« PreviousContinue »
ported by tuition fees or subscription. During his boyhood days in Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln attended, at different. times, at least two schools of this description, of which he has clear recollections. One of these was kept by Zachariah Riney, a Roman Catholic, whose peculiarities have not been wholly effaced from the memory of his since so distinguished pupil. But although this teacher was himself an ardent Catholic, he made no proselyting efforts in his school, and when any little religious ceremonies, or perhaps mere catechising and the like, were to be gone through with, all Protestant children, of whom, it is needless to say that young Abraham was one, were accustomed to retire, by permission or command. Riney was probably in some way connected with the movement of the "Trappists," who came to Kentucky in the autumn of 1805, and founded an establishment (abandoned some years later) under Urban Guillet, as superior, on Pottinger's Creek. They were active in promoting education especially among the poorer classes, and had a school for boys under their immediate supervision. This, however, had been abandoned before the date of Lincoln's first school-days, and it is not improbable. that the private schools under Roman Catholic teachers were an offshoot of the original system adopted by these Trappists, who subsequently removed to Illinois.
Another teacher, on whose instructions the boy afterward attended, while living in Kentucky, was named Caleb Hazel. His was also a neighborhood school, sustained by private patronage.
With the aid of these two schools, and with such further assistance as he received at home, there is no doubt that he had become able to read well, though without having made any great literary progress, at the age of seven. That he was not a dull or inapt scholar, is manifest from his subsequent attainments. With the allurements of the rifle and the wild game which then abounded in the country, however, and with the meager advatages he had, in regard to books, it is certain that his perceptive faculties, and his muscular powers, were much more fully developed by exercise than his scholastic talents.
While he lived in Kentucky, he never saw even the exterior of what was properly a church edifice. The religious services he attended were held either at a private dwelling, or in some log school-house, or in the open grove :
"Fit shrine for humble worshiper to hold
The boast of our vain race, to change the form
Unsatisfactory results of these many years' toil on the lands of Nolin Creek, or a restless spirit of adventure and fondness for more genuine pioneer excitements than this region continued to afford, led Thomas Lincoln, now verging upon the age of forty, and his son beginning to be of essential service. in manual labor, to seek a new place of abode, far to the west, beyond the Ohio river.
MR. LINCOLN'S EARLY LIFE IN INDIANA.
The Removal from Kentucky.-An Emigrant Journey.-The Forests of Southern Indiana.-New Home of the Lincoln Family.-Indiana in 1816.-Slavery and Free Labor.-Young Lincoln at His Work.His Schools and Schoolmasters.-Self-Education.-A Characteristic Incident.-Acquaintance with River Life.-His First Trip to New Orleans as a Flatboatman.-Death of His Mother.-His Father's Second Marriage.-Recollections of an Early Settler.-Close of an Eventful Period in Young Lincoln's History.
EARLY in the autumn of 1816, an immediate departure for the new wilds of Indiana, was determined on by Thomas Lincoln. It was no very imposing sight, certainly, as the little family, bidding the old Kentucky home adieu, moved forward upon their long and winding pioneer march. Many sad thoughts there undoubtedly were in that small group, and perhaps some forebodings, also, as their former place, gradually receding, at length disappeared from their reverted eyes. But these emotions must soon have been lost in the excitements of their journey.
It was no novel picture which they presented, for that period, as they advanced on their lonely way, for the days required to bring them to the place whence they were to cross the “Beautiful River." The plain wagon, with its simple covering as a shelter for its lading of household utensils, articles of food, and "varieties," was drawn by a not too-spirited or overfed horse, in a harness probably compounded of leather and hempen cords of an uncertain age. In the forward part of this conveyance, sat the emigrant wife and her daughter, nine years old, while the father and his son, now past seven, walking in the rear, took care that the indispensable cow kept pace to the
music of the jolting wheels. Underneath the wagon, or scouting at pleasure through the surrounding woods, was of course a large dog, constant to the fortunes of his master's family, and ready for any fate to which their migrations might lead him. Arrived at the appointed landing on the banks of the Ohio, it only remained to embark the little caravan upon a flatboat, and to cross the stream, now swelled to fair proportions by the autumn rains. Finally, after reaching the Indiana side, the adventurers landed at or near the mouth of Anderson's Creek, now the boundary between the counties of Perry and Spencer, about one hundred and forty miles below Louisville, by the river, and sixty above Evansville. In a direct line across the country from their former residence, the distance is, perhaps, hardly one hundred miles.
The place at which Mr. Lincoln settled, at the end of this journey, is some distance back from the Ohio river, near the present town of Gentryville. Under the earliest organization, this was in Perry county, of which Troy was the county-seat. Two years later, Spencer county was formed, embracing all that part of Perry west of Anderson's Creek, and including the place at which Mr. Lincoln had located himself.
Here his emigrant wagon paused, and aided by the busy hands of his son, a log cabin was speedily built, which was to be their home through many coming years. The particular site of his dwelling was doubtless determined, as usual, by the discovery of a living spring of water, after fixing on his selection for a farm. This completed, and a shelter provided for their stock, the next business was to clear up a space in the fores which should produce a crop of grain for their sustenance the next season. Hard work had begun in good earnest for the young Kentuckian. He was to learn the realities of genuine pioneer life, such as he had before but imperfectly understood, unless by tradition and the evening tales of his father.
Indiana, at this date, was still a Territory, having been originally united under the same government with Illinois, after the admission of Ohio as a State, "the first-born of the great North-west," in 1802. A separate territorial organization was made for each in 1809. A few months before the arrival
of Thomas Lincoln, namely, in June, 1816, pursuant to a Congressional "enabling act," a Convention had been held which adopted a State Constitution, preparatory to admission into the Union. Under this Constitution, a little later, in December, 1816, Indiana became, by act of Congress, one of the United States.
The population of Indiana was now about 65,000, distributed chiefly south of a straight line drawn from Vincennes, on the Wabash, to Lawrenceburg, on the Ohio. Vincennes was long the territorial capital, and with the surrounding country, had been occupied by French emigrants, many years before the Revolution. In 1800, the whole number of residents in these colonies was less than 5,000. These, like other French settlements, made little progress of themselves. From 1800 to 1810, there had been a large incrcase, mostly by emigrations to Southern Indiana from Kentucky, swelling the population to 24,520, at the latter date. In 1811 had occurred serious difficulties with the Indians, terminating in the decisive victory over them at Tippecanoe. So general had become the settlements, eastward from Vincennes and up the Ohio river, that the capital was removed far eastward to Corydon, in 1813, as a central location. This place, the capital of Harrison county, is about twenty-five miles west from Louisville, and more than a hundred south of the present metropolis of the State. But one county intervened between Harrison and Perry, and Gentryville is hardly forty miles, in a direct line, from Corydon. This place continued to be the seat of government for the State until 1824, as it had been for the Territory during the three years next preceding 1816. It was but natural, therefore, that emigration should be prominently directed to this part of the State, at the period under consideration. In 1820, the population had increased to over 147,000, or more than six-fold during ten years, and nearly thirty-fold since 1800.
There is little doubt that, in emigrating, Thomas Lincoln had fallen in with a prevalent contagion in his own State, and that he took up his residence in the part of Indiana then deemed most desirable of all that was unoccupied. It is common to attribute these extensive migrations from the border slave