Page images
PDF
EPUB

they were less than a twelvemonth. He had not seen a geography or grammar.

The time had come when he must earn money. He was employed by James Taylor to ferry people across the Ohio River at Gentry's Landing. His wages were $2.50 a week. His earnings were for his father, and not for his own personal benefit. It was a memorable event when two strangers came to the landing and were taken out to a passing steamboat. Each gentleman tossed him a shining half-dollar. One

dollar for a few minutes labor! As he rowed back to the shore his world was larger, and the possibilities of life far greater than he had supposed them to be. (")

Katy Roby lived near by, and made time fly more swiftly by. chatting with him while he was waiting for travellers. It was a pleasure to take her up-stream on a moonlight evening, and float down with the current to the landing. They see the moon and Venus sinking towards the western horizon. “We

say the moon goes down," said Abraham, “and the stars rise and set; but they do not come up and go down. It is we who do the rising and setting.”

“ You are a fool, Abe. Don't you see that the moon and Venus are going down?”

“ No, they are not. The earth turns over every twenty-four hours; it is that which makes them seem to rise and set. It is only an illusion, Katy.” He went on and explained it so clearly that she

gazed with increasing admiration DENNIS HANKS.

at the young man who previously [From a photograph taken in 1889.)

had helped her in spelling. ("")

[graphic]
[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Possibly Judge Pitcher, who lived near the landing, saw something unusually attractive in the boy who, while waiting for travellers, came into his office and asked if he might look at the books on his shelves. The ferry-boy saw people make fools of themselves by drinking too

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

much whiskey. He could not discover that any good came from drinking liquor. On the contrary, it made men silly, or cross and ugly, and brought misery to themselves and their families. He wrote a composition on the foolishness of drinking, and the evils that come from the habit. The judge was pleased with it, and handed it to Rev. Mr. Farmer; he in turn sent it to an editor, who gladly printed it. So Abraham Lincoln, five years before the beginning of a great temperance reformation which swept over the country, did what he could to bring it about. (1)

The ferry-boy probably never had seen a geography. Possibly he may have seen a map of the United States. He knew the passing steamboats made their way to New Orleans or St. Louis. have heard of the journey of exploration by Captain Lewis and George Rogers Clarke, of Kentucky, up the Missouri and down the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. He knew the United States was a vast country. He was thinking about its form of government—the Constitution and the Union. He wrote out his thoughts several years before Daniel Webster uttered the words, " The Constitution and the Union 'now and forever : one and inseparable.”

Winter came, and there were so few travellers that Mr. Taylor no longer needed him. He returned to Pigeon Creek to attend the wedding of his sister Sarah, who married Mr. Grigsby.

He may

1828.

Mr. Gentry had purchased a large quantity of corn, pork, and other produce, which he determined to send to New Orleans. He had seen

enough of Abraham Lincoln to know that he was honest and faith

ful, so engaged him to take charge of the flat-boat which he was loading for that market. Allan Gentry was to accompany him. The boat was wide and flat; the steamboat men called it a “broad horn." It had a little caboose, in which they could sleep. Clay several inches in depth was spread upon the bottom of the boat, upon which they could kindle a fire, bake their corn-bread, and fry their meat.

Abraham Lincoln, captain of the craft, was nineteen years old. For pulling an oar and assuming responsibility in marketing the produce he was to receive $8.50 a month.

The two boatmen did not see many settlements along the river. Here and there they beheld a clearing and a solitary cabin. In springtime the Mississippi overflowed its banks, and all the lowlands were flooded. The settlements, consequently, were mostly inland, upon higher ground. Memphis was only a collection of huts. The country behind it was still the hunting-ground of the Cherokee Indians. It was a lonely voyage. At times they met a steamboat. After passing the mouth

[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »