Learning Lincoln On-line

Topic:  Travel the Lincoln Heritage Trail-- The Journey to Indiana

1 ...Abraham Lincoln Life Story: 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."  He 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
Aesop's Fables, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, A Biography of George Washington, A History of the United States, The Laws of Indiana, and the Bible. 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

    In Abraham's 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 Boyhood Farm.

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 Indiana


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.





An adult age photograph of Dennis Hanks, Abraham's boyhood friend and cousin

Go to Macon County (Decatur) Illinois to see the Lincolns First Illinois Home

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