Photo of President Lincoln in November 1863

First known photograph of Lincoln
First known photograph of Lincoln taken in 1846.

Abraham Lincoln was born on Sunday, February 12, 1809, in a log cabin on his father's Sinking Spring 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 1811, the Lincoln family moved to the Knob Creek Farm, just ten miles away, where Abraham spent the next five years. 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 on October 5, 1818. His sister, Sarah, died during childbirth in January 1828. From here, Lincoln first traveled on a flatboat loaded with produce to New Orleans where he witnessed a slave auction.

In March 1830, when Abraham Lincoln was 21 years old, he migrated with his father and stepmother (Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln) and her children to
Logan County, Illinois. After the discouragingly hard winter of 1830-31, the family started to return to Indiana, but stopped in Coles County, Illinois, where Abraham's father and stepmother 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 general store, which failed. He served in the militia during the Black Hawk War and was Postmaster. He learned and practiced surveying for a time and even considered becoming a blacksmith. He ran for a seat in the state legislature in 1832 and lost. Two years later he ran again and was successful. He was re-elected in 1836. At the time of the 1834 campaign he was encouraged to study law by John T. Stuart. In March 1837, he was enrolled as an attorney and the following month 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 November 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
Abraham and Mary 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 son, 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 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.


Last updated: April 14, 2015

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