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Title: The early life of Abraham Lincoln

Author: Ida M. Tarbell

Contributor: J. McCan Davis

Release date: July 20, 2018 [eBook #57555]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Richard Tonsing and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)


Transcriber’s Note:

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.


From a carbon enlargement, by Sherman and McHugh, New York, of a daguerreotype in the possession of the Hon. Robert T. Lincoln, and first published in the McClure’s Life of Lincoln. It is generally believed that Lincoln was not over thirty-five years old when this daguerreotype was taken, and it is certainly true that it shows the face of Lincoln as a young man. It is probably earlier by six or seven years, at least, than any other existing portrait of Lincoln.


S. S. McCLURE, Limited
[All rights reserved]
Copyright, 1895, by
S. S. McCLURE, Limited
Copyright, 1896, by
S. S. McCLURE, Limited
Press of J. J. Little & Co.
Astor Place, New York



It has been only within the last ten years that the descent of Abraham Lincoln from the Lincolns of Hingham, Massachusetts, has been established with any degree of certainty. The satisfactory proof of his lineage is a matter of great importance. In a way it explains Lincoln. It shows that he came of a family endowed with the spirit of adventure, of daring, of patriotism, and of thrift; that his ancestors were men who for nearly two hundred years before he was born were active and well-to-do citizens of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Virginia, men who everywhere played their parts well. Abraham Lincoln was but the flowering of generations of upright, honorable men.

The first we learn of the Lincolns in this country is between the years 1635 and 1645, when there came to the town of Hingham, Massachusetts, from the west of England, eight men of that name. Three of these, Samuel, Daniel, and Thomas, were brothers. Their relationship, if any, to the other Lincolns who came over from the same part of the country at about the same time is not clear. Two of these men, Daniel and Thomas, died without heirs; but Samuel left a large family, including four sons. Among the descendants of Samuel Lincoln’s sons were many good citizens and prominent public officers. One was a member of the Boston Tea Party, and served as a captain of artillery in the War of the Revolution. Others were privates in that war. Three served on the brig “Hazard” during the Revolution. Levi Lincoln, a great-great-grandson of Samuel, born in Hingham in 1749, and graduated from Harvard, was one of the minute-men at Cambridge immediately after the battle of Lexington, a delegate to the convention in Cambridge for framing a State Constitution, and in 1781 was elected to the Continental Congress, but declined to serve. He was a member of the House of Representatives and of the Senate of Massachusetts, and was appointed Attorney-General of the United States by Jefferson; for a few months preceding the arrival of Madison he was Secretary of State, and in 1807 he was elected Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts. 2In 1811 he was appointed Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court by President Madison, an office which he declined. From the close of the Revolutionary War he was considered the head of the Massachusetts bar.

His eldest son, Levi Lincoln, born in 1782, had also an honorable public career. He was a Harvard graduate, became Governor of the State of Massachusetts, and held other important public offices. He received the degree of LL.D. in 1824 from Williams College, and from Harvard in 1826.

Another son of Levi Lincoln, Enoch Lincoln, served in Congress from 1818 to 1826. He became Governor of Maine in 1827, holding the position until his death in 1829. Enoch Lincoln was a writer of more than ordinary ability.

The fourth son of Samuel Lincoln was called Mordecai (President Lincoln descended from him, being his great-great-great-grandson). Mordecai Lincoln was a rich “blacksmith,” as an iron-worker was called in those days, and the proprietor of numerous iron-works, saw-mills, and grist-mills, which with a goodly amount of money he distributed at his death among his children and grandchildren. Two of his children, Mordecai and Abraham, did not remain in Massachusetts, but removed to New Jersey, and thence to Pennsylvania, where both became rich, and dying, left fine estates to their children. Their descendants in Pennsylvania have continued to this day to be well-to-do people, some of them having taken prominent positions in public affairs. Abraham Lincoln, of Berks County, who was born in 1736 and died in 1806, filled many public offices, being a member of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, of the State Convention of 1787, and of the State Constitutional Convention in 1790.

One of the sons of this second Mordecai, John (the great-grandfather of President Lincoln), received from his father “three hundred acres of land, lying in the Jerseys.” But evidently he did not care to cultivate his inheritance, for about 1758 he removed to Virginia. “Virginia” John, as this member of the family was called, had five sons, all of whom he established well. One of these sons, Jacob, entered the Revolutionary Army and served as a lieutenant at Yorktown.

The settlers of western Virginia were all in those days more or less under the fascination of the adventurous spirit which was opening up the West, and three of “Virginia” John’s sons decided to try their fortunes in the new country. One went to 3Tennessee, two to Kentucky. The first to go to Kentucky was Abraham (the grandfather of the President). He was already a well-to-do man when he decided to leave Virginia, for he sold his estate for some seventeen thousand dollars. A portion of this money he invested in land-office treasury warrants.

On emigrating to Kentucky he bought one thousand seven hundred acres of land. But almost at the beginning of his life in the new country, while still a comparatively young man, he was slain by the Indians. His estate seems to have been inherited by his eldest son, Mordecai, who afterward became prominent in the State; was a great Indian fighter, a famous story-teller, and, according to the traditions of his descendants, a member of the Kentucky legislature. This last item we have not, however, been able to verify. We have had the fullest collection of journals of the Kentucky legislature which exists, that of Dr. R. T. Durrett of Louisville, Kentucky, carefully searched, but no mention has been found in them of Mordecai Lincoln.

It is with the brother of Mordecai, the youngest son of the pioneer Abraham, we have to do, a boy who was left an orphan at ten years of age, and who in that rude time had to depend upon his own exertions. We find from newly discovered documents that he was the owner of a farm at twenty-five years of age, and from the contemporary evidence that he was a very good carpenter; from a document we have discovered in Kentucky we learn that he was even appointed a road surveyor, in 1816. We have found his Bible, a very expensive book at that time; we have also found that he had credit, and was able to purchase on credit a pair of suspenders costing one dollar and fifty cents, and we have learned from the recollections of Christopher Columbus Graham that in marrying the niece of his employer he secured a very good wife. The second child of Thomas Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln, who became the sixteenth President of the United States and the foremost man of his age.

The career of Abraham Lincoln is more easily understood in view of his ancestry. The story of his life, which is here told more fully and consecutively, and in many points, both minor and important, we believe more exactly than ever before, bears out our belief that Abraham Lincoln inherited from his ancestry traits and qualities of mind which made him a remarkable child and a young man of unusual promise and power. So far from 4his later career being unaccounted for in his origin and early history, it is as fully accounted for as in the case of any man.

So far as possible, the statements in this work are based on original documents. This explains why in several cases the dates differ from those commonly accepted. Thus the year of the death of the grandfather of Abraham Lincoln is made 1788, instead of 1784, because of the recently discovered inventory of his estate. The impression given of Thomas Lincoln is different from that of other biographies, because we believe the new documents we have found and the new contemporary evidence we have unearthed, justify us in it. We have not made it a sign of shiftlessness that Thomas Lincoln dwelt in a log cabin at a date when there was scarcely anything else in the State.

An effort has been made, too, to give what we believe to be a truer color to the fourteen years the Lincolns spent in southern Indiana. The poverty and the wretchedness of their life has been insisted upon until it is popularly supposed that Abraham Lincoln came from a home similar to those of the “poor white trash” of the South. There is no attempt made here to deny the poverty of the Lincoln household, but it is insisted that this poverty was a temporary condition incident to pioneer life and the unfortunate death of Thomas Lincoln’s father when he was but a boy. Thomas Lincoln’s restless efforts to better his condition by leaving Kentucky for Indiana in 1816, and afterwards, when he had discovered that his farm in Spencer County was barren, by trying his fortunes in Illinois, are sufficient proof that he had none of the indolent acceptance of fate which characterizes the “poor whites.”

In telling the story of the six years of Lincoln’s life in New Salem, we have attempted to give a consecutive narrative and to show the exact sequence of events, which has never been done before. We have shown, what seems to us very suggestive, the persistency and courage with which he seized every opportunity and carried on simultaneously his business as storekeeper and postmaster and surveyor and at the same time studied law. To establish the order of events in this New Salem period, the records of the county have been carefully examined, and many new documents concerning Lincoln have been found in this search, including his first vote, his first official document (an election return), and several new surveying plats. The latter 5show Lincoln to have been much more active as a surveyor than has commonly been supposed. We have also brought to light the grammar Lincoln studied, with a sentence written on the title page in Lincoln’s own hand.

For the first time, too, we publish documents signed by Lincoln as a postmaster. These two letters are also earlier than any other published letters of Lincoln. Many minor errors have been corrected, such as the real number of votes which he received on his first election to the legislature, and the times and places of his mustering out and into service in the Black Hawk War.

The number of illustrations in the work is many times greater than ever has before appeared in connection with the early life of Lincoln. The scenes of his life in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois have been photographed especially for us, and we have collected from various sources numbers of pictures illustrating the primitive surroundings of his boyhood and young manhood, together with portraits of many of his companions in those days. Our object in giving such a profusion of homely scenes and faces has been to make a history of Lincoln’s early life in pictures. We believe that one examining these prints independently of the text would have a good idea of Lincoln’s condition from 1809 to 1836.

By far the most important of the illustrations of the work is the collection of portraits. This is the first systematic effort to make a complete collection of portraits of the great President. Our success so far encourages us in believing that before we end our work on Lincoln we shall have such a collection. Already we have some seventy-five different portraits. Of these, the great majority are photographs, ambrotypes, and daguerreotypes. It was Mr. Lincoln’s custom, after the introduction of photography into Illinois, to sit for his picture whenever he visited a town to make a speech. This picture he usually gave to his host; the result was that there now remain, scattered among his old friends, a large number of interesting portraits, of which nobody but the owners knew until we undertook this work. Thus of the twenty portraits which appear in this volume, twelve have never before been published anywhere, so far as we know.

It has been through the generosity and courtesy of collectors and of our correspondents and readers that it has been possible for us to gather so great a number of portraits and documents. 6On all sides collections have been put freely at our service, and numbers of our readers have sent us unpublished ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, and photographs, glad, as they have written us, to aid in completing a Lincoln portrait gallery. It is not possible to mention here the names of all those to whom we are indebted, not only for portraits but for documents and manuscripts, but credit is given in inserting the material furnished.

Our effort has been to give in both text and notes as exact and full statements as the information we have been able to gather permitted us to do. If any reader of this volume discovers errors we shall be glad to receive corrections.



Origin of the Lincoln Family.—Possessions of Lincoln’s Grandfather.—Lincoln’s Story-telling Uncle.—Account of Lincoln’s Father, Thomas Lincoln.—Marriage of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks.—Character of Nancy Hanks.—Thomas Lincoln’s Manner of Life and Standing among his Neighbors 21
The Birth of Abraham Lincoln.—Lincoln’s Childhood Home.—Reminiscences of Austin Gollaher, a Boyhood Comrade of Lincoln’s.—Saves Lincoln’s Life.—Lincoln’s Early School-teachers.—Lincoln’s Fondness for Study 42
The Lincolns leave Kentucky.—Hewing a Way through the Forests of Indiana.—A Cabin erected near Gentryville, Spencer County, Indiana.—Description of Lincoln’s New Home.—Domestic Economy of the Lincoln Household.—Pioneer Fare and Apparel.—Death of Lincoln’s Mother.—Lincoln’s Strength and Skill as a Laborer.—Lincoln earns a Dollar as a Ferryman 51
Lincoln’s Struggle for an Education.—The Books he Read.—Lincoln as the Oracle of Jones’s Store.—Slavery in Indiana.—Lincoln Develops into an Orator and Writer.—Life on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and its Effect on Lincoln 69
Lincoln’s Literary Fame among his Neighbors.—The Champion of the Spelling-bee.—His Retort to a Boasting Jockey.—His Affection for his Step-mother 80
Amusements of Lincoln’s Life in Indiana.—Lincoln as a Sportsman.—Lincoln’s Earliest Romance.—Early Bereavements 88
The Lincolns leave Indiana.—Parting from Old Friends in Indiana.—The Journey to Illinois.—Lincoln as a Peddler.—Begins Life on his own Account.—Splitting Rails for a Pair of Trousers.—Lincoln’s Great Strength and his Pride in it.—Lincoln and the Professional Athlete 94
Lincoln’s First Work on his own Account.—Lincoln’s Popularity in Sangamon County.—Rescues Three Comrades from Drowning.—Ingenuity in getting a Flatboat over a Dam.—A Visit to New Orleans.—New Orleans in 1831, and Lincoln’s Experiences there 103
Lincoln settles in New Salem.—He becomes a Grocery Clerk.—The Frontier Store.—Lincoln defeats the Champion Wrestler of Clary’s Grove.—His Popularity in New Salem.—His Chivalry and Honesty.—Masters Kirkham’s Grammar and enters Politics 115
Lincoln’s First Announcement to the Voters of Sangamon County.—His Views on the Improvement of the Sangamon.—Views on Usury and Education.—The Modesty of his Circular.—Pilots a Steamboat up the Sangamon 125
The Black Hawk War.—Outbreak of Sacs and Foxes.—Lincoln volunteers and is elected a Captain.—The Manner of his Election.—An Inexperienced Captain and a Disorderly Company.—The Course of the War.—Stillman’s Defeat.—Zachary Taylor’s Way of dealing with Insubordination 134
Expiration of Lincoln’s Term and his Reënlistment.—Major Iles’s Reminiscences of the Campaign.—The Frantic Terror raised by Black Hawk.—Lincoln and his Company enter Michigan Territory.—End of the War, and Lincoln’s Return to New Salem 144
Electioneering in 1832 in Illinois.—Lincoln defeated of Election to the Assembly.—Looking for Work.—Berry and Lincoln buy Three Stores on Credit.—New Salem Merchants in Lincoln’s Day.—Lincoln reads Burns and Shakespeare.—His Familiarity with Shakespeare 155
Lincoln begins to Study Law.—His First Law-book.—A Chance Copy of Blackstone.—Berry and Lincoln take out a Tavern License and hire a Clerk 166
Lincoln appointed Postmaster.—Masters Surveying in Six Weeks, and becomes Deputy County Surveyor.—Surveying with a Grapevine.—His Work and Earnings as a Surveyor.—Early Illinois Towns laid out by Lincoln 175
Business Reverses.—The Kindness shown Lincoln in New Salem.—His Helpfulness to all about him.—Growing Esteem and Influence in Sangamon County.—Becomes a Second Time a Candidate for Member of the Illinois Assembly.—Lincoln on the Stump.—Lincoln’s Election.—The Vote 187
Lincoln decides finally on a Legal Career.—His Methods of Study.—First Session in the General Assembly.—Distrust of Yankees in Early Illinois.—Description of the Early Frontier Legislator.—Questions before the Assembly.—Internal Improvements.—The State Bank 197
Lincoln’s Romance with Ann Rutledge.—Ann’s First Lover, John McNeill, or McNamar.—McNeill’s Departure from New Salem.—Lincoln’s Engagement.—Ann Rutledge’s Death, and Lincoln’s Deep Grief 208
Abraham Lincoln at Twenty-six Years of Age.—A Review of his Career thus far.—His Excellent Preparation for what was to come 218
I. Memoranda for Lincoln’s Genealogy. By the Hon. L. E. Chittenden 223
II. Christopher Columbus Graham and his Reminiscences of Lincoln’s Parents 227
III. A Leaf from Lincoln’s Exercise-Book 236
IV. The Oldroyd Lincoln Collection 237


From a photograph owned by Mr. George Schneider of Chicago, Illinois, former editor of the “Staats Zeitung,” the most influential anti-slavery German newspaper of the West. Mr. Schneider first met Mr. Lincoln in 1853, in Springfield. “He was already a man necessary to know,” says Mr. Schneider. In 1854 Mr. Lincoln was in Chicago, and Mr. Isaac N. Arnold, a prominent lawyer and politician of Illinois, invited Mr. Schneider to dine with Mr. Lincoln. After dinner, as the gentlemen were going down town, they stopped at an itinerant photograph gallery, and Mr. Lincoln had the above picture taken for Mr. Schneider. The newspaper he holds in his hands is the “Press and Tribune.”



From a photograph by Brady, taken in Washington.



The family from which Abraham Lincoln descended came to America from Norfolk, England, in 1637. A brief table[1] will show at a glance the line of descent:

Samuel Lincoln, born in 1620. Emigrated from Norfolk County, England, to Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1637. His fourth son was

Mordecai Lincoln, born in 1667. His eldest son was

Mordecai Lincoln, born in 1686. Emigrated to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, 1714. His eldest son was

John Lincoln, born before 1725. In 1758 went to Virginia. His third son was

Abraham Lincoln, date of birth uncertain. In 1780, or thereabouts, emigrated to Kentucky. His third son was

Thomas Lincoln, born in 1778, whose first son was

Abraham Lincoln,
Sixteenth President of the United States.


From the original, owned by R. T. Durrett, LL.D., of Louisville, Kentucky. The land records of Kentucky show that Abraham Lincoln entered two tracts of land when in Kentucky in the spring and summer of 1780. These entries, furnished us by Dr. Durrett, are as follows:

May 29, 1780.—“Abraham Linkhorn enters four hundred acres of land on Treasury Warrant, laying on Floyd’s Fork, about two miles above Tice’s Fork, beginning at a Sugar Tree S. B., thence east three hundred poles, then north, to include a small improvement.”—Land Register, page 107.

June 7, 1780.—“Abraham Linkhorn enters eight hundred acres upon Treasury Warrant, about six miles below Green River Lick, including an improvement made by Jacob Gum and Owen Diver.”—Page 126.

The first tract of land was surveyed May 7, 1785 (see page 23), and the second on October 12, 1784. In 1782 he entered a third tract of land, a record of which is found in Daniel Boone’s field-book. This entry reads: “Abraham Lincoln enters five hundred acres of land on a Treasury Warrant, No. 5994, beginning opposite Charles Yancey’s upper line, on the south side of the river, running south two hundred poles, then up the river for quantity; December 11, 1782.” This is supposed by some authorities to be a tract of five hundred acres of land in Campbell County, surveyed and patented in Abraham Lincoln’s name, but after his death. The spelling of the name Linkhorn instead of Lincoln, as it is invariably in other records of the family, has caused some to doubt that the Treasury warrant above was really issued to the grandfather of the President. The family traditions, however, all say that the elder Abraham owned a tract on Floyd’s Fork. The misspelling and mispronunciation of the name Lincoln is common in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. The writer of this note has frequently heard persons in Illinois speak of “Abe Linkhorn” and “Abe Linkern.”



From the record of surveys in the surveyor’s office of Jefferson County, Kentucky, Book B., page 60.



From the original, owned by R. T. Durrett, LL.D., of Louisville, Kentucky. “The first inhabitants of Kentucky,” says Dr. Durrett, “on account of the hostility of the Indians, lived in what were called forts. They were simple rows of the conventional log cabins of the day, built on four sides of a square or parallelogram, which remained as a court, or open space, between them. This open space served as a playground, a muster field, a corral for domestic animals, and a store-house for implements. The cabins which formed the fort’s walls were dwelling-houses for the people.” At Hughes Station, on Floyd’s Creek, lived Abraham Lincoln and his family. One morning in 1788—the date of the death of Abraham Lincoln is placed in 1784, 1786, and 1788 by different authorities; the inventory of his estate (page 28) is dated 1788; for this reason we adopt 1788—the pioneer Lincoln and his three sons, Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas, were in their clearing, when a shot from an Indian killed the father. The two elder sons ran for help, the youngest remaining by the dead body. The Indian ran to the side of his victim, and was just seizing the son Thomas, when Mordecai, who had reached the cabin and secured a rifle, shot through a loophole in the logs and killed the Indian. It was this tragedy, it is said, that made Mordecai Lincoln one of the most relentless Indian haters in Kentucky.

For our present purpose it is not necessary to examine the lives of these ancestors farther back than the grandfather, Abraham Lincoln, who has been supposed to have been born in Virginia in 1760. A consideration of the few facts we have of his early life shows clearly that this date is wrong. It is known that in 1773 Abraham Lincoln’s father, John Lincoln, conveyed to his son a tract of two hundred and ten acres of land in Virginia, which he hardly would have done if the boy had been but thirteen years of age. We know, too, that in 1780 Abraham Lincoln had a wife and five children, the youngest of whom was at least 25two years old. Evidently he must have been over twenty years of age, and have been born before 1760. Probably, too, his birthplace was Pennsylvania, whence his father moved into Virginia about 1758.

Daniel Boone



Photographed for this work from the originals, in the collection of pioneer relics owned by R. T. Durrett, LL.D., of Louisville, Kentucky. The articles are a rifle, scalping-knife, powder-horn, tomahawk, and hunting-shirt. Dr. Durrett has all the documents needful to establish the authenticity of each of these articles. They unquestionably were used by Boone through a long period of hunting and Indian stalking; all of the articles are well preserved, and even the leather coat is still fit for service. The rifle, says Dr. Durrett, is as true as it ever was. In this same collection are a large number of similar relics of other Kentucky pioneers.

Abraham Lincoln was a farmer, and, by 1780, a rich one for his time. This we know from the fact that in 1780 he sold a tract of two hundred and forty acres of land for “five thousand pounds of current money of Virginia;” a sum equal to about $17,000 at that date. This sale was made, presumably, because the owner wished to move to Kentucky. He and his family had for several generations back been friends of the Boones. The spell the adventurous spirit of Daniel Boone cast over all his friends, Abraham Lincoln felt; and in 1780, soon after selling his Virginia estate, he visited Kentucky, and entered two large 27tracts of land. Some months later he moved with his family from Virginia into Kentucky.

Abraham Lincoln was ambitious to become a landed proprietor in the new country, and he entered a generous amount of land—four hundred acres on Long Run, in Jefferson County; eight hundred acres on Green River, near Green River Lick; five hundred acres in Campbell County. He settled near the first tract, where he undertook to clear a farm. It was a dangerous task, for the Indians were still troublesome, and the settlers, for protection, were forced to live in or near forts or stations. In 1784, when John Filson published his “History of Kentucky,” though there was a population of thirty thousand in the territory, there were but eighteen houses outside of the stations. Of these stations, or stockades, there were but fifty-two. According to the tradition in the Lincoln family, Abraham Lincoln lived in one of these stockades.


From the original drawing, owned by R. T. Durrett, LL.D., of Louisville, Kentucky. This meeting-house was built on the land Abraham Lincoln, grandfather of the President, was clearing when killed by Indians. It was erected about 1797.

