Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky, to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln in their one room log cabin on their farm known as Sinking Spring (near modern-day Hodgenville, Kentucky). Although Thomas lacked formal education, he was an excellent farmer and carpenter, and often times served as a member of the jury. Thomas and Nancy joined a small Baptist church in the area that had broken away from the larger church over the issue of slavery.
Tragedy in Pigeon Creek
When Abe was two, the family moved to nearby Knob Creek Farm, where Abe's first memories of his childhood were formed. Because of difficulties his father had with the title to the farm, Thomas Lincoln moved his family to Pigeon Creek, Indiana in 1816 where the seven year-old Abraham helped him build a log cabin in the woods. Two years later, Nancy died of "milk sickness." Milk sickness is a rare disease caused by drinking the milk or consuming the meat of a cow that had fed on poisonous roots. In 1819, however, Thomas married Sarah Bush Johnston, whom Abraham would call "mother." Sarah was a kind and warm woman who brought her three children, Matilda, Elizabeth, and John to the Lincoln homestead to live with Abraham and his sister.
Motivated to Learn
From an early age, Sarah recognized Abraham's quick wit and intellect and encouraged him to read. Abraham became an avid reader, gobbling up any book he could get his hands on from neighbors, clergymen, and traveling teachers. Abraham attended school on an inconsistent basis. At times, traveling teachers may have taught at a nearby rudimentary schoolhouse, and at other times Abraham walked several miles to the nearest school. Lincoln himself admitted that the total amount of schooling he received in his childhood was no more than twelve months; nevertheless, he became an excellent reader, learned to write, measure, and make division and multiplication calculations. Abraham took his studies very seriously. Without paper in the house to practice his writing and math, he often did arithmetic on the back of a wooden spoon using charcoal as a makeshift pencil. Lincoln described where he grew up and the opportunities for education in the following quote:
"It was," he once wrote, "a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up. There were some schools, so-called, but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond "readin', writin', and cipherin'" to the Rule of Three. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard."
Abe's Physical Gifts
Abe's growing desire to attend school conflicted with his father's demands on him, which often made him appear lazy to his neighbors. His father often rented him out to perform manual labor tasks such as shucking corn, hoeing, gathering, and plowing. During the early 1800's, Abe's father was entitled to all of the money earned as a result of his son's labor. Abe's considerable strength was evident with his unusual skill and power with an axe. Abe was said to be able to chop more wood and split more rails than anyone around. Far larger and stronger than the other boys in the region, Abe could outrun and outwrestle all of them. Unlike most boys of his time, however, Abe avoided hunting because he took no pleasure in killing animals.
A Lifelong Lesson
Although Abe gained a reputation as a prankster, and for his storytelling abilities, he also gained a reputation for honesty. When he was nineteen years old, he was hired to co-steer a flatboat down the Mississippi River to unload produce to be sold at the plantations in the South and to return with the money earned. For these services, Abe was paid eight dollars a month. More importantly, these forays into the South opened Abe's eyes to the world beyond the Indiana frontier and likely begun to shape his views toward the horrors of slavery as he witnessed the auctions and treatment of slaves firsthand.
Abraham Lincoln Articles
Abraham Lincoln Reading Comprehension (Grades 5 and up). These Include Between 7-10 Critical-Thought, Multiple Choice Qustions. Online Versions Give Immediate Feedback and Score Reports
Abraham Lincoln Activities
- Important Places in the Life of Abraham Lincoln Interactive Map - This interactive map allows students to explore the important places in Abraham Lincoln's life such as New Salem, Springfield, New York City, and many others.
- Mr. Polk's War - This captivating printable requires students to understand the concept of manifest destiny and to conduct a mock interview in which they answer tough questions in the role of Abraham Lincoln (against the Mexican-American War) and in the role of President James K. Polk (in support of the war).
- Futility Versus Immortality - This activity requires students to analyze the qualities of poor leaders such as Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan and contrast them with a leader such as Abraham Lincoln.
- I'll Always Remember Where I Was - This historical prompts requires students to imagine the earth-shaking effect the news of the Emancipation Proclamation had on Americans in 1862. In the spirit of the Emancipation Proclamation, students must write about the biggest news event of their lives and describe its impact.
- The Power of Dreams - This printout describes Abraham Lincoln's famous dream about his own assassination and then requires students to describe and draw a scene from a powerful dream they've had.
- Oh Captain! My Captain! - This printout describes Walt Whitman's famous Oh Captain! My Captain! elegy to President Lincoln and then asks students to think of their own hero and to write a similar poem.
- Primary Source Analysis - Lincoln's Letter to Fanny McCollough This printable activity requires students to analyze a famous condolence letter written by Abraham Lincoln to a teenage girl after her father was killed in the Civil War.
- With Malice for None, With Charity for All Decoding Puzzle - This activity requires students to decode and interpret the famous presidential quote uttered by Abraham Lincoln.
- Dr. Samuel Mudd - Critical Thought Questions The printable narrative that describes the role Dr. Mudd played after Lincoln's assassination. It includes three short-answer questions regarding the main ideas of the article content, critical thought about the content, and vocabulary from the passage.
- Ms. Laura Keene - Critical Thought Questions This printable narrative that describes the role Ms. Laura Keene played after Lincoln's assassination. It includes three short-answer questions regarding the main ideas of the article content, critical thought about the content, and vocabulary from the passage.
- The Execution of Mary Surratt - Critical Thought Questions - This printable narrative describes the circumstances in the Mary Surratt execution . It includes four short-answer questions regarding the main ideas of the article content, critical thought about the content, and vocabulary from the passage.
- Abraham Lincoln Paragraph Paramedics - Find and correct the spelling, punctuation, and usage errors in the paragraph. Click on the error and then type in the correction. Immediate feedback is given.
- Presidential Quotes - This activity first requires students to match the famous quote with the president. Next, students must choose their favorite quote and attempt to explain it in detail.
- Presidential Heights - Did you know James Madison was the shortest president? Did you know Abraham Lincoln was the tallest president? This fun math activity requires students to answer questions about the heights of presidents by viewing the bar graph and making conversions from feet to inches and inches to feet.
- Printable Presidents Word Search - All 45 are in there!
- Illinois State Quarter (Featuring Lincoln) Coloring
- Lincoln Memorial Coloring
- Lincoln Home National Historic Site Video
Online Games Involving Lincoln
- Presidential Mismatch - Students must rearrange the presidential chart so that the presidents are in the correct order in which they served. The number of presidents used in the game is customizable. The timer allows for friendly competitions. Students who enjoy history will love this game!
- Currency Mismatch - This is a wildly fun game that requires students to drag and drop the correct presidential faces to their correct dollar bills. The game is timed and makes for awesome friendly competitions within a classroom.
- Glamour Legends - This fun game allows students to dress up George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Tubman, or Christopher Columbus in more modern, or more primitive clothes.
- Presidents Word Search - This is an online word search with the 45 presidents. Choose with or without a timer.