The Story of Young Abraham Lincoln
Author of The Story of the American Flag, The Story of the Liberty Bell, The Story of the White House, The Story of Young George Washington, the Story of Young Benjamin Franklin, etc.
HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY HOWARD E. ALTEMUS
COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY HOWARD E. ALTEMUS
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I. ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S FOREFATHERS 15
II. ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S FATHER AND MOTHER 24
III. THE BOY LINCOLN'S BEST TEACHER 33
IV. LEARNING TO WORK 40
V. LOSING HIS MOTHER 52
VI. SCHOOL DAYS NOW AND THEN. 62
VII. ABE AND THE NEIGHBORS 77
VIII. MOVING TO ILLINOIS 94
IX. STARTING OUT FOR HIMSELF 102
X. CLERKING AND WORKING 115
XI. POLITICS, WAR, STOREKEEPING, AND STUDYING LAW 126
XII. BUYING AND KEEPING A STORE 140
XIII. THE YOUNG LEGISLATOR IN LOVE. 147
XIV. MOVING TO SPRINGFIELD 162
XV. LINCOLN & HERNDON 184
XVI. HIS KINDNESS OF HEART 194
XVII. WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND HIS STEPBROTHER 208
XVIII. HOW EMANCIPATION CAME TO PASS 215
XIX. THE GLORY OF GETTYSBURG 226
XX. "NO END OF A BOY" 234
XXI. LIEUTENANT TAD LINCOLN, PATRIOT 248
LINCOLN FROM NEW AND UNUSUAL SOURCES
The boy or girl who reads to-day may know more about the real Lincoln than his own children knew. The greatest President's son, Robert Lincoln, discussing a certain incident in their life in the White House, remarked to the writer, with a smile full of meaning:
"I believe you know more about our family matters than I do!"
This is because "all the world loves a lover"—and Abraham Lincoln loved everybody. With all his brain and brawn, his real greatness was in his heart. He has been called "the Great-Heart of the White House," and there is little doubt that more people have heard about him than there are who have read of the original "Great-Heart" in "The Pilgrim's Progress."
Indeed, it is safe to say that more millions in the modern world are acquainted with the story of the rise of Abraham Lincoln from a poorly built log cabin to the highest place among "the seats of the mighty," than are familiar with the Bible story of Joseph who arose and stood next to the throne of the Pharaohs.
Nearly every year, especially since the Lincoln Centennial, 1909, something new has been added to the universal knowledge of one of the greatest, if not the greatest man who ever lived his life in the world. Not only those who "knew Lincoln," but many who only "saw him once" or shook hands with him, have been called upon to tell what they saw him do or heard him say. So hearty was his kindness toward everybody that the most casual remark of his seems to be charged with deep human affection—"the touch of Nature" which has made "the whole world kin" to him.
He knew just how to sympathize with every one. The people felt this, without knowing why, and recognized it in every deed or word or touch, so that those who have once felt the grasp of his great warm hand seem to have been drawn into the strong circuit of "Lincoln fellowship," and were enabled, as if by "the laying on of hands," to speak of him ever after with a deep and tender feeling.
There are many such people who did not rush into print with their observations and experiences. Their Lincoln memories seemed too sacred to scatter far and wide. Some of them have yielded, with real reluctance, in relating all for publication in THE STORY OF YOUNG ABRAHAM LINCOLN only because they wished their recollections to benefit the rising generation.
Several of these modest folk have shed true light on important phases and events in Lincoln's life history. For instance, there has been much discussion concerning Lincoln's Gettysburg Address—where was it written, and did he deliver it from notes?
Now, fifty years after that great occasion, comes a distinguished college professor who unconsciously settles the whole dispute, whether Lincoln held his notes in his right hand or his left—if he used them at all!—while making his immortal "little speech." To a group of veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic he related, casually, what he saw while a college student at Gettysburg, after working his way through the crowd of fifteen thousand people to the front of the platform on that memorable day. From this point of vantage he saw and heard everything, and there is no gainsaying the vivid memories of his first impressions—how the President held the little pages in both hands straight down before him, swinging his tall form to right, to left and to the front again as he emphasized the now familiar closing words, "of the people—by the people—for the people—shall not perish from the earth."
Such data have been gathered from various sources and are here given for the first time in a connected life-story. Several corrections of stories giving rise to popular misconceptions have been supplied by Robert, Lincoln's only living son. One of these is the true version of "Bob's" losing the only copy of his father's first inaugural address. Others were furnished by two aged Illinois friends who were acquainted with "Abe" before he became famous. One of these explained, without knowing it, a question which has puzzled several biographers—how a young man of Lincoln's shrewd intelligence could have been guilty of such a misdemeanor, as captain in the Black Hawk War, as to make it necessary for his superior officer to deprive him of his sword for a single day.
A new story is told by a dear old lady, who did not wish her name given, about herself when she was a little girl, when a "drove of lawyers riding the old Eighth Judicial District of Illinois," came to drink from a famous cold spring on her father's premises. She described the uncouth dress of a tall young man, asking her father who he was, and he replied with a laugh, "Oh, that's Abe Lincoln."
One day in their rounds, as the lawyers came through the front gate, a certain judge, whose name the narrator refused to divulge, knocked down with his cane her pet doll, which was leaning against the fence. The little girl cried over this contemptuous treatment of her "child."
Young Lawyer Lincoln, seeing it all, sprang in and quickly picked up the fallen doll. Brushing off the dust with his great awkward hand he said, soothingly, to the wounded little mother-heart:
"There now, little Black Eyes, don't cry. Your baby's alive. See, she isn't hurt a bit!"
That tall young man never looked uncouth to her after that. It was this same old lady who told the writer that Lawyer Lincoln wore a new suit of clothes for the first time on the very day that he performed the oft-described feat of rescuing a helpless hog from a great deep hole in the road, and plastered his new clothes with mud to the great merriment of his legal friends. This well-known incident occurred not far from her father's place near Paris, Illinois.
These and many other new and corrected incidents are now collected for THE STORY OF YOUNG ABRAHAM LINCOLN, in addition to the best of everything suitable that was known before—as the highest patriotic service which the writer can render to the young people of the United States of America.
THE STORY OF YOUNG ABRAHAM LINCOLN
ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S FOREFATHERS
Lincoln's grandfather, for whom he was named Abraham, was a distant cousin to Daniel Boone. The Boones and the Lincolns had intermarried for generations. The Lincolns were of good old English stock. When he was President, Abraham Lincoln, who had never given much attention to the family pedigree, said that the history of his family was well described by a single line in Gray's "Elegy":
"The short and simple annals of the poor."
Yet Grandfather Abraham was wealthy for his day. He accompanied Boone from Virginia to Kentucky and lost his life there. He had sacrificed part of his property to the pioneer spirit within him, and, with the killing of their father, his family lost the rest. They were "land poor" in the wilderness of the "Dark-and-Bloody-Ground"—the meaning of the Indian name, "Ken-tuc-kee."
Grandfather Lincoln had built a solid log cabin and cleared a field or two around it, near the Falls of the Ohio, about where Louisville now stands. But, in the Summer of 1784, the tragic day dawned upon the Lincolns which has come to many a pioneer family in Kentucky and elsewhere. His son Thomas told this story to his children:
HOW INDIANS KILLED "GRANDFATHER LINCOLN"
"My father—your grandfather, Abraham Lincoln—come over the mountains from Virginia with his cousin, Dan'l Boone. He was rich for them times, as he had property worth seventeen thousand dollars; but Mr. Boone he told Father he could make a good deal more by trappin' and tradin' with the Injuns for valuable pelts, or fur skins.
"You know, Dan'l Boone he had lived among the Injuns. He was a sure shot with the rifle so's he could beat the redskins at their own game. They took him a prisoner oncet, and instead of killin' him, they was about ready to make him chief—he pretended all the while as how he'd like that—when he got away from 'em. He was such a good fellow that them Injuns admired his shrewdness, and they let him do about what he pleased. So he thought they'd let Father alone.
"Well, your grandfather was a Quaker, you see, and believed in treatin' them red devils well—like William Penn done, you know. He was a man for peace and quiet, and everything was goin' smooth with the tribes of what we called the Beargrass Country, till one day, when he and my brothers, Mordecai—'Mord' was a big fellow for his age—and Josiah, a few years younger—was out in the clearin' with the oxen, haulin' logs down to the crick. I went along too, but I didn't help much—for I was only six.
"Young as I was, I remember what happened that day like it was only yesterday. It come like a bolt out of the blue. We see Father drop like he was shot—for he was shot! Then I heard the crack of a rifle and I saw a puff of smoke floatin' out o' the bushes.
"Injuns!" gasps Mord, and starts on the run for the house—to get his gun. Josiah, he starts right off in the opposite direction to the Beargrass fort—we called it a fort, but it was nothin' but a stockade. The way we boys scattered was like a brood o' young turkeys, or pa'tridges, strikin' for cover when the old one is shot. I knowed I'd ought to run too, but I didn't want to leave my father layin' there on the ground. Seemed like I'd ought to woke him up so he could run too. Yet I didn't feel like touchin' him. I think I must 'a' knowed he was dead.
"While I was standin' still, starin' like the oxen, not knowin' what to do, a big Injun come out o' the brush, with a big knife in his hand. I knowed what he was goin' to do—skelp my father! I braced up to 'im to keep 'im away, an' he jist laffed at me. I never think what the devil looks like without seein' that red demon with his snaky black eyes, grinnin' at me!
TOM LINCOLN CHASED BY INDIANS
"He picked me up like I was a baby an set me on the sawlog, an' was turnin' back to skelp Father, when—biff!—another gun-crack—and Mr. Big Indian he drops jist like your grandfather did, only he wriggles and squirms around, bitin' the dust—like a big snake for all the world!
"I was standin' there, kind o' dazed, watchin' another puff o' white smoke, comin' out between two logs in the side of our house. Then I knowed 'Mord' had shot my Injun. He had run in, got the gun down off'n the wall, an' peekin' out through a crack, he sees that Injun takin' hold o' me. Waitin' till the ol' demon turns away, so's not to hit me, 'Mord' he aims at a silver dangler on Mr. Injun's breast and makes him drop in his tracks like I said. Your Uncle 'Mord' he was a sure shot—like Cousin Dan'l Boone.
"Then I hears the most blood-curdlin' yells, and a lot o' red devils jump out o' the bushes an' come for me brandishin' their tomahawks an' skelpin' knives. It was like hell broke loose. They had been watchin' an', of course, 'twas all right to kill Father, but when 'Mord' killed one o' their bucks, that made a big difference. I had sense enough left to run for the house with them Injuns after me. Seemed like I couldn't run half as fast as usual, but I must 'a' made purty good time, from what 'Mord' an' Mother said afterward.
"He said one was ahead o' the rest an' had his tomahawk raised to brain me with it when—bing!—an' 'Mord' fetches him down like he did the fellow that was goin' to skelp Father. That made the others mad an' they took after me, but 'Mord' he drops the head one jist when he's goin' to hit me. But all I knowed at the time was that them red devils was a-chasin' me, and I'd got to 'leg it' for dear life!
"When I gits near enough to the house, I hears Mother and 'Mord' hollerin' to make me run faster and go to the door, for Mother had it open jist wide enough to reach out an' snatch me in—when the third Injun was stoopin' to grab me, but 'Mord' makes him bite the dust like the others.
"My, but wasn't them Injuns mad! Some of 'em sneaked around behind the house—they had to give 'Mord's' gun a wide berth to git there!—but he could only protect the front—and was a-settin' fire to our cabin to smoke us out or roast us alive, jist when the soldiers come with Josiah from the fort and saved our lives. Then the Injuns made 'emselves scurce—but they druv off the oxen and all our other stock.
"MORD" LINCOLN, INDIAN FIGHTER
"That was the breaking up of our family. None of us boys was old enough to take Father's place, an' Mother she was afraid to live there alone. Accordin' to the laws o' Virginia—Kentucky belonged to Virginia then—the oldest son got all the proputty, so 'Mord' he gets it all. He was welcome to it too, for he was the only one of us that could take care of it. 'Mord' he wasn't satisfied with killin' a few Injuns that day to revenge Father's death. He made a business of shootin' 'em on sight—a reg'lar Injun stalker! He couldn't see that he was jist as savage as the worst Injun, to murder 'em without waitin' to see whether Mr. Injun was a friend or a foe.
"Oncet when I told 'im there was good an' bad red men like they wuz good an' bad white men, he said I might jist as well say 'good devil' as 'good Injun!' He says 'the only good Injun's the dead Injun!'
"Well, the settlers must 'a' 'greed with 'Mord,' for they made him sheriff o' the county—he was sech a good shot, too—an' they 'lected him to the Legislatur' after Kentucky come in as a State. He stood high in the county. Folks didn't mind his shootin' an' Injun or two, more or less, when he got the chancet. They all looked on redskins like they was catamounts an' other pesky varmints.
"Your grandmother Lincoln an' Josiah an' me moved over into Washington County, but she had hard scrabblin' to git a livin'. Josiah he stayed with her, an' between him an' 'Mord,' they helped her along, but I had to git out and scratch for a livin'. From the time I was ten I was hired out to work for my 'keep,' an' anything else I could git. I knocked aroun' the country, doin' this, that an' t'other thing till I picked up carpenterin' o' Joseph Hanks, a cousin o' mine, an' there I met his sister Nancy, an' that's how she come to be your mother—an' 'bout how I come to be your father, too!"
Little is known today of Mordecai Lincoln, and there would be less interest in poor Thomas if he had not become the father of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. Mordecai Lincoln was a joker and humorist. One who knew him well said of him:
"He was a man of great drollery, and it would almost make you laugh to look at him. I never saw but one other man whose quiet, droll look excited in me the disposition to laugh, and that was 'Artemus Ward.'
"Mordecai was quite a story-teller, and in this Abe resembled his 'Uncle Mord,' as we called him. He was an honest man, as tender-hearted as a woman, and to the last degree charitable and benevolent.
"Abe Lincoln had a very high opinion of his uncle, and on one occasion remarked, 'I have often said that Uncle Mord had run off with all the talents of the family.'"
In a letter about his family history, just before he was nominated for the presidency, Abraham Lincoln wrote:
"My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families—second families, perhaps I should say. My mother was of a family of the name of Hanks. My paternal grandfather, Abraham Lincoln, emigrated from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Kentucky about 1781 or 2, where, a year or two later, he was killed by Indians—not in battle, but by stealth, when he was laboring to open a farm in the forest. His ancestors, who were Quakers, went to Virginia from Berks County, Pennsylvania. An effort to identify them with the New England family of the same name ended in nothing more definite than a similarity of Christian names in both families, such as Enoch, Levi, Mordecai, Solomon, Abraham, and the like.
"My father, at the death of his father, was but six years of age; and he grew up, literally without education."
ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S FATHER AND MOTHER
While Thomas Lincoln was living with a farmer and doing odd jobs of carpentering, he met Nancy Hanks, a tall, slender woman, with dark skin, dark brown hair and small, deep-set gray eyes. She had a full forehead, a sharp, angular face and a sad expression. Yet her disposition was generally cheerful. For her backwoods advantages she was considered well educated. She read well and could write, too. It is stated that Nancy Hanks taught Thomas Lincoln to write his own name. Thomas was twenty-eight and Nancy twenty-three when their wedding day came. Christopher Columbus Graham, when almost one hundred years old, gave the following description of the marriage feast of the Lincoln bride and groom:
"I am one of the two living men who can prove that Abraham Lincoln, or Linkhorn, as the family was miscalled, was born in lawful wedlock, for I saw Thomas Lincoln marry Nancy Hanks on the 12th day of June, 1806. I was hunting roots for my medicine and just went to the wedding to get a good supper and got it.
"Tom Lincoln was a carpenter, and a good one for those days, when a cabin was built mainly with the ax, and not a nail or a bolt or hinge in it, only leathers and pins to the doors, and no glass, except in watches and spectacles and bottles. Tom had the best set of tools in what was then and is now Washington County.
"Jesse Head, the good Methodist minister that married them, was also a carpenter or cabinet maker by trade, and as he was then a neighbor, they were good friends.
"While you pin me down to facts, I will say that I saw Nancy Hanks Lincoln at her wedding, a fresh-looking girl, I should say over twenty. Tom was a respectable mechanic and could choose, and she was treated with respect.
"I was at the infare, too, given by John H. Parrott, her guardian, and only girls with money had guardians appointed by the court. We had bear meat; venison; wild turkey and ducks' eggs, wild and tame—so common that you could buy them at two bits a bushel; maple sugar, swung on a string, to bite off for coffee; syrup in big gourds, peach and honey; a sheep that the two families barbecued whole over coals of wood burned in a pit, and covered with green boughs to keep the juices in. Our table was of the puncheons cut from solid logs, and the next day they were the floor of the new cabin."
Thomas Lincoln took his bride to live in a little log cabin in a Kentucky settlement—not a village or hardly a hamlet—called Elizabethtown. He evidently thought this place would be less lonesome for his wife, while he was away hunting and carpentering, than the lonely farm he had purchased in Hardin County, about fourteen miles away. There was so little carpentering or cabinet making to do that he could make a better living by farming or hunting. Thomas was very fond of shooting and as he was a fine marksman he could provide game for the table, and other things which are considered luxuries to-day, such as furs and skins needed for the primitive wearing apparel of the pioneers. A daughter was born to the young couple at Elizabethtown, whom they named Sarah.
Dennis Hanks, a cousin of Nancy, lived near the Lincolns in the early days of their married life, and gave Mrs. Eleanor Atkinson this description of their early life together:
"Looks didn't count them days, nohow. It was stren'th an' work an' daredevil. A lazy man or a coward was jist pizen, an' a spindlin' feller had to stay in the settlemints. The clearin's hadn't no use fur him. Tom was strong, an' he wasn't lazy nor afeer'd o' nothin', but he was kind o' shif'less—couldn't git nothin' ahead, an' didn't keer putickalar. Lots o' them kind o' fellers in 'arly days, 'druther hunt and fish, an' I reckon they had their use. They killed off the varmints an' made it safe fur other fellers to go into the woods with an ax.
"When Nancy married Tom he was workin' in a carpenter shop. It wasn't Tom's fault he couldn't make a livin' by his trade. Thar was sca'cely any money in that kentry. Every man had to do his own tinkerin', an' keep everlastin'ly at work to git enough to eat. So Tom tuk up some land. It was mighty ornery land, but it was the best Tom could git, when he hadn't much to trade fur it.
"Pore? We was all pore, them days, but the Lincolns was porer than anybody. Choppin' trees an' grubbin' roots an' splittin' rails an' huntin' an' trappin' didn't leave Tom no time. It was all he could do to git his fambly enough to eat and to kiver 'em. Nancy was turrible ashamed o' the way they lived, but she knowed Tom was doin' his best, an' she wa'n't the pesterin' kind. She was purty as a pictur' an' smart as you'd find 'em anywhere. She could read an' write. The Hankses was some smarter'n the Lincolns. Tom thought a heap o' Nancy, an' he was as good to her as he knowed how. He didn't drink or swear or play cyards or fight, an' them was drinkin', cussin', quarrelsome days. Tom was popylar, an' he could lick a bully if he had to. He jist couldn't git ahead, somehow."
"NANCY'S BOY BABY"
Evidently Elizabethtown failed to furnish Thomas Lincoln a living wage from carpentering, for he moved with his young wife and his baby girl to a farm on Nolen Creek, fourteen miles away. The chief attraction of the so-called farm was a fine spring of water bubbling up in the shade of a small grove. From this spring the place came to be known as "Rock Spring Farm." It was a barren spot and the cabin on it was a rude and primitive sort of home for a carpenter and joiner to occupy. It contained but a single room, with only one window and one door. There was a wide fireplace in the big chimney which was built outside. But that rude hut became the home of "the greatest American."
Abraham Lincoln was born to poverty and privation, but he was never a pauper. His hardships were those of many other pioneers, the wealthiest of whom suffered greater privations than the poorest laboring man has to endure to-day.
After his nomination to the presidency, Mr. Lincoln gave to Mr. Hicks, a portrait painter, this memorandum of his birth:
"I was born February 12, 1809, in then Hardin County, Kentucky, at a point within the now county of Larue, a mile or a mile and a half from where Hodgen's mill now is. My parents being dead, and my memory not serving, I know no means of identifying the precise locality. It was on Nolen Creek.
"A. LINCOLN. "JUNE 14, 1860."
The exact spot was identified after his death, and the house was found standing many years later. The logs were removed to Chicago, for the World's Columbian Exposition, in 1893, and the cabin was reconstructed and exhibited there and elsewhere in the United States. The materials were taken back to their original site, and a fine marble structure now encloses the precious relics of the birthplace of "the first American," as Lowell calls Lincoln in his great "Commemoration Ode."
Cousin Dennis Hanks gives the following quaint description of "Nancy's boy baby," as reported by Mrs. Eleanor Atkinson in her little book on "Lincoln's Boyhood."
"Tom an' Nancy lived on a farm about two miles from us, when Abe was born. I ricollect Tom comin' over to our house one cold mornin' in Feb'uary an' sayin' kind o' slow, 'Nancy's got a boy baby.'
"Mother got flustered an' hurried up 'er work to go over to look after the little feller, but I didn't have nothin' to wait fur, so I cut an' run the hull two mile to see my new cousin.
"You bet I was tickled to death. Babies wasn't as common as blackberries in the woods o' Kaintucky. Mother come over an' washed him an' put a yaller flannel petticoat on him, an' cooked some dried berries with wild honey fur Nancy, an' slicked things up an' went home. An' that's all the nuss'n either of 'em got.
"I rolled up in a b'ar skin an' slep' by the fireplace that night, so's I could see the little feller when he cried an' Tom had to get up an' tend to him. Nancy let me hold him purty soon. Folks often ask me if Abe was a good lookin' baby. Well, now, he looked just like any other baby, at fust—like red cherry pulp squeezed dry. An' he didn't improve none as he growed older. Abe never was much fur looks. I ricollect how Tom joked about Abe's long legs when he was toddlin' round the cabin. He growed out o' his clothes faster'n Nancy could make 'em.
"But he was mighty good comp'ny, solemn as a papoose, but interested in everything. An' he always did have fits o' cuttin' up. I've seen him when he was a little feller, settin' on a stool, starin' at a visitor. All of a sudden he'd bu'st out laughin' fit to kill. If he told us what he was laughin' at, half the time we couldn't see no joke.
"Abe never give Nancy no trouble after he could walk excep' to keep him in clothes. Most o' the time he went bar'foot. Ever wear a wet buckskin glove? Them moccasins wasn't no putection ag'inst the wet. Birch bark with hickory bark soles, strapped on over yarn socks, beat buckskin all holler, fur snow. Abe'n me got purty handy contrivin' things that way. An' Abe was right out in the woods about as soon's he was weaned, fishin' in the creek, settin' traps fur rabbits an' muskrats, goin' on coon-hunts with Tom an' me an' the dogs, follerin' up bees to find bee-trees, an' drappin' corn fur his pappy. Mighty interestin' life fur a boy, but thar was a good many chances he wouldn't live to grow up."
When little Abe was four years old his father and mother moved from Rock Spring Farm to a better place on Knob Creek, a few miles to the northeast of the farm where he was born.
THE BOY LINCOLN'S BEST TEACHER
At Knob Creek the boy began to go to an "A B C" school. His first teacher was Zachariah Riney. Of course, there were no regular schools in the backwoods then. When a man who "knew enough" happened to come along, especially if he had nothing else to do, he tried to teach the children of the pioneers in a poor log schoolhouse. It is not likely that little Abe went to school more than a few weeks at this time, for he never had a year's schooling in his life. There was another teacher afterward at Knob Creek—a man named Caleb Hazel. Little is known of either of these teachers except that he taught little Abe Lincoln. If their pupil had not become famous the men and their schools would never have been mentioned in history.
An old man, named Austin Gollaher, used to like to tell of the days when he and little Abe went to school together. He said:
"Abe was an unusually bright boy at school, and made splendid progress in his studies. Indeed, he learned faster than any of his schoolmates. Though so young, he studied very hard."
Although Nancy Lincoln insisted on sending the children to school, when there was any, she had a large share in Abe's early education, just as she had taught his father to write his own name. She told them Bible stories and such others as she had picked up in her barren, backwoods life. She and her husband were too religious to believe in telling their children fairy tales.
The best thing of all was the reading of "The Pilgrim's Progress" during the long Winter evenings, after the wood was brought in and Father Tom had set his traps and done his other work for the night. Nancy's voice was low, with soft, southern tones and accents. Tom and the children enjoyed the story of Christian's pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City the more because of her love for the story she was reading to them, as they lay on bearskin rugs before the blazing fire.
Abe was only six, but he was a thoughtful boy. He tried to think of some way to show his gratitude to his mother for giving them so much pleasure. While out gathering sticks and cutting wood for the big fireplace, a happy thought came to him—he would cut off some spicewood branches, hack them up on a log, and secrete them behind the cabin. Then, when the mother was ready to read again, and Sarah and the father were sitting and lying before the fire, he brought in the hidden branches and threw them on, a few twigs at a time, to the surprise of the others. It worked like a charm; the spicewood boughs not only added to the brightness of the scene but filled the whole house with the "sweet smelling savour" of a little boy's love and gratitude.
No one can fathom the pleasure of that precious memory throughout those four lives, as the story of Great Heart and Christiana followed Christian along the path that "shineth more and more unto the perfect day." While the father and sister were delighted with the crackle, sparkle and pleasant aroma of the bits of spicewood, as Abe tossed them upon the fire, no one could appreciate the thoughtful act of the boy so much as his mother. It would be strange if her eyes did not fill, as she read to her fascinated family, but that was not the sort of thing the fondest mother could speak of.
Little did Nancy dream that, in reading to her son of the devotion of Great Heart to his charges, she was fostering a spirit in her little son that would help him make the noble pilgrimage from their hovel to the highest home in the land, where another President of the United States would refer to him as "the Great Heart of the White House." If any one could have looked ahead fifty years to see all this, and could have told Nancy Hanks Lincoln, she would not have believed it. After her own life of toil and hardship it would have seemed to her "too good to be true." But in the centuries following the humble yet beautiful career of "the Backwoods Boy" from the hut to the White House, history keeps the whole world saying with bated breath, "the half was never told!"
AN OLD MAN'S STORY OF SAVING ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S LIFE
Austin Gollaher, grown to manhood, still living in his old log cabin near the Lincoln house in Knob Creek nearly twenty years after Lincoln's assassination, and gave the following account of an adventure he had with the little Lincoln boy:
"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 partridges yesterday. Let's go over.' The stream was too wide for us to jump across. Finally we saw a foot-log, and decided to try it. It was narrow, but Abe said, 'Let's coon it.'
"I went first and reached 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 till after Lincoln was killed."
Abraham Lincoln's parents were religious in their simple way. The boy was brought up to believe in the care of the Father in Heaven over the affairs of this life. The family attended camp meetings and preaching services, which were great events, because few and far between, in those primitive days. Abe used afterward to get his playmates together and preach to them in a way that sometimes frightened them and made them cry.
No doubt young Lincoln learned more that was useful to him in after life from the wandering preachers of his day than he did of his teachers during the few months that he was permitted to go to school. But his best teacher was his mother. She would have been proud to have her boy grow up to be a traveling minister or exhorter, like Peter Cartwright, "the backwoods preacher."
Nancy Hanks Lincoln "builded better than she knew." She would have been satisfied with a cabin life for her son. She little knew that by her own life and teaching she was raising up the greatest man of his age, and one of the grandest men in all history, to become the ruler of the greatest nation that the world has ever seen. She did her duty by her little boy and he honored her always during her life and afterward. No wonder he once exclaimed when he thought of her:
"All I am or hope to be I owe to my sainted mother."
And out of her poor, humble life, that devoted woman
"Gave us Lincoln and never knew!"
LEARNING TO WORK
The little Lincoln boy learned to help his father and mother as soon as he could, picking berries, dropping seeds and carrying water for the men to drink. The farm at Knob Creek seems to have been a little more fertile than the other two places on which his father had chosen to live.
Once while living in the White House, President Lincoln was asked if he could remember his "old Kentucky home." He replied with considerable feeling:
"I remember that old home very well. Our farm was composed of three fields. It lay in the valley, surrounded by high hills and deep gorges. Sometimes, when there came a big rain in the hills, the water would come down through the gorges and spread all over the farm. The last thing I remember of doing there was one Saturday afternoon; the other boys planted the corn in what we called the big field—it contained seven acres—and I dropped the pumpkin seed. I dropped two seeds in every other row and every other hill. The next Sunday morning there came a big rain in the hills—it did not rain a drop in the valley, but the water, coming through the gorges, washed the ground, corn, pumpkin seeds and all, clear off the field!"
Although this was the last thing Lincoln could remember doing on that farm, it is not at all likely that it was the last thing he did there, for Thomas Lincoln was not the man to plant corn in a field he was about to leave. (The Lincolns moved away in the fall.)
Another baby boy was born at Knob Creek farm; a puny, pathetic little stranger. When this baby was about three years old, the father had to use his skill as a cabinet maker in making a tiny coffin, and the Lincoln family wept over a lonely little grave in the wilderness.
