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Young Abraham Lincoln

The challenges of frontier life in Kentucky shaped the character of young Abraham Lincoln.

Look through the Young Abraham Lincoln information below and discover facts about his boyhood and growing up. When you’re done, click on the Quiz link at the bottom of the page to answer a few questions.

16th President Young Abraham Lincoln

Young Abraham Lincoln

Home: Lincoln Farm
Location: 2995 Lincoln Farm Road
Hodgenville, KY, 42748
Birthday: February 12, 1809

More Info Historical Notes

  • Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a one-room log cabin, near what is now Hodgenville, Kentucky.

    “I was born Feb. 12, 1809 in then Hardin county Kentucky, at a point within the now recently formed county of Larue, a mile, or a mile & a half from where Hodgin’sville now is…it was on Nolin Creek.” June 1860 for Thomas Hicks.

    Spring 1811: “The place on Knob Creek…I remember very well…My earliest recollection…is of the Knob Creek place.” Warren, 111-12; CW, IV, 70

  • The Lincoln family moved to Indiana when Abe was 7 years old. When he was 9 years old, his mother died from “milk sickness.”

    Milk sickness was very common in the early 1800's and affected people who ate dairy products or meat from a cow that had fed on white snakeroot, a poisonous herb.

    As a boy, he looked like.....“…dark complexion, with course black hair, and grey eyes—no other marks or brands recollected.”
    Letter to Jesse W. Fell, Enclosing Autobiography, Dec. 20, 1859

More Info Lincoln and the NPS

  • Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic site - Hodgenville, KY
  • Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial - Lincoln City, IN
  • Lincoln Home National Historic Site - Springfiled, IL
  • Lincoln Memorial National Memorial -Wash., D.C.

More Info Young Abe Lincoln Information

  • Abe was naturally anti-slavery. His family did not own slaves, but there were over a 1000 slaves in Hardin County, KY, when Abe lived there.

    His neighbors at Knob Creek owned slaves and it was more common to lease slaves than own them. “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.” April 4, 1864 - Letter to Albert Hodges, Lincoln, Speeches and Writings 1859 – 1865, pg. 585, Don E. Fehrenbacher

  • As a child, Abe may have played “stick horses” with boyhood friend , Austin Gallagher. Another game common during those years was playing with clay marbles.

    The boyhood of Abraham Lincoln / by J. Rogers Gore; from the spoken narratives of Austin Gollaher; 1921

  • It is said that his favorite toy was a child’s wagon, bought by his father when Abe was 6 years old. Abe was also interested in playing sports. Wrestling, running foot races, pitching quoits and tossing a copper were activities that won Abe praise.

    July 19, 1814: Thomas Lincoln purchases “1 truck wagon” for eight and 1/3 cents at sale of Thomas Hill. Will Book C, 254, Hardin County Court

    April 22, 1832. “In a wrestling match with Lorenzo Dow Thompson, Lincoln is thrown in two straight falls.”
    The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Roy P. Basler, Editor, Rutgers; 1953.

    “He could beat any of the boys wrestling, or running a foot race, in pitching quoits or tossing a copper…and the dignity and impartiality with which he presided at a horse race or fist fight, excited the admiration and won the praise of everybody that was present and participated.”
    First Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858, MR. DOUGLAS' SPEECH, Title: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Basler, Rutgers University Press, 1953

  • Abe measured six feet, four inches in height as a fully-grown man, but while growing up, was always “taller than most boys who were two years older.”

    “If any personal description of me is thought desirable, it may be said, I am, in height six feet, four inches, nearly; lean in flesh, weighing, on an average, one hundred and eighty pounds;…”
    Letter to Jesse W. Fell, Enclosing Autobiography, Dec. 20, 1859

    “Tall, angular and awkward, he had a short-waisted, thin swallow-tail coat, a short vest of the same material, thin pantaloons, scarcely coming to his ankles, a straw hat and a pair of brogans with woolen socks.”
    Elihu B. Washburne, July 5, 1847 Lincoln Day by Day, Vol. 1, pg. xi

  • Abe was large for his age and one his chores was using an ax to chop wood. When he had some free time, his choice was always to read a book.

    “A[braham] though very young, was large for his age, and had an ax put into his hands at once; and from that till within his twenty-third year, he was almost constantly handling that most useful instrument—less, of course in plowing and harvesting seasons.”
    Autobiography Written for Campaign, June 1860, pg. 160, Lincoln, Speeches and Writings 1859 – 1865, Don E. Fehrenbacher (originally Basler)

    “A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others... It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones.”
    Source: September 30, 1859 - Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society

  • Abe’s favorite book was the Bible with Webster’s Speller one of the few other books available for him to read. Abe was also known to pen a piece of poetry now and then.

    The family owned a Bible. Books were rare on the frontier. Owning a book and being able to read it was sometimes the only qualification to teach.

    Webster’s Speller was one of the few school books available to him while in Kentucky. It is featured in the new Boy Lincoln sculpture in downtown Hodgenville.)

    “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man.”
    September 7, 1864 – Response to Presentation of a Bible by the Loyal Colored People of Baltimore, Washington, D.C. pg. 628, Fehrenbacher

  • School and learning were always important to Abe. Readin’, writin’, and cipherin’ to the rule of three was all that was taught in school during those days. Abe went to a “blab school” where children read their
    lessons out loud, usually because there were no writing supplies

    “Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher to the Rule of Three; but that was all. I have not been to school since. The little advance I now have upon this store of education, I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.”
    Letter to Jesse W. Fell, Enclosing Autobiography, Dec. 20, 1859

    Cipherin’ to the rule of three is solving for an unknown variable. If you have 10 acres and need to plant pumpkins, how many seeds do you need? If you know that it takes 100 seeds to plant one acre, you can solve the problem. 1/100 = 10/x, thus x = 10 x 100 or 1,000.

    “He was always at school early and attended to his studies. He was always at the head of his class, and passed us rapidly in his studies…. He kept up his studies on Sunday, and carried his books with him to work, so that he might read when he rested from labor.”
    Aaron Grigsby, as quoted in “Herndon’s Life of Lincoln, pg. 32

    “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.
    Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.”
    March 9, 1832 - First Political Announcement, Lincoln, Speeches and Writings 1832 – 1858,Fehrenbacher

  • When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Abe would answer “NOT a carpenter or a farmer like my father.”

  • If asked what he was allergic to, his answer would have been “work.” Often quoted, Abe supposedly said: “My father taught me to work. He didn’t teach me to like it much.”

  • Many of Abe’s friends and relatives spoke about his love of animals. During his lifetime, he had dogs, cats, goats, and horses. It is said that as a young boy, he preached sermons to his family declaring that he was against cruelty to animals.

    Legends say that while living at Knob Creek, Kentucky, young Abraham Lincoln found a dog with a broken leg. He made a splint and took care of the dog, naming it “Honey.” According to his childhood friend Austin Gollaher, Abraham also had a pet crow, raccoon, and a goat named “Billy.”

    His step-sister remembered him saying that an ant’s life was to it, as sweet as ours.
    ( Richard N. Current in The Lincoln Nobody Knows)

    His long-time friend from Kentucky, Joshua Speed, told about a trip he took with Mr. Lincoln and two other gentlemen in 1839 back to Springfield, Illinois. While riding along a country road through a thicket of wild plum and crabapple trees, the group had stopped to water their horses. A severe storm had occurred previously. Mr. Lincoln disappeared for a while. He caught two little birds in his hand which had been blown from their nest and was hunting for the nest. He finally found the nest and placed the birds back within it. The three other travelers laughed at him, but he earnestly said that he could not have slept that night if he had not given the two little birds to their mother.
    (Kenneth A. Bernard, Glimpses of Lincoln in the White House)

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