"There I Grew Up" Remembering Lincoln's Indiana Youth

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I've begun to dream about the blog. I think it's safe to say, I'm obsessed. I'm having trouble thinking of anything else, but I guess that's natural since I spend about 10 hours a day working on it, but I still find it a little bit disturbing. I remember when I used to dream about being chased by wild animals and being forced to go back to high school. Ahh, those were the days. Now I dream about moderating comments on the blog.

Now, on to talking about the voting for next weeks books:

I think it'll be nice to read a happier book on the 19th, to balance out the more serious one I'm going to read on the 18th, so here are the options for the 19th:

We're Just Like You, Only Prettier by Celia Rivenbark (a collection of humorous essays about the real truths of Southern life)

Callie's Tally by Betsy Howie (a humourous look at just how much it costs to raise a baby for it's first year of life)

My Point . . . and I Do Have One by Ellen Degeneres (humorous essays about life)

You can vote on this set of books until February 18th. Yesterday's books can still be voted on until the 17th.

I've received some votes so far for the book I'm going to read on the 18th, which is good, but I know there are a lot more readers who have voted yet. In the interest of being more persuasive about convincing others to vote, I'm going to channel President Obama for a minute: It's time for you to put your hand on the arc of the blog and bend it towards the hope of a better blog entry. -And to show you how fair and balanced I can be: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall . . . that stands between the readers and the comments section. - So if you want to have a say in what I read on the 18th, 19th, and 20th (or you'd like to avoid me making any future lame political jokes), then head to the comments section and vote. Remember, if you don't vote, you can't complain about the results.

Today's book: "In 1859 Abraham Lincoln covered his Indiana years in one paragraph and two sentences of a written autobiographical statement that included the following: "We reached our new home about the time the State came into the union. It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals in the woods. There I grew up." William E. Bartelt uses annotation and primary source material to tell the history of Lincoln's Indiana years by those who were there. Bartelt begins with Lincoln's own words written in two short autobiographical sketches in 1859 and 1860, and in the poetry Lincoln wrote following a campaign trip to Indiana in 1844. In 1865 Lincoln's law partner, William H. Herndon, began interviewing Lincoln's family and those who knew Lincoln in Indiana. Bartelt examines Herndon's interviews with Lincoln's stepmother Sarah (Sally) Bush Johnston Lincoln, cousin Dennis Hanks, stepsister Matilda Johnston Hall Moore, neighbors Nathaniel Grigsby, Elizabeth Crawford, and David Turnham, and others who knew Lincoln in Indiana. Also included in the volume are excerpts from Lincoln biographies by William Herndon, Ida Tarbell, Albert Beveridge, and Louis Warren, in which Bartelt analyzes to what extent these authors researched Lincoln's Indiana period. "There I Grew Up": Remembering Abraham Lincoln's Indiana Youth reveals, through the words of those who knew him, Abraham Lincoln's humor, compassion, oratorical skills, and thirst for knowledge, and it provides an overview of Lincoln's Indiana experiences, his family, the community where the Lincolns settled, and southern Indiana during the years 1816 to 1830. "

I wanted to read a book about Abe Lincoln today, in honor of his birthday, so I consulted with my personal expert on all things presidential (my sister) and this was the book she recommended. I was very excited about reading this book since it covered the time when Lincoln lived in Indiana - my home state. I loved Indiana history in elementary school - it was one of the few classes that I paid attention to. So I thought I would take a mental trip back to elementary school, and spend some time reading about Indiana history while my sister took an actual trip back to elementary school to give a talk to some first graders about Lincoln's time as a lawyer. We compared notes briefly before I started writing this entry - my reading went well, and her talk went very well also (apparently the children initiated a group hug at the end).

Fun (and not so fun) facts about Abe Lincoln and Indiana that I learned from this book:

  • Abe Lincoln almost died in 1818, when he was only 9. (I think you can see why I had to add in the "not so fun" part.)
  • Vincennes is the oldest city in Indiana. (I googled that information and the official website for the city of Vicennes assures me that fact is correct.)
  • Lincoln and his family moved to Indiana in 1816, right around the same time that Indiana officially became a state. (I googled that too. I leave no stone unturned in my quest to provide my readers fun facts. That information is correct as well. Indiana was admitted to the United States as the 19th state on December 11, 1816).
  • According to the 1814-1815 census, Indiana had a population of 63,897 (As of 2006, the population of Indiana was 6,313,520).
  • The state of Indiana grew rapidly during the years when Lincoln lived here. When he arrived in 1816, only the southern third of the state was organized into counties. By the time Lincoln left in 1830, more than two-thirds of the state was organized into counties. (The part of the state that I live in was still a disorganized mess at that point. Not to worry, my mother whipped it into shape with rubbermaid containers and labels when she showed up around . . . well for the sake of not annoying her maybe I won't mention the year).

The author shares interviews that were conducted in 1860's, and the general consensus among Lincoln's family and friends is that he loved to read more than anything else. Lincoln and I, we're so alike, we're so connected - well except for that part about how he became President and saved the country and freed the slaves and all that - so maybe we're only kind of alike. But still, if Lincoln were alive today, I think he would read my blog - I'm not going to presume to say whether he would have liked it or not, but I am going to continue to delude myself into believing that he would have read it.

Random weird fact: Lincoln's step sisters both named their sons John. I realize of course that those 1,001 Baby Name books didn't exist back then, but come on - and they had the same first initial for their last names. I guess it's a good thing kids didn't get that many presents for Christmas or Grandma Lincoln would have had a heck of a time keeping track of which present belonged to which John H. I guess they could have numbered them John # 1 and John # 2, but that sounds slightly inappropriate, if you know what I mean dear readers.

Tune in tomorrow (oh wait, this isn't a TV show) . . . Join me tomorrow dear readers, for the voting on the book for February 20th, and I promise I won't rewrite any more political speeches in an effort to get people to vote. Read my lips . . . no more rewriting of political speeches (oops, I slipped).