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73. Sarah Bush Lincoln (William H. Herndon Interview).

Septr 8th 1865

Friday — Old Mrs Lincolns Home — 8 m South of Charleston — Septr 8th 1865

Mrs Thomas Lincoln Says —

I Knew Mr Lincoln in Ky — I married Mr Johnson — he died about 1817 or 18 — Mr Lincoln came back to Ky, having lost his wife — Mr Thos Lincoln & Myself were married in 1819 — left Ky — went to Indiana — moved there in a team — think Krume movd us. Her is our old bible dated 1819: it has Abes name in it. Here is Barclay's dictionary dated 1799 — : it has Abe's name in it, though in a better hand writing — both are boyish scrawls — When we landed in Indiana Mr Lincoln had erected a good log cabin — tolerably Comfortable. This is the bureau I took to Indiana in 1819 — cost $45 in Ky Abe was then young — so was his Sister. I dressed Abe & his sister up — looked more human. Abe slept up stairs — went up on pins stuck in the logs — like a ladder — Our bed steds were original creations — none such now — made of poles & Clapboards — Abe was about 9 ys of age when I landed in Indiana — The country was wild — and desolate. Abe was a good boy: he didn't like physical labor — was diligent for


Knowledge — wished to Know & if pains & Labor would get it he was sure to get it. He was the best boy I ever saw. He read all the books he could lay his hands on — I can't remember dates nor names — am about 75 ys of age — Abe read the bible some, though not as much as said: he sought more congenial books — suitable for his age. I think newspapers were had in Indiana as Early as 1824 & up to 1830 when we moved to Ills — Abe was a Constant reader of them — I am sure of this for the years of 1827 — 28 — 29 — 30. The name of the Louisville Journal seems to sound like one. Abe read histories, papers — & other books — cant name any one — have forgotten. Abe had no particular religion — didnt think of that question at that time, if he ever did — He never talked about it. He read diligently — studied in the day time — didnt after night much — went to bed Early — got up Early & then read — Eat his breakfast — go to work in the field with the men. Abe read all the books he could lay his hands on — and when he came across a passage that Struck him he would write it down on boards if he had no paper & keep it there till he did get paper — then he would re-write it — look at it repeat it — He had a copy book — a kind of scrap book in which he put down all things and this preserved them. He ciphered on boards when he had no paper or no slate and when the board would get too black he would shave it off with a drawing knife and go on again: When he had paper he put his sums down on it. His copy book is here now or was lately (Here it was shown me by Mr Thos Johnson) Abe, when old folks were at our house, was a silent & attentive observer — never speaking or asking questions till they were gone and then he must understand Every thing — even to the smallest thing — Minutely & Exactly — : he would then repeat it over to himself again & again — sometimes in one form and then in another & when it was fixed in his mind to suit him he became Easy and he never lost that fact or his understanding of it. Sometimes he seemed pestered to give Expression to his ideas and got mad almost at one who couldn't Explain plainly what he wanted to convey. He would hear sermons preached — come home — take the children out — get on a stump or log and almost repeat it word for word — He made other Speeches — Such as interested him and the children. His father had to make him quit sometimes as he quit his own work to speak & made the other children as well as the men quit their work. As a usual thing Mr Lincoln never made Abe quit reading to do anything if he could avoid it. He would do it himself first. Mr. Lincoln could read a little & could scarcely write his name: hence he wanted, as he himself felt the uses & necessities of Education his boy Abraham to learn & he Encouraged him to do it in all ways he could — Abe was a poor boy, & I can say what scarcely one woman — a mother — can say in a thousand and it is this — Abe never gave me a cross word or look and never refused in fact, or Even in appearance, to do any thing I requested him. I never gave him a cross word in all my life. He was Kind to Every body and to Every thing and always accommodate others if he could — would do so willingly if he could.


