When Abraham Lincoln was seven years old his father once again uprooted the family and moved from the impoverished soil of Kentucky to greener Indiana. Young Abe, taller and stronger than average, “had an axe put into his hands at once; and from that till within his twenty-third year, he was almost constantly handling that most useful instrument.” Indeed, Abraham joined his father in the male-dominated duties of a new claim, while Sarah learned from their mother about running a household.
The Little Pigeon Creek land offered good soil for growing crops and sufficient water access for drinking and farming, as well as accessibility to markets down the nearby Ohio River to sell excess crops. But the next thirteen years gave the same result as the farms in Kentucky. When the soil is tilled year after year it oxidizes out all the vegetable matter, thus making it impossible for the useful bacteria needed for nutrient replenishment to exist. The result is a dead soil that exists only as a mechanical retainer of the concentrated fertilizer applied. Over time, the soil loses its capacity to grow crops.
And so they moved again, this time to Illinois, where the now grown Lincoln wisely abandoned his reliance on the soil to reap the greener pastures of law and politics.
[The above is adapted from my new book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, due in stores July 31.]
David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores late summer 2017. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.