All went well with him and his family until 1788. Then, one day, while he and his three sons were at work in their clearing, an unexpected Indian shot killed the father. His death was a terrible blow to the family. The large tracts of land which he had entered were still wild, and his personal property was necessarily small. The difficulty of reaching the country at that date, as well as its wild condition, made it impracticable for even a wealthy pioneer to own more stock or household furniture than was absolutely essential. Abraham Lincoln was probably as well provided with personal property as most of his neighbors, and much better than many. He had, for a pioneer, an unusual amount of stock, of farming implements, and of tools; and his cabin contained comforts which were rare at that date. The inventory of his estate, recently found at Bardstown, Kentucky, and here published for the first time, gives a clearer idea of the life of the pioneer Lincoln, and of the condition in which his wife and children were left, than any description could do:



“At the meeting of the Nelson County Court, October 10, 1788, present Benjamin Pope, James Rogers, Gabriel Cox, and James Baird, on the motion of John Coldwell, he was appointed administrator of the goods and chattels of Abraham Lincoln, and gave bond in one thousand pounds, with Richard Parker security.

“At the same time John Alvary, Peter Syburt, Christopher Boston, and William [John (?)] Stuck, or any three of them, were appointed appraisers.

“March 10, 1789, the appraisers made the following return:

  £. s. d.
1 Sorrel horse 8    
1 Black horse 9 10  
1 Red cow and calf 4 10  
1 Brindle cow and calf 4 10  
1 Red cow and calf 5    
1 Brindle bull yearling 1    
1 Brindle heifer yearling 1    
  Bar spear-plough and tackling 2 5  
3 Weeding hoes 7 6  
  Flax wheel   6  
  Pair smoothing-irons   15  
1 Dozen pewter plates 1 10  
2 Pewter dishes   17 6
  Dutch oven and cule, weighing 15 pounds   15  
  Small iron kettle and cule, weighing 12 pounds   12  
  Tool adds   10  
  Handsaw   5  
  One-inch auger   6  
  Three-quarter auger   4 6
  Half-inch auger   3  
  Drawing-knife   3  
  Currying-knife   10  
  Currier’s knife and barking-iron   6  
  Old smooth-bar gun   10  
  Rifle gun   55  
  Rifle gun 3 10  
2 Pott trammels   14  
1 Feather bed and furniture 5 10  
  Ditto 8 5  
1 Bed and turkey feathers and furniture 1 10  
  Steeking-iron   1 6
  Candle-stick   1 6
  One axe   9  

    £68 16s. 6d.
Peter Syburt,
Christopher Boston,
John Stuck.”


From an original drawing in the possession of R. T. Durrett, LL.D., of Louisville, Kentucky. The Rev. Jesse Head was a Methodist preacher of Washington County, Kentucky, who married Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. Christopher Columbus Graham, who was at the wedding, and who knew Mr. Head well, says: “Jesse Head, the good Methodist preacher who married them, was also a carpenter or cabinet-maker by trade, and, as he was then a neighbor, they were good friends. He had a quarrel with the bishops, and was an itinerant for several years, but an editor and county judge afterwards in Harrodsburg.... The preacher, Jesse Head, often talked to me on religion and politics, for I always liked the Methodists. I have thought it might have been as much from his free-spoken opinions as from Henry Clay’s American-African colonization scheme, in 1817, that I lost a likely negro man, who was leader of my musicians.... But Jesse Head never encouraged any runaway, nor had any ‘underground railroad.’ He only talked freely and boldly, and had plenty of true Southern men with him, such as Clay.”—See Appendix.

Soon after the death of Abraham Lincoln, his widow moved from Jefferson County to Washington County. The eldest son, Mordecai, who inherited nearly all of the large estate, became a well-to-do and popular citizen. The deed-book of Washington County still contains a number of records of lands bought and sold by him. At one time he was sheriff of his county, and, again, its representative in the legislature of the State. Mordecai Lincoln is remembered especially for his sporting tastes and his bitter hatred of the Indians. General U. F. Linder of Illinois, who, as a boy, lived near Mordecai Lincoln in Kentucky, says: “I knew him from my boyhood, and he was naturally a man of considerable genius; 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 laugh excited in me the same disposition to laugh, and that was Artemus Ward. He was quite a story-teller. He was an honest man, as tender-hearted as a woman, and, to the last degree, charitable and benevolent.

“Lincoln had a very high opinion of his uncle, and on one occasion said to me: ‘Linder, I have often said that Uncle Mord had run off with all the talents of the family.’

“Old Mord, as we sometimes called him, had been in his younger days a very stout man, and was quite fond of playing a game of fisticuffs with any one who was noted as a champion. His sons and daughters were not talented like the old man, but were very sensible people, noted for their honesty and kindness 30of heart.” Mordecai remained in Kentucky until late in life, when he removed to Hancock County, Illinois.


From a tracing of the original, made by Henry Whitney Cleveland.

Of Josiah, the second son, we know very little more than that the records show that he owned and sold land. He left Kentucky when a young man, to settle on the Blue River, in Harrison County, Indiana, and there he died. The two daughters married into well-known Kentucky families: the elder, Mary, marrying Ralph Crume; the younger, Nancy, William Brumfield.



From the original, in the possession of Henry Whitney Cleveland of Louisville, Kentucky. This interesting document, discovered by Mr. Cleveland, and published for the first time in this biography, completes the list of documentary evidence of the marriage of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. The bond given by Thomas Lincoln and the returns of Jesse Head, the officiating clergyman, were discovered some years ago, but the marriage certificate was unknown until recently discovered by Mr. Cleveland.


The death of Abraham Lincoln was saddest for the youngest of the children, a lad of ten years at the time, named Thomas, for it turned him adrift to become a “wandering laboring-boy” before he had learned even to read. Thomas seems not to have inherited any of the father’s estate, and from the first to have been obliged to shift for himself. For several years he supported himself by rough farm work of all kinds, learning, in the meantime, the trade of carpenter and cabinet-maker. According to one of his acquaintances, “Tom had the best set of tools in what was then and now Washington County,” and was “a good carpenter for those days, when a cabin was built mainly with the axe, and not a nail or bolt-hinge in it; only leathers and pins to the door, and no glass, except in watches and spectacles and bottles.”[3] Although a skilful craftsman for his day, he never became a thrifty or ambitious man. “He would work energetically enough when a job was brought to him, but he would never seek a job.” But if Thomas Lincoln plied his trade spasmodically, he shared the pioneer’s love for land, for when but twenty-five years old, and still without the responsibility of a family, he bought a farm in Hardin County, Kentucky. None of his biographers have ever called attention to this fact, if they knew it. A search made for this work in the records of Hardin County first revealed it to us, and we cannot but regard it as of importance, proving as it does that Thomas Lincoln was not the shiftless man he has hitherto been pictured. Certainly he must have been above the grade of the ordinary country boy, to have had the energy and ambition to learn a trade and secure a farm through his own efforts by the time he was twenty-five. He was illiterate, never doing more “in the way of writing than to bunglingly write his own name.” Nevertheless, he had the reputation in the country of being good-natured and obliging, and possessing what his neighbors called “good strong horse-sense.” Although he was “a very quiet sort of man,” he was known to be determined in his opinions, and quite competent to defend his rights by force if they were too flagrantly violated. He was a moral man, and, in the crude way of the pioneer, religious.



From a tracing of the original, made by Henry Whitney Cleveland. This certificate was discovered about 1885 by W. F. Booker, Esq., Clerk of Washington County, Kentucky.



From a photograph by Brady. The debate with Douglas in 1858 gave Lincoln a national reputation, and the following year he received many invitations to lecture. One came from a young men’s Republican club in New York,—which was offering a series of lectures designed for an audience of men and women of the class apt to neglect ordinary political meetings. Lincoln consented, and in February, 1860 (about three months before his nomination for the Presidency), delivered what is known, from the hall in which it was delivered, as the “Cooper Institute speech”—a speech which more than confirmed his reputation. While in New York he was taken by the committee of entertainment to Brady’s gallery, and sat for the portrait reproduced above. It was a frequent remark with Lincoln that this portrait and the Cooper Institute speech made him President.


From a photograph by Klauber of Louisville, Kentucky. Mr. Graham, born in 1784, lived until 1885, and was the only man of our generation who could be called a contemporary of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. Long before the documentary evidence of their marriage was found, Mr. Graham gave his reminiscences of that event. Recent discoveries made in the public records of Kentucky regarding the Lincolns, bear out in every particular his recollections. He is, in fact, the most important witness we have as to the character of the parents of President Lincoln and their condition in life. The accuracy of his memory and the trustworthiness of his character are affirmed by the leading citizens of Louisville, Kentucky, of which city he was a resident. In the Appendix will be found a full statement by Mr. Graham of what he knew of Thomas Lincoln and his life.





Thomas Lincoln moved into this cabin on the Big South Fork of Nolin Creek, three miles from Hodgensville, in La Rue County, Kentucky, in 1808; and here, on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. In 1813 the Lincolns removed to Knob Creek. The Nolin Creek farm has been known as the “Creal Farm” for many years; recently it was bought by New York people. The cabin was long ago torn down, but the logs were saved. The new owners, in August, 1895, rebuilt the old cabin on the original site. This, the first and only picture which has been taken of it, was made for this biography.

Thomas Lincoln learned his trade as carpenter in Elizabethtown, in the shop of one Joseph Hanks. There he met a niece of his employer, Nancy Hanks, whom, when he was twenty-eight years old, he married. Nancy Hanks was, like her husband, a Virginian. Her experience in life had, too, been similar to her husband’s, for the Hanks family had been drawn into Kentucky by the fascination of Boone, as had the Lincolns. But it was only in her surroundings and her family that Nancy Hanks was like Thomas Lincoln. In nature, in education, and in ambition she was, if tradition is to be believed, quite another person. Certainly a fair and delicate woman, who could read and write, who had ideas of refinement, and a desire to get more from life than fortune had allotted her, was hardly enough like Thomas Lincoln to be very happy with him. She was still more unfit to be his wife because of a sensitive nature which made her brood over her situation—a situation made the more hopeless 38by the fact that she had neither the force of character nor strength of body to do anything to improve it; if, indeed, she had any clear notion of what it lacked. Hers was that pitiful condition where one feels with vague restlessness that life has something better than one has found, something not seen or understood, but without which life will never be complete.


From the original, in the collection of O. H. Oldroyd, Washington, D. C. It is not known when or how Thomas Lincoln obtained this Bible. After his death it passed to his step-children, the Johnstons, and was sold by them to the “Lincoln Log Cabin Company,” to be exhibited at the World’s Fair. It was purchased from this company for the Oldroyd collection. The family record, reproduced on pages 58 and 59, belongs to this Bible. It was taken out and sold to Mr. C. F. Gunther before the Bible was sold to Mr. Oldroyd.



From a photograph taken in September, 1895, for this biography. The house in which Lincoln was born is seen to the right, in the background. Rock Spring is in a hollow, under a clump of trees, in the left centre of the picture.


From a photograph taken in September, 1895, for this biography. The spring is in a hollow at the foot of the gentle slope on the top of which the house stands.

Thomas and Nancy Lincoln were married near Beechland, in Washington County, Kentucky, on June 12, 1806. The wedding was celebrated in the boisterous style of one hundred years ago, and was followed by an infare, given by the bride’s guardian. 40To this celebration came all the neighbors, and, according to that entertaining Kentucky centenarian, Dr. Christopher Columbus Graham, even those who happened in the neighborhood were made welcome. He tells how he heard of the wedding while “out hunting for roots,” and went “just to get a good supper.” “I saw Nancy Hanks Lincoln at her wedding,” continues Mr. Graham, “a fresh-looking girl, I should say over twenty. 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 or whiskey; 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; and a race for the whiskey bottle.”

After his marriage Thomas Lincoln settled in Elizabethtown. His home was a log cabin, but at that date few people in the State had anything else. Kentucky had been in the Union only fourteen years. When admitted, the few brick structures within its boundaries were easily counted, and there were only log schoolhouses and churches. Fourteen years had brought great improvements, but the majority of the population still lived in log cabins, so that the home of Thomas Lincoln was as good as those of most of his neighbors. Little is known of his position in Elizabethtown, though we have proof that he had credit in the community, for the descendants of two of the early storekeepers of the place still remember seeing on their grandfathers’ account books sundry items charged to T. Lincoln. Tools and groceries were the chief purchases he made, though on one of the ledgers a pair of “silk suspenders,” worth one dollar and fifty cents, was entered. He not only enjoyed a certain credit with the merchants of Elizabethtown; he was sufficiently respected by the public authorities to be appointed in 1816 a road surveyor, or, as the office is known in some localities, supervisor. It was not, to be sure, a position of great importance, but it proves that he was considered fit to oversee a body of men at a task of considerable value to the community. Indeed, all of the documents which we have been able to discover, mentioning Thomas Lincoln, show him to have had a much better position in Hardin County than he has been credited with.



After a faded ambrotype of Mr. Lincoln, now in the Lincoln Monument collection at Springfield, Illinois. All that is known of it is that it was taken at Beardstown in 1858. Mr. Lincoln wore a linen coat on the occasion. The picture is regarded as a good likeness of him as he appeared during the Lincoln Douglas campaign.


From a tracing made by Henry Whitney Cleveland. The original of this document is in the records of Hardin County, at Elizabethtown, Kentucky. It has hitherto been entirely overlooked by the biographers of Lincoln, and was discovered in the course of a search for documents instituted for this work. The appointment was made on May 13, 1816, only a few months before the Lincolns moved to Indiana. It shows that Thomas Lincoln had a standing in the community, which his biographers have always ignored. The appointment, if modest, would not have been made, we have a right to believe, if Lincoln had been the “easy-going” and idle fellow he has been asserted to be.



It was at Elizabethtown that the first child of the Lincolns was born, a daughter. Soon after this event Thomas Lincoln decided to combine farming with his trade, and moved to the farm he had bought in 1803 on the Big South Fork of Nolin Creek, in Hardin County, now La Rue County, three miles from Hodgensville, and about fourteen miles from Elizabethtown. Here he was living when, on February 12, 1809, his second child, a boy, was born. The little new-comer was called Abraham, after his grandfather—a name which had persisted through many preceding generations of the Lincolns.

The home into which the child came was the ordinary one of the poorer Western pioneer—a one-roomed cabin with a huge outside chimney, no windows, and only a rude door. The descriptions of its squalor and wretchedness, which are so familiar, have been overdrawn. Dr. Graham, than whom there is no better authority on the life of that day, and who knew Thomas Lincoln well, declares:

“It is all stuff about Tom Lincoln keeping his wife in an open 43shed in a winter when the wild animals left the woods and stood in the corners next the stick-and-clay chimneys, so as not to freeze to death; or, if climbers, got on the roof. The Lincolns had a cow and calf, milk and butter, a good feather bed,—for I have slept in it, while they took the buffalo-robes on the floor, because I was a doctor. They had home-woven ‘kiverlids,’ big and little pots, a loom and wheel; and William Hardesty, who was there too, can say with me that Tom Lincoln was a man, and took care of his wife.”


The Book of Deeds in Hardin County, Kentucky, shows that in 1803, three years before his marriage, Thomas Lincoln bought a farm in Hardin County. The same records contain a deed of the sale in 1814 of this same farm, it is supposed, signed by Thomas Lincoln. The deed is evidently written and signed by one person. Nancy Lincoln affixes her mark. This is not proof that she could not write; it not infrequently happens that people in remote country districts make a mark rather than labor with a pen, to which they are unaccustomed. All accounts of Nancy Lincoln agree that she was well educated for her day.

The Lincoln home was undoubtedly rude, and in many ways uncomfortable, but it sheltered a happy family, and its poverty affected the new child but little. He was robust and active; and life is full of interest to the child fortunate enough to be born in the country. He had several companions. There was his sister Nancy, or Sarah—both names are given her—two years his senior; there was a cousin of his mother’s, ten years older, Dennis Hanks, an active and ingenious leader in sports and mischief; and there were the neighbors’ boys. One of the latter, Austin Gollaher, still tells with pleasure of how he 44played with young Lincoln in the shavings of his father’s carpenter shop, of how he hunted coons and ran the woods with him, and once even saved his life.


From a photograph of the original, owned by R. T. Durrett, LL.D., of Louisville, Kentucky. This mill was formerly the property of Joseph Brooks, a prominent pioneer of Kentucky. Similar ones were used by all Western pioneers.

“Yes,” said Mr. Gollaher, “the story that I once saved Abraham Lincoln’s life is true, but it is not correct as generally related.

“Abraham Lincoln and I had been going to school together for a year or more, and had become greatly attached to each other. Then school disbanded on account of there being so few scholars, and we did not see each other much for a long while. One Sunday my mother visited the Lincolns, and I was taken along. Abe and I played around all day. Finally, we concluded to cross the creek to hunt for some partridges young Lincoln had seen the day before. The creek was swollen by a recent rain, and, in crossing on the narrow footlog, Abe fell in. Neither of us could swim. I got a long pole and held it out to Abe, who grabbed it. Then I pulled him ashore. He was almost dead, and I was badly scared. I rolled and pounded him in good earnest. Then I got him by the arms and shook him, the water meanwhile pouring out of his mouth. By this means I succeeded in bringing him to, and he was soon all right.



The above map shows where Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather first took land in Kentucky, where his father and mother were married, where they first lived, where he was born, and where he lived from 1809 to 1816. It shows the Rolling Fork, Salt River, and the Ohio, which Thomas Lincoln followed in going into Indiana in 1816; the new home in Indiana; the point where Lincoln kept the ferry about 1826; Boonville, where he went to hear trials; the grave of his mother; the route by which it is supposed he went to Illinois in 1830 (see page 87 for note correcting this route); the location of both of Thomas Lincoln’s farms in Illinois, and his grave, near Farmington, Coles County. Sangamon, New Salem, Vandalia, Springfield, and the chief places where Mr. Lincoln practised law are shown, as well as the points where the Lincoln and Douglas debates and the important political events of the campaign of 1860 took place.

“Then a new difficulty confronted us. If our mothers discovered our wet clothes they would whip us. This we dreaded from experience, and determined to avoid. It was June, the 46sun was very warm, and we soon dried our clothing by spreading it on the rocks about us. We promised never to tell the story, and I never did until after Lincoln’s tragic end.

“Abraham Lincoln had a sister. Her name was Sallie, and she was a very pretty girl. Sallie Lincoln was about my age; she was my sweetheart. I loved her and claimed her, as boys do. I suppose that was one reason for my warm regard for Abe. When the Lincoln family moved to Indiana, I was prevented by circumstances from bidding good-by to either of the children, and I never saw them again.”[4]


After an old photograph showing the cabin as it appeared in 1869. Thomas Lincoln built this house in 1817, and moved into it about a year after he reached his farm. At first it had neither windows, door, nor floor; but after the advent of Sally Bush Lincoln it was greatly improved. When he decided to leave Indiana he was preparing the lumber for a better house.

All the young people went to school. At that day the schools in the West were usually accidental, depending upon the coming of some poor and ambitious young man who was willing to teach a few terms while he looked for an opening to something better. The terms were irregular, their length being decided by the time the settlers felt able to board the master and pay his small salary. The chief qualification for a school-master seems to have been enough strength to keep the “big boys” in order, though one high authority affirms that pluck went “for a heap sight more’n sinnoo with boys.”



From a photograph taken for this biography. Present appearance of the quarter section of government land in Spencer County, Indiana, entered by Thomas Lincoln, October 15, 1817, view looking east. Thomas Lincoln selected this tract in 1816, and, to identify it, he blazed the trees, and piled up brush at the corners to establish boundary lines. When he returned with his family he was obliged to cut his way to the spot chosen for his cabin, and to fell trees to find space for the “half-face camp” in which he first lived. This land was entered under the old credit system. Later Mr. Lincoln gave up to the United States the east half, and the amount paid on it was passed to his credit to complete paying for the west half. The patent issued for the latter tract was dated June 6, 1827.

Many of the itinerant masters were Catholics—strolling Irishmen from the colony in Tennessee, or French priests from Kaskaskia. Lincoln’s first teacher, Zachariah Riney, was a Catholic. Of his second teacher, Caleb Hazel, we know even less than of Riney. Mr. Gollaher says that Abraham Lincoln, in those days when he was his schoolmate, 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. He would get spice-wood brushes, hack them up on a log, and burn them two or three together, for the purpose of giving light by which he might pursue his studies.”

48Probably the boy’s mother had something to do with the spice-wood illuminations. Tradition has it that Mrs. Lincoln took great pains to teach her children what she knew, and that at her knee they heard all the Bible lore, fairy tales, and country legends that she had been able to gather in her poor life.

Besides the “A B C schools,” as Lincoln called them, the only other medium of education in the country districts of Kentucky in those days was “preaching.” Itinerants like the schoolmasters, the preachers, of whatever denomination, were generally uncouth and illiterate; the code of morals they taught was mainly a healthy one, and they, no doubt, did much to keep the consciences of the pioneers awake. It is difficult to believe that they ever did much for the moral training of young Lincoln, though he certainly got his first notion of public speaking from them; and for years in his boyhood one of his chief delights was to get his playmates about him, and preach and thump until he had his auditors frightened or in tears.


From a photograph loaned by W. W. Admire. The grave of Abraham Lincoln’s mother is on a wooded knoll about half a mile southeast of the site of her Indiana home. Near her are buried Thomas and Betsey Sparrow, who followed the Lincolns to Indiana, and who died a few days before Mrs. Lincoln, and of the same disease; and also Levi Hall and his wife, who died several years later. There are two or three other graves in the vicinity. Until 1879 the only mark about the grave of Nancy Lincoln was the names of visitors to the spot, cut in the bark of the trees which shaded it; then Mr. P. E. Studebaker of South Bend, Indiana, erected the stone, and soon after a fence was purchased by a few of the leading citizens of Rockport, Indiana. The inscription on the stone runs: “Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Mother of President Lincoln, died October 5, A.D., 1818. Aged thirty-five years. Erected by a friend of her martyred son.”



From a photograph loaned by H. W. Fay of De Kalb, Illinois. The original was taken early in 1857 by Alexander Hesler of Chicago. Mr. Fay writes of the picture: “I have a letter from Mr. Hesler stating that one of the lawyers came in and made arrangements for the sitting, so that the members of the bar could get prints. Lincoln said at the time that he did not know why the boys wanted such a homely face.” Mr. Joseph Medill of Chicago went with Mr. Lincoln to have the picture taken. He says that the photographer insisted on smoothing down Lincoln’s hair, but Lincoln did not like the result, and ran his fingers through it before sitting. The original negative was burned in the Chicago fire.


From a tracing made by Henry Whitney Cleveland.



In 1816 a great event happened to the little boy. His father emigrated to Indiana from Knob Creek (Thomas Lincoln had removed from the farm on Nolin Creek to one some fifteen miles northeast, on Knob Creek, when Abraham was four years old). “This removal was partly on account of slavery, but chiefly on account of the difficulty in land titles in Kentucky,” says his son. It was due, as well, no doubt, to the fascination which an unknown country has always for the adventurous, and to that restless pioneer spirit which drives even men of sober judgment continually towards the frontier, in search of a place where the conflict with nature is less severe—some spot farther on, to which a friend or a neighbor has preceded, and from which he sends back glowing reports. It may be that Thomas Lincoln was tempted into Indiana by the reports of his brother Josiah, who had settled on the Big Blue River in that State. At all events, in the fall of 1816 he started with wife and children and household stores to journey by horseback and by wagon from Knob Creek to a farm selected on a previous trip he had made. This farm, located near Little Pigeon Creek, about fifteen miles north of the Ohio River, and a mile and a half east of Gentryville, Spencer County, was in a forest so dense that the road for the travellers had to be hewed out as they went.



