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and easy-going, but neither industrious nor enterprising. Unable to read until after his marriage, he invariably put on his lack of education all responsibility for his failures in life; and these were many. To his credit it should be said that he resolved that no child of his should ever be crippled as he had been for lack of knowledge of the commonest rudiments of learning.
While yet a lad, he hired himself to his uncle, Isaac Lincoln, then living on a claim that he had taken on Watauga Creek, a branch of the Holston River. Manual labor filled the years of Tom's young manhood. Felling forests, breaking up the soil, building the rude cabins of the time, and rearing the crops needed for the sustenance of the hardy settlers and their broods—these were the occupations of those years. The woods were thickly tenanted by bears, deer, catamounts, and other wild creatures, and so far as hunting was a diversion from toil, this amusement was ready in abundance. But hunting was necessary for procuring meat for the table and furs and skins for clothing and for barter with distant trading-posts. Thomas Lincoln was a laboring man, working for others, and compelled to take for wages whatever he could get in a region where every man wrought with his own hands and few hired from others.
Thomas Lincoln was married, in 1806, to Nancy Hanks, formerly of Virginia. The young bride was taken by her husband to a rude log cabin that he had built for himself near Nolin Creek, in what is now Larue County, Kentucky. The region was well
covered with timber, and, where cleared and planted, bore good harvests. It was a picturesque and rolling country, and some of the hills rise to the dignity of mountains. One of these is called Shiny Mountain and another is known as Blue Ball. Here and there were clearings, and smiling fields were gradually taking the place of pathless woods.
In this cabin, February 12, 1809, was born Abraham Lincoln, who was to be the 16th President of the United States. While he was yet an infant, the family removed to another log cabin, not far distant, and in these two homes Abraham Lincoln spent the first seven years of his life. One sister, Sarah, was a year older than he; and one brother, Thomas, two years younger, died in infancy. Mrs. Lincoln was described by her son Abraham as of medium stature, dark, with soft and rather mirthful eyes. She was a woman of great force of character and passionately fond of reading. Every book on which she could lay hands was eagerly read, and her son said, years afterwards, that his earliest recollection of his mother was of his sitting at her feet with his sister, drinking in the tales and legends that were read or related to them by the house-mother.
Theirs was a very humble and even povertystricken home. The mother was used to the rifle, and not only did she bring down the bear, or deer, and dress its flesh for the family table, but her skilful hand wrought garments and moccasins and headgear from the skins. The most vivid impression that we have of the mother of Abraham Lincoln is one of sadness, toil, and unremitting anxiety. That was a
hard life for a sensitive and slender woman which was led by the mother of the President. The country was very poor in all that makes life easy. The little family was far from any considerable settlement. Father and mother were alike religious and resolved to bring up their children in the fear of God; but places of Worship, schools, and all the meanis of even a common education were not near at hand. Mrs. Lincoln taught her two children their first lessons in the alphabet and spelling. When Abraham was in his seventh year, Zachariah Riney came into the vicinity and the lad was sent to his school. Riney was a Catholic, and the Protestant children that attended his humble school were withdrawn from the little log schoolhouse whenever any religious exercises were held. In later years, Lincoln spoke of this his first schoolmaster with respect and esteem, although Riney did not long continue to teach the future President. Later on, Caleb Hazel, a spirited and manly young fellow, succeeded Riney as teacher, and Abraham attended his school three months. So rare were opportunities for going to school in those days, that Lincoln never forgot the lessons he learned of Caleb Hazel and the pleasure that he felt in that great event of his life-going to school.
In those primitive times, preaching was usually had under the trees or in the cabins of those few who were so fortunate as to have a bigger roof than most of their neighbors. Lincoln was a full-grown lad when he first saw a church, and it was only from the lips of wandering preachers, devoted men of God,
that he heard the words of Christian doctrine, reproof, and admonition. At long intervals, Parson Elkin, a Baptist preacher, took his way through the region in which the Lincolns lived, and young Abraham, fascinated by hearing long discourses fall from the lips of the speaker, apparently without any previous study or preparation, never failed to travel far, if necessary, to attend on his simple services. The boy's first notions of public speaking were taken from the itinerant, and years afterwards the President referred to the preacher as the most wonderful man known to his boyish experience.
Thomas Lincoln wearied of his Kentucky home. There was great trouble in getting land titles; even Daniel Boone, the pioneer and surveyor of the land, upon whom had been conferred a great grant, was shorn of much of his lawful property, and a cloud was laid on nearly every man's right to own his homestead. Slavery, too, was asserting itself in the region, and, although a dislike for the institution of slavery did not unsettle Thomas Lincoln, it is likely that the fact that he was too poor to own slaves, and would be brought into direct relations with men who could own this peculiar kind of property, helped to make him dissatisfied with his surroundings. But the real cause of his hankering after a new home was probably his thriftlessness. Like many another pioneer, he saw something better far ahead. The tales of wonderfully rich soil, abundant game, fine timber, and rich pasturage that came to Kentucky from Indiana were just like the rosy reports of the riches and attractions of Kentucky that had enticed
the elder Lincolns from their home in Virginia, years before. So Thomas resolved to “pull up stakes" and move on, still to the westward.
Thomas found a new-comer who was willing to take his partly-improved farm and log cabin for ten barrels of whiskey and twenty dollars in cash. This represented three hundred dollars in value, and was the price that he had set upon his homestead. Whiskey made from corn was, in those days, one of the readiest forms of currency in the trading and barter continually going on among the settlers; and, even where drunkenness was almost unknown, the fiery spirit was regarded as a perfectly legitimate article of daily use and a substitute for money in trade. Aided by his boys, Thomas Lincoln built a flatboat, and, launching it on the turbid waters of the Rolling Fork, which empties into the Ohio, he loaded it with his ten barrels of whiskey and the heavier articles of household furniture. Then, pushing off alone, but followed by the hurrahs of his two children, he floated safely down to the Ohio. Here he met with a great disaster. Caught between eddying currents, and entangled in the snags and “sawyers” that beset the stream, Lincoln's frail craft was upset and much of his stuff was lost. With assistance, the boat was righted, and, with what had been saved from the wreck, Thomas Lincoln landed at Thompson's Ferry, found an ox-cart to transport his slender stock of valuables into the forest, and finally piled them in an oak-opening in Spencer County, Indiana, about eighteen miles from the river.