Chapter I. The Kentucky Home
Not far from Hodgensville, in Kentucky, there once lived a
name was Thomas Lincoln. This man had built for himself a little
cabin by the side of a brook, where there was an ever-flowing
There was but one room in this cabin. On the side next to
there was a low doorway; and at one end there was a large fireplace,
built of rough stones and clay.
The chimney was very broad at the bottom and narrow at the
top. It was
made of clay, with flat stones and slender sticks laid around
outside to keep it from falling apart.
In the wall, on one side of the fireplace, there was a square
hole for a
window. But there was no glass in this window. In the summer
left open all the time. In cold weather a deerskin, or a piece
coarse cloth, was hung over it to keep out the wind and the
At night, or on stormy days, the skin of a bear was hung across
doorway; for there was no door on hinges to be opened and shut.
There was no ceiling to the room. But the inmates of the cabin,
looking up, could see the bare rafters and the rough roof-boards,
Mr. Lincoln himself had split and hewn.
There was no floor, but only the bare ground that had been
beaten until it was as level and hard as pavement.
For chairs there were only blocks of wood and a rude bench
on one side
of the fireplace. The bed was a little platform of poles, on
spread the furry skins of wild animals, and a patchwork quilt
In this poor cabin, on the 12th of February, 1809, a baby
boy was born.
There was already one child in the family - a girl, two years
name was Sarah.
The little boy grew and became strong like other babies, and
parents named him Abraham, after his grandfather, who had been
the Indians many years before.
When he was old enough to run about, he liked to play under
the trees by
the cabin door. Sometimes he would go with his little sister
woods and watch the birds and the squirrels.
He had no playmates. He did not know the meaning of toys or
But he was a happy child and had many pleasant ways.
Thomas Lincoln, the father, was a kind-hearted man, very strong
brave. Sometimes he would take the child on his knee and tell
strange, true stories of the great forest, and of the Indians
fierce beasts that roamed among the woods and hills.
For Thomas Lincoln had always lived on the wild frontier;
and he would
rather hunt deer and other game in the forest than do anything
Perhaps this is why he was so poor. Perhaps this is why he
to live in the little log cabin with so few of the comforts
But Nancy Lincoln, the young mother, did not complain. She,
grown up among the rude scenes of the backwoods. She had never
And yet she was by nature refined and gentle; and people who
said that she was very handsome. She was a model housekeeper,
her poor log cabin was the neatest and best-kept house in all
No woman could be busier than she. She knew how to spin and
she made all the clothing for her family.
She knew how to wield the ax and the hoe; and she could work
on the farm
or in the garden when her help was needed.
She had also learned how to shoot with a rifle; and she could
a deer or other wild game with as much ease as could her husband.
when the game was brought home, she could dress it, she could
flesh for food, and of the skins she could make clothing for
There was still another thing that she could do - she could
read; and she
read all the books that she could get hold of. She taught her
the letters of the alphabet; and she showed him how to write
For Thomas Lincoln had never gone to school, and he had never
how to read.
As soon as little Abraham Lincoln was old enough to understand,
mother read stories to him from the Bible. Then, while he was
young, she taught him to read the stories for himself.
The neighbors thought it a wonderful thing that so small a
read. There were very few of them who could do as much. Few
thought it of any great use to learn how to read.
There were no school-houses in that part of Kentucky in those
of course there were no public schools.
One winter a traveling schoolmaster came that way. He got
leave to use a
cabin not far from Mr. Lincoln's, and gave notice that he would
school for two or three weeks. The people were too poor to
pay him for
The name of this schoolmaster was Zachariah Riney.
The young people for miles around flocked to the school. Most
were big boys and girls, and a few were grown up young men.
little child was Abraham Lincoln, and he was not yet five years
There was only one book studied at that school, and it was
spelling-book. It had some easy reading lessons at the end,
were not to be read until after every word in the book had
You can imagine how the big boys and girls felt when Abraham
proved that he could spell and read better than any of them.