About this time Abe began to learn lessons in practical patriotism. Once when Mr. Lincoln was asked what he could remember of the War of 1812, he replied:
"Nothing but this: I had been fishing one day and caught a little fish which I was taking home. I met a soldier on the road, and, having been told at home that we must be good to the soldiers, I gave him my fish."
An old man, Major Alexander Sympson, who lived not far from the Lincolns at this period, left this description of "a mere spindle of a boy," in one of his earliest attempts to defend himself against odds, while waiting at the neighboring mill while a grist was being ground.
"He was the shyest, most reticent, most uncouth and awkward-appearing, homeliest and worst-dressed of any in the crowd. So superlatively wretched a butt could not hope to look on long unmolested. He was attacked one day as he stood near a tree by a larger boy with others at his back. But the crowd was greatly astonished when little Lincoln soundly thrashed the first, the second, and third boy in succession; and then, placing his back against the tree, he defied the whole crowd, and told them they were a lot of cowards."
Evidently Father Tom, who enjoyed quite a reputation as a wrestler, had give the small boy a few lessons in "the manly art of self-defense."
Meanwhile the little brother and sister were learning still better things at their mother's knee, alternately hearing and reading stories from the Bible, "The Pilgrim's Progress," "AEsop's Fables," "Robinson Crusoe," and other books, common now, but rare enough in the backwoods in those days.
There were hard times, even in the wilderness of Kentucky, after the War of 1812. Slavery was spreading, and Thomas and Nancy Lincoln heartily hated that "relic of barbarism." To avoid witnessing its wrongs which made it harder for self-respecting white men to rise above the class referred to with contempt in the South as "poor white trash," Tom Lincoln determined to move farther north and west—and deeper into the wilds.
It is sometimes stated that Abraham Lincoln belonged to the indolent class known as "poor whites," but this is not true. Shiftless and improvident though his father was, he had no use for that class of white slaves, who seemed to fall even lower than the blacks.
There was trouble, too, about the title to much of the land in Kentucky, while Indiana offered special inducements to settlers in that new territory.
In his carpenter work, Thomas Lincoln had learned how to build a flatboat, and had made at least one trip to New Orleans on a craft which he himself had put together. So, when he finally decided in the fall of 1816 to emigrate to Indiana, he at once began to build another boat, which he launched on the Rolling Fork, at the mouth of Knob Creek, about half a mile from his own cabin. He traded his farm for what movable property he could get, and loaded his raft with that and his carpenter tools. Waving good-bye to his wife and two children, he floated down the Rolling Fork, Salt River, and out into the Ohio River, which proved too rough for his shaky craft, and it soon went to pieces.
After fishing up the carpenter tools and most of his other effects, he put together a crazy raft which held till he landed at Thompson's Ferry, Perry County, in Southern Indiana. Here he unloaded his raft, left his valuables in the care of a settler named Posey and journeyed on foot through the woods to find a good location. After trudging about sixteen miles, blazing a trail, he found a situation which suited him well enough, he thought. Then he walked all the way back to the Kentucky home they were about to leave.
He found his wife, with Sarah, aged nine, and Abraham, aged seven, ready to migrate with him to a newer wilderness. The last thing Nancy Lincoln had done before leaving their old home was to take the brother and sister for a farewell visit to the grave of "the little boy that died."
OVER IN INDIANA
The place the father had selected for their home was a beautiful spot. They could build their cabin on a little hill, sloping gently down on all sides. The soil was excellent, but there was one serious drawback—there was no water fit to drink within a mile! Thomas Lincoln had neglected to observe this most important point while he was prospecting. His wife, or even little Abe, would have had more common sense. That was one reason why Thomas Lincoln, though a good man, who tried hard enough at times, was always poor and looked down upon by his thrifty neighbors.
Instead of taking his wife and children down the three streams by boat, as he had gone, the father borrowed two horses of a neighbor and "packed through to Posey's," where he had left his carpenter tools and the other property he had saved from the wreck of his raft. Abe and Sarah must have enjoyed the journey, especially camping out every night on the way. The father's skill as a marksman furnished them with tempting suppers and breakfasts of wild game.
On the horses they packed their bedding and the cooking utensils they needed while on the journey, and for use after their arrival at the new home. This stock was not large, for it consisted only of "one oven and lid, one skillet and lid, and some tinware."
After they came to Posey's, Thomas Lincoln hired a wagon and loaded it with the effects he had left there, as well as the bedding and the cooking things they had brought with them on the two horses. It was a rough wagon ride, jolting over stumps, logs, and roots of trees. An earlier settler had cut out a path for a few miles, but the rest of the way required many days, for the father had to cut down trees to make a rough road wide enough for the wagon to pass. It is not likely that Abe and Sarah minded the delays, for children generally enjoy new experiences of that sort. As for their mother, she was accustomed to all such hardships; she had learned to take life as it came and make the best of it.
Nancy Lincoln needed all her Christian fortitude in that Indiana home—if such a place could be called a home. At last they reached the chosen place, in the "fork" made by Little Pigeon Creek emptying into Big Pigeon Creek, about a mile and a half from a settlement which was afterward called Gentryville.
As it was late in the fall, Thomas Lincoln decided not to wait to cut down big trees and hew logs for a cabin, so he built a "half-faced camp," or shed enclosed on three sides, for his family to live in that winter. As this shed was made of saplings and poles, he put an ax in Abe's hands, and the seven-year-old boy helped his father build their first "home" in Indiana. It was Abe's first experience in the work that afterward made him famous as "the rail splitter." It was with the ax, as it were, that he hewed his way to the White House and became President of the United States.
Of course, little Abe Lincoln had no idea of the White House then. He may never have heard of "the President's Palace," as it used to be called—for the White House was then a gruesome, blackened ruin, burned by the British in the War of 1812. President Madison was living in a rented house nearby, while the Executive Mansion was being restored. The blackened stone walls, left standing after the fire, were painted white, and on that account the President's mansion came to be known as "the White House."
Little Abe, without a thought of his great future, was getting ready for it by hacking away at poles and little trees and helping his father in the very best way he knew. It was not long, then, before the "half-faced camp" was ready for his mother and sister to move into.
Then there was the water question. Dennis Hanks afterward said: "Tom Lincoln riddled his land like a honeycomb" trying to find good water. In the fall and winter they caught rainwater or melted snow and strained it, but that was not very healthful at best. So Abe and Sarah had to go a mile to a spring and carry all the water they needed to drink, and, when there had been no rain for a long time, all the water they used for cooking and washing had to be brought from there, too.
When warmer weather came, after their "long and dreary winter" of shivering in that poor shed, the "camp" did not seem so bad. Thomas Lincoln soon set about building a warmer and more substantial cabin. Abe was now eight years old, and had had some practice in the use of the ax, so he was able to help his father still more by cutting and hewing larger logs for the new cabin. They got it ready for the family to move into before cold weather set in again.
They had to make their own furniture also. The table and chairs were made of "puncheon," or slabs of wood, with holes bored under each corner to stick the legs in. Their bedsteads were poles fitted into holes bored in logs in the walls of the cabin, and the protruding ends supported by poles or stakes driven into the ground, for Tom Lincoln had not yet laid the puncheon floor of their cabin. Abe's bed was a pile of dry leaves laid in one corner of the loft to which he climbed by means of a ladder of pegs driven into the wall, instead of stairs.
Their surroundings were such as to delight the heart of a couple of care-free children. The forest was filled with oaks, beeches, walnuts and sugar-maple trees, growing close together and free from underbrush. Now and then there was an open glade called a prairie or "lick," where the wild animals came to drink and disport themselves. Game was plentiful—deer, bears, pheasants, wild turkeys, ducks and birds of all kinds. This, with Tom Lincoln's passion for hunting, promised good things for the family to eat, as well as bearskin rugs for the bare earth floor, and deerskin curtains for the still open door and window. There were fish in the streams and wild fruits and nuts of many kinds to be found in the woods during the summer and fall. For a long time the corn for the "corndodgers" which they baked in the ashes, had to be ground by pounding, or in primitive hand-mills. Potatoes were about the only vegetable raised in large quantities, and pioneer families often made the whole meal of roasted potatoes. Once when his father had "asked the blessing" over an ashy heap of this staple, Abe remarked that they were "mighty poor blessings!"
But there were few complaints. They were all accustomed to that way of living, and they enjoyed the free and easy life of the forest. Their only reason for complaint was because they had been compelled to live in an open shed all winter, and because there was no floor to cover the damp ground in their new cabin—no oiled paper for their one window, and no door swinging in the single doorway—yet the father was carpenter and cabinet maker! There is no record that Nancy Lincoln, weak and ailing though she was, demurred even at such needless privations.
About the only reference to this period of their life that has been preserved for us was in an odd little sketch in which Mr. Lincoln wrote of himself as "he."
"A few days before the completion of his eighth year, in the absence of his father, a flock of wild turkeys approached the new log cabin, and Abraham, with a rifle gun, standing inside, shot through a crack and killed one of them. He has never since pulled a trigger on any larger game."
Though shooting was the principal sport of the youth and their fathers in Lincoln's younger days, Abe was too kind to inflict needless suffering upon any of God's creatures. He had real religion in his loving heart. Even as a boy he seemed to know that
"He prayeth best who loveth best All things both great and small; For the dear God that loveth us, He made and loveth all."
LOSING HIS MOTHER
In the fall of 1817, when the Lincoln family had moved from the shed into the rough log cabin, Thomas and Betsy Sparrow came and occupied the "darned little half-faced camp," as Dennis Hanks called it. Betsy Sparrow was the aunt who had brought up Nancy Hanks, and she was now a foster-mother to Dennis, her nephew. Dennis became the constant companion of the two Lincoln children. He has told most of the stories that are known of this sad time in the Lincoln boy's life.
