On February 12, 1809 the 16th President of the United States was born in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. It is unlikely that his uneducated farming father, Thomas Lincoln, or his mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln had any idea that their first-born son (he had an older sister, Sarah) would eventually be considered by many historians as the greatest US president ever. Abraham’s birth may have been largely uneventful but as with all of us his environment and family began to shape his life.
When the young Abraham was born he was given his paternal grandfather’s name, with no middle name. His namesake had been killed by Indians and this killing had been witnessed by Thomas.
Although Thomas Lincoln was largely uneducated, he was a respected member of the Kentucky community and had purchased his own land. Thomas was a religious Baptist and was outspoken in his beliefs against slavery. While this humanistic anti-slavery attitude influenced Abraham from birth, he did not share in his father’s religious beliefs.
It is believed that a combination of Thomas’s refusal to support slavery and in increasing amount of debt led to the family leaving Abraham’s birthplace in 1816 (Abraham was 7 years old) to what is now known as Spencer County in Indiana.
Before Abraham Lincoln’s 10th birthday he had lost 2 family members. Two years later Abrahams mother Nancy died from ‘milk sickness’. He had also had a younger brother who died in infancy. Abraham Lincon soon had a new stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston. Apparently the young Abraham (Abe) was fond of her as she was of him.
Abraham Lincolns education consisted of little more than a total of 18 months throughout his early life, and was mostly from itinerant teachers. This did not stop young Abraham Linclon thirsting for knowledge though. He was an avid reader and borrowed books from neighbors at every opportunity. Some, perhaps including his father thought Abraham may have been doing all this reading to avoid manual labor, even though he was known to be very skilled with an axe.
In 1830 the family moved again and Abraham was in Illinois helping his father build a new log cabin, clearing land and planting crops. By the end of a year that saw his family all ill the young Abraham was ready to launch out into the world alone. It is said that witnessing a slave auction on a trip to New Orleans may have had a great impact on his life.
Abraham Lincolns life was at times filled with grief and sadness but it was also filled with greatness. Abraham from childhood was aware of his world and of values such as honesty and fairness. As we celebrate 200 years from Abraham Lincolns birthday it is interesting to think of where the boy who grew into one of history’s greatest men came from.