Page images
[ocr errors]




Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln. Their residence in Pennsylvania and
Virginia. His Grandfather Crosses the Alleghanies to join Boone
and his Associates.-"The Dark and Bloody Ground.”—His Vio-
lent Death. His Widow Settles in Washington County.--Thomas
Lincoln, his Son, Marries and Locates near Hodgenville.—Birth of
Abraham Lincoln.-La Rue County.-His Early Life and Training
in Kentucky.

THE ancestors of ABRAHAM LINCOLN were of English
descent. We find the earliest definite traces of them in Berks
county, Pennsylvania, though this was almost certainly not the
first place of their residence in this country. Their location,
and their adherence to the Quaker faith, make it probable
that the original emigration occurred under the auspices of
William Penn. It was doubtless a branch of the same family
that, leaving England under different religious impulses, but
with the same adventurous and independent spirit, settled, at
an earlier date, in Old Plymouth Colony. The separation may
possibly have taken place this side of the Atlantic, and not
beyond. Some of the same traits appear conspicuously in both
these family groups. One tradition indeed affirms that the
Pennsylvania branch was transplanted from Hingham, Massa-
chusetts, and was derived from a common stock with General
Benjamin Lincoln, of Revolutionary fame. There is a notice-
able coincidence in the general prevalence, in each American
branch, of Scriptural names in christening-the Benjamin,
Levi, and Ezra, of Massachusetts, having their counterpart in
the Abraham, Thomas, and Josiah, of Virginia and Kentucky.
The peculiarity is one to have been equally expected among
sober Friends, and among zealous Puritans.

Berks county was not very long the home of Mr. Lincoln's immediate progenitors. There can hardly have been more than a slender pioneer settlement there, when one or more of the number made another remove, not far from the year 1750, to what is now Rockingham county, Virginia. Old Berks was first settled about 1734-then, too, as a German colony-and was not organized as a county until 1752; before which date, according to family traditions, this removal to Virginia took place.

This, it will be observed, was pre-eminently a pioneer stock, evidently much in love with backwoods adventure, and constantly courting the dangers and hardships of forest life.

Rockingham county, Virginia, though situated in the beautiful valley of the Shenandoah, and inviting, by its natural resources, the advances of civilization, must nevertheless have been, at the time just mentioned, in the very heart of the wilderness. Now, it is one of the most productive counties of Virginia, having exceeded every other county in the State, according to the census of 1850, in its crops of wheat and hay. A branch of the family, it is understood, still remains there, to enjoy the benefits of so judicious a selection, and of the labors. and imperfectly requited endurances of these first settlers.

From this locality, about the year 1782, Abraham Lincoln, grandfather of him who was to make the name illustrious, started Westward across the Alleghanies, attracted by the accounts which had reached him of the wonderfully fertile and lovely country explored by Daniel Boone, on and near the Kentucky river. During all his lifetime, hitherto, he could have known little of any other kind of existence than that to which he had been educated as an adventurous frontiersman. The severe labor of preparing the heavily-timbered lands of Shenandoah for cultivation, the wild delights of hunting the then abundant game of the woods, and the exciting hazards of an uncertain warfare with savage enemies, had been almost the sole occupation of his rough and healthful life. Perhaps the settlements around him had already begun to be too far advanced for the highest enjoyment of his characteristic mode of living; or possibly, with others, he aspired to the possession

of more fertile fields, and to an easier subsistence. Whatever the reason, he set out at the time just stated, with his wife and several young children, on his long journey across the mountains, and over the broad valleys intervening between the Shenandoah and the Kentucky.

At this date, and for ten or twelve years later, the present State of Kentucky formed part of the old Commonwealth of Virginia. "The dark and bloody ground," as afterward named for better reasons than the fiction which assigns this meaning to its Indian appellation, had then been but recently entered upon by the white man. Its first explorer, Daniel Boone, whose very name suggests a whole world of romance and adventure, had removed, when a mere boy, among the earlier emigrants from Eastern Pennsylvania, to Berks county. Here he must have been a contemporary resident, and was perhaps an acquaintance, of some of the younger members of the Lincoln family. At all events, as substantially one of their own neighbors, they must have watched his later course with eager interest and sympathy, and caught inspiration from his exploits. At eighteen, Boone had again emigrated with his father, as before, to the banks of the Yadkin, a mountain river in the north-west of North Carolina, at just about the same date as the removal of the Lincolns to Virginia. Some years later, Boone, in his hunting excursions, had passed over and admired large tracts of the wilderness north of his home, and especially along a branch of the Cumberland river, within the limits of what is now Kentucky. It was not until 1769, however, that, with five associates, he made the thorough exploration of the Kentucky valley, which resulted in the subsequent settlements there. The glowing descriptions, which ultimately got abroad, of the incredible richness and beauty of these new and remote forest-climes of Trans-Alleghanian Virginia, and of their alluring hunting-grounds, must have early reached the ears of the boyhood-companions of Daniel Boone, and spread through the neighboring country. The stirring adventures of the pioneer hero, during the next five or six years, and the beginnings of substantial settlements in that far-west country, must have suggested new attractions thitherward, to the more

« PreviousContinue »