The two families had lived there for nearly a year when Thomas and Betsy Sparrow were both seized with a terrible disease known to the settlers as the "milk-sick" because it attacked the cattle. The stricken uncle and aunt died, early in October, within a few days of each other. While his wife was ill with the same dread disease, Thomas Lincoln was at work, cutting down trees and ripping boards out of the logs with a long whipsaw with a handle at each end, which little Abe had to help him use. It was a sorrowful task for the young lad, for Abe must have known that he would soon be helping his father make his mother's coffin. They buried the Sparrows under the trees "without benefit of clergy," for ministers came seldom to that remote region.
Nancy Lincoln did not long survive the devoted aunt and uncle. She had suffered too much from exposure and privation to recover her strength when she was seized by the strange malady. One who was near her during her last illness wrote, long afterward:
"She struggled on, day by day, like the patient Christian woman she was. Abe and his sister Sarah waited on their mother, and did the little jobs and errands required of them. There was no physician nearer than thirty-five miles.
"The mother knew that she was going to die, and called the children to her bedside. She was very weak and the boy and girl leaned over her while she gave them her dying message. Placing her feeble hand on little Abe's head, she told him to be kind and good to his father and sister.
"'Be good to one another,' she said to them both. While expressing her hope that they might live, as she had taught them to live, in the love of their kindred and the service of God, Nancy Hanks Lincoln passed from the miserable surroundings of her poor life on earth to the brightness of the Beyond, on the seventh day after she was taken sick."
To the motherless boy the thought of his blessed mother being buried without any religious service whatever added a keen pang to the bitterness of his lot. Dennis Hanks once told how eagerly Abe learned to write:
"Sometimes he would write with a piece of charcoal, or the p'int of a burnt stick, on the fence or floor. We got a little paper at the country town, and I made ink out of blackberry juice, briar root and a little copperas in it. It was black, but the copperas would eat the paper after a while. I made his first pen out of a turkey-buzzard feather. We hadn't no geese them days—to make good pens of goose quills."
As soon as he was able Abe Lincoln wrote his first letter. It was addressed to Parson Elkin, the Baptist preacher, who had sometimes stayed over night with the family when they lived in Kentucky, to ask that elder to come and preach a sermon over his mother's grave. It had been a long struggle to learn to write "good enough for a preacher"—especially for a small boy who is asking such a favor of a man as "high and mighty" as a minister of the Gospel seemed to him.
It was a heartbroken plea, but the lad did not realize it. It was a short, straightforward note, but the good preacher's eyes filled with tears as he read it.
The great undertaking was not finished when the letter was written. The postage was a large matter for a little boy. It cost sixpence (equal to twelve-and-a-half cents today) to send a letter a short distance—up to thirty miles. Some letters required twenty-five cents—equal to fifty in modern money. Sometimes, when the sender could not advance the postage, the receiver had to pay it before the letter could be opened and read. On this account letters were almost as rare and as expensive as telegrams are today. When the person getting a letter could not pay the postage, it was returned to the writer, who had to pay double to get it back.
In those days one person could annoy another and put him to expense by writing him and forcing him to pay the postage—then when the letter was opened, it was found to be full of abuse, thus making a man pay for insults to himself!
There was a great general who had suffered in this way, so he made a rule that he would receive no letters unless the postage was prepaid. One day there came to his address a long envelope containing what seemed to be an important document. But it was not stamped, and the servant had been instructed not to receive that kind of mail. So it was returned to the sender. When it came back it was discovered that it had been mailed by mistake without a stamp. That letter announced to General Zachary Taylor that he had been nominated by a great convention as candidate for President of the United States!
All this seems very strange now that a letter can be sent around the world for a few cents. Besides, the mails did not go often and were carried on horseback. For a long time one half-sick old man carried the mail on a good-for-nothing horse, once a week, between New York and Philadelphia, though they were the largest cities in the country.
So it was many months before Abe received an answer to his letter. Elder Elkin may have been away from home on one of the long circuits covered by pioneer preachers. As the days and weeks went by without the lad's receiving any reply he was filled with misgivings lest he had imposed upon the good man's former friendship.
At last the answer came and poor Abe's anxiety was turned to joy. The kind elder not only said he would come, but he also named the Sunday when it would be, so that the Lincoln family could invite all their friends from far and near to the postponed service—for it often happened in this new country that the funeral could not take place for months after the burial.
It was late in the following Summer, nearly a year after Nancy's death, that the devoted minister came. The word had gone out to all the region round about. It was the religious event of the season. Hundreds of people of all ages came from twenty miles around on horseback—a father, mother and two children on one horse—also in oxcarts, and on foot. They sat in groups in the wagons, and on the green grass, as at the feeding of the multitudes in the time of the Christ. But these people brought their own refreshments as if it were a picnic.
They talked together in low, solemn tones while waiting for the poor little funeral procession to march out from the Lincoln cabin to the grass-covered grave. Pioneer etiquette required the formalities of a funeral. Elder Elkin was followed by the widowed husband, with Abraham and Sarah and poor Cousin Dennis, also bereaved of his foster-parents, and now a member of the Lincoln family.
There were tender hearts behind those hardened faces, and tears glistened on the tanned cheeks of many in that motley assemblage of eager listeners, while the good elder was paying the last tribute of earth to the sweet and patient memory of his departed friend of other days.
The words of the man of God, telling that assembled multitude what a lovely and devoted girl and woman his mother had been, gave sweet and solemn joy to the soul of the little Lincoln boy. It was all for her dear sake, and she was, of all women, worthy of this sacred respect. As he gazed around on the weeping people, he thought of the hopes and fears of the months that had passed since he wrote his first letter to bring this about.
"God bless my angel mother!" burst from his lonely lips—"how glad I am I've learned to write!"
THE COMING OF ANOTHER MOTHER
All that a young girl of twelve could do, assisted by a willing brother of ten, was done by Sarah and Abraham Lincoln to make that desolate cabin a home for their lonesome father, and for cousin Dennis Hanks, whose young life had been twice darkened by a double bereavement. But "what is home without a mother?" Thomas Lincoln, missing the balance and inspiration of a patient wife, became more and more restless, and, after a year, wandered back again to his former homes and haunts in Kentucky.
While visiting Elizabethtown he saw a former sweetheart, the Sally Bush of younger days, now Mrs. Daniel Johnston, widow of the county jailer who had recently died, leaving three children and considerable property, for that time and place. Thomas renewed his suit and won the pitying heart of Sarah Johnston, and according to the story of the county clerk:
"The next morning, December 2, 1819, I issued the license, and the same day they were married, bundled up, and started for home."
Imagine the glad surprise of the three children who had been left at home for weeks, when they saw a smart, covered wagon, drawn by four horses, driven up before the cabin door one bright winter day, and their father, active and alert, spring out and assist a pleasant-looking woman and three children to alight! Then they were told that this woman was to be their mother and they had two more sisters and another brother!
To the poor forlorn Lincoln children and their still more desolate cousin, it seemed too good to be true. They quickly learned the names of their new brother and sisters. The Johnston children were called John, Sarah and Matilda, so Sarah Lincoln's name was promptly changed to Nancy for her dead mother, as there were two Sarahs already in the combined family.
Mrs. Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln lost no time in taking poor Abe and Nancy Lincoln to her great motherly heart, as if they were her own. They were dirty, for they had been neglected, ill-used and deserted. She washed their wasted bodies clean and dressed them in nice warm clothing provided for her own children, till she, as she expressed it, "made them look more human."
Dennis Hanks told afterward of the great difference the stepmother made in their young lives:
"In fact, in a few weeks all had changed; and where everything had been wanting, all was snug and comfortable. She was a woman of great energy, of remarkable good sense, very industrious and saving, also very neat and tidy in her person and manners. She took an especial liking for young Abe. Her love for him was warmly returned, and continued to the day of his death. But few children love their parents as he loved his stepmother. She dressed him up in entire new clothes, and from that time on he appeared to lead a new life. He was encouraged by her to study, and a wish on his part was gratified when it could be done. The two sets of children got along finely together, as if they all had been the children of the same parents."
Dennis also referred to the "large supply of household goods" the new mother brought with her:
"One fine bureau (worth $40), one table, one set of chairs, one large clothes chest, cooking utensils, knives, forks, bedding and other articles."
It must have been a glorious day when such a splendid array of household furniture was carried into the rude cabin of Thomas Lincoln. But best of all, the new wife had sufficient tact and force of will to induce her good-hearted but shiftless husband to lay a floor, put in a window, and hang a door to protect his doubled family from the cold. It was about Christmas time, and the Lincoln children, as they nestled in warm beds for the first time in their lives, must have thanked their second mother from the bottoms of their grateful hearts.
SCHOOL DAYS NOW AND THEN
Lincoln once wrote, in a letter to a friend, about his early teachers in Indiana:
"He (father) removed from Kentucky to what is now Spencer County, Indiana, in my eighth year. We reached our new home about the time the State came into the Union. It was a wild region with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up. There were some schools, so-called; but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beside readin', writin', and cipherin' to the Rule of Three (simple proportion). If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard. There was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education."
Abe's first teacher in Indiana, however, was Hazel Dorsey. The school house was built of rough, round logs. The chimney was made of poles well covered with clay. The windows were spaces cut in the logs, and covered with greased paper. But Abe was determined to learn. He and his sister thought nothing of walking four miles a day through snow, rain and mud. "Nat" Grigsby, who afterward married the sister, spoke in glowing terms of Abe's few school days:
"He was always at school early, and attended to his studies. He lost no time at home, and when not at work was at his books. He kept up his studies on Sunday, and carried his books with him to work, so that he might read when he rested from labor."
Thomas Lincoln had no use for "eddication," as he called it. "It will spile the boy," he kept saying. He—the father—had got along better without going to school, and why should Abe have a better education than his father? He thought Abe's studious habits were due to "pure laziness, jest to git shet o' workin'." So, whenever there was the slightest excuse, he took Abe out of school and set him to work at home or for one of the neighbors, while he himself went hunting or loafed about the house.
