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Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln

NPS

Abraham Lincoln was born on Sunday, February 12, 1809, in a log cabin on his father's farm in what was at that time Hardin County (today Larue County) Kentucky. His parents were Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. He had an older sister, Sarah. In 1816, when Abraham was 7 years old, his parents moved to Perry County (later part of Spencer County) in southern Indiana, where his father bought land directly from the federal government. There, as Lincoln later described his life, he was "raised to farm work." His mother died in 1818, and his sister Sarah in childbirth in 1828. From here, Lincoln first traveled on a flatboat to New Orleans.

In 1830, when Abraham Lincoln was 21 years old, he migrated with his father and stepmother (Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln) and her children to Macon County, Illinois. After the discouragingly hard winter of 1830-31, the Lincolns started to return to Indiana, but stopped in Coles County, Illinois, where Abraham's parents lived out the rest of their lives.

In the spring of 1831, Lincoln left his parents to try to find his own way in life. He was again hired to take a flatboat of produce to New Orleans. After returning to Illinois from this successful journey, he settled in the small village of New Salem, where he had mixed success in a variety of callings. He had a partnership in a store-which failed, he served in the militia during the Black Hawk war, he was Postmaster, learned and practiced surveying, and considered being a blacksmith. Already in 1832, he first ran for a seat in the state legislature. He lost, but two years later, was successful, and was again in 1836. At the time of the 1834 campaign, he was encouraged to study law. In March of 1837, he was enrolled as an attorney, and that April, he moved to Springfield to begin his law practice.

While living in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln made the acquaintance of many people in different walks of life. Some of these people were to become his allies - and some his opponents - in political activities and in his work as a lawyer. In the years that he was getting established, Lincoln also met an attractive young woman named Mary Todd. They had many interests in common that brought them together and in 1842 they were married. Within the next year their first son, Robert, was born.

In 1844, Abraham purchased and took up residence with his family in the house on the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets. This was to be the only home he and his wife ever owned. Here the Lincolns had three more sons - Edward (Eddie), William (Willie), and Thomas (Tad). Their second son, Edward, died near the age of four in their Springfield home. When Lincoln was elected sixteenth President of the United States in 1860, the oldest boy, Robert, was away at college, while the other two, Willie and Tad, were still living with their parents. Lincoln was a loving and indulgent father and Mrs. Lincoln later wrote of him: "Mr. Lincoln was the kindest man and most loving husband and father in the world. He was very - exceedingly indulgent to his children. Chided or praised them for what they did - their acts, etc. He always said It is my pleasure that my children are free, happy and unrestrained by parental tyranny. Love is the chain whereby to bind a child to its parents.'"

On the morning of February 11, 1861, Lincoln was making his final preparations to depart from Springfield and to begin his fateful journey to the White House in Washington, D.C. The sky was full of low clouds and drizzling rain as he went to the train depot. There were about a thousand people gathered at the depot to see him off. They called for a speech and Lincoln made a brief address to the residents of Springfield from the rear platform of the train. Then the train pulled away and Lincoln left the place that had been his home for nearly 25 years. He was leaving Springfield to face formidable difficulties as President during the turbulent years of the Civil War.


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Did You Know?

Potrait of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass said Lincoln was "the first great man that I talked with in the United States freely, who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color." Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois