On Abraham Lincoln’s birthday of Feb. 12, a holiday in several states, people pause to remember the legacy of the 16th president. “Honest Abe” ended slavery and fought to keep the nation together through the Civil War and afterward.

Although Illinois is called “Land of Lincoln,” he was actually born in Kentucky and spent his formative years from ages 7 to 21 across the Ohio River in Spencer County, Indiana.

Museums have preserved a number of artifacts from Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, including one of his signature top hats. But items from his early life are more rare.

Lincoln historians Darrell Stephens and Tom Brauns talked about Lincoln’s mallet, dating from 1829, and his powder horn, from 1832, with America Daily’s Laura Market. Also part of the conversation was Carl Harmon Jr., owner of the powder horn for over 40 years. Stephens, Brauns, and Harmon are all long-time residents of Spencer County, Indiana.

Brauns spoke about the origin of the mallet: “When Lincoln was living in Spencer County, Indiana, he split a lot of wood with a maul. The maul split, and Lincoln took half of it and repurposed it into a smaller bench mallet. He put the initials A.L. into the mallet with nails and also the year 1829.”

Abraham Lincoln’s mallet from 1829. (Courtesy of Justine Grose)

Stephens outline the history of the powder horn: “The story starts outs with Lincoln joining the Black Hawk War in Illinois in 1832. He was issued the powder horn along with some other items.”

In 1837 he gave the powder horn to a friend, Jack Armstrong. After that, it passed through the hands of a grandson, an artifact collector, his friend, a gun shop owner (with a notarized document indicating the first five owners), his widow, and finally to her family friend, Harmon, in 1976.

Asked about what families can learn from Lincoln, Stephens said, “Lincoln was always respectful to the people he met of every age. He would take up for people that were mistreated.

“Lincoln did not want to see animals mistreated either. He didn’t like killing animals. Probably one reason he gave the powder horn away—he had no use for it.”