This must have been very trying to a boy as hungry to learn as Abe Lincoln was. His new mother saw and sympathized with him, and in her quiet way, managed to get the boy started to school, for a few weeks at most. For some reason Hazel Dorsey stopped "keeping" the school, and there was a long "vacation" for all the children. But a new man, Andrew Crawford, came and settled near Gentryville. Having nothing better to do at first, he was urged to reopen the school.
One evening Abe came in from his work and his stepmother greeted him with:
"Another chance for you to go to school."
"That man Crawford that moved in a while ago is to begin school next week, and two miles and back every day will be just about enough for you to walk to keep your legs limber."
The tactful wife accomplished it somehow and Abe started off to school with Nancy, and a light heart. A neighbor described him as he appeared in Crawford's school, as "long, wiry and strong, while his big feet and hands, and the length of his legs and arms, were out of all proportion to his small trunk and head. His complexion was swarthy, and his skin shriveled and yellow even then. He wore low shoes, buckskin breeches, linsey-woolsey shirt, and a coonskin cap. The breeches hung close to his legs, but were far from meeting the tops of his shoes, exposing 'twelve inches of shinbone, sharp, blue and narrow.'"
"Yet," said Nat Grigsby, "he was always in good health, never sick, and had an excellent constitution."
HELPING KATE ROBY SPELL
Andrew Crawford must have been an unusual man, for he tried to teach "manners" in his backwoods school! Spelling was considered a great accomplishment. Abe shone as a speller in school and at the spelling-matches. One day, evidently during a period when young Lincoln was kept from school to do some outside work for his father, he appeared at the window when the class in spelling was on the floor. The word "defied" was given out and several pupils had misspelled it. Kate Roby, the pretty girl of the village, was stammering over it. "D-e-f," said Kate, then she hesitated over the next letter. Abe pointed to his eye and winked significantly. The girl took the hint and went on glibly "i-e-d," and "went up head."
"I DID IT!"
There was a buck's head nailed over the school house door. It proved a temptation to young Lincoln, who was tall enough to reach it easily. One day the schoolmaster discovered that one horn was broken and he demanded to know who had done the damage. There was silence and a general denial till Abe spoke up sturdily:
"I did it. I did not mean to do it, but I hung on it—and it broke!" The other boys thought Abe was foolish to "own up" till he had to—but that was his way.
It is doubtful if Abe Lincoln owned an arithmetic. He had a copybook, made by himself, in which he entered tables of weights and measures and "sums" he had to do. Among these was a specimen of schoolboy doggerel:
"Abraham Lincoln, His hand and pen, He will be good— But God knows when!"
In another place he wrote some solemn reflections on the value of time:
"Time, what an empty vapor 'tis, And days, how swift they are! Swift as an Indian arrow— Fly on like a shooting star. The present moment, just, is here, Then slides away in haste, That we can never say they're ours, But only say they're past."
As he grew older his handwriting improved and he was often asked to "set copies" for other boys to follow. In the book of a boy named Richardson, he wrote this prophetic couplet:
"Good boys who to their books apply Will all be great men by and by."
A "MOTHER'S BOY"—HIS FOOD AND CLOTHING
Dennis Hanks related of his young companion: "As far as food and clothing were concerned, the boy had plenty—such as it was—'corndodgers,' bacon and game, some fish and wild fruits. We had very little wheat flour. The nearest mill was eighteen miles. A hoss mill it was, with a plug (old horse) pullin' a beam around; and Abe used to say his dog could stand and eat the flour as fast as it was made, and then be ready for supper!
"For clothing he had jeans. He was grown before he wore all-wool pants. It was a new country, and he was a raw boy, rather a bright and likely lad; but the big world seemed far ahead of him. We were all slow-goin' folks. But he had the stuff of greatness in him. He got his rare sense and sterling principles from both parents. But Abe's kindliness, humor, love of humanity, hatred of slavery, all came from his mother. I am free to say Abe was a 'mother's boy.'"
Dennis used to like to tell of Abe's earliest ventures in the fields of literature: "His first readin' book was Webster's speller. Then he got hold of a book—I can't rickilect the name. It told about a feller, a nigger or suthin', that sailed a flatboat up to a rock, and the rock was magnetized and drawed the nails out of his boat, an' he got a duckin', or drownded, or suthin', I forget now. (This book, of course, was 'The Arabian Nights.') Abe would lay on the floor with a chair under his head, and laugh over them stories by the hour. I told him they was likely lies from end to end; but he learned to read right well in them."
His stock of books was small, but they were the right kind—the Bible, "The Pilgrim's Progress," AEsop's Fables, "Robinson Crusoe," a history of the United States, and the Statutes of Indiana. This last was a strange book for a boy to read, but Abe pored over it as eagerly as a lad to-day might read "The Three Guardsmen," or "The Hound of the Baskervilles." He made notes of what he read with his turkey-buzzard pen and brier-root ink. If he did not have these handy, he would write with a piece of charcoal or the charred end of a stick, on a board, or on the under side of a chair or bench. He used the wooden fire shovel for a slate, shaving it off clean when both sides were full of figures. When he got hold of paper enough to make a copy-book he would go about transferring his notes from boards, beams, under sides of the chairs and the table, and from all the queer places he had put them down, on the spur of the moment.
Besides the books he had at hand, he borrowed all he could get, often walking many miles for a book, until, as he once told a friend, he "read through every book he had ever heard of in that country, for a circuit of fifty miles"—quite a circulating library!
"THE BEGINNING OF LOVE"
"The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts." It must have been about this time that the lad had the following experience, which he himself related to a legal friend, with his chair tilted back and his knees "cocked up" in the manner described by Cousin John Hanks:
"Did you ever write out a story in your mind? I did when I was little codger. One day a wagon with a lady and two girls and a man broke down near us, and while they were fixing up, they cooked in our kitchen. The woman had books and read us stories, and they were the first of the kind I ever heard. I took a great fancy to one of the girls; and when they were gone I thought of her a good deal, and one day, when I was sitting out in the sun by the house, I wrote out a story in my mind.
"I thought I took my father's horse and followed the wagon, and finally I found it, and they were surprised to see me.
"I talked with the girl and persuaded her to elope with me; and that night I put her on my horse and we started off across the prairie. After several hours we came to a camp; and when we rode up we found it was one we had left a few hours before and went in.
"The next night we tried again, and the same thing happened—the horse came back to the same place; and then we concluded we ought not to elope. I stayed until I had persuaded her father that he ought to give her to me.
"I always meant to write that story out and publish it, and I began once; but I concluded it was not much of a story.
"But I think that was the beginning of love with me."
HOW ABE CAME TO OWN WEEMS'S "LIFE OF WASHINGTON"
Abe's chief delight, if permitted to do so, was to lie in the shade of some inviting tree and read. He liked to lie on his stomach before the fire at night, and often read as long as this flickering light lasted. He sometimes took a book to bed to read as soon as the morning light began to come through the chinks between the logs beside his bed. He once placed a book between the logs to have it handy in the morning, and a storm came up and soaked it with dirty water from the "mud-daubed" mortar, plastered between the logs of the cabin.
The book happened to be Weems's "Life of Washington." Abe was in a sad dilemma. What could he say to the owner of the book, which he had borrowed from the meanest man in the neighborhood, Josiah Crawford, who was so unpopular that he went by the nickname of "Old Blue Nose"?
The only course was to show the angry owner his precious volume, warped and stained as it was, and offer to do anything he could to repay him.
"Abe," said "Old Blue Nose," with bloodcurdling friendliness, "bein' as it's you, Abe, I won't be hard on you. You jest come over and pull fodder for me, and the book is yours."
"All right," said Abe, his deep-set eyes twinkling in spite of himself at the thought of owning the story of the life of the greatest of heroes, "how much fodder?"
"Wal," said old Josiah, "that book's worth seventy-five cents, at least. You kin earn twenty-five cents a day—that will make three days. You come and pull all you can in three days and you may have the book."
That was an exorbitant price, even if the book were new, but Abe was at the old man's mercy. He realized this, and made the best of a bad bargain. He cheerfully did the work for a man who was mean enough to take advantage of his misfortune. He comforted himself with the thought that he would be the owner of the precious "Life of Washington." Long afterward, in a speech before the New Jersey Legislature, on his way to Washington to be inaugurated, like Washington, as President of the United States, he referred to this strange book.
"THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH"
One morning, on his way to work, with an ax on his shoulder, his stepsister, Matilda Johnston, though forbidden by her mother to follow Abe, crept after him, and with a cat-like spring landed between his shoulders and pressed her sharp knees into the small of his back.
Taken unawares, Abe staggered backward and ax and girl fell to the ground together. The sharp implement cut her ankle badly, and mischievous Matilda shrieked with fright and pain when she saw the blood gushing from the wound. Young Lincoln tore a sleeve from his shirt to bandage the gash and bound up the ankle as well as he could. Then he tried to teach the still sobbing girl a lesson.
"'Tilda," he said gently, "I'm surprised. Why did you disobey mother?"
Matilda only wept silently, and the lad went on, "What are you going to tell mother about it?"
"Tell her I did it with the ax," sobbed the young girl. "That will be the truth, too."
"Yes," said Abe severely, "that's the truth, but not all the truth. You just tell the whole truth, 'Tilda, and trust mother for the rest."
Matilda went limping home and told her mother the whole story, and the good woman was so sorry for her that, as the girl told Abe that evening, "she didn't even scold me."
"BOUNDING A THOUGHT—NORTH, SOUTH, EAST AND WEST"
Abe sometimes heard things in the simple conversation of friends that disturbed him because they seemed beyond his comprehension. He said of this:
"I remember how, when a child, I used to get irritated when any one talked to me in a way I couldn't understand.
"I do not think I ever got angry with anything else in my life; but that always disturbed my temper—and has ever since.