From a photograph in the possession of her granddaughter, Mrs. Harriet Chapman of Charleston, Illinois. Sarah Bush was born in Kentucky, December 13, 1788. She was a friend of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, and it is said that Thomas Lincoln had been her suitor before she married Daniel Johnston. Her husband died in October, 1818. In November, 1819, Thomas Lincoln went to Kentucky to seek her a second time in marriage. An incident of the courtship is told by Mr. J. L. Nall, a cousin of President Lincoln: “Uncle Thomas came back to Kentucky after the death of his first wife, Nancy Hanks, and proposed marriage to the widow Johnston; she told him that she would be perfectly willing to marry him, as she had known him a long time, and felt that the marriage would be congenial and happy; but it would be impossible for her even to think of marrying, and leaving the State, as she was considerably in debt. Uncle Thomas told her that need make no difference, as he had plenty of money, and would take care of her financial affairs; and when he had ascertained the amount of her indebtedness and the names of the parties to whom the money was due, he went around and redeemed all her paper and presented it to her, and told her, when she showed so much honor about debts, he was more fully satisfied than ever that she would make him a good wife. She said, as he had displayed so much generosity in her behalf, she was willing then to marry and go with him to Spencer County, Indiana.” Sarah Bush Lincoln changed the character of the Lincoln home completely when she entered it, and there is no question of the importance of her influence upon the development of her step-son Abraham. She was a woman of great natural dignity and kindliness, and highly esteemed by all who knew her. She died on the 10th of December, 1869, at the old homestead in Coles County, Illinois.



From a tracing made by Henry Whitney Cleveland.



After a photograph made for this biography. In this valley are located nearly all the farms on which Lincoln worked in his boyhood, including the famous Crawford place, where he and his sister Sarah were both employed as “help.” Visitors to the locality have pointed out to them numberless items associated with his early life—fields he helped to clear and till, fences he built, houses he repaired, wells he dug, paths he walked, playgrounds he frequented. Indeed, the inhabitants of Buckthorn Valley take the greatest pride in Lincoln’s connection with it.

To a boy of seven years, free from all responsibility, and too vigorous to feel its hardships, such a journey must have been, as William Cooper Howells, the father of the novelist, says of his own trip from Virginia to Ohio, in 1813, “a panorama of delightful novelty.” Life suddenly ceased its routine, and every day brought forth new scenes and adventures. Little Abraham saw forests greater than he had ever dreamed of, peopled by strange birds and beasts, and he crossed a river so wide that it must have seemed to him like the sea. To Thomas and Nancy Lincoln the journey was probably a hard and sad one; but to the children beside them it was a wonderful voyage into the unknown.


On arriving at the new farm an axe was put into the boy’s hands, and he was set to work to aid in clearing a field for corn, 55and to help build the “half-face camp” which for a year was the home of the Lincolns. There were few more primitive homes in the wilderness of Indiana in 1816 than this of young Lincoln’s, and there were few families, even in that day, who were forced to practise more makeshifts to get a living. The cabin which took the place of the “half-face camp” had but one room, with a loft above. For a long time there was no window, door, or floor; not even the traditional deer-skin hung before the exit; there was no oiled paper over the opening for light; there was no puncheon covering on the ground.


A secluded part of Little Pigeon Creek, not far from Gentryville, where Lincoln, Dennis Hanks, John Johnston, the Gentry boys, and others of the neighborhood used to bathe. It is still pointed out as “the place where Abe went in swimming.”


From a photograph loaned by Jesse W. Weik.

The furniture was of their own manufacture. The table and 56chairs were of the rudest sort—rough slabs of wood in which holes were bored and legs fitted in. Their bedstead, or, rather, bed-frame, was made of poles held up by two outer posts, and the ends made firm by inserting the poles in auger-holes that had been bored in a log which was a part of the wall of the cabin; skins were its chief covering. Little Abraham’s bed was even more primitive. He slept on a heap of dry leaves in the corner of the loft, to which he mounted by means of pegs driven into the wall.


In a field near the Crawford house is a well which is pointed out to sight-seers as one which Lincoln helped to dig. Many things about the Crawford place—fences, corn-cribs, house, barn—were built in part by Lincoln.


After a drawing made from the original, in the collection of pioneer articles in the United States National Museum, at Washington, D. C. Hickory bark was used freely by the Western pioneers. From it and from corn husks they were obliged, in fact, to make most of their harness.

Their food, if coarse, was usually abundant; the chief difficulty in supplying the larder was to secure any variety. Of game there was plenty—deer, bear, pheasants, wild turkeys, ducks, birds of all kinds. There were fish in the streams, and wild fruits of many kinds in the woods in the summer, and these were dried for winter use; but the difficulty of raising and milling corn and wheat was very great. Indeed, in many places in the West the first flour cake was an historical 57event.[5] Corn dodger was the every-day bread of the Lincoln household, the wheat cake being a dainty reserved for Sunday mornings.


The house of Josiah Crawford, near Gentryville, Indiana. Here Lincoln worked by the day for several months, while his sister was a “hired girl” for Mrs. Crawford. In 1829 Lincoln cut down timber and whip-sawed it into planks for a new house which his father proposed to build; but Thomas Lincoln decided to go to Illinois before the new house was begun, and Abraham sold his planks to Mr. Crawford, who worked them into the southeast room of his house, where relic-seekers have since cut them to pieces to make canes. This picture is made after a photograph taken before the death of Mr. and Mrs. Crawford, both of whom are shown here.

Potatoes were the only vegetables raised in any quantity, and there were times in the Lincoln family when they were the only food on the table; a fact proved to posterity by the oft-quoted remark of Abraham to his father after the latter had asked a 58blessing over a dish of roasted potatoes—that they were “mighty poor blessings.” Not only were they all the Lincolns had for dinner sometimes; one of their neighbors tells of calling there when raw potatoes, pared and washed, were passed around instead of apples or other fruit.

By permission, from Herndon and Weik’s “Life of Abraham Lincoln.”
Copyright 1892, by D. Appleton & Co.


Written by Abraham Lincoln in his Father’s Bible. From original in possession of C. F. Gunther, Esq., Chicago.

The food was prepared in the rudest way, for the supply of both groceries and cooking utensils was limited. The former were frequently wanting entirely, and as for the latter, the most important item was the Dutch oven. An indispensable article in the primitive kitchen outfit was the “gritter.” It was made by flattening out an old piece of tin, punching it full of holes, and 59nailing it to a board. Upon this all sorts of things were grated, even ears of corn, in which slow way enough meal was sometimes secured for bread. Old tin was used for many other little contrivances besides the “gritter,” and every scrap was carefully saved. Most of the dishes were of pewter; the spoons, iron; the knives and forks, horn-handled.

The Lincolns of course made their own soap and candles, and if they had cotton or wool to wear they had literally to grow it. One of the “old settlers” of Illinois says of her experience in clothing her family:

“As for our clothes, we had to raise, pick, spin, and weave cotton for winter and summer. We also made linsey of wool and flax. The first indigo we had we raised. Besides that we used sumac berries, white-walnut bark, 60and other barks for coloring.


From a photograph in the Libby Prison Museum of Chicago, by permission of Mr. C. F. Gunther. Dennis Hanks, a cousin of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, was born in Kentucky, in 1799, and was brought up by his uncle Thomas Sparrow. The year after Thomas Lincoln moved to Indiana, Thomas Sparrow followed him, but both he and his wife died there in 1818. Dennis then became an inmate of the Lincoln household. He afterwards married one of the daughters of Sally Bush Lincoln. It was largely through his influence that the Lincolns moved into Illinois in 1830. Dennis Hanks has been one of the most prolific contributors to the early period of Mr. Lincoln’s life, his letters to Mr. Herndon being full of curious and valuable matter. He died in October, 1892. One of his daughters, Mrs. Harriet Chapman, is still living at Charleston, Illinois.

“Now for cotton picking. We children had to lie before the fire and pick the seed from the cotton bolls before we could go to bed. The warmer the cotton the better it picked; so we would take a good sweat. The next day that had to be carded and spun; so some would soap the cotton, some card, and some spin; and when we would get enough spun and colored to make a dress apiece we would put it in the loom and weave it. It did not take fifteen or twenty yards to make a dress then; six or eight yards of linsey were enough for any woman.”

It is probable that young Abraham Lincoln wore little cotton or linsey-woolsey. His trousers were of roughly tanned deer-skin, his foot-covering a home-made moccasin, his cap a coonskin; it was only the material for his shirt or blouse which was woven at home. If this costume had some obvious disadvantages, it was not to be despised. So good an authority as Governor Reynolds says of one of its articles—the linsey-woolsey shirt—“It was an excellent garment. I have never felt so happy and healthy since I put it off.”

These “pretty pinching times,” as Abraham Lincoln once 61described the early days in Indiana, lasted until 1819. The year before, Nancy Lincoln had died, and for many months no more forlorn place could be conceived than this pioneer home bereft of its guiding spirit; but finally Thomas Lincoln went back to Kentucky and returned with a new wife—Sally Bush Johnston, a widow with three children, John, Sarah, and Matilda. The new mother came well provided with household furniture, bringing many things unfamiliar to little Abraham—“one fine bureau, one table, one set of chairs, one large clothes-chest, cooking utensils, knives, forks, bedding, and other articles.” She was a woman of energy, thrift, and gentleness, and at once made the cabin home-like, and taught the children habits of cleanliness and comfort.


From a photograph taken for this biography. This ferry, at the mouth of Anderson Creek, was first established and owned by James McDaniel, and was afterwards kept by his son-in-law James Taylor. It was the latter who hired Abraham Lincoln, about 1826, to attend the ferry-boat. As the boat did not keep him busy all the time, he acted as man-of-all-work around the farm. A son of James Taylor, Captain Green B. Taylor of South Dakota, is still alive, and remembers distinctly the months Lincoln spent in his father’s employ. Captain Taylor says that Lincoln “slept up-stairs” with him, and used to read “till near midnight.”



Among those whom Lincoln served in Indiana as “hired boy” was Josiah Crawford, a well-to-do farmer living near Gentryville. Mr. Crawford owned a copy of Weems’s “Life of Washington,” a precious book in those days, and Lincoln borrowed it to read. “Late in the night, before going to rest, he placed the borrowed book in his only bookcase, the opening between two logs of the walls of the cabin, and retired to dream of its contents. During the night it rained; the water dripping over the ‘mud-daubing’ on to the book stained the leaves and warped the binding. Abe valued the book in proportion to the interest he had in the hero, and felt that the owner must value it beyond his ability to pay. It was with the greatest trepidation he took the book home and told the story, and asked how he might hope to make restitution. Mr. Crawford answered: ‘Being as it is you, Abe, I won’t be hard on you. Come over and shuck corn three days, and the book is yours.’ Shuck corn three days and receive a hero’s life! He felt that the owner was giving him a magnificent present. After reading the book he used to tell the Crawfords: ‘I do not always intend to delve, grub, shuck corn, split rails, and the like.’ His whole mind was devoted to books, and he declared he ‘was going to fit himself for a profession.’ These declarations were often made to Mrs. Crawford, who took almost a mother’s interest in him, and she would ask: ‘What do you want to be now?’ His answer was invariably: ‘I’ll be President.’ As he was generally playing a joke on some one, she would answer: ‘You’d make a purty President with all your tricks and jokes. Now, wouldn’t you?’ He would then declare: ‘Oh, I’ll study and get ready, and then the chance will come.’”[6]


Abraham was ten years old when his new mother came from Kentucky, and he was already an important member of the family. He was remarkably strong for his years, and the work he could do in a day was a decided advantage to Thomas Lincoln. The axe which had been put into his hand to help in making the first clearing, he had never been allowed to drop; indeed, as he says himself, “from that till within his twenty-third year he was almost constantly handling that most useful instrument.” Besides, he drove the team, cut the elm and linn brush with which the stock was often fed, learned to handle the old shovel-plough, to wield the sickle, to thresh the wheat with a flail, to fan and clean it with a sheet, to go to mill and turn the hard-earned grist into flour. In short, he learned all the trades the settler’s boy must know, and so well that when his father did not need him 63he could hire him to the neighbors. Thomas Lincoln also taught him the rudiments of carpentry and cabinet-making, and kept him busy much of the time as his assistant in his trade. There are houses still standing, in and near Gentryville, on which it is said he worked. The families of Lamar, Jones, Crawford, Gentry, Turnham, and Richardson, all claim the honor of having employed him upon their cabins.


From a model in the exhibit of the United States National Museum at the Atlanta Exposition of 1895. The flatboat which Abraham Lincoln piloted to New Orleans was not, probably, as well built a boat as the above model represents; but it was built on the same general plan. The hold was enclosed to protect the produce, and on the deck was a cabin in which the boatmen lived. In going down the river, rough sails were sometimes rigged up on these broad-horns, though they floated usually, directed by huge paddles. If the boat was brought back, it was warped and poled by hand up the river. More often, however, the boatmen sold both boat and cargo at New Orleans, and came back by the steamers as deck passengers. Boats like the two models on this page are still seen in great numbers on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.


From a model in the exhibit of the United States National Museum at the Atlanta Exposition of 1895. The photograph of this model, and of the one above, we owe to the courtesy of the director of the Museum, Mr. G. Brown Goode.

As he grew older he became one of the strongest and most popular “hands” in the vicinity, and much of his time was spent as a “hired boy” on some neighbor’s farm. For twenty-five cents a day—paid to his father—he was hostler, ploughman, wood-chopper, and carpenter, besides helping the women with the “chores.” For them he was ready to carry water, make the fire, even tend the baby. No wonder that a laborer who never refused to do anything asked of him, who could “strike with a mall heavier blows” and “sink an axe deeper into the wood” than anybody else in the community, and who at the same time 64was general help for the women, never lacked a job in Gentryville.


One of the few companions of Lincoln’s youth in Indiana, now living, is Joseph Gentry. He resides on a farm one-fourth mile west from the Lincoln farm, where he has lived about sixty years. When a boy he lived in Gentryville—a town founded by the Gentrys. He was present at the funeral of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and remembers hearing the minister say it was through the efforts of the little son of the dead woman that his services had been secured.

Of all the tasks his rude life brought him, none seems to have suited him better than going to the mill. It was, perhaps, as much the leisure enforced by this trip as anything else that attracted him. The machinery was primitive, and each man waited his turn, which sometimes was long in coming. A story is told by one of the pioneers of Illinois of going many miles with a grist, and waiting so long for his turn that, when it came, he and his horse had eaten all the corn, and he had none to grind. This waiting with other men and boys on like errands gave an opportunity for talk, story-telling, and games, which were Lincoln’s delight.

In 1826 he spent several months as a ferryman at the mouth of Anderson Creek, where it joins the Ohio. This experience suggested new possibilities to him. It was a custom among the farmers of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois at this date to collect a quantity of produce, and float down to New Orleans on a raft, to sell it. Young Lincoln saw this, and wanted to try his fortune as a produce merchant. An incident of his projected trip he related once to Mr. Seward:

“Seward,” he said, “did you ever hear how I earned my first dollar?”

“No,” said Mr. Seward.


Carbon enlargement, made by Sherman & McHugh of New York City.


From a photograph loaned by W. J. Franklin of Macomb, Illinois, and taken in 1866 from an ambrotype made in 1858 in Macomb. This portrait figures in the collection in the Lincoln Home at Springfield, Illinois, and on the back of the photograph is the following inscription: “This likeness of Abraham Lincoln is a faithful copy of an original ambrotype, now in possession of James K. Magie. It was taken August 25, 1858, by Mr. T. P. Pierson, at Macomb, in this State, and is believed to be of anterior date to any other likeness of Mr. Lincoln ever brought before the public. Mr. Magie happened to remain over night at Macomb, at the same hotel with Mr. Lincoln, and the next morning took a walk about town, and upon Mr. Magie’s invitation they stepped into Mr. Pierson’s establishment, and the ambrotype of which this is a copy was the result. Mr. Lincoln, upon entering, looked at the camera as though he was unfamiliar with such an instrument, and then remarked: ‘Well, do you want to take a shot at me with that thing?’ He was shown to a glass, where he was told to ‘fix up,’ but declined, saying it would not be much of a likeness if he fixed up any. The old neighbors and acquaintances of Mr. Lincoln in Illinois, upon seeing this picture, are apt to exclaim: ‘There! that’s the best likeness of Mr. Lincoln that I ever saw!’ The dress he wore in this picture is the same in which he made his famous canvass with Senator Douglas.” This inscription was written by J. C. Power, now dead, but for many years custodian of the Lincoln monument in Springfield.

67“Well,” replied he, “I was about eighteen years of age, and belonged, as you know, to what they call down South the ‘scrubs;’ people who do not own land and slaves are nobody there; but we had succeeded in raising, chiefly by my labor, sufficient produce, as I thought, to justify me in taking it down the river to sell. After much persuasion I had got the consent of my mother to go, and had constructed a flatboat large enough to take the few barrels of things we had gathered to New Orleans. 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 were 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 the chance of earning something, and supposed that each of them 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 the deck. The steamer was about to put on steam again, 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, the 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.”


Only living son of Josiah Crawford, who lent Lincoln the Weems’s “Life of Washington.” To our representative in Indiana, who secured this picture of Mr. Crawford, he said, when asked if he remembered the Lincolns: “Oh, yes; I remember them, although I was not Abraham’s age. He was twelve years older than I. One day I ran in, calling out, ‘Mother! mother! Aaron Grigsby is sparking Sally Lincoln; I saw him kiss her!’ Mother scolded me, and told me I must stop watching Sally, or I wouldn’t get to the wedding. [It will be remembered that Sally Lincoln was ‘help’ in the Crawford family, and that she afterwards married Aaron Grigsby.] Neighbors thought lots more of each other then than now, and it seems like everybody liked the Lincolns. We were well acquainted, for Mr. Thomas Lincoln was a good carpenter, and made the cupboard, mantels, doors, and sashes in our old home that was burned down.”

Soon after this, while he was working for Mr. Gentry, the leading citizen of Gentryville, his employer decided to send a load of produce to New Orleans, and chose young Lincoln to go as “bow-hand,” “to work the front oars.” For this trip he received eight dollars a month and his passage back.



After a photograph in the collection of Mr. J. C. Browne of Philadelphia.




With all his hard living and hard work, Lincoln was getting, in this period, a desultory kind of education. Not that he received much schooling. He went to school “by littles,” he says; “in all it did not amount to more than a year.” And, if we accept his own description of the teachers, it was, perhaps, just as well that it was only “by littles.” “No qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond ‘readin’, writin’, and cipherin’ to the rule of three.’ If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard.” But more or less of the schoolroom is a matter of small importance if a boy has learned to read, and to think of what he reads. And that, this boy had learned. His stock of books was small, but he knew them thoroughly, and they were good books to know: the Bible, “Æsop’s Fables,” “Robinson 70Crusoe,” Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” a “History of the United States,” Weems’s “Life of Washington,” and the “Statutes of Indiana.” These are the chief ones we know about. He did not own them all, but sometimes had to borrow them from the neighbors: a practice which resulted in at least one casualty, for Weems’s “Life of Washington” he allowed to get wet, and to make good the loss he had to pull fodder three days. No matter. The book became his then, and he could read it as he would. Fortunately he took this curious work in profound seriousness, which a wide-awake boy would hardly be expected to do to-day. Washington became an exalted figure in his imagination; and he always contended later, when the question of the real character of the first President was brought up, that it was wiser to regard him as a godlike being, heroic in nature and deeds, as Weems did, than to contend that he was only a man who, if wise and good, still made mistakes and indulged in follies, like other men.

In 1861, addressing the Senate of the State of New Jersey, he said:

“May I be pardoned if, upon this occasion, I mention that away back in my childhood, the earliest days of my being able to read, I got hold of a small book, such a one as few of the younger members have ever seen—Weems’s ‘Life of Washington.’ I remember all the accounts there given of the battlefields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here at Trenton, New Jersey. The crossing of the river, the contest with the Hessians, the great hardships endured at that time, all fixed themselves on my memory more than any single Revolutionary event; and you all know, for you have all been boys, how these early impressions last longer than any others. I recollect thinking then, boy even though I was, that there must have been something more than common that these men struggled for.”

Besides these books he borrowed many. He once told a friend that he “read through every book he had ever heard of in that country, for a circuit of fifty miles.” From everything he read he made long extracts, using a turkey-buzzard pen and brier-root ink. When he had no paper he would write on a board, and thus preserve his selections until he secured a copy-book. The wooden fire-shovel was his usual slate, and on its back he ciphered with a charred stick, shaving it off when covered. The logs and boards in his vicinity he filled with his figures and quotations. By night he read and worked as 71long as there was light, and he kept a book in the crack of the logs in his loft, to have it at hand at peep of day. When acting as ferryman, in his nineteenth year, anxious, no doubt, to get through the books of the house where he boarded, before he left the place, he read every night “till midnight.”[7]

Copyright, 1894 by D. Appleton & Co., publishers of Herndon’s “Life of Lincoln,” and reproduced by special permission.


The son of Joseph Hanks, with whom Thomas Lincoln learned the carpenter’s trade, and a cousin of Nancy Hanks Lincoln. John Hanks lived with Thomas Lincoln in Indiana, from about 1823 to 1827, then returned to Kentucky, and from there emigrated to Illinois. It was largely through his influence that Thomas Lincoln and Dennis Hanks went to the Sangamon country in 1830. When Mr. Lincoln first left home he and John Hanks worked together. In 1831 they made a trip to New Orleans on a flatboat. It was John Hanks who, in 1860, accompanied Governor Oglesby to the old Lincoln farm in Macon County, to select the rails Lincoln had split, and it was he who carried them into the convention of the Republican party of Illinois, which nominated Lincoln as its candidate. John Hanks was an illiterate man, being able neither to read nor write; but he was honest and kindly, and his reminiscences of Mr. Lincoln’s early life, gathered by Mr. Herndon and others, are regarded by all who knew him as trustworthy. After Mr. Lincoln’s election to the Presidency, he desired an Indian agency; but his lack of even a rudimentary education made it impossible to give it to him.

Every lull in his daily labor he used for reading, rarely going to his work without a book. When ploughing or cultivating the rough fields of Spencer County, he found frequently a half hour for reading. At the end of every long row the horse was allowed to rest, and Lincoln had his book out, and was perched on stump or fence, almost as soon as the plough had come to a standstill. One of the few people still left in Gentryville who remembers Lincoln, Captain John Lamar, tells 72to this day of riding to mill with his father, and seeing, as they drove along, a boy sitting on the top rail of an old-fashioned stake-and-rider worm fence, reading so intently that he did not notice their approach. His father, turning to him, said: “John, look at that boy yonder, and mark my words, he will make a smart man out of himself. I may not see it, but you’ll see if my words don’t come true.” “That boy was Abraham Lincoln,” adds Mr. Lamar, impressively.

