Abraham Lincoln reference site established 2005

Abe Lincoln Almost Drowns

as told in The Story-Life of Lincoln

Little Abe's Narrow Escape from Drowning

by Austin Gollaher

I once saved Lincoln's life. We had been going to school together one year; but the next year we had no school, because there were so few scholars to attend, there being only about twenty in the school the year before.

Consequently Abe and I had not much to do; but, as we did not go to school and our mothers were strict with us, we did not get to see each other very often. One Sunday morning my mother waked me up early, saying she was going to see Mrs. Lincoln, and that I could go along. Glad of the chance, I was soon dressed and ready to go. After my mother and I got there, Abe and I played all through the day.

While we were wandering up and down the little stream called Knob Creek, Abe said: "Right up there"--pointing to the east--"we saw a covey of partidges yesterday. Let's go over." The stream was too wide for us to jump across. Finally we saw a foot-log, and we concluded to try it. It was narrow, but Abe said, "Let's coon it."

I went first and reach the other side all right. Abe went about half-way across, when he got scared and began trembling. I hollered to him, "Don't look down nor up nor sideways, but look right at me and hold on tight!" But he fell off into the creek, and, as the water was about seven or eight feet deep (I could not swim and neither could Abe), I knew it would do no good for me to go in after him.

So I got a stick--a long water sprout--and held it out to him. He came up, grabbing with both hands, and I put the stick into his hands. He clung to it, and I pulled him out on the bank, almost dead. I got him by the arms and shook him well, and then I rolled him on the ground, when the water poured out of his mouth.

He was all right very soon. We promised each other that we would never tell anybody about it, and never did for years. I never told any one of it until after Lincoln was killed.

Austin Gollaher was nearly 100 years in 1884 when he told this story. His mind was bright and clear, and he never tired of retelling stories about having fun with Lincoln as a boy. Gollaher lived in the same log house in which he had always lived, a few miles from the old Lincoln place by Knob Creek.

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