The Story of Young Abraham Lincoln

Wayne Whipple



Xist Publishing



ISBN: 978-1-68195-538-4


This edition published in 2015 by Xist Publishing


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Irvine, CA 92602




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The Story of Young Abraham Lincoln / Wayne Whipple.

ISBN 978-1-68195-538-4

Xist Publishing is a digital-first publisher. Xist Publishing creates books for the touchscreen generation and is dedicated to helping everyone develop a lifetime love of reading, no matter what form it takes.






Table of Contents



I.      Abraham Lincoln's Forefathers      

II.      Abraham Lincoln's Father and Mother      

III.      The Boy Lincoln's Best Teacher      

IV.      Learning to Work      

V.      Losing His Mother      

VI.      School Days Now and Then.      

VII.      Abe and the Neighbors      

VIII.      Moving to Illinois      

IX.      Starting Out for Himself      

X.      Clerking and Working      

XI.      Politics, War, Storekeeping, and Studying Law      

XII.      Buying and Keeping a Store      

XIII.      The Young Legislator in Love.      

XIV.      Moving to Springfield      

XV.      Lincoln & Herndon      

XVI.      His Kindness of Heart      

XVII.      What Made the Difference Between Abraham Lincoln and His Stepbrother      

XVIII.      How Emancipation Came to Pass      

XIX.      The Glory of Gettysburg      

XX.      "No End of a Boy"      

XXI.      Lieutenant Tad Lincoln, Patriot

Book Club Discussion Guide

Book Club Discussion Questions



Lincoln From New and Unusual Sources

The boy or girl who reads to-day may know more about the real Lincoln than his own children knew. The greatest President's son, Robert Lincoln, discussing a certain incident in their life in the White House, remarked to the writer, with a smile full of meaning:

"I believe you know more about our family matters than I do!"

This is because "all the world loves a lover"—and Abraham Lincoln loved everybody. With all his brain and brawn, his real greatness was in his heart. He has been called "the Great-Heart of the White House," and there is little doubt that more people have heard about him than there are who have read of the original "Great-Heart" in "The Pilgrim's Progress."

Indeed, it is safe to say that more millions in the modern world are acquainted with the story of the rise of Abraham Lincoln from a poorly built log cabin to the highest place among "the seats of the mighty," than are familiar with the Bible story of Joseph who arose and stood next to the throne of the Pharaohs.

Nearly every year, especially since the Lincoln Centennial, 1909, something new has been added to the universal knowledge of one of the greatest, if not the greatest man who ever lived his life in the world. Not only those who "knew Lincoln," but many who only "saw him once" or shook hands with him, have been called upon to tell what they saw him do or heard him say. So hearty was his kindness toward everybody that the most casual remark of his seems to be charged with deep human affection—"the touch of Nature" which has made "the whole world kin" to him.

He knew just how to sympathize with every one. The people felt this, without knowing why, and recognized it in every deed or word or touch, so that those who have once felt the grasp of his great warm hand seem to have been drawn into the strong circuit of "Lincoln fellowship," and were enabled, as if by "the laying on of hands," to speak of him ever after with a deep and tender feeling.

There are many such people who did not rush into print with their observations and experiences. Their Lincoln memories seemed too sacred to scatter far and wide. Some of them have yielded, with real reluctance, in relating all for publication in The Story of Young Abraham Lincoln only because they wished their recollections to benefit the rising generation.

Several of these modest folk have shed true light on important phases and events in Lincoln's life history. For instance, there has been much discussion concerning Lincoln's Gettysburg Address—where was it written, and did he deliver it from notes?

Now, fifty years after that great occasion, comes a distinguished college professor who unconsciously settles the whole dispute, whether Lincoln held his notes in his right hand or his left—if he used them at all!—while making his immortal "little speech." To a group of veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic he related, casually, what he saw while a college student at Gettysburg, after working his way through the crowd of fifteen thousand people to the front of the platform on that memorable day. From this point of vantage he saw and heard everything, and there is no gainsaying the vivid memories of his first impressions—how the President held the little pages in both hands straight down before him, swinging his tall form to right, to left and to the front again as he emphasized the now familiar closing words, "of the people—by the people—for the people—shall not perish from the earth."

