|Thomas Lincoln (1778-1851)|
In 1808, Thomas bought a 300-acre farm on Nolin Creek. There, on February 12, 1809, his son Abraham was born. A third child, named Thomas, died in infancy.
Thomas was active in community and church affairs in Hardin County. He served as a jury member, a petitioner for a road, and as a guard for county prisoners. He could read a little, was a skilled carpenter, and was a property owner. In 1815 he purchased—for cash—still another farm, the Knob Creek farm. This Knob Creek farm was the first home Abraham Lincoln could remember in later life.
|The Lincoln family lived on 30 acres of the 228-acre Knob Creek Farm from the time Abraham was 2 1/2 until he was almost 8 years old. Replica Log Cabin.|
Slavery was outlawed in Indiana. It is interesting to know that in Hardin County, Kentucky, there were 1007 slaves and only 1627 white males over the age of 16 in the year 1811. The Little Mount Separate Baptist Church separated with the Regular Baptist Church over the issue of slave ownership. Thomas Lincoln, a carpenter, farmer, and laborer was forced to compete for wages against wageless workers.
In Indiana, the Lincolns settled near Little Pigeon Creek in what was then Perry County, later part of Spencer County. Here, Thomas farmed and sold his skills as a carpenter. He put his unusually strong and tall eight-year-old son to work planting, harvesting, cabin building and wielding an ax. Autumn frosts of 1818 had already colored the foliage of the huge trees of oak, hickory, and walnut when Nancy Lincoln became desperately ill. She was stricken with milk sickness, a poisoning caused by the plant, white snakeroot. Cows occasionally ate this abundant weed and passed the poison on in their milk. People who drank this poisoned milk or ate its products faced death. On October 5, 1818, Nancy died.
NOTE: Dr. Anna Pierce Hobbs Bixby (1812–1873) from the village of Rock Creek, Illinois, discovered that White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) or Milkweed was the cause of milk sickness from grazing cows eating the wild plant which fatally poisoned the cow's milk consumed by frontier settlers.Left without a wife and mother for his children, the resourceful Thomas remarried on December 2, 1819. He chose a widow from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Sarah Bush Johnston. These two hardy pioneers, Thomas and Sarah, united their two families. Sarah's three children—Elizabeth, Matilda, and John—joined Abraham, Sarah, and cousin Dennis Hanks to make a new family of eight. Besides trading his carpentry skills, managing a farm, and looking after his family, Thomas found time during the next few years of his life in Indiana to assist in building the Little Pigeon Baptist Church, become a member of the church, and serve as a church trustee. By 1827, Thomas realized his dream by becoming the outright owner of 100 acres of Indiana land.
Fear of white snakeroot poisoning, news of the fertile Illinois soil, and the possible breakup of his family lured Thomas westward in March 1830. Thomas sold his Indiana land and moved first to Macon County, Illinois, and eventually to Coles County in 1831. His son Abraham left home to make his way in the world during the family's move to Coles County. Thomas Lincoln remained a resident of the county for the rest of his life.
Thomas Lincoln's status as a respectable, responsible, and talented citizen is now secure from his detractors. He, no doubt, did leave a mark on his famous son. Thomas was by all accounts well-liked by his neighbors and he was a good storyteller, as was his son. Thomas's evident dislike of slavery created an atmosphere in Lincoln's youth that would allow Abraham to say many years later that he could not remember a time when he was not antislavery in sentiment. The house where Thomas Lincoln died in 1851, and where his widow died in 1869, stood three miles from Shiloh Cemetery where they are buried. Thomas Lincoln had reached the age of 73 years. He and his family had lived in the states of Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. He had paid his taxes regularly and left no unpaid debts behind him.
FATHER AND SON RELATIONSHIP
During Lincoln's youth, and particularly after the death of his mother, Abraham's relationship with his father changed and became increasingly strained. Due to his failing eyesight and likely declining health, Lincoln relied on Abraham to perform work needed to run the farm. He also sent Abraham to work for neighbors, generating money for Thomas. Michael Burlingame, in his book The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln, classified Abe's subservience, "Abraham Lincoln was like a slave to his father," he penned in a secret biography.
Thomas was a stern disciplinarian who would cane, slap, or knock Abraham down for minor infractions and innocent mistakes, like forgetting a chore or speaking to strangers who approached the family farm before his father did. As Abraham got older, he eagerly awaited coming of age so that he could move away and have as little to do with his father as possible.
Although the degree to which it impacted their relationship is not clear, there seemed to be a struggle between Abraham's yearning for knowledge and Thomas' lack of understanding about the importance of study to Abraham's life. Abraham seemed particularly critical of his father's lack of education and lack of an earnest drive to see that his children received a good education. Historian Ronald C. White wrote that negative portraits of Thomas Lincoln come "from a son who said his father 'grew up literally without education,' the very value Abraham Lincoln would come to prize the most." Abraham Lincoln, in turn, appears to have been unaware of his father's early struggles, particularly how the death of his grandfather forced Thomas to become a laborer: "Abraham Lincoln never fully understood how hard his father had to struggle during his early years. It required an immense effort for Thomas, who earned three shillings a day for manual labor or made a little more when he did carpentry or cabinetmaking, to accumulate enough money to buy his first farm." Father and son also differed in their beliefs about religion; Thomas was a conventional Baptist. Growing up in a nonconformist household, Abe developed on his own as a free-thinker. Lastly, some say that Thomas favored John Johnston, his stepson, over Abraham. Their relationship had become strained after Abraham left his father's house and even more so after Abraham reluctantly bailed Thomas out of financial situations. His stepbrother, John D. Johnston, also made repeated requests for money.
Although Abraham provided financial assistance on a few occasions and once visited Thomas during a bout of ill-health, when he was on his deathbed Abraham sent word to a stepbrother to: "Say to him that if we could meet now, it is doubtful whether it would not be more painful than pleasant; but that if it be his lot to go now, he will soon have a joyous meeting with many loved ones gone before; and where the rest of us, through the help of God, hope ere-long to join them." Abraham preferred not to attend his father's funeral and would not pay for a headstone for his father's grave. Aside from the strained and distant relationship between father and son, Abraham's actions may have been influenced by a "painful midlife crisis" and depression.
During Thomas Lincoln's lifetime, he and his wife were not invited to Abraham's wedding and never met Abraham's wife or children. David Herbert Donald stated in his book, Lincoln that "In all his published writings, and indeed, even in reports of hundreds of stories and conversations, he had not one favorable word to say about his father." Abraham, did, however, name his fourth son Thomas, the choice of which, Donald said, "suggested that Abraham Lincoln's memories of his father were not all unpleasant – and perhaps hinted at guilt for not having attended his funeral."
Abraham, likely in response to his unhappy relationship with his stern, demanding father, was a caring and indulgent father with his children, particularly Willie and Tad, with whom he had more in common than Robert.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.