« PreviousContinue »
SITE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S BIRTHPLACE.
The House stood in front of the Pear Trees, which were planted by his Father.
have visited the now unmarked grave of this little one, along with his mother, before leaving Kentucky. These were the only children of Thomas Lincoln, either by the present or by a subsequent marriage, hereafter to be noticed. ABRAHAM has thus, for a long time, been the sole immediate representative of this hardy and energetic race.
LaRue county, named from an early settler, John LaRue, was set off and separately organized in 1843, the portion containing Mr. Lincoln's birthplace having been, up to that date, included in Hardin county. It is a rich grazing country in its more rolling and hilly parts, and the level surface produces good crops of corn and tobaccco. In the northern borders of the county, on the Rolling Fork of Salt river, is Muldrough's Hill, a noted eminence. Hodgenville, near which Mr. Lincoln was born, is a pleasantly situated town on Nolin creek, and a place of considerable business. About a mile above this town, on the creek, is a mound, or knoll, thirty feet above the banks of the stream, containing two acres of level ground, at the top of which there is now a house. Some of the early pioneers encamped on this knoll; and but a short distance from it a fort was erected by Philip Phillips, an emigrant from Pennsylvania, about 1780 or 1781, near the time Mr. Lincoln's ancestor arrived from Virginia. John LaRue came from the latter State, with a company of emigrants, and settled, not far from the same date, at Phillips' Fort. Robert Hodgen, LaRue's brother-in-law, purchased and occupied the land on which Hodgenville is built. Both these pioneers were men of sterling integrity, and high moral worth. They were consistent and zealous members of the Baptist church, and one of their associates, Benjamin Lynn, was a minister of the same denomination. Such were the influences under which, more than twenty years before Thomas Lincoln settled there, this little colony had been founded, and which went far to give the community its permanent character.
It is needless to rehearse the kind of life in which Abraham Lincoln was here trained. The picture is similar in all such settlements. In his case, there was indeed the advantage of a generation or two of progress, since his grandfather had
hazarded and lost his life in the then slightly broken wilderness. The State now numbered some 400,000 inhabitants, and had all the benefits of an efficient local administration, the want of which had greatly increased the dangers and difficulties of the first settlers. Henry Clay had already, though little more than thirty years of age, begun his brilliant political career, having then served for a year or two in the United States Senate.
Yet, with all these changes, the humble laborers, settled near "Hodgen's Mills," on Nolin Creek, had no other lot but incessant toil, and a constant struggle with nature in the still imperfectly reclaimed wilds, for a plain subsistence. Here the boy spent the first years of his childhood. With apparently the same frowning fortune which darkened the early days of Robert Burns, it was not destined that young Lincoln's father should succeed in these first endeavors to secure a competency. Even before the date of his earliest distinct recollections, he removed with his father to a place six miles distant from Hodgenville, which was also ere long to be surrendered, as we shall presently see, for a home in the far-off wilderness, and for frontier life, in its fullest and most significant meaning.
The period of ABRAHAM LINCOLN's Kentucky life extends through a little more than seven years, terminating with the autumn of 1816. If it be true as a rule (as Horace Mann was wont to maintain), that the experiences and instructions of the first seven years of every person's existence, do more to mold and determine his general character, than all subsequent training, then must we regard Mr. Lincoln as a Kentuckian (of the generation next following that of Clay), by his early impressions and discipline, no less than by birth.
In those days there were no common schools in that country. The principal reliance for acquiring the rudiments of learning was the same as that to which the peasant-poet of Ayrshire was indebted. Education was by no means disregarded, nor did young Lincoln, poor as were his opportunities, grow up an illiterate boy, as some have supposed. Competent teachers were accustomed to offer themselves then, as in later years, who opened private schools for a neighborhood, being sup
ported by tuition fees or subscription. During his boyhood days in Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln attended, at different times, at least two schools of this description, of which he has clear recollections. One of these was kept by Zachariah Riney, a Roman Catholic, whose peculiarities have not been wholly effaced from the memory of his since so distinguished pupil. But although this teacher was himself an ardent Catholic, he made no proselyting efforts in his school, and when any little religious ceremonies, or perhaps mere catechising and the like, were to be gone through with, all Protestant children, of whom, it is needless to say that young Abraham was one, were accustomed to retire, by permission or command. Riney was probably in some way connected with the movement of the "Trappists," who came to Kentucky in the autumn of 1805, and founded an establishment (abandoned some years later) under Urban Guillet, as superior, on Pottinger's Creek. They were active in promoting education especially among the poorer classes, and had a school for boys under their immediate supervision. This, however, had been abandoned before the date of Lincoln's first school-days, and it is not improbable that the private schools under Roman Catholic teachers were an offshoot of the original system adopted by these Trappists, who subsequently removed to Illinois.
Another teacher, on whose instructions the boy afterward attended, while living in Kentucky, was named Caleb Hazel. His was also a neighborhood school, sustained by private patronage.
With the aid of these two schools, and with such further assistance as he received at home, there is no doubt that he had become able to read well, though without having made any great literary progress, at the age of seven. That he was not a dull or inapt scholar, is manifest from his subsequent attainments. With the allurements of the rifle and the wild game which then abounded in the country, however, and with the meager advatages he had, in regard to books, it is certain that his perceptive faculties, and his muscular powers, were much more fully developed by exercise than his scholastic talents.