers and increased facilities, though with the disadvantage of having to walk four or five miles to the school-house. He learned to write, and was provided with pen, ink, and a copy-book, and probably a very limited supply of writing-paper, for facsimiles have been printed of several scraps and fragments upon which he had carefully copied tables, rules, and sums from his arithmetic, such as those of long measure, land measure, and dry measure, and examples in multiplication and compound division. All this indicates that he pursued his studies with a very unusual purpose and determination, not only to understand them at the moment, but to imprint them indelibly upon his memory, and even to retain them in visible form for reference when the school-book might no longer be in his hands or possession.
Mr. Lincoln has himself written that these three different schools were "kept successively by Andrew Crawford, Swaney, and Azel W. Dorsey." Other witnesses state the succession somewhat differently. The important fact to be gleaned from what we learn about Mr. Lincoln's schooling is that the instruction given him by these five different teachers—two in Kentucky and three in Indiana, in short sessions of attendance scattered over a period of nine years—
WORK AND BOOKS
made up in all less than a twelvemonth. He said of it in 1860, "Abraham now thinks that the aggregate of all his schooling did not amount to one year.' This distribution of the tuition he received was doubtless an advantage. Had it all been given him at his first school in Indiana, it would probably not have carried him half through Webster's "Elementary Spelling Book." The lazy or indifferent pupils who were his schoolmates doubtless forgot what was taught them at one time before they had opportunity at another; but to the exceptional character of Abraham, these widely separated fragments of instruction were precious steps to self-help, of which he made unremitting use.
It is the concurrent testimony of his early companions that he employed all his spare moments in keeping on with some one of his studies. His stepmother says: "Abe read diligently. . He read every book he could lay his hands on; and when he came across a passage that struck him, he would write it down on boards, if he had no paper, and keep it there until he did get paper. Then he would rewrite it, look at it, repeat it. He had a copy-book, a kind of scrap-book, in which he put down all things, and thus preserved them." There is no mention that either he or other pupils had slates and slate-pencils to use at school or at home, but he found a ready substitute in pieces of board. It is stated that he occupied his long evenings at home doing sums on the fire-shovel. Iron fireshovels were a rarity among pioneers; they used, instead, a broad, thin clapboard with one end narrowed to a handle. In cooking by the open fire, this domestic implement was of the first necessity to arrange piles of live coals on the hearth, over which they set their “skillet" and "oven," upon the lids of which live coals were also heaped.