Learning Lincoln On-line

CONTENTS SET A:

Abraham Lincoln's Boyhood:  Pioneer Activities for Social Studies (a Reading)

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OTHER QUESTION/PROJECT CATEGORIES

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ANSWER THE QUESTIONS:

FOLLOWING ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S LIFE and FOOTSTEPS THROUGH HIS FATHER

An excerpt from the article from the State Journal Register (Sringfield, IL  "The Sad Tale of THOMAS LINCOLN There was no love lost between this father and his famous son" by Doug Pokorski

       Thomas Lincoln was born in Virginia in 1778 (some scholars say 1776) and moved with his family to Kentucky in the 1780s. His father, also named Abraham, was a prosperous landowner who held more than 5,000 acres in one of the richest parts of Kentucky.   Did Abraham Lincoln (Abe's grandfather) have money and land?  Where did this Abraham come from?

       But in 1786, while Abraham, Thomas and his two older brothers, Mordecai and Josiah, were planting corn, they were attacked by Indians. Abraham was killed instantly, Josiah ran for help and Mordecai hid in a nearby cabin.

       Looking out of a crack between the logs, Mordecai saw an Indian sneaking up on Thomas, who was sitting beside his father's body. Mordecai grabbed a rifle and killed the Indian before he could reach the younger boy.

       Mordecai had saved Thomas's life, but that life would be one of hard work and struggle. Under the laws of the time, when a father died without a will, the oldest son inherited his entire estate. 

       Thus, Mordecai would become a wealthy landowner, and Thomas would have to live by the sweat of his brow.

       Thomas became a "wandering laboring boy," as Abraham Lincoln would later characterize the situation, and he never had a chance to get any kind of education. A farmer and carpenter, Thomas worked hard and saved his money.

        In 1802, he bought a 238-acre farm in Hardin County, Ky. Four years later, he married Nancy Hanks, and the couple's first child, a daughter named Sarah, was born in 1807. Abraham was born in 1809, on a new farm Thomas bought on Nolan Creek. A third child, a boy, died in infancy.

       Records indicate that in his early manhood Thomas was a reasonably respectable citizen, according to Mark Neely's "Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia." The records indicate that he was a wage earner, jury member, petitioner for a road and a guard for a county prison.

       Strong and powerfully built, Thomas was average or a little above average in height with a shock of black hair and a prominent nose. He was respected in his community - "honest" was the word most often used to describe him, Donald wrote.

       The land title system in Kentucky was a mess in the early 1800s, and Thomas continuously had trouble with the titles to the farms that he owned. He was often forced to sell property for less than the price he paid for it.

       As a result, and because he opposed slavery, which was legal in Kentucky, Thomas moved his family to Indiana, where they lived a hard frontier life.

       In 1818, Nancy Lincoln died from drinking contaminated milk from cows that had eaten poisonous weeds. Thomas quickly realized his household needed a mother's touch, and within a year he had married a widow from Kentucky named Sarah Bush Johnston, to whom young Abe would grow quite close.

       At this point the household was a large one. There was Thomas and his two children, Sarah and her three children and Dennis Hanks, who was Abe's cousin on his birth mother's side.

       Abe's difficulties with his father had probably already begun by this time. His mother's death had hit him hard, and Thomas did little to console him.

        Abe craved education and was especially fond of reading. His father encouraged his education but was vexed by the boy reading when he was supposed to be doing chores. Thomas was said to have hidden Abe's books and even destroyed some to put an end to that problem, but all that accomplished was to widen the distance between father and son.

       Corporal punishment was the order of the day, and Thomas was not one to spare the rod. He was said to sometimes "slash" Abe for reading when he was supposed to be doing chores, and Thomas also was known to knock the boy down for speaking before his father could when strangers rode up to the family farm.

       Abe also got slapped in the face for daring to correct his father's version of a story and was whipped or beaten for other acts of impropriety. While a common practice in America at the time, such beatings did nothing to endear Thomas to his son.

       As Abe got older, the situation only got worse. When Abe was old enough, Thomas hired him out to other farmers to help them with their work. Abe did the work, but Thomas claimed all the pay of his minor son.

       This aggravated Abe - Burlingame even writes that Abe's hatred of slavery was strengthened by this treatment that he felt was his own enslavement. It was made worse by the fact that the neighbors Abe worked for sometimes complained to Thomas that Abe was reading or telling jokes and stories to other workers when he should be doing chores. For this, again, Thomas punished Abe.

       Thomas also seems to have given preferential treatment to his stepson, John Johnston, over Abe, a fact that would rankle Abe until his father's death.

       In 1830, Thomas Lincoln moved his family to Illinois, first to Macon County and then to Coles. Because Abe had not yet reached his 21st birthday, he came along, all the while thinking of the day when he would be free to strike out on his own.

       When the time came, Abe was more than ready to leave. He headed out with no goal in his mind other than to avoid winding up like his father.

       In later years, when he was a practicing lawyer, Abe visited his parents at their farm when business brought him to the area. But it was his affection for his stepmother that brought him, not any concern for Thomas.

       On a couple of occasions he even bailed Thomas out of financial troubles, although he did so grudgingly and probably with the suspicion that the troubles were caused by his ne'er do well stepbrother, John Johnston.

       It is not known whether he gave even a moment's thought to Thomas when he learned that the old man had died at the age of 73, in 1851.

       But Abe did take one last, possibly unconscious shot at Thomas two years later. Now that it was too late for the old man to get any satisfaction out of it, the Lincolns named their fourth son "Thomas."

     Abe never spoke that name, however. He always called the boy Tad.

 

Social Studies:

  • 1. Did Abraham Lincoln (Abe's grandfather) have money and land?  Where did this Abraham come from?
  • 2. When Thomas' father was killed, how did the Lincoln family share in their father's wealth?  Did this seem fair to you?
  • 3. Thomas' life was set that he would always have to work by the sweat of his brow.  What does this mean?
  • 4.Thomas would become a wanderer, according to how his son Abraham would later describe him.  How did this "wandering laboring boy" lifestyle effect Abraham and his sister?
  • 5. Thomas Lincoln was described as being an honorable citizen.  What are things that he did to help him get this reputation?
  • 6.Thomas would marry Nancy Hanks, and in 1802 Sarah was born.  In 1809 Abraham was born.  He purchased his first farm in Kentucky.  Tell about this first farm.
  • 7. Describe Thomas Lincoln's appearance.
  • 8. What was the main reason the Lincoln's moved to Indiana?
  • 9. In 1818 Lincoln disaster hit the Lincoln family.  What happened?  Who lived in the family at the time?
  • 10. How did Thomas discipline Abraham?   What did Thomas think about education and reading?
  • 11. As Abraham got older, his father would send him out to other farmers to work for them.  Describe how that worked.  Did Abraham get the money?  Why did Abraham compare this arrangement to servitude, or even slavery?
  • 12. Which relative did Abraham think was getting preferential treatment from Thomas? 
  • 13. In 1830 Thomas moved the family to Illinois.  How old was Abraham when this occurred, and what was Abraham looking forward to?
  • 14. Did Abraham visit his family when he lived at Springfield?  Describe what he felt about that visit.  When Abraham was a lawyer, did he help out his father?  What did he do?

Letters to and From Lincoln from Friends and Family

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