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New Salem State Park

Lincoln Starts at New Salem

In the early 1830s, Abraham Lincoln left his father and stepmother and moved to New Salem, a small pioneer settlement near Petersburg, Illinois. You can visit the reconstructed town in a park on route 97. In his 1860 autobiography Lincoln describes his start in the third person:

"He studied what he should do--thought of learning the blacksmith trade--thought of trying to study law--rather thought he could not succeed at that without a better education....The election of 1834 came, and he was then elected to the legislature by the highest vote cast for any candidate. Major John T. Stuart, then in full practice of the law, was also elected. During the canvass, in a private conversation he encouraged Abraham [to] study law. After the election he borrowed books of Stuart, took them home with him, and went at it in good earnest. He studied with nobody."

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