(ca. 1800–ca. 1886)
“I think that I may say that he was my scholar
and I was his teacher.”— Letter from Mentor
Graham to William Herndon, May 29, 1865.
Mentor Graham was born around 1800 and reared in Green County, Kentucky. He received his education in Hardin
County, Kentucky, prior to moving
to Sangamon County, Illinois, in 1826. Graham stated in a letter to William Herndon
on July 15, 1865, that he witnessed Thomas Lincoln and Abraham for the first
time working in their Kentucky fields, but had
no interaction with the Lincoln
family. He became intimately involved as
Abraham Lincoln’s teacher in New Salem, Illinois, where Graham ran the only
schoolhouse. Graham stated that Lincoln came to live with
him for a six-month period in February 1833.
“semiliterate schoolmaster” aided Lincoln
in the study of arithmetic and grammar.
Mentor Graham, in a May 29, 1865, letter to Herndon, stated, “No one
ever surpassed him in rapidly, quickly and well acquiring the rudiments and
rules of English grammar.” Mentor
Graham, James Rutledge, and Lincoln also participated in the New Salem debating
William Mentor Graham
of the Abraham Lincoln
Museum of Lincoln