Abraham Lincoln: Life as a Pioneer

Abraham Lincoln as a boy statue

Abraham Lincoln as a boy statue

We’ve all heard how hard pioneer life was-and I’m sure it was.  What were some of the things they did for fun?
1) Visiting neighbors.  An evening of visiting neighbors and friends was one form of relaxing. The children played while the “grown-ups” talked.
2) Square dancing- either in a barn or outdoors. The fiddler would play the popular tunes of the day while the dancers would do the polka or waltz. Apparently, Lincoln wasn’t too skilled at dancing if the story of his first dance with Mary Todd is true.
3) Attending special events: Weddings and Fourth of July celebrations. At the Independence Day observances there were
 often horse races, wrestling contests, and shooting matches.
4) The game of horseshoes. I bet Lincoln played horseshoes (I just think he must have!).
5) “Hide and Go Seek.” Perhaps the pioneer children’s most popular game. Many of us played this game ourselves as children. It seems to have vanished now. Children are too enthralled with electronic games.
6) Marbles. Lincoln played marbles. This is another popular children’s activity that seems to have gone away forever.
7) Fishing. Older boys and adult men engaged in this one. Lincoln once gave a fish he caught to a returning soldier from the War of 1812. Fishing today is more popular than ever!
8) Hunting. Yes, it was fun as well as work. The males hunted pheasants, rabbits, squirrels, ducks, geese, deer, and quail. Lincoln hunted small game but had a “personal crisis” when hunting the bigger game after killing a turkey.
9) Trapping. Racoon, mink, beaver, and muskrat. And don’t forget about fox and opossum. They were killed and skinned. Their pelts were stretched and dried to get ready to trade.
10) Dolls. Yes, girls played with dolls-but they were handmade.  Dolls are still with us. Anyone ever hear of Barbie?!
11) Baseball. Yes, there was a form of baseball then. It was invented by Doubleday. Lincoln no doubt played baseball with fellow boys.
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4 Responses to “Abraham Lincoln: Life as a Pioneer”

  1. B. Nash says:

    Thanks Chris for your input and insight-really adds to the post!

  2. Chris says:

    Every generation finds their own way to have fun, and Lincoln’s was no exception. The way we entertain ourselves changes some, but the fact that we do doesn’t. I grew up, for instance, with both video games and “hide and go seek” but no Internet (it’s odd thinking that now).

    Lincoln did play “town ball” (an early version of baseball). Not as a kid (since the game hadn’t been invented yet) but while he was a lawyer and politician – there is record he did this in Lincoln, IL during the 1850s (the only town to be named for him while he was alive).

    He didn’t care too much for hunting, though, from what I have read. I think the turkey incident changed his feelings on it.

    Oh, and the 4th of July was an even bigger holiday than Christmas during Lincoln’s time, perhaps the biggest holiday of the year. Now that one is sort of reversed.

  3. log cabin girl says:

    Just found your blog while looking for sites that might carry interesting info pertaining to the upcoming 150th, and CW in general. Very entertaining, nice to find discussion that is not just “facts and dates”. Having done just a little reenacting of Civil War, 1880’s, and a huge interest in all early American history, it’s fun to talk about the small day to day life details of those times. Keep up the good work!

  4. DAve Wiegers says:

    I thought it was pretty well accepted that Abner Doubleday didn’t invent baseball. The predecessor to baseball was an English game called rounders. In the US it evolved into a game that became known as topwn-ball.A guy named Alexander Cartwright in 1846 is generally credited with writing down the rules of baseball. Even Cartwright’s claim to have “invented” baseball is suspect.

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