« PreviousContinue »
LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
The early life of ABRAHAM LINCOLN was a hard and humble backwoods and border life. As a boy and as a young man, he was not fond of wild sports and exciting adventures. It is doubtless true that the earlier years of many of his neighbors and companions would be more engaging to the pen of the biographer and the imagination of the reader, than his. His later career, his noble character, his association with the grandest and most important events of American history, have alone, or mainly, given significance and interest to his youthful experiences of hardship, the humble processes of his education, and his early struggles with the rough forces of nature among which he was born. The tree which rose so high, and spread its leaves so broadly, and bore such golden fruit, and then fell before the blast because it was so heavy and so high, has left its roots upturned into the same light that glorifies its branches, and discovered and made divine the soil from which it drew its nutriment.
When Mr. Lincoln was nominated for the presidency of the United States in 1860, it became desirable that a sketch of his life should be prepared and widely distributed; but, upon being applied to for materials for this sketch, by the gentleman who had undertaken to produce it, * he seemed oppressed with a sense of their tameness and lowliness, and the conviction that they could not be of the slightest interest to the American people. “My early history,” said he, “is perfectly characterized by a single line of Gray's Elegy:
* J. L. Scripps, Esq., of Chicago.
His judgment then was measurably just; but events have set it aside, and endowed the humble details that seemed to him so common-place and mean, with a profound and tender in
ABRAHAM LINCOLN was born in that part of Hardin County, Kentucky, now embraced by the lines of the recently formed county of Larue, on the 12th of February, 1809. A region more remarkably picturesque was at that time hardly to be found in all the newly-opened country of the West. Variegated and rolling in its surface, about two-thirds of it timbered and fertile, the remainder composed of barrens, supporting only black-jacks and post-oaks, and spreading into plains, or rising into knolls or knobs, and watered by beautiful and abundant streams, it was as attractive to the eye of the lover of nature as to the enterprise of the agriculturist and the passion of the hunter. Some of the knobs rising out of the barrens reach a considerable elevation, and are dignified by the name of mountains. “Shiny Mountain” is one of the most lovely of these, giving a view of the whole valley of the Nolin. A still larger knob is the “Blue Ball," from whose summit one may see, on a fair morning, the fog rising from the Ohio River, twenty miles away.
In a rude log cabin, planted among these scenes, the subject of this biography opened his eyes. The cabin was situated on or near Nolin Creek, about a mile and a half from Hodgenville, the present county seat of Larue County. Here he spent the first year or two of his childhood, when he removed to a cabin on Knob Creek, on the road from Bardstown Kentucky, to Nashville, Tennessee; at a point three and a half miles south or southwest of Atherton's Ferry, (on the Rolling Fork,) and six miles from Hodgenville. It was in
these two homes* that he spent the first seven years of his life ; but before saying anything of those years, it will be best to tell how his parents found their way into the wilderness, and to record what is known of his family history.
In 1769, Daniel Boone, at the head of a small and hardy party of adventurers, set out from his home on the Yadkin River, in South Carolina, to explore that part of Virginia which he then knew as “The Country of Kentucky.” After participating in the most daring and dangerous adventures, and suffering almost incredible hardships, he returned, abundantly rewarded with peltry, in 1771. Two years after this, , he undertook to remove his family to the region which had entirely captivated his imagination ; but it was not until 1775 that his purpose was accomplished. This brave and widelyrenowned pioneer, with those who accompanied him and those who were attracted to the region by the reports which he had carried back to the Eastern settlements, lived a life of constant exposure to Indian warfare ; but danger seemed only to sharpen the spirit of adventure, and to attract rather than repel immigration.
Among those for whom “ The Country of Kentucky” had its savage charms was Abraham Lincoln, the grandfather of the President, then living in Rockingham County, Virginia. Why he should have left the beautiful and fertile valley of the Shenandoah for the savage wilds West of him cannot be known, but he only repeated the mystery of pioneer life-the greed for something newer and wilder and more dangerous than that which surrounded him. His removal to Kentucky took place about 1780. Of the journey, we have no record; but we know that at that date it must have been one of great hardship, as he was accompanied by a young and tender family. The spot upon which he built is not known, though it is believed to have been somewhere on Floyd's Creek, in what is now Bullitt County. Hardly more of his history is preserved than that which relates to his death. In 1784, while at work in the field, at a distance from his cabin, he was stealthily approached by an Indian, and shot dead.
*Mr. Lincoln, in the manuscript record of his life dictated to J. G. Nicolay, makes mention of but one home in Kentucky. Scripps' memoir, also gathered from Mr. Lincoln's lips, is silent on the subject; but Barrett's Campaign Life of Lincoln gives the statement circumstantially, and is probably correct.
The care of five helpless children was, by this murder, thrown upon his widow. She subsequently removed to a place now embraced within the limits of Washington County, and there she reared, in such rude ways as necessity prescribed, her little brood. Three of these children, sons, were named in the order of their birth, Mordecai, Josiah and Thomas. The two daughters were named respectively Mary and Nancy. Mordecai remained in Kentucky until late in life, but a short time before his death, removed to Hancock County, Illinois, where several of his descendants still reside. Josiah, the second son, removed while a young man to what is now Harrison County, Indiana. Thomas, the third son, was the father of Abraham Lincoln, the illustrious subject of this biography. Mary Lincoln was married to Ralph Crume, and Nancy to William Brumfield. The descendants of these women still reside in Kentucky. All these children were probably born in Virginia,—Thomas, in 1778,—so that he was only about two years old when his father emigrated.
Tracing the family still further, we find that Abraham, the emigrant, had four brothers : Isaac, Jacob, John and Thomas. The descendants of Jacob and John are supposed to be still in Virginia. Isaac emigrated to the region where Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee unite, and his descendants are there. Thomas went to Kentucky, probably later than his brother Abraham, where he lived many years, and where he died. His descendants went to Missouri.
Further back than this it is difficult to go. The most that is known, is, that the Lincolns of Rockingham County, Virginia, came, previous to 1752, from Berks County, Pennsylvania. Where the Lincolns of Berks County came from, no record has disclosed. They are believed to have been Quakers, but whether they were an original importation from Old Eng