Abe’s Special Friend


Quietly the ten-year-old girl tiptoed toward the big oak tree. Her bare feet stepped lightly on freshly fallen leaves. A twig snapped. The girl stopped a moment, hoping the boy on the other side of the tree had not heard. There was no sound.

The girl moved closer. Soon she stood beside the boy and, without warning, grabbed the slate shingle he held in his lap.

“Hey, what—”

Before the boy could say another word, Sarah Lincoln waved the shingle high in the air. “Look at this, everyone,” she teased. “This is my worthy brother and his shingle for writing. You ask what my worthy brother is worth? Why, look at his shingle. He has written his name again and again. Surely he must fancy he is worth a giant treasure.”

Eight-year-old Abe jumped up and grabbed his shingle board. “You are always teasing!” he scolded. “You might do well to practice your own writing.”

Sarah laughed. “If I did, I’d write something better than my name—or yours. Vanity brings pain, dear brother.”

Still smiling, she ran off into the Kentucky woods. Abe sat down again, looking at his name on the shingle board.

“That Sarah,” he said to himself. “She’ll always be a tease.”

Sarah Lincoln was born on February 10, 1807. Two years and two days later, on February 12, 1809, her brother Abraham was born.

There was always much to do around the Lincoln cabin at Knob Creek. Thomas Lincoln was a farmer and carpenter. His wife Nancy Hanks Lincoln took care of the duties of the home and raising the children. As a young girl, Sarah soon learned to cook, clean, and sew. She helped gather berries in the woods and washed the family’s clothing.

At the Knob Creek School, Sarah was an eager pupil. As in most schools of that time, pupils spoke their lessons aloud while the schoolmaster carefully listened to them. Often Sarah shared her pride in young Abe. “He’s the brightest pupil in the class,” she told her parents. “I’m sure the schoolmaster thinks so too.”

Sarah was ten when her father moved the family west to Indiana. Once again the Lincoln cabin was near a creek. It offered a place to fish and swim, and the nearby woods were a perfect spot for hide-and-seek and other games.

When their mother became ill, Sarah took over most of the home chores and provided loving comfort and care for her mother until she died. She was buried on an Indiana hillside near their cabin where Sarah, Abe, and their father knelt quietly in prayer.

It was no easy task keeping a clean cabin for a grown man and a boy of ten. Although Sarah did her best, it was too much for a twelve-year-old girl.

Thomas Lincoln went to Kentucky once more, and when he returned he brought a new wife. Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln was a widow with three children. Quickly she accepted Sarah and Abe as her own. Again there was laughter in the Lincoln cabin.

One night after supper, seventeen-year-old Sarah stood up at the table. “Aaron Grigsby has asked me to become his wife,” she said softly.

The announcement was happily received. Aaron Grigsby was a hard-working farmer known for his good character. The marriage took place in the Pigeon Creek Church that Sarah’s father had helped build.

A year later Sarah was expecting a baby. “So I shall be Uncle Abraham,” her younger brother boasted. “What a fine sound that title has!”

Then tragedy struck. Sarah and her baby both died during childbirth. Stunned by the loss, Abe could not bring himself to talk about his sister for a long time.

After he became president, Abraham Lincoln was asked about his childhood. “What happy memories do you have of your early years?” asked one newspaper reporter.

President Lincoln sat back in his chair. “We had little money in our home,” he answered, “but there was much joy and love. My kind and loving sister Sarah and I shared many wonderful adventures. Her years upon this earth were few. Yet my happiest memories are of the little time we had together. She was truly a loving sister and a very special friend.”

[illustration] Illustrated by Paul Mann