His mind & mine — what little I had seemed to run together — move in the same channel — Abe could Easily learn & long remember and when he did learn anything he learned it well and thoroughly. What he thus learned he stowed away in his memory which was Extremely good — What he learned and Stowed away was well defined in his own mind — repeated over & over again & again till it was so defined and fixed firmly & permanently in his Memory. He rose Early — went to bed Early, not reading much after night. Abe was a moderate Eater and I now have no remembrance of his Special dish: he Sat down & ate what was set before him, making no complaint: he seemd Careless about this. I cooked his meals for nearly 15 years — . He always had good health — never was sick — was very careful of his person — was tolerably neat and clean only — Cared nothing for clothes — so that they were clean & neat — fashion cut no figure with him — nor Color — nor Stuff nor material — was Careless about these things. He was more fleshy in Indiana than Ever in Ills — . I saw him Every year or two — He was here — after he was Elected President of the US. (Here the old lady stopped — turned around & cried — wiped her Eyes — and proceeded) As Company would Come to our house Abe was a silent listener — wouldn't speak — would sometimes take a book and retire aloft — go to the stable or field or woods — and read — . Abe was always fond of fun — sport — wit & jokes — He was sometimes very witty indeed. He never drank whiskey or other strong drink — was temperate in all things — too much so I thought sometimes — He never told me a lie in his life — never Evaded — never Equivocated never dodged — nor turned a Corner to avoid any chastisement or other responsibility. He never swore or used profane language in my presence nor in others that I now remember of — He duly reverenced old age — loved those best about his own age — played with those under his age — he listened to the aged — argued with his Equals — but played with the children — . He loved animals genery and treated them Kindly: he loved children well very well — . There seemed to be nothing unusual in his love for animals or his own Kind — though he treated Every body & Every thing Kindly — humanely — Abe didnt Care much for crowds of people: he choose his own Company which was always good. He was not very fond of girls as he seemed to me. He sometimes attended Church. He would repeat the sermon over again to the children. The sight of such a thing amused all and did Especially tickle the Children. When Abe was reading My husband took particular Care not to disturb him — would let him read on and on till Abe quit of his own accord. He was dutiful to me always — he loved me truly I think. I had a son John who was raised with Abe Both were good boys, but I must Say — both now being dead that Abe was the best boy I Ever Saw or Ever Expect to see. I wish I had died when my husband died. I did not want Abe to run for Presdt — did not want him Elected — was afraid Somehow or other — felt it in my heart that Something would happen him and when he came down to see me after he was Elected Presdt I still felt that Something told me that Something would befall Abe and that I should see him no more. Abe & his father are in Heaven I have no doubt, and I want to go there — go where they are — God bless Abm


When I first reachd the House of Mrs Lincoln and was introduced to her by Col A H. Chapman her grandson by marriage — I did not Expect to get much out of her — She seemed to old & feeble — : She asked me my name 2 or 3 times and where I lived as often — and woud say — "Where Mr Lincoln lived once his friend too" She breathed badly at first but She seemed to be struggling at last to arouse her self — or to fix her mind on the subject. Gradually by introducing simple questions to her — about her age — marriage — Kentucky — Thomas Lincoln — her former husband Johnston her children — grand children She awoke — as it were a new being — her Eyes were clear & calm: her flesh is white & pure — not Coarse or material — is tall — has bluish large gray Eyes: Ate dinner with her — sat on my west side — left arm — ate a good hearty dinner she did —

When I was about to leave she arose — took me by the hand — wept — and bade me goodby — Saying I shall never see you again — and if you see Mrs Abm Lincoln & family tell them I send them my best & tenderest love — Goodby my good son's friend — farewell.

Then went to Thos Lincoln's grave (describe it &c)

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington D.C.W2309 — 16; HL: LN2408, 1:78 — 84



1. See §75.

2. See §24, note 17.

3. The Louisville Jounal began publication on November 23, 1830.

4. See CW 1:xxix — xlviii.