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American History
4.7 Heydays of Abraham Lincoln

Not many days before gold was found at Sutter's saw-mill in California (1848), a tall, awkward-looking man from Illinois was making his first speech in Congress. At that time he generally wrote his name but after he had become President of the United States, he often wrote it out in full,—The plain country people of Illinois, who knew all about him, liked best to call him by the title they had first given him,—"Honest Abe Lincoln," or, for short, "Honest Abe." Let us see how he got that name.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th, 1809, in a log shanty on a lonely little farm in Kentucky.[Abraham Lincoln was born on the banks of the Big South Fork (or branch) of Nolin Creek in Hardin (now La Rue) County, Kentucky.] When "Abe," as he was called, was seven years old, his father, Thomas Lincoln, moved, with his family, to Indiana;[the Lincoln family moved to a farm on Little Pigeon Creek, near Gentryville, in what is now Spencer County, Indiana.] there the boy and his mother worked in the woods and helped him build a new home. That new home was not so good or so comfortable as some of our cow-sheds are. It was simply a hut made of rough logs and limbs of trees. It had no door and no windows. One side of it was left entirely open; and if a roving Indian or a bear wanted to walk in to dinner, there was nothing whatever to stop him. In winter "Abe's" mother used to hang up some buffalo skins before this wide entrance, to keep out the cold, but in summer the skins were taken down, so that living in such a cabin was the next thing to living out-of-doors.

The Lincoln family stayed in that shed for about a year; then they moved into a new log cabin which had four sides to it. They seem to have made a new set of furniture for the new house. "Abe's" father got a large log, split it in two, smoothed off the flat side, bored holes in the under side and drove in four stout sticks for legs: that made the table. They had no chairs,—it would have been too much trouble to make the backs,—but they had three-legged stools, which Thomas Lincoln made with an axe, just as he did the table; perhaps "Abe" helped him drive in the legs. In one corner of the loft of this cabin the boy had a big bag of dry leaves for his bed. Whenever he felt like having a new bed, all that he had to do was to go out in the woods and gather more leaves. He worked about the place during the day, helping his father and mother. For his supper he had a piece of cornbread. After he had eaten it, he climbed up to his loft in the dark, by a kind of ladder of wooden pins driven into the logs. Five minutes after that he was fast asleep on his bed of sweet-smelling leaves, and was dreaming of hunting coons, or of building big bonfires out of brush.[bushes and limbs of trees.]

"Abe's" mother was not strong, and before they had been in their new log cabin a year she fell sick and died. She was buried on the farm. "Abe" used to go out and sit by her lonely grave in the forest and cry. It was the first great sorrow that had ever touched the boy's heart. After he had grown to be a man, he said with eyes full of tears to a friend with whom he was talking: "God bless my mother; all that I am or ever hope to be I owe to her." At the end of a year Thomas Lincoln married again. The new wife that he brought home was a kind-hearted and excellent woman. She did all she could to make the poor, ragged, barefooted boy happy. After he had grown up and become famous, she said: "Abe never gave me a cross word or look, and never refused to do anything I asked him: Abe was the best boy I ever saw."

There was a log schoolhouse in the woods quite a distance off, and there "Abe" went for a short time. At the school he learned to read and write a little, but after a while he found a new teacher, that was—himself. When the rest of the family had gone to bed, he would sit up and read his favorite books by the light of the great blazing logs heaped up on the open fire. He had not more than half a dozen books in all. They were "Robinson Crusoe," "Pilgrim's Progress,"Aesop's Fables, the Bible, a Life of Washington, and a small History of the United States. The boy read these books over and over till he knew a great deal of them by heart and could repeat whole pages from them. Part of his evenings he spent in writing and ciphering. Thomas Lincoln was so poor that he could seldom afford to buy paper and pens for his son, so the boy had to get on without them. He used to take the back of the broad wooden fire-shovel to write on and a piece of charcoal for a pencil. When he had covered the shovel with words or with sums in arithmetic, he would shave it off clean and begin over again. If "Abe's" father complained that the shovel was getting thin, the boy would go out into the woods, cut down a tree, and make a new one; for as long as the woods lasted, fire-shovels and furniture were cheap.

Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper:
  1. Tell in your own words about the new home of Abraham Lincoln and how he made it comfortable.
  2. Name the books that were mentioned in the passage.

Q 1: The whole passage shows -----------
The interest of a boy to sleep in a cabin.
The interest of a boy to make furniture.
The interest of a boy to learn new things.

Q 2: When does Abraham Lincoln's birthday fall?
February 14th
February 28th
February 12th

Q 3: "Abraham was the best boy I ever saw." - who said this
Abraham's mother
Abraham's father
Abraham's step mother.

Q 4: Abraham Lincoln's bed was made up of -------------
Dry feathers
Dry leaves.
Dry cotton.

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Question 6: This question is available to subscribers only!

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