Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, near Hodgenville, Kentucky, the son of Nancy Hanks and Thomas Lincoln, pioneer farmers. At the age of two he was taken by his parents to nearby Knob Creek and at eight to Spencer County, Indiana. The following year his mother died. In 1819 his father married Sarah Bush Johnston, a kindly widow, who soon gained the boy's affection.
Lincoln grew up a tall, gangling youth, who could hold his own in physical contests and also showed great intellectual promise, although he had little formal education. In 1831, after moving with his family to Macon County, Illinois, he struck out on his own, taking cargo on a flatboat to New Orleans, Louisiana. He then returned to Illinois and settled in New Salem, a short-lived community on the Sangamon River, where he split rails and clerked in a store. He gained the respect of his fellow townspeople, including the so-called Clary Grove boys, who had challenged him to physical combat, and was elected captain of his company in the Black Hawk War (1832).
Returning from the war, he began an unsuccessful venture in shopkeeping that ended when his partner died. In 1833 he was appointed postmaster but had to supplement his income with surveying and various other jobs. At the same time he began to study law. That he gradually paid off his and his deceased partner's debts firmly established his reputation for honesty. The story of his romance with Ann Rutledge, a local young woman whom he knew briefly before her untimely death, is unsubstantiated.
Illinois Politician and Lawyer
Defeated in 1832 in a race for the state legislature, Lincoln was elected on the Whig ticket two years later and served in the lower house from 1834 to 1841. He quickly emerged...