Abraham Lincoln spent a quarter of his life—from 1816 to 1830, ages 7 to 21—learning and growing in southwestern Indiana. Despite the importance of these formative years, Lincoln rarely discussed this period, and with his sudden, untimely death in 1865, mysterious gaps appear in recorded history.
In Abraham Lincoln's Wilderness Years, Joshua Claybourn collects and annotates the most significant scholarship from J. Edward Murr, one of the few writers to cover this lost period of Lincoln's life. A Hoosier minister who grew up with the 16th president's cousins, Murr interviewed locals who knew Lincoln and his environment.
Part I features selected portions of Murr's book-length manuscript on Lincoln's youth, published here for the first time. Part II offers a series by Murr on Lincoln's life in Indiana, originally printed in the Indiana Magazine of History. Part III reveals letters between Murr and US Senator Albert J. Beveridge, a prominent historian, about Beveridge's early manuscript of the biography Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1858.
Of all Lincoln's biographers, few knew his boyhood associates and Indiana environment as well as Murr, whose complete Lincoln research and scholarship have never been published—until now. Abraham Lincoln's Wilderness Years preserves and celebrates this important source material, unique for studying Lincoln's boyhood years in Indiana.
Praise and Reviews
A handy new primary source for Lincoln studies—indeed, for all of early Indiana life. Bravo to Joshua Claybourn for resurrecting this information.
James M. Cornelius
Editor, Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association
Alongside William Herndon’s essential interviews with Lincoln informants, Bartelt and Claybourn’s editions present the most comprehensive, complex, and colorful entryway into Lincoln’s mysterious Indiana upbringing.
Andrew F. Lang
Associate Professor of History at Mississippi State University