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Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln.-Their residence in Pennsylvania and
Virginia.--His Grandfather Crosses the Alleghanies to join Boone and his Associates.-- The Dark and Bloody Ground." _His Violent Death.-His Widow Settles in Washington County.--Thomas Lincoln, his Son, Marries and Locates near Hodgenville.-Birth of Abraham Lincoln.--La Rue County.--His Early Life and Training in Kentucky.
THE ancestors of ABRAHAM LINCOLN were of English descent. We find the earliest definite traces of them in Berks county, Pennsylvania, though this was almost certainly not the first place of their residence in this country. Their location, and their adherence to the Quaker faith, make it probable that the original emigration occurred under the auspices of William Penn. It was doubtless a branch of the same family that, leaving England under different religious impulses, but with the same adventurous and independent spirit, settled, at an earlier date, in Old Plymouth Colony. The separation may possibly have taken place this side of the Atlantic, and not beyond. Some of the same traits appear conspicuously in both these family groups. One tradition indeed affirms that the Pennsylvania branch was transplanted from Hingham, Massachusetts, and was derived from a common stock with General Benjamin Lincoln, of Revolutionary fame. There is a noticeable coincidence in the general prevalence, in each American branch, of Scriptural names in christening—the Benjamin, Levi, and Ezra, of Massachusetts, having their counterpart in the Abraham, Thomas, and Josiah, of Virginia and Kentucky. The peculiarity is one to have been equally expected among sober Friends, and among zealous Puritans.
Berks county was not very long the home of Mr. Lincoln's immediate progenitors. There can hardly have been more than a slender pioneer settlement there, when one or more of the number made another remove, not far from the year 1750, to what is now Rockingham county, Virginia. Old Berks was first settled about 1734—then, too, as a German colony—and was not organized as a county until 1752 ; before which date, according to family traditions, this removal to Virginia took place.
This, it will be observed, was pre-eminently a pioneer stock, evidently much in love with backwoods adventure, and constantly courting the dangers and hardships of forest life.
Rockingham county, Virginia, though situated in the beautiful valley of the Shenandoah, and inviting, by its natural resources, the advances of civilization, must nevertheless have been, at the time just mentioned, in the very heart of the wilderness. Now, it is one of the most productive counties of Virginia, having exceeded every other county in the State, according to the census of 1850, in its crops of wheat and hay. A branch of the family, it is understood, still remains there, to enjoy the benefits of so judicious a selection, and of the labors and imperfectly requited endurances of these first settlers.
From this locality, about the year 1782, Abraham Lincoln, grandfather of him who was to make the name illustrious, started Westward across the Alleghanies, attracted by the accounts which had reached him of the wonderfully fertile and lovely country explored by Daniel Boone, on and near the Kentucky river. During all his lifetime, hitherto, he could have known little of any other kind of existence than that to which he had been educated as an adventurous frontiersman. The severe labor of preparing the heavily-timbered lands of Shenandoah for cultivation, the wild delights of hunting the then abundant game of the woods, and the exciting hazards of an uncertain warfare with savage enemies, had been almost the sole occupation of his rough and healthful life. Perhaps the settlements around him had already begun to be too far advanced for the highest enjoyment of his characteristic mode of living; or possibly, with others, he aspired to the possession of more fertile fields, and to an easier subsistence. Whatever the reason, he set out at the time just stated, with his wife and several young children, on his long journey across the mountains, and over the broad valleys intervening between the Shenandoah and the Kentucky.
