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The Story of Abraham Lincoln/Life in the Backwoods

< The Story of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln now set to work with a will to educate himself. His father thought that he did not need to learn anything more. He did not see that there was any good in book-learning. If a man could read and write and cipher, what more was needed?

But the good step-mother thought differently; and when another short term of school began in the little log school-house, all six of the children from the Lincoln cabin were among the scholars.

In a few weeks, however, the school had closed; and the three boys were again hard at work, chopping and grubbing in Mr. Lincoln's clearings. They were good-natured, jolly young fellows, and they lightened their labor with many a joke and playful prank.

Many were the droll stories with which Abraham amused his two companions. Many were the puzzling questions that he asked. Sometimes in the evening, with the other five children around him, he would declaim some piece that he had learned; or he would deliver a speech of his own on some subject of common interest.

If you could see him as he then appeared, you would hardly think that such a boy would ever become one of the most famous men of history. On his head he wore a cap made from the skin of a squirrel or a raccoon. Instead of trousers of cloth, he wore buckskin breeches, the legs of which were many inches too short. His shirt was of deerskin in the winter, and of homespun tow in the summer. Stockings he had none. His shoes were of heavy cowhide, and were worn only on Sundays or in very cold weather.

The family lived in such a way as to need very little money. Their bread was made of corn meal. Their meat was chiefly the flesh of wild game found in the forest.

Pewter plates and wooden trenchers were used on the table. The tea and coffee cups were of painted tin. There was no stove, and all the cooking was done on the hearth of the big fireplace.

But poverty was no hindrance to Abraham Lincoln. He kept on with his reading and his studies as best he could. Sometimes he would go to the little village of Gentryville, near by, to spend an evening. He would tell so many jokes and so many funny stories, that all the people would gather round him to listen.

When he was sixteen years old he went one day to Booneville, fifteen miles away, to attend a trial in court. He had never been in court before. He listened with great attention to all that was said. When the lawyer for the defense made his speech, the youth was so full of delight that he could not contain himself.

He arose from his seat, walked across the courtroom, and shook hands with the lawyer. "That was the best speech I ever heard," he said.

He was tall and very slim; he was dressed in a jeans coat and buckskin trousers; his feet were bare. It must have been a strange sight to see him thus complimenting an old and practiced lawyer.

From that time, one ambition seemed to fill his mind. He wanted to be a lawyer and make great speeches in court. He walked twelve miles barefooted, to borrow a copy of the laws of Indiana. Day and night he read and studied.

"Some day I shall be President of the United States," he said to some of his young friends. And this he said not as a joke, but in the firm belief that it would prove to be true.