- Childhood

Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life

Childhood

Photograph believed to be of Thomas Lincoln. Courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum of Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tennessee.

Thomas—Lincoln’s Father

Thomas Lincoln, Abraham’s father, was also a child of the frontier. He had seen his own father killed by Indians. Largely a subsistence farmer, Thomas moved his family from Kentucky to Indiana and eventually to Illinois in search of better prospects.

Thomas’s relationship with his son grew increasingly strained as Abraham matured. By the end of Thomas’s life, they no longer spoke.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Railroad map, 1850

My childhood-home I see again,
 And gladden with the view;
And still as mem'ries crowd my brain,
 There's sadness in it too.

O memory! thou mid-way world
 Twixt earth and paradise,
Where things decayed, and loved ones lost
 In dreamy shadows rise ....

I range the fields with pensive tread,
 And pace the hollow rooms;
And feel (companions of the dead)
 I'm living in the tombs.


—Abraham Lincoln, around 1844

 

Photograph of Sarah Lincoln. Courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Sarah—Lincoln’s Stepmother

Abraham Lincoln’s family moved from Kentucky to Little Pigeon Creek, Indiana, in 1816. Two years later, his mother, Nancy Lincoln, died of milk-sickness, an illness caused by drinking contaminated milk. The next year, Thomas married Sarah Bush Johnson, a widow with three children. The Lincoln family now included Thomas and Sarah, her children, Abraham, his sister Sarah, and a cousin, Dennis Hanks.

Sarah brought stability to the family. Although illiterate herself, she encouraged the children’s education and supported Abraham in his love of books and learning, which led him beyond the frontier.