Copyright, 1894, by D Appleton & Co., publishers of Herndon’s “Life of Lincoln,” and reproduced by special permission.


A lawyer of Rockport, Indiana, at the time the Lincolns lived near Gentryville. An essay of Mr. Lincoln’s, composed when he was about nineteen, was submitted to Mr. Pitcher, who declared the “world couldn’t beat it;” and he seems to have taken a kindly interest in the author from that time forward, lending him books freely from his law office. Mr. Pitcher was still living in 1889, in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, having reached the age of ninety-three years. His reminiscences of the boyhood of Lincoln are embodied in Herndon’s “Life.”

In his habits of reading and study the boy had little encouragement from his father, but his step-mother did all she could for him. Indeed, between the two there soon grew up a relation of touching gentleness and confidence. In one of the interviews a biographer of Mr. Lincoln sought with her before her death, Mrs. Lincoln said:

“I induced my husband to permit Abe to read and study at home, as well as at school. At first he was not easily reconciled to it, but finally he too seemed willing to encourage him to a certain extent. Abe was a dutiful son to me always, and we took particular care when he was reading not to disturb him—would let him read on and on till he quit of his own accord.”

This consideration of his step-mother won the boy’s confidence, and he rarely copied anything that he did not take it to her to read, asking her opinion of it; and often, when she did not understand it, explaining the meaning in his plain and simple language.

No newspaper ever escaped him. One man in Gentryville, Mr. Jones, the storekeeper, took a Louisville paper, and here Lincoln went regularly to read and discuss its contents. All the men and boys of the neighborhood gathered there, and everything 73which the paper related was subjected to their keen, shrewd common-sense. It was not long before young Lincoln became the favorite member of the group, the one listened to most respectfully. Politics were warmly discussed by these Gentryville citizens, and it may be that sitting on the counter of Jones’s grocery Lincoln even argued on slavery. It certainly was one of the live questions in Indiana at that date.


Drawn from the original, in the United States National Museum, at Washington, D.C. These collars were used in Indiana and Illinois in Lincoln’s day.

For several years after the organization of the Territory, and in spite of the Ordinance of 1787, a system of thinly disguised slavery had existed; and it took a sharp struggle to bring the State in without some form of the institution. So uncertain was the result that, when decided, the word passed from mouth to mouth all over Hoosierdom, “She has come in free, she has come in free!” Even in 1820, four years after the admission to Statehood, the census showed one hundred and ninety slaves, nearly all of them in the southwest corner, where the Lincolns lived, and it was not, in reality, until 1821 that the State Supreme Court put an end to the question. In Illinois in 1822–1824 there was carried on one of the most violent contests between the friends and opponents of slavery which occurred before the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The effort to secure slave labor was nearly successful. In the campaign, pamphlets pro and con literally inundated the State; the pulpits took it up; and “almost every stump in every county had its bellowing, indignant orator.” So violent a commotion so near their borders could hardly have failed to reach Gentryville.


Drawn from the original, in the United States National Museum, at Washington, D.C. Oiled paper was sometimes used in the lanterns.



Mr. Lamar was a young boy in Spencer County when Lincoln left Indiana, but was old enough to have seen much of him and to have known his characteristics and his reputation in the county. He is still living near his old home.

There had been other anti-slavery agitation going on within hearing for several years. In 1804 a number of Baptist ministers of Kentucky started a crusade against the institution, which resulted in a hot contest in the denomination, and the organization of the “Baptist Licking-Locust Association Friends of Humanity.” The Rev. Jesse Head, the minister who married Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, talked freely and boldly against slavery; and one of their old friends, Christopher Columbus Graham, the man who was present at their wedding, says: “Tom and Nancy Lincoln and Sally Bush were just steeped full of Jesse Head’s notions about the wrong of slavery and the rights of man as explained by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.” In 1806 Charles Osborn began to preach “immediate emancipation” in Tennessee. Ten years later he started a paper in Ohio, devoted to the same idea, and in 1819 he transferred his crusade to Indiana. In 1821 Benjamin Lundy started, in Tennessee, the famous “Genius,” devoted to the same doctrine; and in 1822, at Shelbyville, only about one hundred miles from Gentryville, was started a paper similar in its views, the “Abolition Intelligencer.”

At that time there were in Kentucky five or six abolition societies, and in Illinois was an organization called the “Friends of Humanity.” Probably young Lincoln heard but vaguely of these movements; but of some of them he must have heard, and he must have connected them with the “Speech of Mr. Pitt on the Slave Trade;” with Merry’s elegy, “The Slaves;” and with the discussion given in his “Kentucky Preceptor,” “Which has the Most to complain of, the Indian or the Negro?” all of which tradition declares he was fond of repeating. It is not impossible that, 75as Frederick Douglas first realized his own condition in reading a school-speaker, the “Columbian Orator,” so Abraham Lincoln first felt the wrong of slavery in reading his “American Preceptor.”


An Indiana acquaintance of Lincoln, still living near Gentryville. “Mr. Brooner’s mother was a friend of Nancy Hanks Lincoln. In the fall of 1818 Mrs. Brooner was very sick, and Mrs. Lincoln called to see her. The sick woman was very despondent, and said: ‘Mrs. Lincoln, I am going to die. You will not see me again while living.’ ‘Tut te tut. You must not say that. Why, you will live longer than I. So cheer up,’ answered Mrs. Lincoln. Then, after a few parting words, Mrs. Lincoln went home. The next day she was very ill and in a few days she died. A few days later Mrs. Brooner died. When the tombstone was placed at Mrs. Lincoln’s grave, no one could state positively which was Mrs. Brooner’s and which Mrs. Lincoln’s grave. Mr. Allen Brooner gave his opinion, and the stone was placed; but the iron fence encloses both graves, which lie in a half-acre tract of land owned by the United States Government. Mr. Allen Brooner, after his mother’s death, became a minister of the United Brethren Church, and moved to Illinois. Like all of the old settlers of Gentryville, he remembers the departure of the Lincolns for Illinois. ‘When the Lincolns were getting ready to leave,’ says Mr. Brooner, ‘Abraham and his step-brother, John Johnston, came over to our house to swap a horse for a yoke of oxen. John did all the talking. If any one had been asked that day which would make the greatest success in life, I think the answer would have been John Johnston.’”[8]

Lincoln was not only winning in these days in the Jones grocery store a reputation as a talker and story-teller; he was becoming known as a kind of backwoods orator. He could repeat with effect all the poems and speeches in his various school-readers, he could imitate to perfection the wandering preachers who came to Gentryville, and he could make a political speech so stirring that he drew a crowd about him every time he mounted a stump. The applause he won was sweet; and frequently he indulged his gifts when he ought to have been at work—so thought his employers and Thomas his father. It was trying, no doubt, to the hard-pushed farmers, to see the men who ought to have been cutting grass or chopping wood throw down their sickles or axes and group around a boy, whenever he mounted a stump to develop a pet theory or repeat with variations yesterday’s sermon. In his fondness for speech-making he attended all the trials of the neighborhood, and frequently walked fifteen miles to Boonville to attend court.



These lines were written on a leaf of a copy-book in which Lincoln wrote out the tables of weights and measures, and the sums in connection with them. His step-mother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, gave the leaf, with a few others from the book, to Mr. Herndon. It is now owned by Jesse W. Weik.

He wrote as well as spoke, and some of his productions were even printed, through the influence of his admiring neighbors. Thus a local Baptist preacher was so struck with one of Abraham’s essays on temperance that he sent it to Ohio, where it appeared in some paper. Another article, on “National Politics,” so pleased a lawyer of the vicinity that he declared the “world couldn’t beat it.”


In considering the different opportunities for development which the boy had at this time, his months spent on the Ohio as a ferryman and his trips down the Mississippi should not be forgotten. In fact, all that Abraham Lincoln saw of men and the world outside of Gentryville and its neighborhood, until after he was twenty-one years of age, he saw on these rivers. For many years the Ohio and the Mississippi were the Appian Way, the one route to the world for the Western settlers. To preserve it they had been willing in early times to go to war with Spain or with France, to secede from the Union, even to join Spain or France against the United States if either country would insure their right to their highway. In the long years in which the ownership of the great river was unsettled, every man of them had come to feel with Benjamin Franklin, “a neighbor might as well ask me to sell my street-door.” In fact, this water-way was their “street-door,” and all that many of them ever saw of the world passed here. Up and down the rivers was a continual movement. Odd craft of every kind possible on a river went by: “arks” 77and “sleds,” with tidy cabins where families lived, and where one could see the washing stretched, the children playing, the mother on pleasant days rocking and sewing; keel-boats, which dodged in and out and turned inquisitive noses up all the creeks and bayous; great fleets from the Alleghanies, made up of a score or more of timber rafts, and manned by forty or fifty rough boatmen; “Orleans boats,” loaded with flour, hogs, produce of all kinds; pirogues, made from great trees; “broad-horns;” curious nondescripts worked by a wheel; and, after 1812, steamboats.






The store in Gentryville in which Lincoln first made his reputation as a debater and story-teller was owned by Mr. Jones. The year before the Lincolns moved to Illinois Abraham clerked in the store, and it is said that when he left Indiana Mr. Jones sold him a pack of goods which he peddled on his journey. Mr. Jones was the representative from Spencer County in the State legislature from 1838 to 1841. He is no longer living. His son, Captain William Jones, is still in Gentryville.

All this traffic was leisurely. Men had time to tie up and tell the news and show their wares. Even the steamboats loitered as it pleased them. They knew no schedule. They stopped anywhere to let passengers off. They tied up wherever it was convenient, to wait for fresh wood to be cut and loaded, or for repairs to be made. Waiting for repairs seems, in fact, to have absorbed a great deal of the time of these early steamers. They were continually running on to “sawyers,” or “planters,” or “wooden islands,” and they blew up with a regularity which was monotonous. Even as late as 1842, when Charles Dickens made the trip down the Mississippi, he was often gravely recommended to keep as far aft as possible, “because the steamboats generally blew up forward.”

It was this varied river life with which Abraham Lincoln came into contact as a ferryman and boatman. Who can believe that he could see it and be part of it without learning much of the life and the world beyond him? Every time a steamboat or raft tied up near Anderson Creek and he with his companions boarded it and saw its mysteries and talked with its crew, every time he rowed out with passengers to a passing steamer, who can doubt that he came away with new ideas and fresh energy? The trips to New Orleans were, to a thoughtful boy, an education of no mean value. It was the most cosmopolitan and brilliant city of the United States at that date, and there young Lincoln saw life at its intensest.



In spite of the crudeness of these early opportunities for learning; in spite of the fact that he had no wise direction, that he was brought up by a father with no settled purpose, and that he lived in a pioneer community, where a young man’s life at best is but a series of makeshifts, Lincoln soon developed a determination to make something out of himself, and a desire to know, which led him to neglect no opportunity to learn.

The only unbroken outside influence which directed and stimulated him in his ambitions was that coming first from his mother, then from his step-mother. These two women, both of them of unusual earnestness and sweetness of spirit, were one or the other of them at his side throughout his youth and young manhood. The ideal they held before him was the simple ideal of the early American, that if a boy is upright and industrious he may aspire to any place within the gift of the country. The boy’s nature told him they were right. Everything he read confirmed their teachings, and he cultivated, in every way open to him, his passion to know and to be something.



From a photograph in the possession of Mr. Stuart Brown of Springfield, Illinois. The original of this photograph was bought in 1860, in a Springfield gallery, by Mr. D. McWilliams of Dwight, Illinois. Mr. McWilliams sent the picture to Mr. Milton Hay Jopingfield, an intimate friend of Mr. Lincoln’s, and from him received the following letter: “I am greatly pleased with this picture of Lincoln. I think it reproduces the man as he was, in the sober expression most habitual with him, better than any other photograph I have seen of him; and this is the opinion of all the old familiar acquaintances of his to whom I have shown it.”

83There are many proofs that Lincoln’s characteristics were recognized at this period by his associates; that his determination to excel, if not appreciated, yet made its imprint. In 1865, thirty-five years after he left Gentryville, a biographer, anxious to save all that was known of Lincoln in Indiana, went among his old associates, and with a sincerity and thoroughness worthy of respect, interviewed them. At that time there were still living numbers of the people with whom Lincoln had been brought up. They all remembered something of him. It is curious to note that all of these people tell of his doing something different from what other boys did, something sufficiently superior to have made a keen impression upon them. In almost every case each person had his own special reason for admiring Lincoln. A facility in making rhymes and writing essays was the admiration of many, who considered it the more remarkable because “essays and poetry were not taught in school,” and “Abe took it up on his own account.”


Son of James Taylor, for whom Lincoln ran the ferry-boat at the mouth of Anderson Creek. Mr. Taylor, now in his eighty-second year, lives in South Dakota. He remembers Mr. Lincoln perfectly, and says that his father hired Abraham Lincoln for one year, at six dollars a month, and that he was “well pleased with the boy.”

Many others were struck by the clever use he made of his gift for writing. The wit he showed in taking revenge for a social slight by a satire on the Grigsbys, who had failed to invite him to a wedding, made a lasting impression in Gentryville. That he should write so well as to be able to humiliate his enemies more deeply than if he had resorted to the method of taking revenge current in the country, and thrashed them, seemed to his friends a mark of surprising superiority.

Others remembered his quick-wittedness in helping his friends.

“We are indebted to Kate Roby,” says Mr. Herndon, “for an incident which illustrates alike his proficiency in orthography and his natural inclination to help another out of the mire. The word ‘defied’ had been given out by Schoolmaster Crawford, but had been misspelled several times when it came Miss Roby’s turn. ‘Abe stood on the opposite side of the room,’ related Miss Roby to me in 1865, ‘and was watching me. I began d-e-f—, and then I stopped, hesitating whether to proceed with an i or a y. Looking up, I beheld Abe, a grin covering his face, and pointing 84with his index finger to his eye. I took the hint, spelled the word with an i, and it went through all right.’”

This same Miss Roby it was who said of Lincoln, “He was better read then than the world knows or is likely to know exactly.... He often and often commented or talked to me about what he had read—seemed to read it out of the book as he went along—did so to others. He was the learned boy among us unlearned folks. He took great pains to explain; could do it so simply. He was diffident then, too.”


This cabinet is now in the possession of Captain J. W. Wartmann of Evansville, Indiana. It is of walnut, two feet in height, and very well put together. Thomas Lincoln is said to have aided his son in making it.

One man was impressed by the character of the sentences he had given him for a copy. “It was considered at that time,” said he, “that Abe was the best penman in the neighborhood. One day, while he was on a visit at my mother’s, I asked him to write some copies for me. He very willingly consented. He wrote several of them, but one of them I have never forgotten, although a boy at that time. It was this:

“‘Good boys who to their books apply
Will all be great men by and by.’”

All of his comrades remembered his stories and his clearness in argument. “When he appeared in company,” says Nat Grigsby, “the boys would gather and cluster around him to hear him talk. Mr. Lincoln was figurative in his speech, talks, and conversation. He argued much from analogy, and explained things hard for us to understand by stories, maxims, tales, and figures. He would almost always point his lesson or idea by 85some story that was plain and near us, that we might instantly see the force and bearing of what he said.”


From a photograph loaned by W. W. Admire of Chicago. This little log church, or “meetin’ house,” is where the Lincolns attended services in Indiana. The pulpit is said to have been made by Thomas Lincoln. The building was razed about fifteen years ago, after having been used for several years as a tobacco barn.

There are many proofs that he was an authority on all subjects, even the country jockeys bringing him their stories and seeking to inspire his enthusiasm. Captain John Lamar of Gentryville, who was a very small boy in the neighborhood when Lincoln was a young man, is still fond of describing a scene he witnessed once, which shows with what care even the “heroes” of the country tried to impress young Lincoln. “Uncle Jimmy Larkins, as everybody called him,” says Mr. Lamar, “was a great hero in my childish eyes. Why, I cannot now say, without it was his manners. There had been a big fox-chase, and Uncle Jimmy was telling about it. Of course he was the hero. I was only a little shaver, and I stood in front of Uncle Jimmy, looking up into his eyes; but he never noticed me. He looked at Abraham Lincoln, and said: ‘Abe, I’ve got the best horse in the world; he won the race and never drew a long breath.’ But Abe paid no attention to Uncle Jimmy, 86and I got mad at the big, overgrown fellow, and wanted him to listen to my hero’s story. Uncle Jimmy was determined that Abe should hear, and repeated the story. ‘I say, Abe, I have the best horse in the world; after all that running he never drew a long breath.’ Then Abe, looking down at my little dancing hero, said: ‘Well, Larkins, why don’t you tell us how many short breaths he drew?’ This raised a laugh on Uncle Jimmy, and he got mad, and declared he’d fight Abe if he wasn’t so big. He jumped around until Abe quietly said: ‘Now, Larkins, if you don’t shut up I’ll throw you in that water.’ I was very uneasy and angry at the way my hero was treated, but I lived to change my views about heroes.”


From a photograph made for this work. When Abraham Lincoln left Indiana, in 1830, his friend James Gentry planted, in remembrance of him, near the Lincoln cabin, a cedar tree. It still stands, sturdy and strong, though it is stripped of twigs as high as one can reach. Those who point out the tree explain the bareness by saying: “The folks who come lookin’ around have taken twigs until you can’t reach any more very handy.”

87There is one other testimony to his character as a boy which should not be omitted. It is that of his step-mother:

“Abe was a good boy, and I can say what scarcely one woman—a mother—can say in a thousand: Abe never gave me a cross word or look, and never refused, in fact or appearance, to do anything I requested him. I never gave him a cross word in all my life.... His mind and mine—what little I had—seemed to run together. He was here after he was elected President. He was a dutiful son to me always. I think he loved me truly. 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.”


From a photograph made for this work. The route by which the Lincolns went into Illinois from Indiana has always been a question in dispute. Some of the acquaintances of the family still living in Indiana claim that they followed the line marked on our map (page 45). Others say that they went from Gentryville to the Old Post Ford across the Wabash. The route on the map was drawn on the supposition that they would have taken the road by which they would have avoided the greatest number of watercourses. Information has come to us since the map was made which shows that they went by Vincennes. Mr. Jesse W. Weik says that Dennis Hanks, who was in the party, told him in 1886 that they went through Vincennes. Colonel Chapman of Charleston, the grandson of Sarah Bush Lincoln, told Mr. Weik that in February, 1861, when Mr. Lincoln visited his mother for the last time, he told him that the settlers passed through Vincennes, where they remained a day. There, Lincoln said, they saw a printing-press for the first time. At Palestine, on the Illinois side of the Wabash, he remembered seeing a large crowd around the United States Land Office, and a travelling juggler performing sleight-of-hand tricks. We also know that they entered Decatur from the south, near the present line of the Illinois Central. This Mr. Lincoln told Mr. H. C. Whitney.



If Abraham Lincoln’s early struggle for both livelihood and education was rough and hard, his life was not without amusements. At home the rude household was overflowing with life. There were Abraham and his sister, a step-brother and two step-sisters, and a cousin of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Dennis Hanks, whom misfortune had made an inmate of the Lincoln home—quite enough to plan sports and mischief and keep time from growing dull. Thomas Lincoln and Dennis Hanks were both famous story-tellers, and the Lincolns spent many a cozy evening about their cabin fire, repeating the stories they knew.


From a photograph taken for this work. Sarah, or Nancy, Lincoln was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in 1807. In 1826 she married Aaron Grigsby, and a year later died. She was buried not far from Gentryville, in what is now called “Old Pigeon Cemetery.” Her grave is marked by the rude stone directly over the star. The marble monument in the centre is that of her husband.



Photographed for this work from the originals, in the United States National Museum at Washington. Corn-husks were used by the pioneers of the West to make brooms, brushes, mats, and horse-collars.

Of course the boys hunted. Not that Abraham ever became a true sportsman; indeed, he seems to have lacked the genuine sporting instinct. In a curious autobiography, written entirely in the third person, which Mr. Lincoln prepared at the request of a friend in 1860,[9] he says of his exploits as a hunter: “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 the trigger on any larger game.” This exploit is confirmed by Dennis Hanks, who says: “No doubt about A. Lincoln’s killing the turkey. He done it with his father’s rifle, made by William Lutes of Bullitt County, Kentucky. I have killed a hundred deer with her myself; turkeys too numerous to mention.”


This chair was made from rails split by Abraham Lincoln when he was living in Spencer County, Indiana.

But there were many other country sports which he enjoyed to the full. He went swimming in the evenings; fished with the other boys in 90Pigeon Creek, and caught chubs and suckers enough to delight any boy; he wrestled, jumped, and ran races at the noon rests. He was present at every country horse-race and fox-chase. The sports he preferred were those which brought men together: the spelling-school, the husking-bee, the “raising;” and of all these he was the life by his wit, his stories, his good nature, his doggerel verses, his practical jokes, and by a rough kind of politeness—for even in Indiana in those times there was a notion of politeness, and one of Lincoln’s schoolmasters had even given “lessons in manners.” Lincoln seems to have profited in a degree by them; for Mrs. Crawford, at whose home he worked some time, declares that he always “lifted his hat and bowed” when he made his appearance.


Drawn for this work from the original articles, in the United States National Museum, through the courtesy of the director, Mr. G. Brown Goode. The articles in the group are a hominy mortar and pestle, water gourd and gourd dipper, wooden pails and tub, and a wooden piggin.

There was, of course, a rough gallantry among the young people; and Lincoln’s old comrades and friends in Indiana have left many tales of how he “went to see the girls,” of how he brought in the biggest back-log and made the brightest fire; then of how the young people, sitting around it, watching the way the sparks flew, told their fortunes. He helped pare apples, shell corn, and crack nuts. He took the girls to meeting and to spelling-school, though he was not often allowed to take part in the spelling-match, for the one who “chose first” always chose “Abe Lincoln,” and that was equivalent to winning, as the others knew that “he would stand up the longest.”

The nearest 91approach to sentiment at this time, of which we know, is recorded in a story Lincoln once told to an acquaintance in Springfield. It was a rainy day, and he was sitting with his feet on the window-sill, his eyes on the street, watching the rain. Suddenly he looked up and said:


“Did you ever write out a story in your mind? I did when I was a 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 I ever had heard. I took a great fancy to one of the girls; and when they were gone I thought of her a great 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 the one we had left a few hours before, and we 92went in. The next night we tried again, and the same thing happened—the horse came back to the same place; and then we concluded that we ought not to elope. I stayed until I had persuaded her father 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.”[10]


After a photograph owned by H. E. Barker of Springfield, Illinois. A printed description accompanying the photograph says: “The above is an exact reproduction of a photograph taken in 1865 of Abraham Lincoln’s cabin on the banks of the Sangamon River. The cabin was located upon Section 28, Harristown Township, Macon County, Illinois.” The genuineness of the picture is attested by the Hon. Richard J. Oglesby, at that time Governor of Illinois.