Such data have been gathered from various sources and are here given for the first time in a connected life-story. Several corrections of stories giving rise to popular misconceptions have been supplied by Robert, Lincoln's only living son. One of these is the true version of "Bob's" losing the only copy of his father's first inaugural address. Others were furnished by two aged Illinois friends who were acquainted with "Abe" before he became famous. One of these explained, without knowing it, a question which has puzzled several biographers—how a young man of Lincoln's shrewd intelligence could have been guilty of such a misdemeanor, as captain in the Black Hawk War, as to make it necessary for his superior officer to deprive him of his sword for a single day.

A new story is told by a dear old lady, who did not wish her name given, about herself when she was a little girl, when a "drove of lawyers riding the old Eighth Judicial District of Illinois," came to drink from a famous cold spring on her father's premises. She described the uncouth dress of a tall young man, asking her father who he was, and he replied with a laugh, "Oh, that's Abe Lincoln."

One day in their rounds, as the lawyers came through the front gate, a certain judge, whose name the narrator refused to divulge, knocked down with his cane her pet doll, which was leaning against the fence. The little girl cried over this contemptuous treatment of her "child."

Young Lawyer Lincoln, seeing it all, sprang in and quickly picked up the fallen doll. Brushing off the dust with his great awkward hand he said, soothingly, to the wounded little mother-heart:

"There now, little Black Eyes, don't cry. Your baby's alive. See, she isn't hurt a bit!"

That tall young man never looked uncouth to her after that. It was this same old lady who told the writer that Lawyer Lincoln wore a new suit of clothes for the first time on the very day that he performed the oft-described feat of rescuing a helpless hog from a great deep hole in the road, and plastered his new clothes with mud to the great merriment of his legal friends. This well-known incident occurred not far from her father's place near Paris, Illinois.

These and many other new and corrected incidents are now collected for The Story Of Young Abraham Lincoln, in addition to the best of everything suitable that was known before—as the highest patriotic service which the writer can render to the young people of the United States of America.

Wayne Whipple.




CHAPTER I Abraham Lincoln's Forefathers

Lincoln's grandfather, for whom he was named Abraham, was a distant cousin to Daniel Boone. The Boones and the Lincolns had intermarried for generations. The Lincolns were of good old English stock. When he was President, Abraham Lincoln, who had never given much attention to the family pedigree, said that the history of his family was well described by a single line in Gray's "Elegy":

"The short and simple annals of the poor."

Yet Grandfather Abraham was wealthy for his day. He accompanied Boone from Virginia to Kentucky and lost his life there. He had sacrificed part of his property to the pioneer spirit within him, and, with the killing of their father, his family lost the rest. They were "land poor" in the wilderness of the "Dark-and-Bloody-Ground"—the meaning of the Indian name, "Ken-tuc-kee."

Grandfather Lincoln had built a solid log cabin and cleared a field or two around it, near the Falls of the Ohio, about where Louisville now stands. But, in the Summer of 1784, the tragic day dawned upon the Lincolns which has come to many a pioneer family in Kentucky and elsewhere. His son Thomas told this story to his children:


"My father—your grandfather, Abraham Lincoln—come over the mountains from Virginia with his cousin, Dan'l Boone. He was rich for them times, as he had property worth seventeen thousand dollars; but Mr. Boone he told Father he could make a good deal more by trappin' and tradin' with the Injuns for valuable pelts, or fur skins.

"You know, Dan'l Boone he had lived among the Injuns. He was a sure shot with the rifle so's he could beat the redskins at their own game. They took him a prisoner oncet, and instead of killin' him, they was about ready to make him chief—he pretended all the while as how he'd like that—when he got away from 'em. He was such a good fellow that them Injuns admired his shrewdness, and they let him do about what he pleased. So he thought they'd let Father alone.

"Well, your grandfather was a Quaker, you see, and believed in treatin' them red devils well—like William Penn done, you know. He was a man for peace and quiet, and everything was goin' smooth with the tribes of what we called the Beargrass Country, till one day, when he and my brothers, Mordecai—'Mord' was a big fellow for his age—and Josiah, a few years younger—was out in the clearin' with the oxen, haulin' logs down to the crick. I went along too, but I didn't help much—for I was only six.

"Young as I was, I remember what happened that day like it was only yesterday. It come like a bolt out of the blue. We see Father drop like he was shot—for he was shot! Then I heard the crack of a rifle and I saw a puff of smoke floatin' out o' the bushes.

"Injuns!" gasps Mord, and starts on the run for the house—to get his gun. Josiah, he starts right off in the opposite direction to the Beargrass fort—we called it a fort, but it was nothin' but a stockade. The way we boys scattered was like a brood o' young turkeys, or pa'tridges, strikin' for cover when the old one is shot. I knowed I'd ought to run too, but I didn't want to leave my father layin' there on the ground. Seemed like I'd ought to woke him up so he could run too. Yet I didn't feel like touchin' him. I think I must 'a' knowed he was dead.

"While I was standin' still, starin' like the oxen, not knowin' what to do, a big Injun come out o' the brush, with a big knife in his hand. I knowed what he was goin' to do—skelp my father! I braced up to 'im to keep 'im away, an' he jist laffed at me. I never think what the devil looks like without seein' that red demon with his snaky black eyes, grinnin' at me!


"He picked me up like I was a baby an set me on the sawlog, an' was turnin' back to skelp Father, when—biff!—another gun-crack—and Mr. Big Indian he drops jist like your grandfather did, only he wriggles and squirms around, bitin' the dust—like a big snake for all the world!

"I was standin' there, kind o' dazed, watchin' another puff o' white smoke, comin' out between two logs in the side of our house. Then I knowed 'Mord' had shot my Injun. He had run in, got the gun down off'n the wall, an' peekin' out through a crack, he sees that Injun takin' hold o' me. Waitin' till the ol' demon turns away, so's not to hit me, 'Mord' he aims at a silver dangler on Mr. Injun's breast and makes him drop in his tracks like I said. Your Uncle 'Mord' he was a sure shot—like Cousin Dan'l Boone.

"Then I hears the most blood-curdlin' yells, and a lot o' red devils jump out o' the bushes an' come for me brandishin' their tomahawks an' skelpin' knives. It was like hell broke loose. They had been watchin' an', of course, 'twas all right to kill Father, but when 'Mord' killed one o' their bucks, that made a big difference. I had sense enough left to run for the house with them Injuns after me. Seemed like I couldn't run half as fast as usual, but I must 'a' made purty good time, from what 'Mord' an' Mother said afterward.

"He said one was ahead o' the rest an' had his tomahawk raised to brain me with it when—bing!—an' 'Mord' fetches him down like he did the fellow that was goin' to skelp Father. That made the others mad an' they took after me, but 'Mord' he drops the head one jist when he's goin' to hit me. But all I knowed at the time was that them red devils was a-chasin' me, and I'd got to 'leg it' for dear life!

"When I gits near enough to the house, I hears Mother and 'Mord' hollerin' to make me run faster and go to the door, for Mother had it open jist wide enough to reach out an' snatch me in—when the third Injun was stoopin' to grab me, but 'Mord' makes him bite the dust like the others.

"My, but wasn't them Injuns mad! Some of 'em sneaked around behind the house—they had to give 'Mord's' gun a wide berth to git there!—but he could only protect the front—and was a-settin' fire to our cabin to smoke us out or roast us alive, jist when the soldiers come with Josiah from the fort and saved our lives. Then the Injuns made 'emselves scurce—but they druv off the oxen and all our other stock.


"That was the breaking up of our family. None of us boys was old enough to take Father's place, an' Mother she was afraid to live there alone. Accordin' to the laws o' Virginia—Kentucky belonged to Virginia then—the oldest son got all the proputty, so 'Mord' he gets it all. He was welcome to it too, for he was the only one of us that could take care of it. 'Mord' he wasn't satisfied with killin' a few Injuns that day to revenge Father's death. He made a business of shootin' 'em on sight—a reg'lar Injun stalker! He couldn't see that he was jist as savage as the worst Injun, to murder 'em without waitin' to see whether Mr. Injun was a friend or a foe.

"Oncet when I told 'im there was good an' bad red men like they wuz good an' bad white men, he said I might jist as well say 'good devil' as 'good Injun!' He says 'the only good Injun's the dead Injun!'

"Well, the settlers must 'a' 'greed with 'Mord,' for they made him sheriff o' the county—he was sech a good shot, too—an' they 'lected him to the Legislatur' after Kentucky come in as a State. He stood high in the county. Folks didn't mind his shootin' an' Injun or two, more or less, when he got the chancet. They all looked on redskins like they was catamounts an' other pesky varmints.

"Your grandmother Lincoln an' Josiah an' me moved over into Washington County, but she had hard scrabblin' to git a livin'. Josiah he stayed with her, an' between him an' 'Mord,' they helped her along, but I had to git out and scratch for a livin'. From the time I was ten I was hired out to work for my 'keep,' an' anything else I could git. I knocked aroun' the country, doin' this, that an' t'other thing till I picked up carpenterin' o' Joseph Hanks, a cousin o' mine, an' there I met his sister Nancy, an' that's how she come to be your mother—an' 'bout how I come to be your father, too!"

Little is known today of Mordecai Lincoln, and there would be less interest in poor Thomas if he had not become the father of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. Mordecai Lincoln was a joker and humorist. One who knew him well said of him:

"He was a man of great drollery, and it would almost make you laugh to look at him. I never saw but one other man whose quiet, droll look excited in me the disposition to laugh, and that was 'Artemus Ward.'

"Mordecai was quite a story-teller, and in this Abe resembled his 'Uncle Mord,' as we called him. He was an honest man, as tender-hearted as a woman, and to the last degree charitable and benevolent.

"Abe Lincoln had a very high opinion of his uncle, and on one occasion remarked, 'I have often said that Uncle Mord had run off with all the talents of the family.'"

In a letter about his family history, just before he was nominated for the presidency, Abraham Lincoln wrote:

"My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families—second families, perhaps I should say. My mother was of a family of the name of Hanks. My paternal grandfather, Abraham Lincoln, emigrated from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Kentucky about 1781 or 2, where, a year or two later, he was killed by Indians—not in battle, but by stealth, when he was laboring to open a farm in the forest. His ancestors, who were Quakers, went to Virginia from Berks County, Pennsylvania. An effort to identify them with the New England family of the same name ended in nothing more definite than a similarity of Christian names in both families, such as Enoch, Levi, Mordecai, Solomon, Abraham, and the like.

"My father, at the death of his father, was but six years of age; and he grew up, literally without education."


CHAPTER II Abraham Lincoln's Father and Mother

While Thomas Lincoln was living with a farmer and doing odd jobs of carpentering, he met Nancy Hanks, a tall, slender woman, with dark skin, dark brown hair and small, deep-set gray eyes. She had a full forehead, a sharp, angular face and a sad expression. Yet her disposition was generally cheerful. For her backwoods advantages she was considered well educated. She read well and could write, too. It is stated that Nancy Hanks taught Thomas Lincoln to write his own name. Thomas was twenty-eight and Nancy twenty-three when their wedding day came. Christopher Columbus Graham, when almost one hundred years old, gave the following description of the marriage feast of the Lincoln bride and groom:

"I am one of the two living men who can prove that Abraham Lincoln, or Linkhorn, as the family was miscalled, was born in lawful wedlock, for I saw Thomas Lincoln marry Nancy Hanks on the 12th day of June, 1806. I was hunting roots for my medicine and just went to the wedding to get a good supper and got it.

"Tom Lincoln was a carpenter, and a good one for those days, when a cabin was built mainly with the ax, and not a nail or a bolt or hinge in it, only leathers and pins to the doors, and no glass, except in watches and spectacles and bottles. Tom had the best set of tools in what was then and is now Washington County.

"Jesse Head, the good Methodist minister that married them, was also a carpenter or cabinet maker by trade, and as he was then a neighbor, they were good friends.

"While you pin me down to facts, I will say that I saw Nancy Hanks Lincoln at her wedding, a fresh-looking girl, I should say over twenty. Tom was a respectable mechanic and could choose, and she was treated with respect.