"I can remember going to my little bedroom, after hearing the neighbors talk of an evening with my father, and spending no small part of the night walking up and down, trying to make out what was the exact meaning of some of their, to me, dark sayings.
"I could not sleep, although I tried to, when I got on such a hunt for an idea; and when I thought I had got it, I was not satisfied until I had repeated it over and over, and had put in language plain enough, as I thought, for any boy I knew to comprehend.
"This was a kind of a passion with me, and it has stuck by me; for I am never easy now when I am bounding a thought, till I have bounded it east, and bounded it west, and bounded it north, and bounded it south."
HIGH PRAISE FROM HIS STEPMOTHER
Not long before her death, Mr. Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, called upon Mrs. Sarah Lincoln to collect material for a "Life of Lincoln" he was preparing to write. This was the best of all the things she related of her illustrious stepson:
"I can say what scarcely one mother in a thousand can say, Abe never gave me a cross word or look, and never refused, in fact or appearance, to do anything I asked him. His mind and mine seemed to run together.
"I had a son, John, who was raised with Abe. Both were good boys, but I must say, both now being dead, that Abe was the best boy I ever saw or expect to see."
"Charity begins at home"—and so do truth and honesty. Abraham Lincoln could not have become so popular all over the world on account of his honest kindheartedness if he had not been loyal, obedient and loving toward those at home. Popularity, also, "begins at home." A mean, disagreeable, dishonest boy may become a king, because he was "to the manner born." But only a good, kind, honest man, considerate of others, can be elected President of the United States.
ABE AND THE NEIGHBORS
"PREACHING" AGAINST CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
Nat Grigsby stated once that writing compositions was not required by Schoolmaster Crawford, but "Abe took it up on his own account," and his first essay was against cruelty to animals.
The boys of the neighborhood made a practice of catching terrapins and laying live coals on their backs. Abe caught a group of them at this cruel sport one day, and rushed to the relief of the helpless turtle. Snatching the shingle that one of the boys was using to handle the coals, he brushed them off the turtle's shell, and with angry tears in his eyes, proceeded to use it on one of the offenders, while he called the rest a lot of cowards.
One day his stepbrother, John Johnston, according to his sister Matilda, "caught a terrapin, brought it to the place where Abe was 'preaching,' threw it against a tree and crushed its shell." Abe then preached against cruelty to animals, contending that "an ant's life is as sweet to it as ours is to us."
ROUGHLY DISCIPLINED FOR BEING "FORWARD"
Abe was compelled to leave school on the slightest pretext to work for the neighbors. He was so big and strong—attaining his full height at seventeen—that his services were more in demand than those of his stepbrother, John Johnston, or of Cousin Dennis. Abe was called lazy because the neighbors shared the idea of Thomas Lincoln, that his reading and studying were only a pretext for shirking. Yet he was never so idle as either Dennis Hanks or John Johnston, who were permitted to go hunting or fishing with Tom Lincoln, while Abe stayed out of school to do the work that one of the three older men should have done.
Abe's father was kinder in many ways to his stepchildren than he was to his own son. This may have been due to the fact that he did not wish to be thought "partial" to his own child. No doubt Abe was "forward." He liked to take part in any discussion, and sometimes he broke into the conversation when his opinion had not been asked. Besides, he got into arguments with his fellow-laborers, and wasted the time belonging to his employer.
One day, according to Dennis, they were all working together in the field, when a man rode up on horseback and asked a question. Abe was the first to mount the fence to answer the stranger and engage him in conversation. To teach his son better "manners" in the presence of his "superiors," Thomas Lincoln struck Abe a heavy blow which knocked him backward off the fence, and silenced him for a time.
Of course, every one present laughed at Abe's discomfiture, and the neighbors approved of Thomas Lincoln's rude act as a matter of discipline. In their opinion Abe Lincoln was getting altogether too smart. While they enjoyed his homely wit and good nature, they did not like to admit that he was in any way their superior. A visitor to Springfield, Ill., will even now find some of Lincoln's old neighbors eager to say "there were a dozen smarter men in this city than Lincoln" when he "happened to get nominated for the presidency!"
SPORTS AND PASTIMES
Abe was "hail fellow, well met" everywhere. The women comprehended his true greatness before the men did so. There was a rough gallantry about him, which, though lacking in "polish," was true, "heart-of-oak" politeness. He wished every one well. His whole life passed with "malice toward none, with charity for all."
When he "went out evenings" Abe Lincoln took the greatest pains to make everybody comfortable and happy. He was sure to bring in the biggest backlog and make the brightest fire. He read "the funniest fortunes" for the young people from the sparks as they flew up the chimney. He was the best helper in paring the apples, shelling the corn and cracking the nuts for the evening's refreshments.
When he went to spelling school, after the first few times, he was not allowed to take part in the spelling match because everybody knew that the side that "chose first" would get Abe Lincoln and he always "spelled down." But he went just the same and had a good time himself if he could add to the enjoyment of the rest.
He went swimming, warm evenings, with the boys, and ran races, jumped and wrestled at noon-times, which was supposed to be given up to eating and resting. He was "the life" of the husking-bee and barn raising, and was always present, often as a judge because of his humor, fairness and tact, at horse races. He engaged heartily in every kind of "manly sport" which did not entail unnecessary suffering upon helpless animals.
Coon hunting, however, was an exception. The coon was a pest and a plague to the farmer, so it should be got rid of. He once told the following story:
THE LITTLE YELLOW "COON DOG"
"My father had a little yellow house dog which invariably gave the alarm if we boys undertook to slip away unobserved after night had set in—as we sometimes did—to go coon hunting. One night my brother, John Johnston, and I, with the usual complement of boys required for a successful coon hunt, took the insignificant little cur with us.
"We located the coveted coon, killed him, and then in a sporting vein, sewed the coon skin on the little dog.
"It struggled vigorously during the operation of sewing on, and when released made a bee-line for home. Some larger dogs on the way, scenting coon, tracked the little animal home and apparently mistaking him for a real coon, speedily demolished him. The next morning, father found, lying in his yard, the lifeless remains of yellow 'Joe,' with strong circumstantial evidence, in the form of fragments of coon skin, against us.
"Father was much incensed at his death, but as John and I, scantily protected from the morning wind, stood shivering in the doorway, we felt assured that little yellow Joe would never again be able to sound the alarm of another coon hunt."
THE "CHIN FLY" AS AN INCENTIVE TO WORK
While he was President, Mr. Lincoln told Henry J. Raymond, the founder of the New York Times, the following story of an experience he had about this time, while working with his stepbrother in a cornfield:
"Raymond," said he, "you were brought up on a farm, were you not? Then you know what a 'chin fly' is. My brother and I were plowing corn once, I driving the horse and he holding the plow. The horse was lazy, but on one occasion he rushed across the field so that I, with my long legs, could scarcely keep pace with him. On reaching the end of the furrow I found an enormous chin fly fastened upon the horse and I knocked it off. My brother asked me what I did that for. I told him I didn't want the old horse bitten in that way.
"'Why,' said my brother,'that's all that made him go.'"
"Now if Mr. Chase (the Secretary of the Treasury) has a presidential 'chin fly' biting him, I'm not going to knock it off, if it will only make his department go."
"OLD BLUE NOSE'S" HIRED MAN
It seemed to be the "irony of fate" that Abe should have to work for "Old Blue Nose" as a farm hand. But the lad liked Mrs. Crawford, and Lincoln's sister Nancy lived there, at the same time, as maid-of-all-work. Another attraction, the Crawford family was rich, in Abe's eyes, in possessing several books, which he was glad of the chance to read.
Mrs. Crawford told many things about young Lincoln that might otherwise have been lost. She said "Abe was very polite, in his awkward way, taking off his hat to me and bowing. He was a sensitive lad, never coming where he was not wanted. He was tender and kind—like his sister.
"He liked to hang around and gossip and joke with the women. After he had wasted too much time this way, he would exclaim:
"'Well, this won't buy the child a coat,' and the long-legged hired boy would stride away and catch up with the others."
One day when he was asked to kill a hog, Abe answered promptly that he had never done that, "but if you'll risk the hog, I'll risk myself!"
Mrs. Crawford told also about "going to meeting" in those primitive days:
"At that time we thought it nothing to go eight or ten miles. The ladies did not stop for the want of a shawl or riding dress, or horses. In the winter time they would put on their husbands' old overcoats, wrap up their little ones, and take two or three of them on their beasts, while their husbands would walk.
"In winter time they would hold church in some of the neighbors' houses. At such times they were always treated with the utmost kindness; a basket of apples, or turnips—apples were scarce in those days—was set out. Sometimes potatoes were used for a 'treat.' In old Mr. Linkhorn's (Lincoln's) house a plate of potatoes, washed and pared nicely, was handed around."
FEATS OF STRENGTH
Meanwhile the boy was growing to tall manhood, both in body and in mind. The neighbors, who failed to mark his mental growth, were greatly impressed with his physical strength. The Richardson family, with whom Abe seemed to have lived as hired man, used to tell marvelous tales of his prowess, some of which may have grown somewhat in the telling. Mr. Richardson declared that the young man could carry as heavy a load as "three ordinary men." He saw Abe pick up and walk away with "a chicken house, made up of poles pinned together, and covered, that weighed at least six hundred if not much more."
When the Richardsons were building their corn-crib, Abe saw three or four men getting ready to carry several huge posts or timbers on "sticks" between them. Watching his chance, he coolly stepped in, shouldered all the timbers at once and walked off alone with them, carrying them to the place desired. He performed these feats off-hand, smiling down in undisguised pleasure as the men around him expressed their amazement. It seemed to appeal to his sense of humor as well as his desire to help others out of their difficulties.
Another neighbor, "old Mr. Wood," said of Abe: "He could strike, with a maul, a heavier blow than any other man. He could sink an ax deeper into wood than any man I ever saw."
