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Lincoln Personal Stories #1-- My Early Life Story

Lincoln, in stovepipe hat, with Allan Pinkerton and Gen. John McClernand at Antietam

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Number One


From Lincoln’s Autobiographies and other Sources


[the selections with bracket “first-person wording” is from

an interview of presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln, by John L. Scripps of the Chicago Press and Tribune]


          My cousin Dennis Hanks, started out my life story when he announced to Nancy and Abe, after seeing me as a babe, that ,”. . .he’ll never come to much, fur I’ll tell you he wuz the puniest, cryin’est little youngster I ever saw.”

          This was my birth day, February 12, 1809.  I was born in a drafty rough hewn log cabin in Kentucky.  I always kind of wondered if I could ever amount to anything.  I so much wanted to read and write, and get out of hard labor on a farm. 

          I started my life out on a stormy morning on a Sunday.  I was born on a bed of poles covered with corn husks.  I was named after my great grandfather, Abraham.  My father was Thomas and was uneducated.   He could do carpentry work, but preferred working the land.  My father did not believe that “eddication” was necessary for success as a farmer. 

          When living in Kentucky my best friend was Austin Gollaher.  Austin saved me from drowning in a creek near our farm. 

          We would move to Indiana in 1817.  “We reached our new home in Indiana about the time the State came into the Union.  It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals, still in the woods. There I grew up. There were some schools, so called; but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond "readin, writ'n, and cipherin" to the Rule of Three. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizzard.”   A. Lincoln

          “While here I went to A B C schools by littles, kept successively by Andrew Crawford,--Sweeney, and Azel W. Dorsey.”    A. Lincoln--Scripps Interview

          “There was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education. Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher to the Rule of Three; but that was all. I have not been to school since. The little advance I now have upon this store of education, I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.”    A. Lincoln

          Mostly, I learned on my own by stealing any moment I could find, including by the “light of the fire,” with night-time reading all the books I could get my hands on.  I especially liked Aesop’s Fables, The Life of George Washington, and the Holy Bible.  I know them from cover to cover.   

          While living and working in this old White House, I still read and study.  Just this week, I  finished reading about military operations, to better myself, in working with my generals during this Civil War.    
          I read the newspaper from cover to cover each morning.  I was taught to read “out loud.”

          Dennis Hanks, who ended up living in Charleston, was my early tutor in life.  He lived with us in Kentucky and Indiana till he came of age.  I still can't get enough of reading. 


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