"I was at the infare, too, given by John H. Parrott, her guardian, and only girls with money had guardians appointed by the court. We had bear meat; venison; wild turkey and ducks' eggs, wild and tame—so common that you could buy them at two bits a bushel; maple sugar, swung on a string, to bite off for coffee; syrup in big gourds, peach and honey; a sheep that the two families barbecued whole over coals of wood burned in a pit, and covered with green boughs to keep the juices in. Our table was of the puncheons cut from solid logs, and the next day they were the floor of the new cabin."

Thomas Lincoln took his bride to live in a little log cabin in a Kentucky settlement—not a village or hardly a hamlet—called Elizabethtown. He evidently thought this place would be less lonesome for his wife, while he was away hunting and carpentering, than the lonely farm he had purchased in Hardin County, about fourteen miles away. There was so little carpentering or cabinet making to do that he could make a better living by farming or hunting. Thomas was very fond of shooting and as he was a fine marksman he could provide game for the table, and other things which are considered luxuries to-day, such as furs and skins needed for the primitive wearing apparel of the pioneers. A daughter was born to the young couple at Elizabethtown, whom they named Sarah.

Dennis Hanks, a cousin of Nancy, lived near the Lincolns in the early days of their married life, and gave Mrs. Eleanor Atkinson this description of their early life together:

"Looks didn't count them days, nohow. It was stren'th an' work an' daredevil. A lazy man or a coward was jist pizen, an' a spindlin' feller had to stay in the settlemints. The clearin's hadn't no use fur him. Tom was strong, an' he wasn't lazy nor afeer'd o' nothin', but he was kind o' shif'less—couldn't git nothin' ahead, an' didn't keer putickalar. Lots o' them kind o' fellers in 'arly days, 'druther hunt and fish, an' I reckon they had their use. They killed off the varmints an' made it safe fur other fellers to go into the woods with an ax.

"When Nancy married Tom he was workin' in a carpenter shop. It wasn't Tom's fault he couldn't make a livin' by his trade. Thar was sca'cely any money in that kentry. Every man had to do his own tinkerin', an' keep everlastin'ly at work to git enough to eat. So Tom tuk up some land. It was mighty ornery land, but it was the best Tom could git, when he hadn't much to trade fur it.

"Pore? We was all pore, them days, but the Lincolns was porer than anybody. Choppin' trees an' grubbin' roots an' splittin' rails an' huntin' an' trappin' didn't leave Tom no time. It was all he could do to git his fambly enough to eat and to kiver 'em. Nancy was turrible ashamed o' the way they lived, but she knowed Tom was doin' his best, an' she wa'n't the pesterin' kind. She was purty as a pictur' an' smart as you'd find 'em anywhere. She could read an' write. The Hankses was some smarter'n the Lincolns. Tom thought a heap o' Nancy, an' he was as good to her as he knowed how. He didn't drink or swear or play cyards or fight, an' them was drinkin', cussin', quarrelsome days. Tom was popylar, an' he could lick a bully if he had to. He jist couldn't git ahead, somehow."


Evidently Elizabethtown failed to furnish Thomas Lincoln a living wage from carpentering, for he moved with his young wife and his baby girl to a farm on Nolen Creek, fourteen miles away. The chief attraction of the so-called farm was a fine spring of water bubbling up in the shade of a small grove. From this spring the place came to be known as "Rock Spring Farm." It was a barren spot and the cabin on it was a rude and primitive sort of home for a carpenter and joiner to occupy. It contained but a single room, with only one window and one door. There was a wide fireplace in the big chimney which was built outside. But that rude hut became the home of "the greatest American."

Abraham Lincoln was born to poverty and privation, but he was never a pauper. His hardships were those of many other pioneers, the wealthiest of whom suffered greater privations than the poorest laboring man has to endure to-day.

After his nomination to the presidency, Mr. Lincoln gave to Mr. Hicks, a portrait painter, this memorandum of his birth:

"I was born February 12, 1809, in then Hardin County, Kentucky, at a point within the now county of Larue, a mile or a mile and a half from where Hodgen's mill now is. My parents being dead, and my memory not serving, I know no means of identifying the precise locality. It was on Nolen Creek.

"A. Lincoln.

"June 14, 1860."

The exact spot was identified after his death, and the house was found standing many years later. The logs were removed to Chicago, for the World's Columbian Exposition, in 1893, and the cabin was reconstructed and exhibited there and elsewhere in the United States. The materials were taken back to their original site, and a fine marble structure now encloses the precious relics of the birthplace of "the first American," as Lowell calls Lincoln in his great "Commemoration Ode."

Cousin Dennis Hanks gives the following quaint description of "Nancy's boy baby," as reported by Mrs. Eleanor Atkinson in her little book on "Lincoln's Boyhood."

"Tom an' Nancy lived on a farm about two miles from us, when Abe was born. I ricollect Tom comin' over to our house one cold mornin' in Feb'uary an' sayin' kind o' slow, 'Nancy's got a boy baby.'

"Mother got flustered an' hurried up 'er work to go over to look after the little feller, but I didn't have nothin' to wait fur, so I cut an' run the hull two mile to see my new cousin.

"You bet I was tickled to death. Babies wasn't as common as blackberries in the woods o' Kaintucky. Mother come over an' washed him an' put a yaller flannel petticoat on him, an' cooked some dried berries with wild honey fur Nancy, an' slicked things up an' went home. An' that's all the nuss'n either of 'em got.

"I rolled up in a b'ar skin an' slep' by the fireplace that night, so's I could see the little feller when he cried an' Tom had to get up an' tend to him. Nancy let me hold him purty soon. Folks often ask me if Abe was a good lookin' baby. Well, now, he looked just like any other baby, at fust—like red cherry pulp squeezed dry. An' he didn't improve none as he growed older. Abe never was much fur looks. I ricollect how Tom joked about Abe's long legs when he was toddlin' round the cabin. He growed out o' his clothes faster'n Nancy could make 'em.

"But he was mighty good comp'ny, solemn as a papoose, but interested in everything. An' he always did have fits o' cuttin' up. I've seen him when he was a little feller, settin' on a stool, starin' at a visitor. All of a sudden he'd bu'st out laughin' fit to kill. If he told us what he was laughin' at, half the time we couldn't see no joke.

"Abe never give Nancy no trouble after he could walk excep' to keep him in clothes. Most o' the time he went bar'foot. Ever wear a wet buckskin glove? Them moccasins wasn't no putection ag'inst the wet. Birch bark with hickory bark soles, strapped on over yarn socks, beat buckskin all holler, fur snow. Abe'n me got purty handy contrivin' things that way. An' Abe was right out in the woods about as soon's he was weaned, fishin' in the creek, settin' traps fur rabbits an' muskrats, goin' on coon-hunts with Tom an' me an' the dogs, follerin' up bees to find bee-trees, an' drappin' corn fur his pappy. Mighty interestin' life fur a boy, but thar was a good many chances he wouldn't live to grow up."

When little Abe was four years old his father and mother moved from Rock Spring Farm to a better place on Knob Creek, a few miles to the northeast of the farm where he was born.


CHAPTER III The Boy Lincoln's Best Teacher

At Knob Creek the boy began to go to an "A B C" school. His first teacher was Zachariah Riney. Of course, there were no regular schools in the backwoods then. When a man who "knew enough" happened to come along, especially if he had nothing else to do, he tried to teach the children of the pioneers in a poor log schoolhouse. It is not likely that little Abe went to school more than a few weeks at this time, for he never had a year's schooling in his life. There was another teacher afterward at Knob Creek—a man named Caleb Hazel. Little is known of either of these teachers except that he taught little Abe Lincoln. If their pupil had not become famous the men and their schools would never have been mentioned in history.

An old man, named Austin Gollaher, used to like to tell of the days when he and little Abe went to school together. He said:

"Abe was an unusually bright boy at school, and made splendid progress in his studies. Indeed, he learned faster than any of his schoolmates. Though so young, he studied very hard."

Although Nancy Lincoln insisted on sending the children to school, when there was any, she had a large share in Abe's early education, just as she had taught his father to write his own name. She told them Bible stories and such others as she had picked up in her barren, backwoods life. She and her husband were too religious to believe in telling their children fairy tales.