Lincoln's Personal Life HTML version

The Mysterious Youth
Vagrants, or little better than vagrants, were Thomas Lincoln and his family making their
way to Indiana. For a year after they arrived they were squatters, their home an "open-
faced camp," that is, a shanty with one wall missing, and instead of chimney, a fire built
on the open side. In that mere pretense of a house, Nancy Lincoln and her children spent
the winter of 1816-1817. Then Thomas resorted to his familiar practice of taking land on
credit. The Lincolns were now part of a "settlement" of seven or eight families strung
along a little stream known as Pigeon Creek. Here Thomas entered a quarter- section of
fair land, and in the course of the next eleven years succeeded--wonderful to relate--in
paying down sufficient money to give him title to about half.
Meanwhile, poor fading Nancy went to her place. Pigeon Creek was an out-of-the-way
nook in the still unsettled West, and Nancy during the two years she lived there could not
have enjoyed much of the consolation of her religion. Perhaps now and then she had
ghostly council of some stray circuit-rider. But for her the days of the ecstasies had gone
by; no great revival broke the seals of the spirit, stirred its deep waters, along Pigeon
Creek. There was no religious service when she was laid to rest in a coffin made of green
lumber and fashioned by her husband. Months passed, the snow lay deep, before a
passing circuit-rider held a burial service over her grave. Tradition has it that the boy
Abraham brought this about very likely, at ten years old, he felt that her troubled spirit
could not have peace till this was done. Shadowy as she is, ghostlike across the page of
history, it is plain that she was a reality to her son. He not only loved her but revered her.
He believed that from her he had inherited the better part of his genius. Many years after
her death he said, "God bless my mother; all that I am or ever hope to be I owe to her."
Nancy was not long without a successor. Thomas Lincoln, the next year, journeyed back
to Kentucky and returned in triumph to Indiana, bringing as his wife, an old flame of his
who had married, had been widowed, and was of a mind for further adventures. This
Sarah Bush Lincoln, of less distinction than Nancy, appears to have been steadier-minded
and stronger-willed. Even before this, Thomas had left the half-faced camp and moved
into a cabin. But such a cabin! It had neither door, nor window, nor floor. Sally Lincoln
required her husband to make of it a proper house--by the standards of Pigeon Creek. She
had brought with her as her dowry a wagonload of furniture. These comforts together
with her strong will began a new era of relative comfort in the Lincoln cabin.[1]
Sally Lincoln was a kind stepmother to Abraham who became strongly attached to her. In
the rough and nondescript community of Pigeon Creek, a world of weedy farms, of
miserable mud roads, of log farm-houses, the family life that was at least tolerable. The
sordid misery described during her regime emerged from wretchedness to a state of by all
the recorders of Lincoln's early days seems to have ended about his twelfth year. At least,
the vagrant suggestion disappeared. Though the life that succeeded was void of luxury,
though it was rough, even brutal, dominated by a coarse, peasant-like view of things, it
was scarcely by peasant standards a life of hardship. There was food sufficient, if not
very good; protection from wind and weather; fire in the winter time; steady labor; and
social acceptance by the community of the creekside. That the labor was hard and long,
went without saying. But as to that--as of the whippings in Kentucky--what else, from the
peasant point of view, would you expect? Abraham took it all with the same stoicism