Chapter II. Work and Sorrow
In the autumn, just after Abraham Lincoln
was eight years old, his
parents left their Kentucky home and moved to Spencer county,
It was not yet a year since Indiana had become a state. Land
bought very cheap, and Mr. Lincoln thought that he could make
living there for his family. He had heard also that game was
in the Indiana woods.
It was not more than seventy or eighty miles from the old
home to the
new. But it seemed very far, indeed, and it was a good many
the travelers reached their journey's end. Over a part of the
was no road, and the movers had to cut a path for themselves
The boy, Abraham, was tall and very strong for his age. He
how to handle an ax, and few men could shoot with a rifle better
he. He was his father's helper in all kinds of work.
It was in November when the family came to the place which
was to be
their future home. Winter was near at hand. There was no house,
shelter of any kind. What would become of the patient, tired
the gentle little sister, who had borne themselves so bravely
long, hard journey?
No sooner had the horses been loosed from the wagon than Abraham
his father were at work with their axes. In a short time they
what they called a "camp."
This camp was but a rude shed, made of poles and thatched
and branches. It was enclosed on three sides, so that the chill
the driving rains from the north and west could not enter.
side was left open, and in front of it a fire was built.
This fire was kept burning all the time. It warmed the interior
camp. A big iron kettle was hung over it by means of a chain
and in this kettle the fat bacon, the venison, the beans, and
were boiled for the family's dinner and supper. In the hot
good mother baked luscious "corn dodgers," and sometimes,
perhaps, a few
In one end of the camp were the few cooking utensils and little
of furniture which even the poorest house cannot do without.
The rest of
the space was the family sitting-room and bed-room. The floor
covered with leaves, and on these were spread the furry skins
and bears, and other animals.
It was in this camp that the family spent their first winter
How very cold and dreary that winter must have been! Think
of the stormy
nights, of the shrieking wind, of the snow and the sleet and
frost! It is not much wonder if, before the spring months came,
mother's strength began to fail.
But it was a busy winter for Thomas Lincoln. Every day his
ax was heard
in the woods. He was clearing the ground, so that in the spring
be planted with corn and vegetables.
He was hewing logs for his new house; for he had made up his
to have something better than a cabin.
The woods were full of wild animals. It was easy for Abraham
father to kill plenty of game, and thus keep the family supplied
And Abraham, with chopping and hewing and hunting and trapping,
busy for a little boy. He had but little time to play; and,
had no playmates, we cannot know whether he even wanted to
With his mother, he read over and over the Bible stories which
them loved so well. And, during the cold, stormy days, when
he could not
leave the camp, his mother taught him how to write.
In the spring the new house was raised. It was only a hewed
with one room below and a loft above. But it was so much better
old cabin in Kentucky that it seemed like a palace.
The family had become so tired of
living in the "camp," that
into the new house before the floor was laid, or any door hung
Then came the plowing and the planting and the hoeing. Everybody
busy from daylight to dark. There were so many trees and stumps
there was but little room for the corn to grow.
The summer passed, and autumn came. Then the poor mother's
out. She could no longer go about her household duties. She
depend more and more upon the help that her children could
At length she became too feeble to leave her bed. She called
her boy to
her side. She put her arms about him and said: "Abraham,
I am going away
from you, and you will never see me again. I know that you
be good and kind to your sister and father. Try to live as
I have taught
you, and to love your heavenly Father."
On the 5th of October she fell asleep, never to wake again.
Under a big sycamore tree, half a mile from the house, the
the grave for the mother of Abraham Lincoln. And there they
in silence and great sorrow.
There was no minister there to conduct religious services.
In all that
new country there was no church; and no holy man could be found
words of comfort and hope to the grieving ones around the grave.
But the boy, Abraham, remembered a traveling preacher, whom
known in Kentucky. The name of this preacher was David Elkin.
would only come!
And so, after all was over, the lad sat down and wrote a letter
Elkin. He was only a child nine years old, but he believed
that the good
man would remember his poor mother, and come.
It was no easy task to write a letter. Paper and ink were
not things of
common use, as they are with us. A pen had to be made from
the quill of
But at last the letter was finished and sent away. How it
was carried I
do not know; for the mails were few and far between in those
postage was very high. It is more than likely that some friend,
going into Kentucky, undertook to have it finally handed to
Months passed. The leaves were again on the trees. The wild
blossoming in the woods. At last the preacher came.
He had ridden a hundred miles on horseback; he had forded
traveled through pathless woods; he had dared the dangers of
forest: all in answer to the lad's beseeching letter.
He had no hope of reward, save that which is given to every
man who does
his duty. He did not know that there would come a time when
preachers in the world would envy him his sad task.
And now the friends and neighbors gathered again under the
sycamore tree. The funeral sermon was preached. Hymns were
prayer was offered. Words of comfort and sympathy were spoken.
From that time forward the mind of Abraham Lincoln was filled
high and noble purpose. In his earliest childhood his mother
him to love truth and justice, to be honest and upright among
to reverence God. These lessons he never forgot.
Long afterward, when the world had come to know him as a very
he said: "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel