...Abraham Lincoln Life
The Journey to Indiana
Lincoln City, Indiana
One must remember that life in Indiana in the
early 1800's was very rugged. Thomas and Nancy Lincoln were sustenance
farmers, and Thomas also had carpenter skills. Everything they
attempted to grow was used for their own food. They had to build their
own cabins, clear their own land for fields. Young Abraham had to help
in chores. During the cold of winter, December of 1816, the Lincolns
made the move. Little Abraham was only 7 years old.
During this period, by his 11th year, Abraham was able to go to his
first organized school. The first book he is known to have read was
Life of George Washington,
loaned to him by the teacher. This book affected him and perhaps set in
motion a longer journey to Washington, as our President.
Wooded trail leading to Lincoln's Boyhood farm
The Memorial Visitor's Center greets visitors
Abraham Lincoln and Learning
The young Abraham had a zeal for learning and even though
he had little formal schooling, he would learn to read and cipher
"By the Light of the Fire."
would read all the books he could get his hands on throughout the rest of his
life. Finding such books would require searching within up to thirty miles of
his home in Indiana. There were no libraries or stores as we enjoy today.
Lincoln's uneducated parents encouraged his eagerness for knowledge. They
saw to it that he and his sister attended schools organized by wandering
teachers, regardless of the cost. Unfortunately, such schools never continued
for very long.
Readin' writn' and ciphern' were not popular with people in Lincoln's
pioneer area. Abe would often get chided about his desire to learn and read.
His zealousness was the result of a strong personal purpose or goal in life. "I
don't know who my grandfather was," he observed. "I am much more concerned to
know what his grandson will be." The society he was raised in while in Indiana
couldn't meet his learning needs, but the books he would find and read would
provide the information he needed to know what the world had to offer and how to
live in it. "I will study and get ready, and some day my chance will come," he
answered the taunts of his friends who assured him that he was wasting his time
"reading and learning."
Lincoln was mostly self-educated. He read over and over the few books he
could find. These included
Adventures of Robinson Crusoe,
A Biography of George Washington,
History of the United States,
The Laws of Indiana,
As a young man, Abe realized at a very young age, that his success in life would
depend upon his education. His Indiana years would allow Abraham to prepare
himself for his future journey to Washington D.C., even though he would not be
aware of this until later in the Illinois years.
Abraham Loses His Mother to Milk Sickness
short autobiography he summarizes the sad experiences of growing up in Indiana.
"My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks....
My father ... removed from Kentucky to ... Indiana, in my eighth year.... It was
a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There
I grew up.... Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I
could read, write, and cipher ... but that was all."
Nancy Hanks Lincoln would die of the dreaded milk sick, in which victims
would eat the meat of, or drink the milk of cows infected with the poison of the
snake root plant that lived in the wooded areas. There was no cure for this
disease and the victims would get sick and often die of the fever. His mother,
although illiterate, is known to have encouraged young Abraham to learn, and
enrolled him in any schools available. She is buried at the Lincoln, Indiana
The sign indicating the graveyard of Nancy Hanks Lincoln
The faded tombstone of our President's mother
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
on the Lincoln Heritage Highway
This beautiful site has several components including a large
visitor's center, the grave of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and a living farm. The
arrangement of the large site is by a series of 12 stones in a trail. Each
stone comes from a structure that was part of the Lincoln's life, including New
Salem and Washington D.C.
Sites and Scenes from the Boyhood National Memorial Farm
Pictures by Howard Taylor
View of cabin much like what the Lincolns would live in while at
Another view of the small cabin.
The living farm has livestock including
horses, chickens and oxen
Interpreters have a Lincoln era farm garden
Thomas returned to Kentucky and married a widow, Sarah
Bush Johnston, who brought three children to his Indiana home. In 1830 the
threat of another milk sickness epidemic and the promise of good lands in
Illinois brought Thomas and his family to Illinois.
Thomas would travel to Kentucky to find a new wife and would marry
Sarah Bush Johnston. She was a widower with three children.
adult age photograph of Dennis Hanks, Abraham's boyhood friend and
Go to Macon County (Decatur) Illinois to see the
Lincolns First Illinois Home
Heritage Trail Home Page
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