At this date, and for ten or twelve years later, the present State of Kentucky formed part of the old Commonwealth of Virginia. "The dark and bloody ground," as afterward named for better reasons than the fiction which assigns this meaning to its Indian appellation, had then been but recently entered upon by the white man. Its first explorer, Daniel Boone, whose very name suggests a whole world of romance and adventure, had removed, when a mere boy, among the earlier emigrants from Eastern Pennsylvania, to Berks county. Here he must have been a contemporary resident, and was perhaps an acquaintance, of some of the younger members of the Lincoln family. At all events, as substantially one of their own neighbors, they must have watched his later course with eager interest and sympathy, and caught inspiration from his exploits. At eighteen, Boone had again emigrated with his father, as before, to the banks of the Yadkin, a mountain river in the north-west of North Carolina, at just about the same date as the removal of the Lincolns to Virginia. Some years later, Boone, in his hunting excursions, had passed over and admired large tracts of the wilderness north of his home, and especially along a branch of the Cumberland river, within the limits of what is now Kentucky. It was not until 1769, however, that, with five associates, he made the thorough exploration of the Kentucky valley, which resulted in the subsequent settlements there. The glowing descriptions, which ultimately got abroad, of the incredible richness and beauty of these new and remote forest-climes of Trans-Alleghanian Virginia, and of their alluring hunting-grounds, must have early reached the ears of the boyhood-companions of Daniel Boone, and spread through the neighboring country. The stirring adventures of the pioneer hero, during the next five or six years, and the beginnings of substantial settlements in that far-west country, must have suggested new attractions thitherward, to the more active and daring spirits, whose ideal of manhood Boone so nearly approached.
From the borders, in various directions, hundreds of miles away, emigration had now begun. These recruits were from that class of hardy frontiersmen most inured to the kind of toils they were to encounter anew in the Kentucky forests. They went forward, fearless of the dangers to be encountered from the numerous bands of Indians already re-commencing hostilities, after a temporary pacification. Here was a common territory and place of meeting for the tribes, both of the North and the South, and here, before and after this date, there were many exciting adventures and deadly conflicts with these savages, whose favorite haunts had been thus unceremoniously invaded.
It was not far from the date of the disastrous battle of the Lower Blue Licks, in 1782, that the grandfather of Mr. Lincoln, with his young family, reached the region which had, perhaps, long been the promised land of his dreams. The exact place at which he settled is not known. According to the family tradition, it was somewhere on Floyd's creek, supposed to be near its mouth, in what is now Bullitt county. On the other hand, in the field-book of Daniel Boone, who was a deputy-surveyor under Col. Thomas Marshall, father of Chief Justice Marshall, is the following memorandum: “ Abraham Lincoln enters 500 acres of land, on a Treasury Warrant-No. 5,994—beginning opposite Charles Yancey's upper line, on the south side of the river, running south 200 poles, then up the river for quantity, 11th December, 1782."* Yancey's land, as appears from the same book, was on the north side of the "main" Licking Creek, as then designated.
The emigrant had made but a mere beginning in his new pioneer labors, when, while at work one day, at a distance from his cabin, unsuspecting of danger, he was killed by an Indian, who had stolen upon him unaware. His widow, thus suddenly bereaved
* Boone's field-book is now in the hands of L. C. Draper, Esq., of Madison, Wisconsin, to whom I am indebted for the copy given in the text. The treasury warrant" was issued by the State of Virginia.
in a new and strange land, had now their three sons and two daughters left to her sole protection and care, with probably little means for their support. She soon after removed to what became Washington county, in the same State, and there reared her children, all of whom reached mature age. One of the daughters was married to a Mr. Crume, and the other to a man named Bromfield. The three sons, named Thomas, Mordecai and Josiah, all remained in Kentucky until after their majority.
Thomas Lincoln, one of these sons, was born in 1778. He was a mere child when his father removed to Kentucky, and was but six years old at the time of the latter's death. The date of this event was consequently about 1784. Of the early life of the orphan boy, we have no knowledge, except what can be learned of the general lot of his class, and of the habits and modes of living then prevalent among the hardy pioneers of Kentucky. These backwoodsmen had an unceasing round of hard toils, with no immediate reward but a bare subsistence from year to year, and the cheering promise of better days in the future. But even their lands, as in the case of Boone, they were not always so fortunate as to retain in fee.
More comfortable days, and a much improved state of things had come, before Thomas arrived at maturity; but in his boyhood and youth, he must have known whatever was worst in the trials and penury of the first generation of Kentucky frontiersmen, with few other enjoyments than an occasional practice with his rifle. His training was suited to develop a strong, muscular frame, and a rugged constitution, with a characteristic quickness of perception and promptness of action. The Kentuckian of that, and the succeeding generation had generally a tall, stalwart frame, a frank and courteous heart, and a humorous and slightly quaint turn of speech; a fondness for adventure and for the sports of hunting; a manly selfrespect, and a fearless independence of spirit.
“ Pride in their port, defiance in their eye,