His life had its tragedies as well as its touch of romance—tragedies so real and profound that they gave dignity to all the crudeness and poverty which surrounded him, and quickened 93and intensified the melancholy temperament he had inherited from his mother. Away back in 1816, when Thomas Lincoln had started to find a farm in Indiana, bidding his wife be ready to go into the wilderness on his return, Nancy Lincoln had taken her boy and girl to a tiny grave, that of her youngest child; and the three had there said good-by to a little one whom the children had scarcely known, but for whom the mother’s grief was so keen that the boy never forgot the scene.


This broad-axe is said to have been owned originally by Abram Bales of New Salem; and, according to tradition, it was bought from him by Lincoln. After Lincoln forsook the woods, he sold the axe to one Mr. Irvin. Mr. L. W. Bishop of Petersburg now has the axe, having gotten it directly from Mr. Irvin. There are a number of affidavits attesting its genuineness. The axe has evidently seen hard usage, and is now covered with a thick coat of rust.

Two years later he saw his father make a green pine box and put his dead mother into it, and he saw her buried not far from their cabin, almost without prayer. Young as he was, it was his efforts, it is said, which brought a parson from Kentucky, three months later, to preach the sermon and conduct the service which seemed to the child a necessary honor to the dead.[11] As sad as the death of his mother was that of his only sister, Sarah. Married to Aaron Grigsby in 1826, she had died a year and a half later in child-birth, a death which to her brother must have seemed a horror and a mystery.

Apart from these family sorrows there was all the crime and misery of the community—all of which came to his ears and awakened his nature. He even saw in those days one of his companions go suddenly mad. The young man never recovered his reason, but sank into idiocy. All night he would croon plaintive songs, and Lincoln himself tells how, fascinated by this mysterious malady, he used to rise before daylight to cross the fields and listen to this funeral dirge of the reason. In spite of the poverty and rudeness of his life the depth of his nature was unclouded. He could feel intensely, and his imagination was quick to respond to the touch of mystery.



In the spring of 1830, when Abraham was twenty-one years old, his father, Thomas Lincoln, decided to leave Indiana. The reason Dennis Hanks gives for this removal was a disease called the “milk-sick.” Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and several of their relatives who had followed them from Kentucky had died of it. The cattle had been carried off by it. Neither brute nor human life seemed to be safe. As Dennis Hanks says: “This was reason enough (ain’t it?) for leaving.” Any one who has travelled through the portions of Spencer County in which the Lincolns settled will respect Thomas Lincoln for his energy in moving. When covered with timber, as the land was when he chose his farm, it no doubt promised well; but fourteen years of hard labor showed him that the soil was niggardly and the future of the country unpromising. To-day, sixty-five years since the Lincolns left Spencer County, the country remains as it was then, dull, commonplace, unfruitful. The towns show no signs of energy or prosperity. There are no leading streets or buildings; no man’s house is better than his neighbor’s, and every man’s house is ordinary. For a long distance on each side of Gentryville, as one passes by rail, no superior farm is to be seen, no prosperous mine or manufactory. It is a dead, monotonous country, where no possibilities of quick wealth have been discovered, and which only centuries of tilling and fertilizing can make prosperous. Thomas Lincoln did well to leave Indiana.

The place chosen for their new home was the Sangamon country in central Illinois. It was at that day a country of great renown in the West, the name meaning “The land where there is plenty to eat.” One of the family—John Hanks, a cousin of Dennis—was already there, and the inviting reports he had sent to Indiana were no doubt what led the Lincolns to decide on Illinois as their future home.

Gentryville saw young Lincoln depart with real regret, and 95his friends gave him a score of rude proofs that he would not be forgotten. Even to-day there is not a family living in and around Gentryville, who remembers the Lincolns at all, who has not some legend to repeat of their departure. They tell how in those days “neighbors were like relatives,” and everybody offered some kindly service to the movers as a parting sign of good-will. The entire Lincoln family was invited to spend the last night before starting, with Mr. Gentry. He was so loath to part with Lincoln that he “accompanied the movers along the road a spell.” After they were gone, one of his sons, James Gentry, planted a cedar tree in memory of Abraham, which now marks the site of the Lincoln home.


Born in Green Village, New Jersey, June 4, 1814. He went to Illinois in 1830, the year in which Mr. Lincoln went, settling in Sangamon town, where he had relatives. It was here he met Lincoln, and made the “pins” for the flatboat. Later Mr. Roll went to Springfield. A quarter of the city is now known as “Roll’s addition.” Mr. Roll was well acquainted with Lincoln, and when the President left Springfield he gave Mr. Roll his dog Fido. Mr. Roll knew Stephen A. Douglas well, and carries a watch which once belonged to the “Little Giant.”

The spot on the hill overlooking Buckthorn valley, where the Lincolns said good-by to their old home and to the home of Sarah Lincoln Grigsby, to the grave of the mother and wife, to all their neighbors and friends, is still pointed out. Buckthorn valley held many recollections dear to them all, but to no one of the company was the place dearer than to Abraham. It is certain that he felt the parting keenly, and he certainly never forgot his years in the Hoosier State. One of the most touching experiences he relates in all his published letters is his emotion at visiting his old Indiana home fourteen years after he had left it. So strongly was he moved by the scenes of his first conscious sorrows, efforts, joys, ambitions, that he put into verse the feelings they awakened.[12]



Drawn for this work by J. McCan Davis, with the aid of Mr. John E. Roll, a former resident.

While he never attempted to conceal the poverty and hardship of these days, and would speak humorously of the “pretty pinching times” he saw, he never regarded his life at this time as mean or pitiable. Frequently he talked to his friends in later days of his boyhood, and always with apparent pleasure. “Mr. Lincoln told this story” (of his youth), says Leonard Swett, “as the story of a happy childhood. There was nothing sad or pinched, and nothing of want, and no allusion to want in any part of it. His own description of his youth was that of a joyous, happy boyhood. It was told with mirth and glee, and illustrated by pointed anecdote, often interrupted by his jocund laugh.”

And he was right. There was nothing ignoble or mean in this Indiana pioneer life. It was rude, but with only the rudeness which the ambitious are willing to endure in order to push on to a better condition than they otherwise could know. These people did not accept their hardships apathetically. They did not regard them as permanent. They were only the temporary deprivations necessary in order to accomplish what they had home into the country to do. For this reason they endured hopefully all that was hard. It is worth notice, too, that there was nothing belittling in their life; there was no pauperism, no shirking. Each family provided for its own simple wants, and had the conscious dignity which comes from being equal to a situation. If their lives lacked culture and refinement, they were rich in independence and self-reliance.



From a photograph in the collection of H. W. Fay, De Kalb, Illinois. The original was made by S. M. Fassett of Chicago; the negative was destroyed in the Chicago fire. This picture was made at the solicitation of D. B. Cook, who says that Mrs. Lincoln pronounced it the best likeness she had ever seen of her husband. Rajon used the Fassett picture as the original of his etching, and Kruell has made a fine engraving of it.



The company which emigrated to Illinois included the family of Thomas Lincoln and those of Dennis Hanks and Levi Hall, married to Lincoln’s step-sisters—thirteen persons in all. They sold land, cattle, and grain, and much of their household goods, and were ready in March of 1830 for their journey. All the possessions which the three families had to take with them were packed into a big wagon—the first one Thomas Lincoln had ever owned, it is said—to which four oxen were attached, and the caravan was ready. The weather was still cold, the streams were swollen, and the roads were muddy; but the party started out bravely. Inured to hardships, alive to all the new sights on their route, every day brought them amusement and adventures, and especially to young Lincoln the journey must have been of keen interest.

He drove the oxen on this trip, he tells us, and, according to a story current in Gentryville, he succeeded in doing a fair peddler’s business on the route. Captain William Jones, in whose father’s store Lincoln had spent so many hours in discussion and in story-telling, and for whom he had worked the last winter he was in Indiana, says that before leaving the State Abraham invested all his money, some thirty-odd dollars, in notions. Though the country through which they expected to pass was but sparsely settled, he believed he could dispose of them. “A set of knives and forks was the largest item entered on the bill,” says Captain Jones; “the other items were needles, pins, thread, buttons, and other little domestic necessities. When the Lincolns reached their new home, near Decatur, Illinois, 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 have prized it years afterwards.”

The pioneers were a fortnight on their journey. All we know of the route they took is from a few chance remarks of Lincoln’s to his friends to the effect that they passed through Vincennes, where they saw a printing-press for the first time, and through Palestine, where they saw a juggler performing sleight-of-hand tricks. They reached Macon County, their new home, from the south. Mr. H. C. Whitney says that once in Decatur he and Lincoln passed the court-house together. “Lincoln walked out a few feet in front, and, after shifting his position two or three 100times, said, as he looked up at the building, partly to himself and partly to me: ‘Here is the exact spot where I stood by our wagon when we moved from Indiana, twenty-six years ago; this isn’t six feet from the exact spot.’ ... I asked him if he, at that time, had expected to be a lawyer and practise law in that court-house; to which he replied: ‘No; I didn’t know I had sense enough to be a lawyer then.’ He then told me he had frequently thereafter tried to locate the route by which they had come, and that he had decided that it was near the main line of the Illinois Central Railroad.”


The inscription above this model, which is shown to all visitors to the Model Hall of the Patent Office, reads: “6469, Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois. Improvement in method of lifting vessels over shoals. Patented May 22, 1849.” The apparatus consists of a bellows placed in each side of the hull of the craft, just below the water-line, and worked by an odd but simple system of ropes and pulleys. When the keel of the vessel grates against the sand or obstruction, the bellows is filled with air; and, thus buoyed up, the vessel is expected to float over the shoal. The model is about eighteen or twenty inches long, and looks as if it had been whittled with a knife out of a shingle and a cigar box. There is no elaboration in the apparatus beyond that necessary to show the operation of buoying the vessel over the obstructions.

The party settled some ten miles west of Decatur, in Macon 101County. Here John Hanks had the logs already cut for their new home, and Lincoln, Dennis Hanks, and Hall soon had a cabin erected. Mr. Lincoln says in his short autobiography of 1860, which he wrote in the third person: “Here they built a log cabin, into which they removed, and made sufficient of rails to fence ten acres of ground, fenced and broke the ground, and raised a crop of sown corn upon it the same year. These are, or are supposed to be, the rails about which so much is being said just now, though these are far from being the first or only rails ever made by Abraham.”

If they were far from being his “first and only rails,” they certainly were the most famous ones he or anybody else ever split. This was the last work he did for his father, for in the summer of that year (1830) he exercised the right of majority and started out to shift for himself. When he left his home, he went empty-handed. He was already some months over twenty-one years of age, but he had nothing in the world, not even a suit of respectable clothes; and one of the first pieces of work he did was “to split four hundred rails for every yard of brown jeans dyed with white-walnut bark that would be necessary to make him a pair of trousers.” He had no trade, no profession, no spot of land, no patron, no influence. Two things recommended him to his neighbors—he was strong, and he was a good fellow.

His strength made him a valuable laborer. Not that he was fond of hard labor. Mrs. Crawford says: “Abe was no hand to pitch into work like killing snakes;” but when he did work, it was with an ease and effectiveness which compensated his employer for the time he spent in practical jokes and extemporaneous speeches. He would lift as much as three ordinary men, and “My, how he would chop!” says Dennis Hanks. “His axe would flash and bite into a sugar-tree or sycamore, and down it would come. If you heard him fellin’ trees in a clearin’, you would say there was three men at work by the way the trees fell.”

Standing six feet four, he could out-lift, out-work, and out-wrestle any man he came in contact with. Friends and employers were proud of his prowess, and boasted of it, never failing to pit him against any hero whose strength they heard vaunted. He himself was proud of it, and throughout his life was fond of comparing himself with tall and strong men. When the committee called on him in Springfield, in 1860, to notify him of his nomination 102as President, Governor Morgan of New York was of the number, a man of great height and brawn. “Pray, Governor, how tall may you be?” was Mr. Lincoln’s first question. There is a story told of a poor man seeking a favor from him once at the White House. He was overpowered by the idea that he was in the presence of the President, and, his errand done, was edging shyly out, when Mr. Lincoln stopped him, insisting that he measure with him. The man was the taller, as Mr. Lincoln had thought; and he went away evidently as much abashed that he dared be taller than the President of the United States as that he had dared to venture into his presence.

Governor Hoyt tells an excellent story illustrating this interest of Lincoln’s in manly strength, and his involuntary comparison of himself with whoever showed it. It was in 1859, after Lincoln had delivered a speech at the Wisconsin State Agricultural Fair in Milwaukee. Governor Hoyt had asked him to make the rounds of the exhibits, and they went into a tent to see a “strong man” perform. He went through the ordinary exercises with huge iron balls, tossing them in the air and catching them, and rolling them on his arms and back; and Mr. Lincoln, who evidently had never before seen such a combination of agility and strength, watched him with intense interest, ejaculating under his breath now and then, “By George! By George!” When the performance was over, Governor Hoyt, seeing Mr. Lincoln’s interest, asked him to go up and be introduced to the athlete. He did so; and, as he stood looking down musingly on the man, who was very short, and evidently wondering that one so much smaller than he could be so much stronger, he suddenly broke out with one of his quaint speeches. “Why,” he said, “why, I could lick salt off the top of your hat.”

His strength won him popularity, but his good-nature, his wit, his skill in debate, his stories, were still more efficient in gaining him good-will. People liked to have him around, and voted him a good fellow to work with. Yet such were the conditions of his life at this time that, in spite of his popularity, nothing was open to him but hard manual labor. To take the first job which he happened upon—rail-splitting, ploughing, lumbering, boating, store-keeping—and make the most of it, thankful if thereby he earned his bed and board and yearly suit of jeans, was apparently all there was before Abraham Lincoln in 1830, when he started out for himself.


From a painting in the State Capitol, Springfield, Illinois. This picture is crude and inaccurate. The flatboat built by Lincoln, and by him piloted to New Orleans, was larger than the one here portrayed, and the structure over the dam belittles the real mill. There was not only a grist-mill, but also a saw-mill. The mill was built in 1829. March 5, 1830, we find John Overstreet averring before the County Commissioners “that John Cameron and James Rutledge have erected a mill-dam on the Sangamon River which obstructs the navigation of said river;” and Cameron and Rutledge are ordered to alter the dam so as to restore “safe navigation.” James M. Rutledge of Petersburg, a nephew of the mill-owner, helped build the mill, and says: “The mill was a frame structure, and was solidly built. They used to grind corn mostly, though some flour was made. At times they would run day and night. The saw-mill had an old-fashioned upright saw, and stood on the bank.” For a time this mill was operated by Denton Offutt, under the supervision of Lincoln. A few stakes, a part of the old dam, still show at low water.



Through the summer and fall of 1830 and the early winter of 1831, Mr. Lincoln worked in the vicinity of his father’s new home, usually as a farm-hand and rail-splitter. Most of his work was done in company with John Hanks. Before the end of the winter he secured employment of which he has given an account himself, though in the third person:

“During that winter Abraham, together with his step-mother’s son, John D. Johnston, and John Hanks, yet residing in Macon County, hired themselves to Denton Offutt to 104take a flatboat from Beardstown, Illinois, to New Orleans, and for that purpose were to join him (Offutt) at Springfield, Illinois, so soon as the snow should go off. When it did go off, which was about March 1, 1831, the country was so flooded as to make travelling by land impracticable; to obviate which difficulty they purchased a large canoe and came down the Sangamon River in it from where they were all living (near Decatur). This is the time and manner of Abraham’s first entrance into Sangamon County. They found Offutt at Springfield, but learned from him that he had failed in getting a boat at Beardstown. This led to their hiring themselves to him for twelve dollars per month each, and getting the timber out of the trees, and building a boat at old Sangamon town, on the Sangamon River, seven miles northwest of Springfield, which boat they took to New Orleans, substantially on the old contract.”

Sangamon town, where Mr. Lincoln built the flatboat, has, since his day, completely disappeared from the earth; but then it was one of the flourishing settlements on the river of that name. Lincoln and his friends, on arriving there in March, immediately began work. There is still living in Springfield, Illinois, a man who helped Lincoln at the raft-building—Mr. John Roll, a well-known citizen, and one who has been prominent in the material advancement of the city. Mr. Roll remembers distinctly Lincoln’s first appearance in Sangamon town. “He was a tall, gaunt young man,” he says, “dressed in a suit of blue homespun jeans, consisting of a roundabout jacket, waistcoat, and breeches which came to within about four inches of his feet. The latter were encased in rawhide boots, into the tops of which, most of the time, his pantaloons were stuffed. He wore a soft felt hat which had at one time been black, but now, as its owner dryly remarked, ‘was sunburned until it was a combine of colors.’”

Mr. Roll’s relation to the new-comer soon became something more than that of a critical observer; he hired out to him, and says with pride, “I made every pin which went into that boat.”


It took some four weeks to build the raft, and in that period Lincoln succeeded in captivating the entire village by his story-telling. It was the custom in Sangamon for the “men-folks” to 105gather at noon and in the evening, when resting, in a convenient lane near the mill. They had rolled out a long peeled log, on which they lounged while they whittled and talked. Lincoln had not been long in Sangamon before he joined this circle. At once he became a favorite by his jokes and good-humor. As soon as he appeared at the assembly ground the men would start him to story-telling. So irresistibly droll were his “yarns” that, says Mr. Roll, “whenever he’d end up in his unexpected way the boys on the log would whoop and roll off.” The result of the rolling off was to polish the log like a mirror. The men, recognizing Lincoln’s part in this polishing, christened their seat “Abe’s log.” Long after Lincoln had disappeared from Sangamon “Abe’s log” remained, and until it had rotted away people pointed it out, and repeated the droll stories of the stranger.


This cabin was built by Thomas Lincoln in 1831, on Goose Nest Prairie, in Coles County, Illinois, where he had taken up forty acres of land. It was situated nine miles south of Charleston, on what is called Lincoln’s Lane. Here Thomas Lincoln died in 1851. The cabin was occupied until 1891, when it was bought by the Lincoln Log Cabin Association to be shown at the World’s Fair in 1893.



The flatboat was done in about a month, and Lincoln and his friends prepared to leave Sangamon. Before he started, however, he was the hero of an adventure so thrilling that he won new laurels in the community. Mr. Roll, who was a witness to the whole exciting scene, tells the story:

“It was the spring following the winter of the deep snow.[13] Walter Carman, John Seamon, myself, and at times others of the Carman boys had helped Abe in building the boat, and when he had finished we went to work to make a dug-out, or canoe, to be used as a small boat with the flat. We found a suitable log about an eighth of a mile up the river, and with our axes went to work under Lincoln’s direction. The river was very high, fairly ‘booming.’ After the dug-out was ready to launch we took it to the edge of the water, and made ready to ‘let her go,’ when Walter Carman and John Seamon jumped in as the boat struck the water, each one anxious to be the first to get a ride. As they shot out from the shore they found they were unable to make any headway against the strong current. Carman had the paddle, and Seamon was in the stern of the boat. Lincoln shouted to them to ‘head up-stream,’ and ‘work back to shore,’ but they found themselves powerless against the stream. At last they began to pull for the wreck of an old flatboat, the first ever built on the Sangamon, which had sunk and gone to pieces, leaving one of the stanchions sticking above the water. Just as they reached it Seamon made a grab, and caught hold of the stanchion, when the canoe capsized, leaving Seamon clinging to the old timber, and throwing Carman into the stream. It carried him down with the speed of a mill-race. Lincoln raised his voice above the roar of the flood, and yelled to Carman to swim for an elm tree which stood almost in the channel, which the action of the high water changed.

“Carman, being a good swimmer, succeeded in catching a branch, and pulled himself up out of the water, which was very cold, and had almost chilled him to death; and there he sat shivering and chattering in the tree. Lincoln, seeing Carman 107safe, called out to Seamon to let go the stanchion and swim for the tree. With some hesitation he obeyed, and struck out, while Lincoln cheered and directed him from the bank. As Seamon neared the tree he made one grab for a branch, and, missing it, went under the water. Another desperate lunge was successful, and he climbed up beside Carman. Things were pretty exciting now, for there were two men in the tree, and the boat was gone.


From a painting in the State Capitol, Springfield, Illinois. New Salem was founded by James Rutledge and John Cameron in 1829. In that year they built a dam across the Sangamon River, and erected a mill. Under date of October 23, 1829, Reuben Harrison, surveyor, certifies that “at the request of John Cameron, one of the proprietors, I did survey the town of New Salem.” The town within two years contained a dozen or fifteen houses, nearly all of them built of logs. New Salem’s population probably never exceeded a hundred persons. Its inhabitants, and those of the surrounding country, were mostly Southerners—natives of Kentucky and Tennessee—though there was an occasional Yankee among them. Soon after Lincoln left the place, in the spring of 1837, it began to decline. Petersburg had sprung up two miles down the river, and rapidly absorbed its population and business. By 1840 New Salem was almost deserted. The Rutledge tavern, the first house erected, was the last to succumb. It stood for many years, but at last crumbled away. Salem hill is now only a green cow pasture.

“It was a cold, raw April day, and there was great danger of the men becoming benumbed and falling back into the water. Lincoln called out to them to keep their spirits up and he would 108save them. The village had been alarmed by this time, and many people had come down to the bank. Lincoln procured a rope, and tied it to a log. He called all hands to come and help roll the log into the water, and after this had been done, he, with the assistance of several others, towed it some distance up the stream. A daring young fellow by the name of ‘Jim’ Dorrell then took his seat on the end of the log, and it was pushed out into the current, with the expectation that it would be carried down stream against the tree where Seamon and Carman were.

“The log was well directed, and went straight to the tree; but Jim, in his impatience to help his friends, fell a victim to his good intentions. Making a frantic grab at a branch, he raised himself off the log, which was swept from under him by the raging water, and he soon joined the other two victims upon their forlorn perch. The excitement on shore increased, and almost the whole population of the village gathered on the river bank. Lincoln had the log pulled up the stream, and, securing another piece of rope, called to the men in the tree to catch it if they could when he should reach the tree. He then straddled the log himself, and gave the word to push out into the stream. When he dashed into the tree, he threw the rope over the stump of a broken limb, and let it play until he broke the speed of the log, and gradually drew it back to the tree, holding it there until the three now nearly frozen men had climbed down and seated themselves astride. He then gave orders to the people on the shore to hold fast to the end of the rope which was tied to the log, and leaving his rope in the tree he turned the log adrift. The force of the current, acting against the taut rope, swung the log around against the bank, and all ‘on board’ were saved. The excited people, who had watched the dangerous experiment with alternate hope and fear, now broke into cheers for Abe Lincoln and praises for his brave act. This adventure made quite a hero of him along the Sangamon, and the people never tired of telling of the exploit.”



After a painting by Mrs. Bennett; reproduced, by permission, from “Menard-Salem-Lincoln Souvenir Album,” Petersburg, Illinois, 1893. The Rutledge and Cameron mill, of which Lincoln at one time had charge, stood on the same spot as the mill in the picture, and had the same foundation. From the map on page 116 it will be seen that the mill was below the bluff and east of the town.


