Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hodgenville, Kentucky

On our way to Georgia last month, we passed Hodgenville, Kentucky. When most of us think of Abraham Lincoln, we think of Illinois, but he was born in Kentucky. You can visit his birthplace as well as his boyhood home at Knob Creek Farm.

This background is provided on Lincoln's earliest years:
The boy who would grow up to be the 16th President of the United States was named for his paternal grandfather, Captain Abraham Lincoln, a true pioneer and good friend of Daniel Boone.

In 1782 Captain Abraham Lincoln brought his family through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky which was still part of Virginia. Kentucky entered the union as the 15th state in 1792.

In 1786, shortly after settling in this new land, Captain Abraham Lincoln was shot by an Indian. This was a defining event in young Thomas Lincoln’s life. At the time of his father’s death, Mordecai Lincoln, the oldest son, inherited his father’s entire estate, leaving Thomas and his older brother to fend for themselves. There is no indication that Thomas Lincoln ever resented his brother’s good fortune or spent much time brooding over his fate. After his father’s death, Thomas moved with his mother to Washington County.

Nancy Hanks was also born in Virginia, the daughter of Lucy Shipley and James Hanks. When Nancy’s father died her mother moved with other family members to Kentucky. Eventually, Nancy went to live in Washington County and was a neighbor of Thomas Lincoln. On June 12, 1806 Nancy Hanks and Thomas Lincoln were married near Springfield, Kentucky.

After their wedding, Nancy and Thomas moved to Elizabethtown near his carpenter shop and in the vicinity of the Mill Creek Farm which he had purchased in 1803. In February of 1807 a daughter, Sarah, was born. Thomas Lincoln was known and respected as a steady worker, and his dedication paid off by 1808, when he and Nancy purchased the Sinking Spring Farm for $200 cash from Isaac Bush.

With Nancy expecting her second child, the Lincoln family moved into a cabin somewhere in the vicinity of a knoll by the Sinking Spring, a reliable source of fresh water where Abraham Lincoln probably took his first drink.

The Lincolns had chosen well and had every reason to expect a prosperous future. Although they moved into a one room cabin probably no more than 16 by 20 feet with only one window and one door, they would have brought with them items from Elizabethtown that made the new home comfortable. They still owned a farm in Elizabethtown and Thomas’ skills as a carpenter would guarantee any furniture items the family wanted. Nancy was reputed to be a talented spinner who could spin and weave clothing for her husband and young children.

Thomas, like other settlers in the area would have planted corns, beans, squash, and pumpkins. He probably had a few head of livestock. This young family had every reason to rejoice upon the prospects of their future when a son, Abraham, named for his paternal grandfather, was born February 12, 1809.

Lincoln's earliest recollections are of Knob Creek:
“My earliest recollection is of the Knob Creek place.” So wrote Abraham Lincoln on June 4, 1860 to Samuel Haycraft, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Haycraft had invited the future President to visit his childhood home in Kentucky. The Lincoln family lived on 30 acres of the 228 acre Knob Creek Farm from the time Abraham was two and a half until he was almost eight years old. Here he learned to talk and soon grew big enough to run errands such as carrying water, and gathering wood for the fires. Abraham recalled in later years numerous memories of his childhood here; a stone house he had passed while taking corn to Hodgen’s Mill; a certain big tree that had attracted his boyish fancy; the old homestead; the clear stream where he fished, and the surrounding hills where he picked berries were all impressed on his mind.

He could remember how he stayed by his mother’s side and watched her face while listening to her read the Bible. Lincoln could also remember the baby brother who was born and died on the Knob Creek Farm.

He remembered one occasion when he and his sister Sarah, had planted the garden; Abraham said that he planted pumpkin seeds in every other hill and every other row while Sarah and others planted the corn. The following night a big rain in the hills sent water rushing into the creek, the creek flooded the fields and washed away their garden.

It was also at Knob Creek that Abraham first saw African Americans being taken south along the Louisville - Nashville Turnpike, part of the old Cumberland Road, to be sold as slaves.

Lincoln once wrote that while living on Knob Creek he and his sister, Sarah, were sent for short periods, to an A, B, C school – the first kept by Zachariah Riney, and the second by Caleb Hazel. These were subscription schools and lasted only a few months. Free schools did not come to Kentucky until the 1830’s.

Likewise, he never forgot the time he fell in the swollen Knob Creek while playing on a foot log near his home. Had it not been for Austin Gollaher, a friend and school mate, Abraham would probably have drowned. Austin, with a keen sense of pioneer knowledge, grabbed a long tree limb from the bank and held it out like a strong arm to the struggling Lincoln. Abraham spoke of the incident after he became President.

The family left Knob Creek and Kentucky in 1816 moving to Spencer County, Indiana.

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