Page images

Griggsby and died in childbirth a year later. Thomas, the third child, died when only three days old.

When Abraham was about seven years old his father became restless and went across the river into Indiana to look for a new home. It has been represented by some of Lincoln's biographers that the motive of his removal was his dislike of slavery; that he wished to remove his son from its influence; but Lincoln attributed the determination to other reasons, particularly his father's difficulty in securing a valid title to his land. It is quite as probable that, like other men of his temperament, he thought he could do better in a new place; like other rolling stones, that he could gather more moss in a new soil. He found a purchaser for his farm who gave him in payment twenty dollars in money and ten barrels of whiskey, which Thomas Lincoln loaded upon a flat-boat, with his household furniture, floating it down Knob Creek to Rolling Fork, to Salt River, to the Ohio River, and down the Ohio to Thompson's Ferry in Perry County, Indiana. The boat upset on the way and part of the whiskey and some of his carpenter tools were lost. He plunged into the forest, found a location that suited him about sixteen miles from the river, called Pigeon Creek, where he left his property with a settler, and, as his boat could not float upstream, he sold it and walked back to Hodgensville to get his wife and two children. He secured a wagon and two horses, in which he carried his family and whatever of his household effects were then remaining.

Arriving at his location, which was a piece of timber land a mile and a half east of what is now Gentryville, Spencer County, he built a log cabin fourteen feet square, open to the weather on one side, and without windows or chimney. This was Abraham Lincoln's third home, and the family lived in that rude, primitive way for more than a year, managing to raise a patch of corn and a few vegetables during the following summer, which,

with corn meal ground at a hand grist-mill seven miles away, were their chief food. Game, however, was abundant. The streams were full of fish and wild fruits could be gathered in the forest. The future President of the United States slept upon a heap of dry leaves in a narrow loft at one end of the cabin, to which he climbed by means of pegs driven into the wall. A year after his arrival Thomas Lincoln entered the quarter section of land he occupied and made his first payment under what was familiarly known as the "two-dollar-an-acre law," but it was eleven years before he could pay enough to obtain a patent for half of it. He then erected a permanent home of logs which was comparatively comfortable and was perhaps as good as those occupied by most of his neighbors.

In the fall of 1818 the little community of pioneers was almost exterminated by an epidemic known as " milk sickness," and among the victims was Nancy Hanks Lincoln, who was buried with her neighbors in a little clearing in the forest in a coffin made of green lumber, cut with a whip-saw by her husband. There were no ceremonies at her burial, but several months later Abraham, then ten years old, wrote to Parson David Elkin, the itinerant Free-will Baptist preacher at Hodgensville, of his mother's death, and begged him to come to Indiana and preach her funeral sermon. Nancy Lincoln must have been highly esteemed or this poor parson would not have come a hundred miles through the wilderness in answer to this summons from her child, for several months later he appeared according to appointment, and all the settlers for many miles around assembled to hear him. It was the most important event that had ever occurred in the community and was remembered longer than any other.

The death of Mrs. Lincoln left the child Sarah, then only eleven years old, to care for the household, and, with the assistance of her brother, she struggled through

[graphic][merged small]

ROCK SPRING FARM, KENTUCKY, WHERE ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS BORN From a photograph taken in September, 1895. The cabin in which Lincoln was born is seen to the right, in the background



the next year until the autumn of 1819, when their father returned to Hodgensville and married Sally Bush Johnston, a widow with three children (John, Sarah, and Matilda), whom he had courted before he married Nancy Hanks. She seems to have been a woman of uncommon energy and nobility of character, and in after-life her step-son paid her a worthy tribute when he said that the strongest influence which stimulated and guided him in his ambition came from her and from his own mother. Under her management conditions improved. She brought a little property and some household goods into the family as well as three children, stimulated her husband to industry, and taught his children habits of order, cleanliness, and thrift. There was never any friction between her and her step-children, and her own brood, John, Sarah, and Matilda, were received cordially and treated with affection. Nor in their after-lives was any distinction made by either of the parents. The step-mother recognized in Abraham a boy of unusual talent, and encouraged and assisted him by every means within her power.

Abraham's life was spent at hard labor. He was a boy of unusual stature and, from the time he was ten years old, did a man's work. He learned all the tricks in the trades that a pioneer's son must know; hired out upon the neighboring farms when there was nothing for him to do at home, and his wages (twenty-five cents a day) were paid to his father. He cared little for amusement, and hunting, which was the chief recreation of young men of his age, had no attractions for him. In his brief autobiography, which was prepared for the newspapers the day after his nomination for the Presidency, he says,

"A flock of wild turkeys approached the new log cabin, and Abraham, with a rifle gun, standing inside, shot through the cracks and killed one of them. He has never since pulled a trigger on any larger game."

« PreviousContinue »