Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Hard, honest work opened new world to Abe Lincoln

To drive home a point, Abe Lincoln often said, "That reminds me of a story" and proceeded to explain his remarks with what one admirer called his "pointed, pungent, pithy and practical" illustrations. With his birthday coming up on Feb. 12, let’s put his family background in perspective with other historical families. And let’s get acquainted with the tall, skinny boy who could build a strong boat but had never earned a dollar.

Abraham Lincoln’s ancestors left southeastern England because of a proclamation in the early 1600s that, "All of those who do not conform to the strict regulations of the Anglican Church will be harried out of the land." This sent Quakers scurrying to go somewhere — even to a wild place called America. They were in danger because Quakers believed all people are equal in the sight of God. "Harried" was a euphemistic term suggesting torture of the cruelest kind and sometimes even death. Even George Fox, the Quaker leader, had been tortured.

Daniel Boone’s ancestors, also Quakers, left southwest England later, also seeking religious freedom. Any safe location, even in the untamed new land across the Atlantic, was attractive to people in such danger. A young weaver named Samuel Lincoln came here only 17 years after Pilgrims landed in Plymouth. My husband’s printer ancestor, Gregory Dexter, came from London in the 1640s to help start Providence, R.I. The family of George Boone, Daniel Boone’s grandfather, came on a notoriously miserable Atlantic crossing and landed in Philadelphia in 1717. They and many other Quakers came to worship without harassment.

Young Samuel Lincoln married in this untamed country, and the couple raised a large family that spread across the land. Lincolns were attracted to the same general areas as the Boones and my ancestors, the Bryans.

Members of these families met at a Quaker meeting when they lived in Berks County, Pa. Strong affection and some intermarriages kept these families in touch with each other for generations. The famous Daniel Boone was 75 years old and living in Missouri when Abraham Lincoln was born.

As a youth, Abe was tall, gangling and known to be poor; he was also quite strong and ambitious. He seldom worked for money but once split 400 rails for each yard of cloth a woman would weave and dye with walnut hulls to make him a pair of britches.

Once he had helped raise garden produce and wanted to sell it in river towns downstream. When he persuaded his mother to let him do this, he built a flatboat large enough to carry several barrels of produce. He was at the wharf when a large boat stopped for passengers.

Two well-dressed men approached and asked, "Will you take us and our trunks out to the passenger boat?" Abe said he would, thinking he might make about "two bits" for the job. He loaded their heavy trunks onto the boat he had made, and the men sat on the trunks. When they boarded as passengers, Lincoln put the heavy trunks up on the steamer, which was ready to pull out.

Abe called, "Hey, fellows, you forgot to pay me." Each man then tossed a silver half-dollar onto the deck of his boat! Lincoln, relating this said, "I could hardly credit that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar in less than a day. By honest work I had earned a dollar!" He recalled that, "The world seemed wider and fairer before me. I was a more hopeful and confident being from that time."


Click here to return to the index

 Subscribe in your RSS reader


Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.