Friday, September 2, 2011

Austin Gollaher is 80 - Hartford Republican

 The Hartford Republican - May 3, 1895


An Old Kentucky Gentleman 
to Whom the Nation is Indebted.
Austin Gollaher, a playmate of Abraham Lincoln, is 80 years old today. He lives with his son, Thomas Gollaher, on the top of Muldraugh's Hill, three miles south of Hodgenville and the many friends of the old gentleman are helping him celebrate the important event in royal style. Gollaher himself, however, is not permitted to enter very largely into the festivities of the occasion, owing to an unusually severe attack of rheumatism, from which he has been a sufferer for years, and which of late is giving him more than ordinary trouble. His spirits are not impaired by his ailment, though, and he promised yesterday, when interviewed, to "hit his lick with the balance of 'em." For an old man, Gollaher is surprisingly lively in his conversation, due, doubtless, to the fact that he seldom has a chance to see a person from the outside world, and is compelled to make up for lost time when such an opportunity occurs.

Gollaher was older than the martyred President, and consequently remembers many circumstances of their boyhood days. His conversation, however, is rather barren of details, and from some of his stories it is surmised that he has somewhat confused what really happened with what he has heard. There is no disputing the fact, though, that he was Lincoln's playmate, and even the historians have given him brief credit for that honor, but he is practically unknown as the one-time savior of the youthful Lincoln's life. In Nicholay and Hay's life of Lincoln short mention is made of Gollaher, and the fact of his service to the subject of their work is dismissed summarily and not entirely without a suspicion of doubt.

Gollaher's present home with his son is within a dozen miles of where the rescue of Lincoln is credited with having taken place. In all the life of the old gentleman he has never for more than a few weeks at a time been outside of his native country. The house is a commonplace affair of rough clapboards, surrounded by a tin box. The first greeting is from the dogs; then, at the door, you will likely meet the old gentleman, hobbling on his crutches, with a broad-brimmed hat pulled low to protect his failing eyes, and a hearty welcome in his face. He is dressed in heavy woolen garments, rough, but comfortable. His first thought is to invite you to a seat. Like yourself, he is anxious to talk of Lincoln. After half an hour's listening to him you are apt to be disappointed and conclude that after all he hasn't very much to say. Speaking of former visitors he said yesterday: "Yes, I am known somewhat all over the United States. Men come from away off to hear me talk of Abe Lincoln. Years ago a man came here from New York, getting up a history, and wanted to know what I could tell him of Lincoln. He sent me one of them, but it had a lot of things in it that wasn't so.

"It was in 1812 that my father settled near the Linkhorn, (Lincoln) farm, and in a few days Abe and his mother come over to see mother an' me. Abe seemed sullen, and at the first meeting I didn't have much to say to him. I wasn't taken with his appearance. After mother an' me went over to see them, though, we were together quite often, and we got to be great friends. Abe was three years younger than me, an' I had to look after him somewhat. We played all over the hills down on South Fork, and when school took up there went school together. Next year we went to the school over on the other side of the creek, but it wasn't no use for me to try to keep up with Abe. He was great at larnin, and ciphered out and read everything he could find. Down in the creek bottoms there was lots of iron weeds, an' Abe'd gather them to pile on the fire at night to make light for him to study by."

"Well, did you not save his life at one time" How was that?"

"Yes, yes," and his face brightened. "It was when he was fishin' one day. The creek was high, an' we had to coon crost on a log and Abe fell off. Abe wasn't much of a swimmer, an' I got a sycamore limb and pulled him out."

"How old was Mr. Lincoln then?"

"'Bout 9. The histories all say Abe was only 7 years old when he left for Indiany, but he must have been about 9. They wasn't there, though, and of course can't be expected to get everything right."

Mr. Gollaher has long been a devout Christian, and holds his membership in a small Baptist church on the Louisville and Nashville road, about a mile beyond his home. He has not visited the church since the cold weather began last fall, but still hopes to see it in it's completed state in the spring. The church has long been in an unfinished condition, and the old gentleman has worried considerably over this fact. The funds however, are now guaranteed for it's completion.

Up until the discovery of this article, it has been accepted by most  researchers that Austin Gollaher's birth was in March of 1806. This article indicates the date was actually May 3 (however, the year 1815 would definitely be impossible and is likely a typo that should have read "89 years old today"). This article casts some doubt on the formerly accepted month of birth. 

This is the first in a series of six daily blog posts I am doing on Benjamin Austin Gollaher, the maternal 3rd great grandfather of my husband Mike. Previous posts on Gollaher (done before this series) can be seen at the links below: