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A Lincoln Log

Information reprinted with permission from the Courier Times, local newspaper New Castle, Indiana

11/22/2013 5:53:00 PM

Historically Speaking: A Lincoln log
Historical Society presenter chronicles Abe's early life, recites Gettysburg address
By Darrel Radford
For the Courier-Times

Those attending Sunday's Henry County Historical Society program on Abraham Lincoln rode an inspiring, yet uncomfortable time machine.

Wilbur Tague, the Brownsburg photographer who looks remarkably similar to the 16th president, donned his top hat, posed with youth and adults alike for photos and gave everyone a glimpse of Lincoln's most humble beginnings.

No McDonalds to grab a quick meal. No Kroger to go grocery shopping. No Holiday Inn for a good night's sleep.

"You might wake up and have six inches of snow on top of your covers," Tague described. "Dinner probably smells like a wet animal. Your plate was a piece of tree bark. Your eating utensils were your fingers."

This kind of challenging environment faced Lincoln and somehow, "the ugliest kid ever born on earth" overcame it to craft what many consider one of the world's finest speeches. Tuesday was the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address. Tague delivered that address during his presentation Sunday.

While Lincoln was born in Kentucky and spent most of his adulthood in Illinois, he was a southern Indiana resident for 14 years.

Through Tague's vivid and candid presentation, both youths and adults at the New Castle-Henry County Public Library were reminded that it was anything but an easy life.

"Men spent all day looking, growing, hunting one meal," Tague said. "Women spent all day cooking that meal, making and washing clothes, and minding the kids. You're one day away from starving to death."

Tague told the story of how Lincoln's father, Tom, left the children alone while he traveled to Kentucky in search of a wife to help him with the family. His first wife, Nancy, died from milk sickness when Lincoln was just nine years old.

"Tom left those three kids home alone with no babysitter, Dennis, Abraham and Sarah," Tague said. "If something would have happened to those kids, who would have cared? There probably weren't 10 people who even knew who Abraham Lincoln was then."

Tague also shared origins of some time-honored sayings:

n As he described the ropes that held posts of the Lincoln bed together and how they had to be tighened, Tague shared that's where the saying "sleep tight" derived.

n Tague told the kids that baths were rare in those days. "You had to bring the horse trough in to take a bath, and then everyone took one, starting with the parents and then the children, oldest to youngest. That's where "don't throw the baby out with the bath water" came from."

While Lincoln was not an official member of any church, Tague stressed he was a man of faith. "In all Lincoln's speeches, the Bible is quoted. The South prayed that they would win. The North prayed that they would win. Lincoln prayed that the whole nation would come back together."

Tague's presentation served as a reminder of how history links generations. He said two weeks before Lincoln's death, his carriage was seen by a seven-year-old standing in a church door-way - a young man named Woodrow Wilson.

And, two weeks later, as Lincoln's casket went by, a six-year-old who saw it happened to be Teddy Roosevelt.

Darrel Radford is a board member for the Henry County Historical Society. For more on local history, visit www.henrycountyhs.org or the society's Facebook page.