Abraham Lincoln turned 21 on February 12, 1830. For several years he had anxiously awaited this date, when he no longer had to turn over all his labored earnings to his father. Abraham worked hard when he had to, but despised the drudgery of subsistence farm life, even comparing himself to a slave. He took every opportunity to avoid farm work, seeking the quiet and shade of trees whenever possible to read any books he was able to obtain. He later admitted “his father taught him to work but never learned him to love it.” Abraham was eager to start life on his own.
Thomas, however, had other plans. He had never understood Abraham’s obsessive reading and learning; he expected his son to remain on the family farm and eventually take it over. But the routine of Indiana was fading into the promise of Illinois, a free state that was rumored to have more fertile land. Dennis Hanks had not fared as well as Thomas in Indiana. His cousin John Hanks had settled in Macon County, Illinois, and convinced Dennis to relocate. Dennis urged Thomas to follow suit, and after a new outbreak of milk sickness in Indiana, Thomas moved on short notice. Less than one month after his twenty-first birthday, Abraham found himself committed to yet another move to yet another farm in yet another state.
A brutal first year and a “Winter of Deep Snow” had Thomas thinking of relocating back to Indiana. This time, Abraham had had enough. Rather than follow the family, he instead hopped a flatboat to New Orleans, then upon his return relocated to New Salem, Illinois. Still young and for the first time all alone, Lincoln would relocate only twice more in his life – once to Springfield where he married and started his own family, and finally to Washington, D.C., where his life ended in a single-shot flash of gunpowder.
Lincoln had saved the Union, but the Union hadn’t saved Lincoln’s life.
[Adapted in part from Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America]
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. 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.