Dennis Hanks used to tell that if you heard Abe working in the woods alone, felling trees, you would think three men, at least, were at work there—the trees came crashing down so fast.
On one occasion after he had been threshing wheat for Mr. Turnham, the farmer-constable whose "Revised Statutes of Indiana" Abe had devoured, Lincoln was walking back, late at night from Gentryville, where he and a number of cronies had spent the evening. As the youths were picking their way along the frozen road, they saw a dark object on the ground by the roadside. They found it to be an old sot they knew too well lying there, dead drunk. Lincoln stopped, and the rest, knowing the tenderness of his heart, exclaimed:
"Aw, let him alone, Abe. 'Twon't do him no good. He's made his bed, let him lay in it!"
The rest laughed—for the "bed" was freezing mud. But Abe could see no humor in the situation. The man might be run over, or freeze to death. To abandon any human being in such a plight seemed too monstrous to him. The other young men hurried on in the cold, shrugging their shoulders and shaking their heads—"Poor Abe!—he's a hopeless case," and left Lincoln to do the work of a Good Samaritan alone. He had no beast on which to carry the dead weight of the drunken man, whom he vainly tried, again and again, to arouse to a sense of the predicament he was in. At last the young man took up the apparently lifeless body of the mud-covered man in his strong arms, and carried him a quarter of a mile to a deserted cabin, where he made up a fire and warmed and nursed the old drunkard the rest of that night. Then Abe gave him "a good talking to," and the unfortunate man is said to have been so deeply impressed by the young man's kindness that he heeded the temperance lecture and never again risked his life as he had done that night. When the old man told John Hanks of Abe's Herculean effort to save him, he added:
"It was mighty clever in Abe Lincoln to tote me to a warm fire that cold night."
IN JONES' STORE
While Abe was working for the farmers round about his father's farm he spent many of his evenings in Jones' grocery "talking politics" and other things with the men, who also gathered there. Mr. Jones took a Louisville paper, which young Lincoln read eagerly. Slavery was a live political topic then, and Abe soon acquired quite a reputation as a stump orator.
As he read the "Indiana Statutes" he was supposed to "know more law than the constable." In fact, his taste for the law was so pronounced at that early age that he went, sometimes, fifteen miles to Boonville, as a spectator in the county court. Once he heard a lawyer of ability, named Breckinridge, defend an accused murderer there. It was a great plea; the tall country boy knew it and, pushing through the crowd, reached out his long, coatless arm to congratulate the lawyer, who looked at the awkward youth in amazement and passed on without acknowledging Abe's compliment. The two men met again in Washington, more than thirty years later, under very different circumstances.
But there were things other than politics discussed at the country store, and Abe Lincoln often raised a laugh at the expense of some braggart or bully. There was "Uncle Jimmy" Larkins, who posed as the hero of his own stories. In acknowledgment of Abe's authority as a judge of horse flesh, "Uncle Jimmy" was boasting of his horse's superiority in a recent fox chase. But young Lincoln seemed to pay no heed. Larkins repeated:
"Abe, I've got the best horse in the world; he won the race and never drew a long breath."
Young Lincoln still appeared not to be paying attention. "Uncle Jimmy" persisted. He was bound to make Abe hear. He reiterated:
"I say, Abe, I have got the best horse in the world; after all that running he never drew a long breath."
"Well, Larkins," drawled young Lincoln, "why don't you tell us how many short breaths he drew." The laugh was on the boastful and discomfited Larkins.
TRYING TO TEACH ASTRONOMY TO A YOUNG GIRL
Abe's efforts were not always so well received, for he was sometimes misunderstood. The neighbors used to think the Lincoln boy was secretly in love with Kate Roby, the pretty girl he had helped out of a dilemma in the spelling class. Several years after that episode, Abe and Kate were sitting on a log, about sunset, talking:
"Abe," said Kate, "the sun's goin' down."
"Reckon not," Abe answered, "we're coming up, that's all."
"Don't you s'pose I got eyes?"
"Yes, I know you have; but it's the earth that goes round. The sun stands as still as a tree. When we're swung round so we can't see it any more, the light's cut off and we call it night."
"What a fool you are, Abe Lincoln!" exclaimed Kate, who was not to blame for her ignorance, for astronomy had never been taught in Crawford's school.
THE EARLY DEATH OF SISTER NANCY
While brother and sister were working for "Old Blue Nose," Aaron Grigsby, "Nat's" brother, was "paying attention" to Nancy Lincoln. They were soon married. Nancy was only eighteen. When she was nineteen Mrs. Aaron Grigsby died. Her love for Abe had almost amounted to idolatry. In some ways she resembled him. He, in turn, was deeply devoted to his only sister.
The family did not stay long at Pigeon Creek after the loss of Nancy, who was buried, not beside her mother, but with the Grigsbys in the churchyard of the old Pigeon Creek meeting-house.
EARNING HIS FIRST DOLLAR
Much as Abraham Lincoln had "worked out" as a hired man, his father kept the money, as he had a legal right to do, not giving the boy any of the results of his hard labor, for, strong as he was, his pay was only twenty-five or thirty cents a day. Abe accepted this as right and proper. He never complained of it.
After he became President, Lincoln told his Secretary of State the following story of the first dollar he ever had for his own:
"Seward," he said, "did you ever hear how I earned my first dollar?" "No," replied Seward. "Well," said he, "I was about eighteen years of age . . . and had constructed a flatboat. . . . A steamer was going down the river. We have, you know, no wharves on the western streams, and the custom was, if passengers were at any of the landings they had to go out in a boat, the steamer stopping and taking them on board. I was contemplating my new boat, and wondering whether I could make it stronger or improve it in any part, when two men with trunks came down to the shore in carriages, and looking at the different boats, singled out mine, and asked:
"'Who owns this?'
"I answered modestly, 'I do.'
"'Will you,' said one of them, 'take us and our trunks out to the steamer?'
"'Certainly,' said I. I was very glad to have a chance of earning something, and supposed that they would give me a couple of 'bits.' The trunks were put in my boat, the passengers seated themselves on them, and I sculled them out to the steamer. They got on board, and I lifted the trunks and put them on deck. The steamer was moving away when I called out:
"'You have forgotten to pay me.'
"Each of them took from his pocket a silver half-dollar and threw it on the bottom of my boat. I could scarcely believe my eyes as I picked up the money. You may think it was a very little thing, and in these days it seems to me like a trifle, but it was a most important incident in my life. I could scarcely credit that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar in less than a day—that by honest work I had earned a dollar. I was a more hopeful and thoughtful boy from that time."
MOVING TO ILLINOIS
"FOLLOWING THE RIVER"
Thomas Lincoln had become restless again. Fourteen years was a long time for him to live in one place. Abe was seven years old when they came over from Kentucky, and he was now nearly twenty-one. During that time Thomas had lost his wife, Nancy, and his only daughter, who bore her mother's name. While the land he had chosen was fertile enough, the want of water had always been a sad drawback. The desire to try his fortunes in a newer country had taken possession of him.
John Hanks had gone to Illinois, and had written back that everything was more favorable there for making a living. Thomas Lincoln had not been successful in Indiana. His children's prospects seemed to be against them. After working as a hired hand on the surrounding farms, Abe had served for a time as a ferryman, and, working by the river, had learned to build the boat with which he had earned his first dollar.
As George Washington longed to go to sea, Abraham Lincoln seems to have yearned to "follow the river." He tried to hire out as deck hand, but his age was against him. He soon had a chance to go "down river" to New Orleans, with his friend, Allen Gentry, the son of the man for whom Gentryville was named. Allen afterward married Kate Roby. A flatboat belonging to Allen's father was loaded with bacon and other farm merchandise for the southern market. Allen went in charge of the expedition, and young Lincoln was engaged as "bow hand." They started in April, 1828. There was nothing to do but steer the unwieldy craft with the current. The flatboat was made to float down stream only. It was to be broken up at New Orleans and sold for lumber.
The two young men from Indiana made the trip without incident until they came to the plantation of Madame Duchesne, six miles from Baton Rouge, where they moored their raft for the night. There they heard the stealthy footsteps of midnight marauders on board.
Young Gentry was first aroused. He sprang up and found a gang of lawless negroes on deck, evidently looking for plunder, and thinking so many of them could easily cow or handle the two white men.
"Bring the guns, Abe!" shouted Allen. "Shoot them!" Abraham Lincoln was among them, brandishing a club—they had no guns. The negroes were frightened not only by the fierce, commanding form of their tall adversary, but also by his giant strength. The two white men routed the whole black crew, but Abraham Lincoln received a wound in the encounter, and bore the scar of it to his dying day.
The trip required about three months, going and returning, and the two adventurers from Gentryville came back in June, with good stories of their experiences to tell in Jones' store.
Not long after this Thomas Lincoln, in response to an urgent invitation from John Hanks, decided to move to Illinois. It took a long time, after gathering in the fall crops, for Thomas Lincoln to have a "vandoo" and sell his corn and hogs. As for selling his farm, it had never really belonged to him. He simply turned it over to Mr. Gentry, who held a mortgage on it. It was February, 1830, before the pioneer wagon got under way. The emigrant family consisted of Thomas Lincoln and Sarah, his wife, Abraham, and John Johnston; Sarah and Matilda Johnston were both married, and, with their husbands, a young man named Hall and Dennis Hanks, formed the rest of the party. The women rode with their household goods in a great covered cart drawn by two yoke of oxen.
A TRAVELING PEDDLER
Merchant Jones, for whom Abe had worked that fall and winter, after his return from New Orleans, sold the young man a pack of "notions" to peddle along the road to Illinois. "A set of knives and forks," related Mr. Jones' son afterward, "was the largest item on the bill. The other items were needles, pins, thread, buttons, and other little domestic necessities. When the Lincolns reached their new home, Abraham wrote back to my father stating that he had doubled his money on his purchases by selling them along the road. Unfortunately we did not keep that letter, not thinking how highly we would prize it afterward."