Lincoln Cent, Commemorative (2009) Aspect 2: Formative Years in Indiana

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Aspect 2: Formative Years in Indiana

Formative Years in Indiana Reverse In the fall of 1816, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln left Kentucky for southern Indiana, settling in Spencer County. As he grew older, young Abraham became skilled at using a plow and, especially, an axe. Although the demands of frontier life left little time for formal schooling, his parents instilled in him a love for books and Abraham educated himself by reading such works as "Life of Washington," "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin," "Robinson Crusoe and The Arabian Nights" all by the age of 11. He could often be seen carrying a book along with his axe.

In October 1818, the family suffered a terrible tragedy when Nancy died from drinking contaminated cow's milk. For Abraham, whose mother had encouraged him to read and explore the world through books, it was a devastating blow. Thomas later married Sarah Bush Johnston, a kind stepmother who helped raise Abraham as her own.

The approved reverse design for aspect two depicts a young Lincoln reading while taking a break from working as a rail splitter in Indiana and includes the inscriptions "United States of America," "E Pluribus Unum" and "One Cent." It was designed and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Charles Vickers.

Source: U.S. Mint

By the time the lad was seventeen he could write a good hand, do hard examples in long division, and spell better than any one else in the county. Once in a while he wrote a little piece of his own about something which interested him; when the neighbors heard it read, they would say, "The world can't beat it."


At nineteen Abraham Lincoln had reached his full height. He stood nearly six feet four inches, barefooted. He was a kind of good-natured giant. No one in the neighborhood could strike an axe as deep into a tree as he could, and few, if any, were equal to him in strength. It takes a powerful man to put a barrel of flour into a wagon without help, and there is not one in a hundred who can lift a barrel of cider off the ground; but it is said that young Lincoln could stoop down, lift a barrel on to his knees, and drink from the bung-hole.

At this time a neighbor hired Abraham to go with his son to New Orleans. The two young men were to take a flat-boat loaded with corn and other produce down the Ohio and the Mississippi. It was called a voyage of about eighteen hundred miles, and it would take between three and four weeks.

Young Lincoln was greatly pleased with the thought of making such a trip. He had never been away any distance from home, and, as he told his father, he felt that he wanted to see something more of the world. His father made no objection, but, as he bade his son good by, he said, Take care that in trying to see the world you don't see the bottom of the Mississippi.

The two young men managed to get the boat through safely. But one night a gang of negroes came on board, intending to rob them of part of their cargo. Lincoln soon showed the robbers he could handle a club as vigorously as he could an axe, and the rascals, bruised and bleeding, were glad to get off with their lives.

Not long after young Lincoln's return, his father moved to Illinois. It was a two weeks' journey through the woods with ox-teams. Abraham helped his father build a comfortable log cabin; then he and a man named John Hanks split walnut rails, and fenced in fifteen acres of land for a cornfield.

That part of the country had but few settlers, and it was still full of wild beasts. When the men got tired of work and wanted a frolic, they had a grand wolf-hunt. First, a tall pole was set up in a clearing; next, the hunters in the woods formed a great circle of perhaps ten miles in extent. Then they began to move nearer and nearer together, beating the bushes and yelling with all their might. The frightened wolves, deer, and other wild creatures inside of the circle of hunters were driven to the pole in the clearing; there they were shot down in heaps.


Young Lincoln was not much of a hunter, but he always tried to do his part. Yet, after all, he liked the axe better than he did the rifle. He would start off before light in the morning and walk to his work in the woods, five or six miles away. There he would chop steadily all day. The neighbors knew, when they hired him, that he wouldn't sit down on the first log he came to and fall asleep. Once when he needed a new pair of trousers, he made a bargain for them with a Mrs. Nancy Miller. She agreed to make him a certain number of yards of tow cloth, and dye it brown with walnut bark. For every yard she made, Lincoln bound himself to split four hundred good fence-rails for her. In this way he made his axe pay for all his clothes.

Source: eBook for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License online at

Title: The Beginner's American History

Author: D. H. Montgomery

Release Date: April 5, 2006 [eBook #18127]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


  • Birthplace Cent - Philadelphia 284.40 M Denver 350.40 M Total 634.80 M
  • Formative Years Cent - Philadelphia 376.00 M Denver 363.60 M Total 739.60 M
  • Professional Life Cent - Philadelphia 316.00 M Denver 336.00 M Total 652.00 M
  • Presidency Lincoln Cent -Philadelphia TBD Denver TBD Total TBD