Page images

purchaser for his farm, he made arrangements for the transfer of the property and for his removal. The price paid by the purchaser was ten barrels of whiskey, of forty gallons each, valued at two hundred and eighty dollars, and twenty dollars in money. Mr. Lincoln was a temperate man, and acceded to the terms, not because he desired the liquor, but because such transactions in real estate were common, and recognized as perfectly proper.

The homestead was within a mile or two of the Rolling Fork river, and as soon as the sale was effected, Mr. Lincoln, with such slight assistance as little Abe could give him, hewed out a flat-boat, and launching it, filled it with his household articles and tools and the barrels of whiskey, and bidding adieu to his son who stood upon the bank, pushed off, and was soon floating down the stream on his way to Indiana, to select a new home. His journey down the Rolling Fork and into the Ohio river was successfully accomplished, but soon afterwards his boat was unfortunately upset, and its cargo thrown into the water. Some men standing on the bank witnessed the accident and saved the boat and its owner, but all the contents of the craft were lost except a few carpenter's tools, axes, three barrels of whiskey and some other articles. He again started, and proceeded to a well-known ferry on the river, from whence he was guided into the interior by a resident of the section of country in which he had landed, and to whom he had given his boat in payment for his services. After several days of difficult travelling, much of the time employed in cutting a road through the forest wide enough for a team, eighteen miles were accomplished, and Spencer county, Indiana, was reached. The site for his new home having been determined upon, Mr. Lincoln left his goods under the care of a person who lived a few miles distant, and returning to Kentucky on foot, made preparations to remove his family. In a few days the party bade farewell to their old home and slavery, Mrs. Lincoln and her daughter riding one horse, Abe another, and the father a third. After a sevep days' journey through an uninhabited country, their resting-place at night being a blanket spread upon the ground, they arrived at the spot selected for their future residence, and no unnecessary delays were permitted to interfere with the immediate and successful clearing of a site for a cabin. An axe was placed in Abe's hands, and with the additional assistance of a neighbor, in two or three days Mr. Lincoln had a neat house of about eighteen feet square, the logs composing which being fastened together in the usual manner by notches, and the cracks between them filled with mud. It had only one room, but some slabs laid across logs overhead gave additional accommodations which were obtained by climbing a rough ladder in one corner. A bed, table and four stools were then made by the two settlers, father and son, and the building was ready for occupancy. The loft was Abe's bedroom, and there night after night for many years, he who now occupies the most exalted position in the gift of the American people, and who dwells in the “ White House” at Washington, surrounded by all the comforts that wealth and power can give, slumbered with one coarse blanket for his mattress and another for his covering Although busy during the ensuing winter with his axe, he did not neglect his reading and spelling, and also practised frequently with a rifle, the first evidence of his skill as a marksman being manifested, much to the delight of his parents, in the killing of a wild turkey, which had approached too near the cabin. The knowledge of the use of the rifle was indispensable in the border settlements at that time, as the greater portion of the food required for the settlers was procured by it, and the family which had not among its male members one or more who could discharge it with accuracy, was very apt to suffer from a scarcity of comestibles.


WRITE A little more than a year after removing to Spencer county, Mrs. Lincoln died, an event which brought desolation to the hearts of her husband and children, but to none so much as to Abe. He had been a dutiful son, and she one of the most devoted of mothers, and to her instruction may be traced many of those traits and characteristics for which even now he is remarkable. Soon after her death, the bereaved lad had an offer which promised to afford him other employment during the long, monotonous evenings, than the reading of books, a young man who had removed into the neighborhood having offered to teach him how to write, The opportunity was too fraught with benefit to be rejected, and after a few weeks of practice under the eye of his instructor, and also out of doors with a piece of chalk or charred stick, he was able to write his name, and in less than twelve months could and did write a letter.


HIS EDUCATION. During the next year Mr. Lincoln married Mrs. Sally Johnston, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, a widow-lady with three children, and who was admirably adapted to supply the vacancy which existed in the Lincoln family; and a superior woman, between whom and Abe a most devoted attachment sprung up, which ever afterwards continued. About the same time a person named Crawford moved into the neighborhood, and understanding how to read and write and the rudiments of arithmetic, was induced to open a school, to which Abe was sent, and in which he greatly improved his knowledge of the first two branches, and soon mastered the second. His school-garb comprised a suit of dressed buckskin and a cap made from a raccoon skin. His memory was retentive, and as he took an unusual pride in his studies, his close application made him a favorite scholar with his teacher, while his superior knowledge, limited though it was, caused him to be used by the more ignorant settlers as their scribe whenever they had letters to be written. A brief period at this school, and to use a fashionable phrase, his education was finished. Six months of instruction within the walls of an insignificant school. house is all the education that Abraham Lincoln has received during a long lifetime, a greater portion of which has been spent in public positions, where ability and talent were indispensable requisites.


For four or five years after leaving school, or until he was eighteen, he constantly labored in the woods with his axe, cutting down trees and splitting rails, and during the evenings, read such works as he could borrow from the other settlers. A year later, he was hired by a man living near by, at ten dollars a month, to go to New Orleans on a flatboat loaded with stores, which were destined for sale at the plantations on the Mississippi river, near the Crescent City, and with but one companion started on his rather dangerous journey. At night they tied up alongside of the bank, and rested upon the hard deck with a blanket for a covering, and during the hours of light, whether their lonely trip was cheered by a bright sun or made disagreeable in the extreme by violent storms, their craft floated down the stream, its helmsmen never for a moment losing their spirits, or regretting their acceptance of the positions they occupied. Nothing occurred to mar the success of the trip, nor the excitement naturally incident to a flatboat expedition of some eighteen hundred miles, save a midnight attack by a party of negroes, who, after a severe conflict, were whipped by Abe and his comrade and compelled to flee, and after selling their goods at a handsome profit, the young merchants returned to Indiana.


In March, 1830, Mr. Thomas Lincoln removed his family to Illinois, their household articles being transported thither in large wagons drawn by oxen, Abe himself driving one of the teams. Upon the journey, and while crossing the bottom lands of the Kaskaskia river, the males of the family were compelled to wade through water up to their waists. In two weeks they reached Decatur, Macon county, Illinois, near the centre of that State, and in another day were at the tract of land (ten acres) on the north side of the Sangamon river, and about ten miles west of Decatur. A log cabin was immediately erected, and Abe proceeded to split the rails for the fence with which the lot was to be enclosed. As a rail-splitter, as a tiller of the soil, or as a huntsman, to whose accuracy of aim the family depended in a great measure for their daily food, young Abraham Lincoln was active, earnest and laborious, and when in the following spring he signified his intention to leave his home to seek his fortune among strangers, the tidings were received by his parents and friends with the most profound


Confident that a more extended field of observation and action would be more suitable to his tastes and disposition, he packed up what little clothing he possessed, and went westward into Menard county. He worked on a farm in the vicinity of Petersburg, during the ensuing summer and winter, at the same time improving himself, in read ing, writing, grammar, and arithmetic.

« PreviousContinue »