The flatboat built and loaded, the party started for New Orleans about the middle of April. They had gone but a few miles when they met with another adventure. At the village of New Salem there was a mill-dam. On it the boat stuck, and here for nearly twenty-four hours it hung, the bow in the air and the stern in the water, the cargo slowly setting backward—shipwreck almost certain. The village of New Salem turned out in a body to see what the strangers would do in their predicament. They shouted, suggested, and advised for a time, but finally discovered that one big fellow in the crew was ignoring them and working out a plan of relief. Having unloaded the cargo into a neighboring boat, Lincoln had succeeded in tilting his craft. Then, by boring a hole in the end extending over the dam, the water was let out. This done, the boat was easily shoved over and reloaded. The ingenuity which he had exercised in saving his boat made a deep impression on the crowd on the bank, and it was talked over for many a day. The proprietor of boat and cargo was even more enthusiastic than the spectators, and vowed he would build a steamboat for the Sangamon and make 110Lincoln the captain. Lincoln himself was interested in what he had done, and nearly twenty years later he embodied his reflections on this adventure in a curious invention for getting boats over shoals.


This costume, worn by Mrs. Lucy M. Bennett of Petersburg, Illinois, has been a familiar attraction at old settlers’ gatherings in Menard County for years. The dress was made by Mrs. Hill of New Salem; and the reticule, or work-bag, will be readily recognized by those who have any recollection of the early days. The bonnet occupied a place in the store of Samuel Hill at New Salem. It was taken from the store by Mrs. Hill, worn for a time by her, and has been carefully preserved to this day. It is an imported bonnet—a genuine Leghorn—and of a kind so costly that Mr. Hill made only an occasional sale of one. Its price, in fact, was twenty-five dollars.



The raft over the New Salem dam, the party went on to New Orleans, reaching there in May, 1831, and remaining a month. It must have been a month of intense intellectual activity for Lincoln. Since his first visit, made with young Gentry, New Orleans had entered upon her “flush times.” Commerce was increasing at a rate which dazzled speculators, and drew them from all over the United States. From 1830 to 1840 no other American city increased in such a ratio; exports and imports, which in 1831 amounted to $26,000,000, in 1835 had more than doubled. The Creole population had held the sway so far in the city; but now it came into competition, and often into conflict, with a pushing, ambitious, and frequently unscrupulous native American party. To these two predominating elements were added Germans, French, Spanish, negroes, and Indians. 111Cosmopolitan in its make-up, the city was even more cosmopolitan in its life. Everything was to be seen in New Orleans in those days, from the idle luxury of the wealthy Creole to the organization of filibustering juntas. The pirates still plied their trade in the Gulf, and the Mississippi River brought down hundreds of river boatmen—one of the wildest, wickedest sets of men that ever existed in any city.


Lincoln and his companions ran their boat up beside thousands of others. It was the custom to tie such craft along the river front where St. Mary’s Market now stands, and one could walk a mile, it is said, over the tops of these boats without 112going ashore. No doubt Lincoln went, too, to live in the boatmen’s rendezvous, called the “swamp,” a wild, rough quarter, where roulette, whiskey, and the flint-lock pistol ruled.

All of the picturesque life, the violent contrasts of the city, he would see as he wandered about; and he would carry away the sharp impressions which are produced when mind and heart are alert, sincere, and healthy.

In this month spent in New Orleans Lincoln must have seen much of slavery. At that time the city was full of slaves, and the number was constantly increasing; indeed, one-third of the New Orleans increase in population between 1830 and 1840 was in negroes. One of the saddest features of the institution was to be seen there in its most aggravated form—the slave market. The better class of slave-holders of the South, who looked on the institution as patriarchal, and who guarded their slaves with conscientious care, knew little, it should be said, of this terrible traffic. Their transfer of slaves was humane, but in the open markets of the city it was attended by shocking cruelty and degradation.

Lincoln witnessed in New Orleans for the first time the revolting sight of men and women sold like animals. Mr. Herndon says that he often heard Mr. Lincoln refer to this experience. “In New Orleans for the first time,” he writes, “Lincoln beheld the true horrors of human slavery. He saw ‘negroes in chains—whipped and scourged.’ Against this inhumanity his sense of right and justice rebelled, and his mind and conscience were awakened to a realization of what he had often heard and read. No doubt, as one of his companions has said, ‘slavery ran the iron into him then and there.’

“One morning, in their rambles over the city, the trio passed a slave auction. A vigorous and comely mulatto girl was being sold. She underwent a thorough examination at the hands of the bidders; they pinched her flesh, and made her trot up and down the room like a horse, to show how she moved, and in order, as the auctioneer said, that ‘bidders might satisfy themselves’ whether the article they were offering to buy was sound or not. The whole thing was so revolting that Lincoln moved away from the scene with a deep feeling of ‘unconquerable hate.’ Bidding his companions follow him, he said: ‘Boys, let’s get away from this. If ever I get a chance to hit that thing’ (meaning slavery), ‘I’ll hit it hard.’”



The original of this picture is an ambrotype owned by C. F. Gunther of Chicago, who bought it from W. H. Somers of El Cajon, California. Mr. Somers bought the original directly from the artist, a Mr. Alschuler of Urbana, Illinois. In a recent letter he explains why he bought the picture: “At the time I was clerk of the circuit court, and was about as well acquainted with Mr. Lincoln as with most of the forty-odd lawyers who practised law in the circuit. Of course I was then quite a young man, and the fall term of 1857 was my first term as clerk. On the opening day of court, which was always an interesting occasion, largely because we were curious to see what attorneys from a distance were in attendance, while sitting at my desk and watching the lawyers take their places within the bar of the court-room, I observed that Mr. Lincoln was among them; and as I looked in his direction, he arose from his seat, and came forward and gave me a cordial hand-shake, accompanying the action with words of congratulation on my election. I mention this fact because the conduct of Mr. Lincoln was so in contrast with that of the other members of the bar that it touched me deeply, and made me, ever afterwards, his steadfast friend.”

Mr. J. O. Cunningham, who was present when the picture was taken, writes us as follows of the circumstances: “One morning I was in the gallery of Mr. Alschuler, when Mr. Lincoln came into the room and said he had been informed that he (Alschuler) wished him to sit for a picture. Alschuler said he had sent such a message to Mr. Lincoln, but he could not take the picture in that coat (referring to a linen-duster in which Mr. Lincoln was clad), and asked if he had not a dark coat in which he could sit. Mr. Lincoln said he had not; that this was the only coat he had brought with him from his home. Alschuler said he could wear his coat, and gave it to Mr. Lincoln, who pulled off the duster and put on the artist’s coat. Alschuler was a very short man, with short arms, but with a body nearly as large as the body of Mr. Lincoln. The arms of the latter extended through the sleeves of the coat of Alschuler a quarter of a yard, making him quite ludicrous, at which he (Lincoln) laughed immoderately, and sat down for the picture to be taken with an effort at being sober enough for the occasion. The lips in the picture show this.”

114Mr. Herndon gives John Hanks as his authority for this statement. This is plainly an error; for, according to Mr. Lincoln himself, Hanks did not go on to New Orleans, but, having a family, and finding that he was likely to be detained from home longer than he had expected, he turned back at St. Louis. Though there is reason for believing that Lincoln was deeply impressed on this trip by something he saw in a New Orleans slave market, and that he often referred to it, the story told above probably grew to its present proportions by much telling.



The month in New Orleans passed swiftly, and in June, 1831, Lincoln and his companions took passage up the river. He did not return, however, in the usual way of the river boatman “out of a job.” According to his own way of putting it, “during this boat-enterprise acquaintance with Offutt, who was previously an entire stranger, he conceived a liking for Abraham, and believing he could turn him to account, he contracted with him to act as a clerk for him on his return from New Orleans, in charge of a store and mill at New Salem.” The store and mill were, however, so far only in Offutt’s imagination, and Lincoln had to drift about until his employer was ready for him. He made a short visit to his father and mother, now in Coles County, near Charleston (fever and ague had driven the Lincolns from their first home in Macon County), and then, in July, 1831, he went to New Salem, where, as he says, he “stopped indefinitely, and for the first time, as it were, by himself.”



Map drawn by J. McCan Davis, aided by surviving inhabitants of New Salem. Dr. John Allen was the leading physician of New Salem. He was a Yankee, and was at first looked upon with suspicion, but he was soon conducting a Sunday-school and temperance society, though strongly opposed by the conservative church people. Dr. Allen attended Ann Rutledge in her last illness. He was thrifty, and, moving to Petersburg in 1840, became wealthy. He died in 1860. Dr. Francis Regnier was a rival physician and a respected citizen. Samuel Hill and John McNeill (whose real name subsequently proved to be McNamar) operated a general store next to Berry and Lincoln’s grocery. Mr. Hill also owned the carding-machine. He moved his store to Petersburg in 1839, and engaged in business there, dying quite wealthy. Jack Kelso followed a variety of callings, being occasionally a school-teacher, now and then a grocery clerk, and always a fisher and hunter. He was a man of some culture, and when warmed by liquor, quoted Shakespeare and Burns profusely, a habit which won for him the close friendship of Lincoln. Joshua Miller was a blacksmith, and lived in the same house with Kelso—a double house. He is said to be still living, somewhere in Nebraska. Miller and Kelso were brothers-in-law. Philemon Morris was a tinner. Henry Onstott was a cooper by trade. He was an elder in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and meetings were often held at his house. Rev. John Berry, father of Lincoln’s partner, frequently preached there. Robert Johnson was a wheelwright, and his wife took in weaving. Martin Waddell was a hatter. He was the best-natured man in town, Lincoln possibly excepted. The Trent brothers, who succeeded Berry and Lincoln as proprietors of the store, worked in his shop for a time. William Clary, one of the first settlers of New Salem, was one of a numerous family, most of whom lived in the vicinity of “Clary’s Grove.” Isaac Burner was the father of Daniel Green Burner, Berry and Lincoln’s clerk. Alexander Ferguson worked at odd jobs. He had two brothers, John and Elijah. Isaac Gollaher lived in a house belonging to John Ferguson. “Row” Herndon, at whose house Lincoln boarded for a year or more after going to New Salem, moved to the country after selling his store to Berry and Lincoln. John Cameron, one of the founders of the town, was a Presbyterian preacher and a highly esteemed citizen.

117The village of New Salem, the scene of Lincoln’s mercantile career, was one of the many little towns which, in the pioneer days, sprang up along the Sangamon River, a stream then looked upon as navigable and as destined to be counted among the highways of commerce. Twenty miles northwest of Springfield, strung along the left bank of the Sangamon, parted by hollows and ravines, is a row of high hills. On one of these—a long, narrow ridge, beginning with a sharp and sloping point near the river, running south, and parallel with the stream a little way, and then, reaching its highest point, making a sudden turn to the west, and gradually widening until lost in the prairie—stood this frontier village. The crooked river for a short distance comes from the east, and, seemingly surprised at meeting the bluff, abruptly changes its course, and flows to the north. Across the river the bottom stretches out half a mile back to the highlands. New Salem, founded in 1829 by James Rutledge and John Cameron, and a dozen years later a deserted village, is rescued from oblivion only by the fact that Lincoln was once one of its inhabitants. His first sight of the town had been in April, 1831, when he and his crew had been detained in getting their flatboat over the Rutledge and Cameron mill-dam. When Lincoln walked into New Salem, three months later, he was not altogether a stranger, for the people remembered him as the ingenious flat-boatman who had freed his boat from water (and thus enabled it to get over the dam) by resorting to the miraculous expedient of boring a hole in the bottom.


William G. Greene was one of the earliest friends of Lincoln at New Salem. He stood on the bank of the Sangamon River on the 19th of April, 1831, and watched Lincoln bore a hole in the bottom of the flatboat which had lodged on the mill-dam, so that the water might run out. A few months later he and Lincoln were both employed by the enterprising Denton Offutt as clerks in the store and managers of the mill which had been leased by Offutt. It was William G. Greene who, returning home from college at Jacksonville on a vacation, brought Richard Yates with him, and introduced him to Lincoln, the latter being found stretched out on the cellar door of Bowling Green’s cabin, reading a book. Mr. Greene was born in Tennessee in 1812, and went to Illinois in 1822. After the disappearance of New Salem he removed to Tallula, a few miles away, where in after years he engaged in the banking business. He died in 1894, after amassing a fortune.

Offutt’s goods had not arrived when Mr. Lincoln reached New Salem; and he “loafed” about, so those who remember his arrival say, good-naturedly taking a hand in whatever he could find to do, and in his droll way making friends of everybody. By chance, a bit of work fell to him almost at once, which introduced him generally and gave him an opportunity to make a 118name in the neighborhood. It was election day. The village school-master, Mentor Graham by name, was clerk, but the assistant was ill. Looking about for some one to help him, Mr. Graham saw a tall stranger loitering around the polling-place, and called to him, “Can you write?” “Yes,” said the stranger, “I can make a few rabbit tracks.” Mr. Graham evidently was satisfied with the answer, for he promptly initiated him; and he filled his place not only to the satisfaction of his employer, but also to the delectation of the loiterers about the polls, for whenever things dragged he immediately began “to spin out a stock of Indiana yarns.” So droll were they that years afterward men who listened to Lincoln that day repeated them to their friends. He had made a hit in New Salem, to start with, and here, as in Sangamon town, it was by means of his story-telling.

His next work was to pilot down the Sangamon and Illinois rivers, as far as Beardstown, a flatboat bearing the family and goods of a pioneer bound for Texas. At Beardstown he found Offutt’s goods, waiting to be taken to New Salem. As he footed his way home he met two men with a wagon and ox-team going for the goods. Offutt had expected Lincoln to wait at Beardstown until the ox-team arrived, and the teamsters, not having any credentials, asked Lincoln to give them an order for the goods. This, sitting down by the roadside, he wrote out; and one of the men used to relate that it contained a misspelled word, which he corrected.



The precise date of the opening of Denton Offutt’s store is not known. We only know that on July 8, 1831, the County Commissioners’ Court of Sangamon County granted Offutt a license to retail merchandise at 119New Salem, for which he paid five dollars, a fee which supposed him to have one thousand dollars’ worth of goods in stock. When the oxen and their drivers returned with the goods, the store was opened in a little log house on the brink of the hill, almost over the river.


Reproduced by permission from “Menard-Salem-Lincoln Souvenir Album,” Petersburg, Illinois, 1893.

The frontier store filled a unique place. Usually it was a “general store,” and on its shelves were found most of the articles needed in a community of pioneers. But to be a place for the sale of dry goods and groceries was not its only function; it was a kind of intellectual and social centre. It was the common meeting-place of the farmers, the happy refuge of the village loungers. No subject was unknown there. The habitués of the place were equally at home in discussing politics, religion, or sports. Stories were told, jokes were cracked and laughed at, and the news contained in the latest newspaper finding its way into 120the wilderness was repeated again and again. Such a store was that of Denton Offutt. Lincoln could hardly have chosen surroundings more favorable to the highest development of the art of story-telling, and he had not been there long before his reputation for drollery was established.


But he gained popularity and respect in other ways. There was near the village a settlement called Clary’s Grove. The most conspicuous part of the population was an organization known as the “Clary’s Grove Boys.” They exercised a veritable terror over the neighborhood, and yet they were not a vicious band. Mr. Herndon, who had a cousin living in New Salem at the time, and who knew personally many of the “boys,” says:

“They were friendly and good-natured; they could trench a pond, dig a bog, build a house; they could pray and fight, make a village or create a State. They would do almost anything for sport or fun, love or necessity. Though rude and rough; though life’s forces ran over the edge of the bowl, foaming and sparkling in pure deviltry for deviltry’s sake, yet place before them a poor man who needed their aid, a lame or sick man, a defenceless woman, a widow, or an orphaned child, they melted into sympathy and charity at once. They gave all they had, and willingly toiled or played cards for more. Though there never was under the sun a more generous parcel of rowdies, a stranger’s introduction was likely to be the most unpleasant part of his acquaintance with them.”



Denton Offutt, Lincoln’s employer, was just the man to love to boast before such a crowd. He seemed to feel that Lincoln’s physical prowess shed glory on himself, and he declared the country over that his clerk could lift more, throw farther, run faster, jump higher, and wrestle better than any man in Sangamon County. The Clary’s Grove Boys, of course, felt in honor bound to prove this false, and they appointed their best man, one Jack Armstrong, to “throw Abe.” Jack Armstrong was, according to the testimony of all who remember him, a “powerful twister,” “square built and strong as an ox,” “the best-made man that ever lived;” and everybody knew the contest would be close. Lincoln did not like to “tussle and scuffle;” he objected to “woolling and pulling;” but Offutt had gone so far that it became necessary to yield. The match was held on the ground near the grocery. Clary’s Grove and New Salem turned out generally to witness the bout, and betting on the result ran high, the community as a whole staking their jack-knives, tobacco-plugs, and “treats” on Armstrong. The two men had scarcely taken hold of each other before it was evident that the Clary’s Grove champion had met a match. The two men wrestled long and hard, but both kept their feet. Neither could throw the other, and Armstrong, convinced of this, tried a “foul.” Lincoln no sooner realized the game of his antagonist than, furious with indignation, he caught him by the throat and, holding him out at arm’s length, “shook him like a child.” 122Armstrong’s friends rushed to his aid, and for a moment it looked as if Lincoln would be routed by sheer force of numbers. But he held his own so bravely that the “boys,” in spite of their sympathies, were filled with admiration. What bade fair to be a general fight ended in a general hand-shake, even Jack Armstrong declaring that Lincoln was the “best fellow who ever broke into the camp.” From that day, at the cock-fights and horse-races, which were their common sports, he became the chosen umpire; and when the entertainment broke up in a row—a not uncommon occurrence—he acted the peacemaker without suffering the peacemaker’s usual fate. Such was his reputation with the “Clary’s Grove Boys,” after three months in New Salem, that when the fall muster came off he was elected captain.


Mentor Graham was the New Salem school-master. He it was who assisted Lincoln in mastering Kirkham’s Grammar, and later gave him valuable assistance when Lincoln was learning the theory of surveying. He taught in a little log schoolhouse on a hill south of the village, just across Green’s Rocky Branch. Among his pupils was Ann Rutledge, and the school was often visited by Lincoln. In 1845 Mentor Graham was defendant in a lawsuit in which Lincoln and Herndon were attorneys for the plaintiff, Nancy Green. It appears from the declaration, written by Lincoln’s own hand, that on October 28, 1844, Mentor Graham gave his note to Nancy Green for one hundred dollars, with John Owen and Andrew Beerup as sureties, payable twelve months after date. The note not being paid when due, suit was brought. That Lincoln, even as an attorney, should sue Mentor Graham may seem strange; but it is no surprise when it is explained that the plaintiff was the widow of Bowling Green—the woman who, with her husband, had comforted Lincoln in an hour of grief. Justice, too, in this case was clearly on her side. The lawsuit seems never to have disturbed the friendly relations between Lincoln and Mentor Graham. The latter’s admiration for the former was unbounded to the day of his death. Mentor Graham lived on his farm near the ruins of New Salem until 1860, when he removed to Petersburg. There he lived until 1885, when he removed to Greenview, Illinois. Later he went to South Dakota, where he died about 1892, at the ripe old age of ninety-odd years.

Lincoln showed soon that if he was unwilling to indulge in “woolling and pulling” for amusement, he did not object to it in a case of honor. A man came into the store one day when women were present, and used profane language. Lincoln asked him to stop; but the man persisted, swearing that nobody should prevent his saying what he wanted to. The women gone, the man began to abuse Lincoln so hotly 123that the latter finally said, “Well, if you must be whipped, I suppose I might as well whip you as any other man;” and going outdoors with the fellow, he threw him on the ground, and rubbed smart-weed in his eyes until he bellowed for mercy. New Salem’s sense of chivalry was touched, and enthusiasm over Lincoln increased.


Reproduced by permission from “Menard-Salem-Lincoln Souvenir Album,” Petersburg, Illinois, 1893.

His honesty excited no less admiration. Two incidents seem to have particularly impressed the community. Having discovered on one occasion that he had taken six and a quarter cents too much from a customer, he walked three miles that evening, after his store was closed, to return the money. Again, he weighed out a half-pound of tea, as he supposed. It was night, and this was the last thing he did before closing up. On entering in the morning he discovered a four-ounce weight on the scales. He saw his mistake, and, closing up shop, hurried off to deliver the remainder of the tea. This unusual regard for the rights of others soon won him the title of “Honest Abe.”


This chair is now in the collection of Mr. Louis Vanuxem of Philadelphia. It was originally owned by Caleb Carmen of New Salem, and was once repaired by Abraham Lincoln.



As soon as the store was fairly under way, Lincoln began to look about for books. Since leaving Indiana, in March, 1830, he had had, in his drifting life, little leisure or opportunity for study, though he had had a great deal for observation. Nevertheless his desire to learn had increased, and his ambition to be somebody had been encouraged. In that time he had found that he really was superior to many of those who were called the “great” men of the country. Soon after entering Macon County, in March, 1830, when he was only twenty-one years old, he had found he could make a better speech than at least one man who was before the public. A candidate had come along where John Hanks and he were at work, and, as John Hanks tells the story, the man made a speech. “It was a bad one, and I said Abe could beat it. I turned down a box, and Abe made his speech. The other man was a candidate, Abe wasn’t. Abe beat him to death, his subject being the navigation of the Sangamon River. The man, after Abe’s speech was through, took him aside, and asked him where he had learned so much and how he could do so well. Abe replied, stating his manner and method of reading, what he had read. The man encouraged him to persevere.”

He had found that people listened to him, that they quoted his opinions, and that his friends were already saying that he was able to fill any position. Offutt even declared the country over that “Abe” knew more than any man in the United States, and that some day he would be President.

Under this stimulus Lincoln’s ambition increased. “I have talked with great men,” he told his fellow-clerk and friend Greene, “and I do not see how they differ from others.” He made up his mind to put himself before the public, and talked of his plans to his friends. In order to keep in practice in speaking he walked seven or eight miles to debating clubs. “Practising polemics” was what he called the exercise. He seems now for the first time to have begun to study subjects. Grammar was what he chose. He sought Mentor Graham, the school-master, and asked his advice. “If you are going before the public,” Mr. Graham told him, “you ought to do it.” But where could he get a grammar? There was but one, said Mr. Graham, in the neighborhood, and that was six miles away. Without waiting for further information, the young man rose from the breakfast-table, walked immediately to the place, and borrowed this rare copy of Kirkham’s Grammar. From that time on for weeks he gave his leisure to mastering its contents. Frequently he asked his friend Greene to hold the book while he recited, and when puzzled he would consult Mr. Graham.

Lincoln’s eagerness to learn was such that the whole neighborhood became interested. The Greenes lent him books, the school-master kept him in mind and helped him as he could, and the village cooper let him come into his shop and keep up a fire of shavings sufficiently bright to read by at night. It was not long before the grammar was mastered. “Well,” Lincoln said to his fellow-clerk Greene, “if that’s what they call a science, I think I’ll go at another.”

Before the winter was ended he had become the most popular man in New Salem. Although he was but twenty-two years of age in February, 1832; had never been at school an entire year; had never made a speech, except in debating clubs or by the roadside; had read only the books he could pick up, and known only the men of the poor, out-of-the-way towns in which he had lived, yet, “encouraged by his great popularity among his immediate neighbors,” as he says, he announced himself, in March, 1832, as a candidate for the General Assembly of the State.



The only preliminary expected of a candidate for the legislature of Illinois at that date was an announcement stating his “sentiments with regard to local affairs.” The circular in which Lincoln complied with this custom was a document of about two thousand words, in which he plunged at once into the subject he believed most interesting to his constituents—“the public utility of internal improvements.”



Note: Lincoln’s First Vote.—The original poll-book from which the vote as shown on page 126 is reproduced, is now on file in the County Clerk’s office, Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln’s first vote was cast at New Salem, “in the Clary’s Grove precinct,” August 1, 1831. At this election he aided Mr. Graham, who was one of the clerks. In the early days in Illinois, elections were conducted by the viva voce method. The people did try voting by ballot, but the experiment was unpopular. It required too much “book larnin,” and in 1829 the viva voce method of voting was restored. The judges and clerks sat at a table with the poll-book before them. The voter walked up, and announced the candidate of his choice, and it was recorded in his presence. There was no ticket peddling, and ballot-box stuffing was impossible. To this simple system we are indebted for the record of Lincoln’s first vote. As will be seen from the facsimile, Lincoln voted for James Turney for Congressman, Bowling Green and Edmund Greer for Magistrates, and John Armstrong and Henry Sinco for Constables. Of these five men three were elected. Turney was defeated for Congressman by Joseph Duncan. Turney lived in Greene County. He was not then a conspicuous figure in the politics of the State, but was a follower of Henry Clay, and was well thought of in his own district. He and Lincoln, in 1834, served their first terms together in the lower house of the legislature, and later he was a State senator. Joseph Duncan, the successful candidate, was already in Congress. He was a politician of influence. In 1834 he was a strong Jackson man; but after his election as Governor he created consternation among the followers of “Old Hickory” by becoming a Whig. Sidney Breese, who received only two votes in the Clary’s Grove precinct, afterward became the most conspicuous of the five candidates. Eleven years later he defeated Stephen A. Douglas for the United States Senate, and for twenty-five years he was on the bench of the Supreme Court of Illinois, serving under each of the three constitutions. For the office of Magistrate, Bowling Green was elected, but Greer was beaten. Both of Lincoln’s candidates for Constable were elected. John Armstrong was the man with whom, a short time afterward, Lincoln had the celebrated wrestling match. Henry Sinco was the keeper of a store at New Salem. Lincoln’s first vote for President was not cast until the next year (November 5, 1832), when he voted for Henry Clay.

127At that time the State of Illinois—as, indeed, the whole United States—was convinced that the future of the country depended on the opening of canals and railroads, and the clearing out of the rivers. In the Sangamon country the population felt that a quick way of getting to Beardstown on the Illinois River, to which point the steamer came from the Mississippi, was, as Lincoln puts it in his circular, using a phrase of his hero Clay, “indispensably necessary.” Of course a railroad was the dream of the settlers; but when it was considered seriously there was always, as Lincoln says, “a heart-appalling shock accompanying the amount of its cost, which forces us to shrink from our pleasing anticipations.”

“The probable cost of this contemplated railroad is estimated at two hundred and ninety thousand dollars; the bare statement of which, in my opinion, is sufficient to justify the belief that the improvement of the Sangamon River is an object much better suited to our infant resources.

“Respecting this view, I think I may say, without the fear of being contradicted, that its navigation may be rendered completely practicable as high as the mouth of the South Fork, or probably higher, to vessels of from twenty-five to thirty tons burden, for at least one-half of all common years, and to vessels of much greater burden a part of the time. From my peculiar circumstances, it is probable that for the last twelve months I have given as particular attention to the stage of the water in this river as any other person in the country. In the month of March, 1831, in company with others, I commenced the building of a flatboat on the Sangamon, and finished and took her out in the course of the spring. Since that time I have been concerned in the mill at New Salem. These circumstances are sufficient evidence that I have not been very inattentive to the stages of the water. The time at which we crossed the mill-dam being in the last days of April, the water was lower than it had been since 128the breaking of winter, in February, or than it was for several weeks after. The principal difficulties we encountered in descending the river were from the drifted timber, which obstructions all know are not difficult to be removed. Knowing almost precisely the height of water at that time, I believe I am safe in saying that it has as often been higher as lower since.

“From this view of the subject, it appears that my calculations with regard to the navigation of the Sangamon cannot but be founded in reason; but, whatever may be its natural advantages, certain it is that it never can be practically useful to any great extent without being greatly improved by art. The drifted timber, as I have before mentioned, is the most formidable barrier to this object. Of all parts of this river, none will require as much labor in proportion to make it navigable as the last thirty or thirty-five miles; and going with the meanderings of the channel, when we are this distance above its mouth, we are only between twelve and eighteen miles from Beardstown in something near a straight direction, and this route is upon such low ground as to retain water in many places during the season, and in all parts such as to draw two-thirds or three-fourths of the river water at all high stages.

“This route is on prairie-land the whole distance, so that it appears to me, by removing the turf a sufficient width, and damming up the old channel, the whole river in a short time would wash its way through, thereby curtailing the distance and increasing the velocity of the current very considerably, while there would be no timber on the banks to obstruct its navigation in future; and being nearly straight, the timber which might float in at the head would be apt to go clear through. There are also many places above this where the river, in its zigzag course, forms such complete peninsulas as to be easier to cut at the necks than to remove the obstructions from the bends, which, if done, would also lessen the distance.

“What the cost of this work would be, I am unable to say. It is probable, however, that it would not be greater than is common to streams of the same length. Finally, I believe the improvement of the Sangamon River to be vastly important and highly desirable to the people of the country; and, if elected, any measure in the legislature having this for its object, which may appear judicious, will meet my approbation and receive my support.”

Lincoln could not have advocated a measure more popular. At that moment the whole population of Sangamon was in a state of wild expectation. Some six weeks before Lincoln’s circular appeared, a citizen of Springfield had advertised that as soon as the ice went off the river he would bring up a steamer, the “Talisman,” from Cincinnati, and prove the Sangamon navigable. The announcement had aroused the entire country, speeches were made, and subscriptions taken. The merchants announced goods direct per steamship “Talisman” the country over, and every village from Beardstown to Springfield was laid off in town lots. When the circular appeared the excitement was at its height.

129Lincoln’s comments in his circular on two other subjects on which all candidates of the day expressed themselves, are amusing in their simplicity. The practice of loaning money at exorbitant rates was then a great evil in the West. Lincoln proposed that the limits of usury be fixed, and he closed his paragraph on the subject with these words, which sound strange enough from a man who in later life showed so profound a reverence for law:

“In cases of extreme necessity, there could always be means found to cheat the law; while in all other cases it would have its intended effect. I would favor the passage of a law on this subject which might not be very easily evaded. Let it be such that the labor and difficulty of evading it could only be justified in cases of greatest necessity.”

A general revision of the laws of the State was the second topic which he felt required a word. “Considering the great probability,” he said, “that the framers of those laws were wiser than myself, I should prefer not meddling with them, unless they were attacked by others; in which, case I should feel it both a privilege and a duty to take that stand which, in my view, might tend most to the advancement of justice.”

Of course he said a word for education:

“Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone; to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the Scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves.

“For my part, I desire to see the time when education—and by its means morality, sobriety, enterprise, and industry—shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate that happy period.”

The audacity of a young man in his position presenting himself as a candidate for the legislature is fully equalled by the humility of the closing paragraphs of his announcement:

“But, fellow-citizens, I shall conclude. Considering the great degree of modesty which should always attend youth, it is probable I have already been more presuming than becomes me. However, upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken as I have thought. I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them; but, holding it a sound maxim that it is better only sometimes to be right than at all times to be wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them.



From an ambrotype in the possession of Mr. Marcus L. Ward of Newark, New Jersey. This portrait of Mr. Lincoln was made in Springfield, Illinois, on May 20, 1860, for the late Hon. Marcus L. Ward, Governor of New Jersey. Mr. Ward had gone to Springfield to see Mr. Lincoln, and while there asked him for his picture. The President-elect replied that he had no picture which was satisfactory, but would gladly sit for one. The two gentlemen went out immediately, and in Mr. Ward’s presence Mr. Lincoln had the above picture taken.



Reproduced, by permission, from “Menard-Salem-Lincoln Souvenir Album,” Petersburg, Illinois, 1893.

“Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition is yet to be developed. I am young, and unknown to many of you. I was born, and have ever remained, in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relations or friends to recommend me. My case is thrown exclusively upon the independent voters of the county; and, if elected, they will have conferred a favor upon me for which I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate. But, if the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.”



From a photograph made especially for this work. The copy of Kirkham’s Grammar studied by Lincoln belonged to a man named Vaner. Some of the biographers say Lincoln borrowed it; but it appears that he became the owner of the book, either by purchase or through the generosity of Vaner, for it was never returned to the latter. It is said that Lincoln learned this grammar practically by heart. “Sometimes,” says Herndon, “he would stretch out at full length on the counter, his head propped up on a stack of calico prints, studying it; or he would steal away to the shade of some inviting tree, and there spend hours at a time in a determined effort to fix in his mind the arbitrary rule that ‘adverbs qualify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.’” He presented the hook to Ann Rutledge, and it has since been one of the treasures of the Rutledge family. After the death of Ann it was studied by her brother Robert, and is now owned by his widow, who resides at Casselton, North Dakota. The title page of the book appears above. The words, “Ann M. Rutledge is now learning grammar,” were written by Lincoln. The order on James Rutledge to pay David P. Nelson thirty dollars, and signed “A. Lincoln for D. Offutt,” which is shown above, was pasted upon the front cover of the book by Robert Rutledge.

Very soon after Lincoln had distributed his handbills, enthusiasm on the subject of the opening of the Sangamon rose to a fever. The “Talisman” actually came up the river; scores of men went to Beardstown to meet her, among them Lincoln, of course; and to him was given the honor of piloting her—an honor which made him remembered by many a man who saw him that day for the first time. The trip was made with all the wild 133demonstrations which always attended the first steamboat. On either bank a long procession of men and boys on foot or horse accompanied the boat. Cannons and volleys of musketry were fired as settlements were passed. At every stop speeches were made, congratulations offered, toasts drunk, flowers presented. It was one long hurrah from Beardstown to Springfield, and foremost in the jubilation was Lincoln the pilot. The “Talisman” went to the point on the river nearest to Springfield, and there tied up for a week. When she went back, Lincoln again had a conspicuous position as pilot. The notoriety this gave him was probably quite as valuable politically as the forty dollars he received for his service was financially.

While the country had been dreaming of wealth through the opening of the Sangamon, and Lincoln had been doing his best to prove that the dream was possible, the store in which he clerked was “petering out”—to use his own expression. The owner, Denton Offutt, had proved more ambitious than wise, and Lincoln saw that an early closing by the sheriff was probable. But before the store was fairly closed, and while the trip of the “Talisman” was yet exciting the country, an event occurred which interrupted all of Lincoln’s plans.


This table is now owned by W. C. Green of Talula, Illinois. Originally it was part of the furniture of the cabin of Bowling Green, near New Salem.


From a water-color by Miss Etta Ackermann, Springfield, Illinois. “Clary’s Grove” was the name of a settlement five miles southwest of New Salem, deriving its name from a grove on the land of the Clarys. It was the headquarters of a daring and reckless set of young men living in the neighborhood and known as the “Clary’s Grove Boys.” This cabin was the residence of George Davis, one of the “Clary’s Grove Boys,” and grandfather of Miss Ackermann. It was built in 1824, seventy-one years ago, and is the only one left of the cluster of cabins which constituted the little community.



One morning in April a messenger from the governor of the State rode into New Salem, scattering circulars. These circulars contained an address from Governor Reynolds to the militia of the northwest section of the State, announcing that the British band of Sacs and other hostile Indians, headed by Black Hawk, had invaded the Rock River country, to the great terror of the frontier inhabitants; and calling upon the citizens who were willing to aid in repelling them, to rendezvous at Beardstown within a week.



Nancy Green was the wife of “Squire” Bowling Green. Her maiden name was Nancy Potter. She was born in North Carolina in 1797, and married Bowling Green in 1818. She removed with him to New Salem in 1820, and lived in that vicinity until her death, in 1864. Lincoln was a constant visitor in Nancy Green’s home.

The name of Black Hawk was familiar to the people of Illinois. He was an old enemy of the settlers, and had been a tried friend of the British. The land his people had once owned in the northwest of the present State of Illinois had been sold in 1804 to the government of the United States, but with the provision that the Indians should hunt and raise corn there until it was surveyed and sold to settlers. Long before the land was surveyed, however, squatters had invaded the country, and tried to force the Indians west of the Mississippi. Particularly envious were these whites of the lands at the mouth of the Rock River, where the ancient village and burial place of the Sacs stood, and where they came each year to raise corn. Black Hawk had resisted their encroachments, and many violent acts had been committed on both sides.

Finally, however, the squatters, in spite of the fact that the line of settlement was still fifty miles away, succeeded in evading the real meaning of the treaty and in securing a survey of the desired land at the mouth of the river. Black Hawk, exasperated and broken-hearted at seeing his village violated, persuaded himself that the village had never been sold—indeed, that land could not be sold.

“My reason teaches me,” he wrote, “that land cannot be sold. The Great Spirit gave it to his children to live upon, and cultivate, as far as is necessary for their subsistence; and so long as they occupy and cultivate it they have the right to the soil, but if they voluntarily leave it, then any other people have a right to settle upon it. Nothing can be sold but such things as can be carried away.”



John A. Clary was one of the “Clary’s Grove Boys.” He was the son of John Clary, the head of the numerous Clary family which settled in the vicinity of New Salem in 1881. He was born in Tennessee in 1815 and died in 1880. He was an intimate associate of Lincoln during the latter’s New Salem days.

Supported by this theory, conscious that in some way he did not understand he had been wronged, and urged on by White Cloud, the prophet, who ruled a Winnebago village on the Rock River, Black Hawk crossed the Mississippi in 1831, determined to evict the settlers. A military demonstration drove him back, and he was persuaded to sign a treaty never to return east of the Mississippi. “I touched the goose-quill to the treaty and was determined to live in peace,” he wrote afterward; but hardly had he “touched the goose-quill” before his heart smote him. Longing for his home, resentment at the whites, obstinacy, brooding over the bad counsels of White Cloud and his disciple Neapope—an agitating Indian who had recently been East to visit the British and their Indian allies, and who assured Black Hawk that the Winnebagoes, Ottawas, Chippewas, and Pottawottomies would join him in a struggle for his land, and that the British would send him “guns, ammunition, provisions, and clothing early in the spring”—all persuaded the Hawk that he would be successful if he made an effort to drive out the whites. In spite of the advice of many of his friends and of the Indian agent in the country, he crossed the river on April 6, 1832, and with some five hundred braves, his squaws and children, marched to the Prophet’s town, thirty-five miles up the Rock River.

As soon as they heard of Black Hawk’s invasion, the settlers of the northwestern part of the State fled in a panic to the forts; and they rained petitions for protection on Governor Reynolds. General Atkinson, who was at Fort Armstrong, wrote to the governor for reënforcements; and, accordingly, on the 16th of April Governor Reynolds sent out “influential messengers” with a sonorous summons. It was one of these messengers riding 137into New Salem who put an end to Lincoln’s canvassing for the legislature, freed him from Offutt’s expiring grocery, and led him to enlist.

There was no time to waste. The volunteers were ordered to be at Beardstown, nearly forty miles from New Salem, on April 22d. Horses, rifles, saddles, blankets were to be secured, a company formed. It was work of which the settlers were not ignorant. Under the laws of the State every able-bodied male inhabitant between eighteen and forty-five was obliged to drill twice a year or pay a fine of one dollar. “As a dollar was hard to raise,” says one of the old settlers, “everybody drilled.”



From a photograph made for this work. Owned by Mrs. Ott of Petersburg, Illinois. “A kind of flat-bottomed pot, ... which stood upon three legs of three inches long, and had an iron lid. Into this bread or meats were put, and baked by placing it on the hearth with a quantity of coals under it and upon the lid, which was made with a rim to keep the coals upon it, and a loop handle to lift it by. It also had a bail like a pot, by which it could be hung over the fire.”—Recollections of Life in Ohio, by William Cooper Howells.

Preparations were quickly made, and by April 22d the men were at Beardstown. The day before, at Richland, Sangamon County, Lincoln had been elected to the captaincy of the company from Sangamon to which he belonged.

His friend Greene gave another reason than ambition to explain his desire for the captaincy. One of the “odd jobs” which Lincoln had taken since coming into Illinois was working in a saw-mill for a man named Kirkpatrick. In hiring Lincoln, Kirkpatrick had promised to buy him a cant-hook with which to move heavy logs. Lincoln had proposed, if Kirkpatrick would give him the two dollars 138which the cant-hook would cost, to move the logs with a common hand-spike. This the proprietor had agreed to, but when payday came he refused to keep his word. When the Sangamon company of volunteers was formed, Kirkpatrick aspired to the captaincy, and Lincoln, knowing it, said to Greene: “Bill, I believe I can now make Kirkpatrick pay that two dollars he owes me on the cant-hook. I’ll run against him for captain;” and he became a candidate. The vote was taken in a field, by directing the men at the command “march” to assemble around the one they wanted for captain. When the order was given, three-fourths of the men gathered around Lincoln.[14] In Lincoln’s curious third-person autobiography he says he was elected, “to his own surprise;” and adds, “He says he has not since had any success in life which gave him so much satisfaction.”

The company was a motley crowd of men. Each had secured for his outfit what he could get, and no two were equipped alike. Buckskin breeches prevailed, and there was a sprinkling of coonskin caps. Each man had a blanket of the coarsest texture. Flint-lock rifles were the usual arms, though here and there a man had a Cramer. Over the shoulder of each was slung a powder-horn. The men had, as a rule, as little regard for discipline as for appearances, and when the new captain gave an order were as likely to jeer at it as to obey it. To drive the Indians out was their mission, and any orders which did not bear directly on that point were little respected. Lincoln himself was not familiar with military tactics, and made many blunders, of which he used to tell afterwards with relish. One of his early experiences in handling his company is particularly amusing. He was marching with a front of over twenty men across a field, when he desired to pass through a gateway into the next inclosure.

“I could not for the life of me,” said he, “remember the proper word of command for getting my company endwise, so that it could get through the gate; so, as we came near the gate, I shouted, ‘This company is dismissed for two minutes, when it will fall in again on the other side of the gate!’”

Nor was it only his ignorance of the manual which caused him trouble. He was so unfamiliar with camp discipline that he once had his sword taken from him for shooting within limits. 139Another disgrace he suffered was on account of his disorderly company. The men, unknown to him, stole a quantity of liquor one night, and the next morning were too drunk to fall in when the order was given to march. For their lawlessness Lincoln wore a wooden sword two days.


The town lay along the ridge marked by the star.

But none of these small difficulties injured his standing with the company. Lincoln was tactful, and he joined his men in sports as well as duties. They soon grew so proud of his quick wit and great strength that they obeyed him because they admired 140him. No amount of military tactics could have secured from the volunteers the cheerful following he won by his personal qualities.


From a photograph taken for this work. The building in which Lincoln clerked for Denton Offutt was standing as late as 1836, and presumably stood until it rotted down. A slight depression in the earth, evidently once a cellar, is all that remains of Offutt’s store. Out of this hole in the ground have grown three trees, a locust, an elm, and a sycamore, seeming to spring from the same roots, and curiously twined together. High up on the sycamore some genius has chiselled the face of Lincoln.



From a recent photograph. John Potter, born November 10, 1808, was a few months older than Lincoln. He is now living at Petersburg, Illinois. He settled in the country one and one-half miles from New Salem in 1820. Mr. Potter remembers Lincoln’s first appearance in New Salem, in July, 1831. He corroborates the stories told of his store, of his popularity in the community, and of the general impression that he was an unusually promising young man.

The men soon learned, too, that he meant what he said, and would permit no dishonorable actions. A helpless Indian took refuge in the camp one day; and the men, who were inspired by what Governor Reynolds calls Indian ill-will—that wanton mixture of selfishness, unreason, and cruelty which seems to seize a frontiersman as soon as he scents a red man—were determined to kill the refugee. He had a safe conduct from General Cass; but the men, having come out to kill Indians and not having succeeded, threatened to take revenge on the helpless savage. Lincoln boldly took the man’s part, and, though he risked his life in doing it, he cowed the company and saved the Indian.

It was on the 27th of April that the force of sixteen hundred men organized at Beardstown started out. The spring was cold, the roads heavy, the streams turbulent. The army marched first to Yellow Banks on the Mississippi; then to Dixon on the Rock River, which they reached on May 12th. At Dixon they camped, and near here occurred the first bloodshed of the war.

A body of about three hundred and forty rangers under 142Major Stillman, but not of the regular army, asked to go ahead as scouts, to look for a body of Indians under Black Hawk, rumored to be about twelve miles away. The permission was given, and on the night of the 14th of May, Stillman and his men went into camp. Black Hawk heard of their presence. By this time the poor old chief had discovered that the promises of aid from the Indian tribes and the British were false, and, dismayed, he had resolved to recross the Mississippi. When he heard of the whites near, he sent three braves with a white flag to ask for a parley and permission to descend the river. Behind them he sent five men to watch proceedings. Stillman’s rangers were in camp when the bearers of the flag of truce appeared. The men were many of them half drunk, and when they saw the Indian truce-bearers, they rushed out in a wild mob, and ran them into camp. Then catching sight of the five spies, they started after them, killing two. The three who reached Black Hawk reported that the truce-bearers had been killed, as well as their two companions. Furious at this violation of faith, Black Hawk raised a yell, and sallied forth with forty braves to meet Stillman’s band, who by this time were out in search of the Indians. Black Hawk, too maddened to think of the difference of numbers, attacked the whites. To his surprise the enemy turned, and fled in a wild riot. Nor did they stop at their camp, which from its position was almost impregnable; they fled in complete panic, sauve qui peut, through their camp, across prairie and rivers and swamps, to Dixon, twelve miles away. The first arrival reported that two thousand savages had swept down on Stillman’s camp and slaughtered all but himself. Before the next night all but eleven of the band had arrived.

Stillman’s defeat, as this disgraceful affair is called, put all notion of peace out of Black Hawk’s mind, and he started out in earnest on the warpath. By the morning of the 15th, Governor Reynolds and his army were in pursuit of Black Hawk. But it was like pursuing a shadow. The Indians purposely confused their trail. Sometimes it was a broad path, then it suddenly radiated to all points. The whites broke their bands, and pursued the savages here and there, never overtaking them, though now and then coming suddenly on some terrible evidences of their presence—a frontier home deserted and burned, slaughtered cattle, scalps suspended where the army could not fail to see them.



From a photograph made for this work. Bowling Green’s log cabin, half a mile north of New Salem, just under the bluff, still stands, but long since ceased to be a dwelling-house, and is now a tumble-down old stable. Here Lincoln was a frequent boarder, especially during the period of his closest application to the study of the law. Stretched out on the cellar door of this cabin, reading a book, he met for the first time “Dick” Yates, then a college student at Jacksonville, and destined to become the great “War Governor” of the State. Yates had come home with William G. Greene to spend his vacation, and Greene took him around to Bowling Green’s house to introduce him to “his friend, Abe Lincoln.” Unhappily there is nowhere in existence a picture of the original occupant of this humble cabin. Bowling Green was one of the leading citizens of the county. He was County Commissioner from 1826 to 1828; he was for many years a justice of the peace; he was a prominent member of the Masonic fraternity, and a very active and uncompromising Whig. The friendship between him and Lincoln, beginning at a very early day, continued until his death, in 1842.

This fruitless warfare exasperated the volunteers; they threatened to leave, and their officers had great difficulty in making them obey orders. On reaching a point on the Rock River, beyond which lay the Indian country, the men under Colonel Zachary Taylor refused to cross, urging that they had volunteered only to defend the State, and had the right to refuse to go out of its borders. Taylor heard them to the end, and then said: “I feel that all gentlemen here are my equals; in reality, I am persuaded that many of them will, in a few years, be my superiors, and perhaps, in the capacity of members of Congress, arbiters of the fortunes and reputation of humble servants of the Republic, like myself. I expect then to obey them as interpreters of the will of the people; and the best proof that I will obey them is now to observe the orders of those whom the people have already put in the place of authority to which many gentlemen around me justly aspire. In plain English, gentlemen and fellow-citizens, the word has been passed on to me from Washington to follow Black Hawk and to take you with me as soldiers. I mean to do both. There are the flatboats drawn up on the shore, and here are Uncle Sam’s men drawn up behind you on the prairie.” The volunteers knew true grit when they met it. They dissolved their meeting and crossed the river without Uncle Sam’s men being called into action.



The march in pursuit of the Indians led the army to Ottawa, where the volunteers became so dissatisfied that on May 27th and 28th Governor Reynolds mustered them out. But a force in the field was essential until a new levy was raised, and a few of the men were patriotic enough to offer their services, among them Lincoln, who, on May 29th, was mustered in, at the mouth of the Fox River, by a man in whom, thirty years later, he was to have a keen interest—General Robert Anderson, commander at Fort Sumter in 1861. Lincoln became a private in Captain Elijah Iles’s company of Independent Rangers, not brigaded—a company made up, says Captain Iles in his “Footsteps and Wanderings,” of “generals, colonels, captains, and distinguished men from the disbanded army.” General Anderson says that at this muster Lincoln’s arms were valued at forty dollars, his horse and equipment at one hundred and twenty dollars. The Independent Rangers were a favored body, used to carry messages and to spy on the enemy. They had no camp duties, and “drew rations as often as they pleased;” so that as a private Lincoln was really better off than as a captain.[15]



From a photograph in the collection of T. H. Bartlett, the sculptor, of Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. Bartlett regards this as his earliest portrait of Mr. Lincoln, but does not know when or where it was taken. This portrait is also in the Oldroyd collection at Washington, D. C., where it is dated 1856. The collection of Lincoln portraits owned by Mr. Bartlett is the most complete and the most intelligently arranged which we have examined. Mr. Bartlett began collecting fully twenty years ago, his aim being to secure data for a study of Mr. Lincoln from a physiognomical point of view. He has probably the earliest portrait which exists, the one here given, excepting the early daguerreotype owned by Mr. Robert Lincoln. He has a large number of the Illinois pictures made from 1858 to 1860, such as the Gilmer picture (page 209); a large collection of Brady photographs, the masks, Volk’s bust, and other interesting portraits. These he has studied from a sculptor’s point of view, comparing them carefully with the portraiture of other men, as Webster and Emerson. Mr. Bartlett has embodied his study of Mr. Lincoln in an illustrated lecture, which is a model of what such a lecture should be, suggestive, human, delightful. All his fine collection of Lincoln portraits Mr. Bartlett has put freely at our disposal, an act of courtesy and generosity for which the readers of this work, as well as the authors, cannot fail to be deeply grateful.

147The achievements and tribulations of the body of rangers to which he belonged are told with interesting detail by Major Iles.

“While the other companies were ordered to scout the country,” says Major Iles, “mine was held by General Atkinson in camp as a reserve. One company was ordered to go to Rock River (now Dixon) and report to Colonel Taylor (afterwards President), who had been left there with a few United States soldiers to guard the army supplies. The place was also made a point of rendezvous. Just as the company got to Dixon, a man came in, and reported that he and six others were on the road to Galena, and, in passing through a point of timber about twenty miles north of Dixon, they were fired on and six killed, he being the only one to make his escape.... Colonel Taylor ordered the company to proceed to the place, bury the dead, go on to Galena, and get all the information they could about the Indians. But the company took fright, and came back to the Illinois River, helter-skelter.

“General Atkinson then called on me, and wanted to know how I felt about taking the trip; that he was exceedingly anxious to open communication with Galena, and to find out, if possible, the whereabouts of the Indians before the new troops arrived. I answered the general that myself and men were getting rusty, and were anxious to have something to do, and that nothing would please us better than to be ordered out on an expedition; that I would find out how many of my men had good horses and were otherwise well equipped, and what time we wanted to prepare for the trip. I called on him again at sunset, and reported that I had about fifty men well equipped and eager, and that we wanted one day to make preparations. He said go ahead, and he would prepare our orders.

“The next day was a busy one, running bullets and getting our flint-locks in order—we had no percussion locks then. General Henry, one of my privates, who had been promoted to the position of major of one of the companies, volunteered to go with us. I considered him a host, as he had served as lieutenant in the war of 1812, under General Scott, and was in the battle of Lundy’s Lane, and several other battles. He was a good drill officer, and could aid me much.... After General Atkinson handed me my orders, and my men were mounted and ready for the trip, I felt proud of them, and was 148confident of our success, although numbering only forty-eight. Several good men failed to go, as they had gone down to the foot of the Illinois Rapids, to aid in bringing up the boats of army supplies. We wanted to be as little encumbered as possible, and took nothing that could be dispensed with, other than blankets, tin cups, coffee-pots, canteens, a wallet of bread, and some fat side meat, which we ate raw or broiled.

“When we arrived at Rock River, we found Colonel Taylor on the opposite side, in a little fort built of prairie sod. He sent an officer in a canoe to bring me over. I said to the officer that I would come over as soon as I got my men in camp. I knew of a good spring half a mile above, and I determined to camp at it. After the men were in camp I called on General Henry, and he accompanied me. On meeting Colonel Taylor (he looked like a man born to command) he seemed a little piqued that I did not come over and camp with him. I told him we felt just as safe as if quartered in his one-horse fort; besides, I knew what his orders would be, and wanted to try the mettle of my men before starting on the perilous trip I knew he would order. He said the trip was perilous, and that since the murder of the six men all communication with Galena had been cut off, and it might be besieged; that he wanted me to proceed to Galena, and that he would have my orders for me in the morning, and asked what outfit I wanted. I answered, ‘Nothing but coffee, side meat, and bread.’

“In the morning my orders were to collect and bury the remains of the six men murdered, proceed to Galena, make a careful search for the signs of Indians, and find out whether they were aiming to escape by crossing the river below Galena, and get all information at Galena of their possible whereabouts before the new troops were ready to follow them.



From a photograph made for this work. After a portrait by George Catlin, in the National Museum at Washington, D. C., and here reproduced by the courtesy of the director, Mr. G. Brown Goode. Makataimeshekiakiak, the Black Hawk Sparrow, was born in 1767, on the Rock River. He was not a chief by birth, but through the valor of his deeds became the leader of his village. He was imaginative and discontented, and bred endless trouble in the Northwest by his complaints and his visionary schemes. He was completely under the influence of the British agents, and in 1812 joined Tecumseh in the war against the United States. After the close of that war the Hawk was peaceable until driven to resistance by the encroachments of the squatters. After the battle of Bad Axe he escaped, and was not captured until betrayed by two Winnebagoes. He was taken to Fort Armstrong, where he signed a treaty of peace, and then was transferred as a prisoner of war to Jefferson Barracks, now St. Louis, where Catlin painted him. Catlin, in his “Eight Years,” says: “When I painted this chief he was dressed in a plain suit of buckskin, with a string of wampum in his ears and on his neck, and held in his hand his medicine-bag, which was the skin of a black hawk, from which he had taken his name, and the tail of which made him a fan, which he was almost constantly using.” In April, 1833, Black Hawk and the other prisoners of war were transferred to Fortress Monroe. They were released in June, and made a trip through the Atlantic cities before returning West. Black Hawk settled in Iowa, where he and his followers were given a small reservation in Davis County. He died in 1838.

150“John Dixon, who kept a house of entertainment here, and had sent his family to Galena for safety, joined us, and hauled our wallets of corn and grub in his wagon, which was a great help. Lieutenant Harris, U.S.A., also joined us. I now had fifty men to go with me on the march. I detailed two to march on the right, two on the left, and two in advance, to act as lookouts to prevent a surprise. They were to keep in full view of us, and to remain out until we camped for the night. Just at sundown of the first day, while we were at lunch, our advance scouts came in under whip and reported Indians. We bounced to our feet, and, having a full view of the road for a long distance, could see a large body coming toward us. All eyes were turned to John Dixon, who, as the last one dropped out of sight coming over a ridge, pronounced them Indians. I stationed my men in a ravine crossing the road, where any one approaching could not see us until within thirty yards; the horses I had driven back out of sight in a valley. I asked General Henry to take command. He said, ‘No; stand at your post,’ and walked along the line, talking to the men in a low, calm voice. Lieutenant Harris, U.S.A., seemed much agitated; he ran up and down the line, and exclaimed, ‘Captain, we will catch hell!’ He had horse-pistols, belt-pistols, and a double-barrelled gun. He would pick the flints, reprime, and lay the horse-pistols at his feet. When he got all ready he passed along the line slowly, and seeing the nerves of the men all quiet—after General Henry’s talk to them—said, ‘Captain, we are safe; we can whip five hundred Indians.’ Instead of Indians, they proved to be the command of General Dodge, from Galena, of one hundred and fifty men, en route to find out what had become of General Atkinson’s army, as, since the murder of the six men, communication had been stopped for more than ten days. My look-out at the top of the hill did not notify us, and we were not undeceived until they got within thirty steps of us. My men then raised a yell and ran to finish their lunch....


From a photograph made for this work. After a painting in the collection of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and here reproduced through the courtesy of the secretary, Mr. Reuben G. Thwaites. The chief of an Indian village on the Rock River, White Cloud was half Winnebago, half Sac. He was false and crafty, and it was largely his counsels which induced Black Hawk to recross the Mississippi in 1832. He was captured with Black Hawk, was a prisoner at both Jefferson Barracks and Fortress Monroe, and made the tour of the Atlantic cities with his friends. The above portrait was made at Fortress Monroe by R. M. Sully. Catlin also painted White Cloud at Jefferson Barracks in 1832. He describes him as about forty years old at that time, “nearly six feet high, stout and athletic.” He said he let his hair grow out to please the whites. Catlin’s picture shows him with a very heavy head of hair. The prophet, after his return from the East, remained among his people until his death in 1840 or 1841.

“When we got within fifteen miles of Galena, on Apple Creek, we found a stockade filled with women and children and a few men, all terribly frightened. The Indians had shot at and chased 151two men that afternoon, who made their escape to the stockade. They insisted on our quartering in the fort, but instead we camped one hundred yards outside, and slept—what little sleep we did get—with our guns on our arms. General Henry did not sleep, but drilled my men all night; so the moment they were called they would bounce to their feet and stand in two lines, the front ready to fire, and fall back to reload, while the others stepped forward to take their places. They were called up a number of times, and we got but little sleep. We arrived at Galena the next day, and found the citizens prepared to defend the place. They were glad to see us, as it had been so long since they had heard from General Atkinson and his army. The few Indians prowling about Galena and murdering were simply there as a ruse.


From a photograph made for this work. After an improved replica of the original portrait painted by R. M. Sully at Fortress Monroe in 1833, and now in the Museum of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, at Madison. It is reproduced through the courtesy of the secretary of the society, Mr. Reuben G. Thwaites.


From a photograph made for this work. After a painting by R. M. Sully in the collection of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and here reproduced through the courtesy of the secretary, Mr. Reuben G. Thwaites. Black Hawk had two sons: the elder was the Whirling Thunder, the younger the Roaring Thunder; both were in the war, and both were taken prisoners with their father, and were with him at Jefferson Barracks and at Fortress Monroe and on the trip through the Atlantic cities. At Jefferson Barracks Catlin painted them, and the pictures are in the National Museum. While at Fortress Monroe the above picture of Whirling Thunder was painted. A pretty anecdote is told of the Whirling Thunder. While on their tour through the East the Indians were invited to various gatherings, and much was done for their entertainment. On one of these occasions a young lady sang a ballad. Whirling Thunder listened intently, and when she ended he plucked an eagle’s feather from his head-dress and, giving it to a white friend, said: “Take that to your mocking-bird squaw.” Black Hawk’s sons remained with him until his death in 1838, and then removed with the Sacs and Foxes to Kansas.

“On our return from Galena, near the forks of the Apple River and Gratiot roads, we could see General Dodge on the Gratiot road, on his return from Rock River. His six scouts had discovered my two men that I had allowed to drop in the rear—two 152men who had been in Stillman’s defeat, and, having weak horses, were allowed to fall behind. Having weak horses they had fallen in the rear about two miles, and each took the other to be Indians, and such an exciting race I never saw, until they got sight of my company; then they came to a sudden halt, and after looking at us a few moments, wheeled their horses and gave up the chase. My two men did not know but that they were Indians until they came up with us and shouted ‘Indians!’ They had thrown away their wallets and guns, and used their ramrods as whips.


At the breaking out of the Black Hawk War, Zachary Taylor, afterwards general in the Mexican War, and finally President of the United States, was colonel of the First Infantry. He joined Atkinson at the beginning of the war, and was in active service until the end of the campaign.

“The few houses on the road that usually accommodated the travel were all standing, but vacant, as we went. On our return we found them burned by the Indians. On my return to the Illinois River I reported to General Atkinson, saying that, from all we could learn, the Indians were aiming to escape by going north, with the intention of crossing the Mississippi River above Galena. The new troops had just arrived and were being mustered into service. My company had only been organized for twenty days, and as the time had now expired, the men were mustered out. All but myself again volunteered for the third time.”


On June 20th Lincoln was mustered in again, by Major Anderson, as a member of an independent company under Captain Jacob M. Early. His arms were valued this time at only fifteen dollars, his horse and equipment at eighty-five dollars.[16]



From a photograph made for this work. This group of relics of the Black Hawk War was selected for us from the collection in the museum of the Wisconsin Historical Society by the secretary, Mr. Reuben G. Thwaites. The coat and chapeau belonged to General Dodge, an important leader in the war. The Indian relics are a tomahawk, a Winnebago pipe, a Winnebago flute, and a knife. The powder-horn and the flint-lock rifle are the only volunteer articles. One of the survivors of the war, Mr. Elijah Herring of Stockton, Illinois, says of the flint-lock rifles used by the Illinois volunteers: “They were constructed like the old-fashioned rifle, only in place of a nipple for a cap they had a pan in which was fixed an oil flint which the hammer struck when it came down, instead of the modern cap. The pan was filled with powder grains, enough to catch the spark and communicate it to the load in the gun. These guns were all right, and rarely missed fire on a dry, clear day; but unless they were covered well, the dews of evening would dampen the powder, and very often we were compelled to withdraw the charge and load them over again. We had a gunsmith with us, whose business it was to look after the guns for the whole regiment; and when a gun was found to be damp, it was his duty to get his tools and ‘draw’ the load. At that time the Cramer lock and triggers had just been put on the market, and my rifle was equipped with these improvements, a fact of which I was very proud. Instead of one trigger my rifle had two, one set behind the other—the hind one to cock the gun, and the front one to shoot it. The man Cramer sold his lock and triggers in St. Louis, and I was one of the first to use them.”

The army moved up Rock River soon after the middle of June. Black Hawk was overrunning the country, and scattering death wherever he went. The settlers were wild with fear, and most of the settlements were abandoned. At a sudden sound, at the merest rumor, men, women, and children fled. “I well remember those troublesome times,” says one old Illinois woman. “We often left our bread-dough unbaked, to rush to 154the Indian fort near by.” When Mr. John Bryant, a brother of William Cullen Bryant, visited the colony in Princeton, in 1832, he found it nearly broken up on account of the war. Everywhere the crops were neglected, for the able-bodied men were volunteering. William Cullen Bryant, who, in June, 1834, travelled on horseback from Petersburg to near Pekin, and back, wrote home: “Every few miles on our way we fell in with bodies of Illinois militia proceeding to the American camp, or saw where they had encamped for the night. They generally stationed themselves near a stream or a spring in the edge of a wood, and turned their horses to graze on the prairie. Their way was barked or girdled, and the roads through the uninhabited country were as much beaten and as dusty as the highways on New York Island. Some of the settlers complained that they made war upon the pigs and chickens. They were a hard-looking set of men, unkempt and unshaved, wearing shirts of dark calico, and sometimes calico capotes.”

Soon after the army moved up the Rock River, the independent spy company, of which Lincoln was a member, was sent with a brigade to the northwest, near Galena, in pursuit of the Hawk. The nearest Lincoln came to an actual engagement in the war was here. The skirmish of Kellogg’s Grove took place on June 25th; Lincoln’s company came up soon after it was over, and helped bury the five men killed. It was probably to this experience that he referred when he told a friend once of coming on a camp of white scouts one morning just as the sun was rising. The Indians had surprised the camp, and had killed and scalped every man.

“I remember just how those men looked,” said Lincoln, “as we rode up the little hill where their camp was. The red light of the morning sun was streaming upon them as they lay heads towards us on the ground. And every man had a round red spot on the top of his head, about as big as a dollar, where the redskins had taken his scalp. It was frightful, but it was grotesque; and the red sunlight seemed to paint everything all over.” Lincoln paused, as if recalling the vivid picture, and added, somewhat irrelevantly, “I remember that one man had buckskin breeches on.”

By the end of the month the troops crossed into Michigan Territory—as Wisconsin was then called—and July was passed floundering in swamps and stumbling through forests, in pursuit of the now nearly exhausted Black Hawk. On July 10th, three weeks before the last battle of the war, that of Bad Axe, in which the whites finally massacred most of the Indian band, Lincoln’s company was disbanded at Whitewater, Wisconsin, and he and his friends started for home. The volunteers in returning suffered much from hunger. Mr. Durley of Hennepin, Illinois, who walked home from Rock Island, Illinois, says all he had to eat on the journey was meal and water baked in rolls of bark laid by the fire. Lincoln was little better off. The night before his company started from Whitewater he and one of his messmates had their horses stolen; and, excepting when their more fortunate companions gave them a lift, they walked as far as Peoria, Illinois, where they bought a canoe, and paddled down the Illinois River to Havana. Here they sold the canoe, and walked across the country to New Salem.



On returning to New Salem, Lincoln at once plunged into electioneering. He ran as “an avowed Clay man,” and the county was stiffly Democratic. However, in those days political contests were almost purely personal. If the candidate was liked he was voted for irrespective of principles. “The Democrats of New Salem worked for Lincoln out of their personal regard for him,” said Stephen T. Logan, a young lawyer of Springfield, who made Lincoln’s acquaintance in the campaign. “He was as stiff as a man could be in his Whig doctrines. They did this for him simply because he was popular; because he was Lincoln.”

It was the custom for the candidates to appear at every gathering which brought the people out, and, if they had a chance, to make speeches. Then, as now, the farmers gathered at the county-seat, or at the largest town within their reach, on Saturday afternoons, to dispose of produce, buy supplies, see their neighbors, and get the news. During election times candidates were always present, and a regular feature of the day 156was listening to their speeches. Public sales, also, were gatherings which they never missed, it being expected that after the “vandoo” the candidates would take the auctioneer’s place.

Lincoln let none of these chances to be heard slip. Accompanied by his friends, generally including a few Clary’s Grove Boys, he always was present. The first speech he made was after a sale at Pappsville. What he said there is not remembered; but an illustration of the kind of man he was, interpolated into his discourse, made a lasting impression. A fight broke out in his audience while he was on the stand, and observing that one of his friends was being worsted, he bounded into the group of contestants, seized the fellow who had his supporter down, threw him “ten or twelve feet,” remounted the platform, and finished the speech. Sangamon County could appreciate such a performance, and the crowd that day at Pappsville never forgot Lincoln.


From a photograph loaned by S. J. Dodds of Lena, Illinois.

His appearance at Springfield at this time was of great importance to him. Springfield was not then a very attractive place. Bryant, visiting it in June, 1832, said that the houses 157were not as good as at Jacksonville, “a considerable proportion of them being log cabins, and the whole town having an appearance of dirt and discomfort.” Nevertheless it was the largest town in the county, and among its inhabitants were many young men of education, birth, and energy. One of these men Lincoln had become well acquainted with in the Black Hawk War, Major John Stuart,[17] at that time a lawyer, and, like Lincoln, a candidate for the General Assembly. He met others at this time who were to be associated with him more or less closely in the future in both law and politics, such as Judge Logan and William Butler. With these men the manners which had won him the day at Pappsville were of no value; what impressed them was his “very sensible speech,” and his decided individuality and originality.

From a photograph in the war collection of Mr. Robert Coster.


Born in Kentucky in 1805. In 1825 graduated at West Point. Anderson was on duty at the St. Louis Arsenal when the Black Hawk War broke out. He asked permission to join General Atkinson, who commanded the expedition against the Indians; was placed on his staff as Assistant Inspector-General, and was with him until the end of the war. Anderson twice mustered Lincoln into the service and once out. When General Scott was sent to take Atkinson’s place, Anderson was ordered to report to the former for duty, and was sent by him to take charge of the Indians captured at Bad Axe. It was Anderson who conducted Black Hawk to Jefferson Barracks. His adjutant in this task was Lieutenant Jefferson Davis. From 1835–37 Anderson was an instructor at West Point. He served in the Florida War in 1837–38, and was wounded at Molino del Rey in the Mexican War. In 1857 he was appointed Major of the First Artillery. On November 20, 1860, Anderson assumed command of the troops in Charleston Harbor. On April 14th he surrendered Fort Sumter, marching out with the honors of war. He was made brigadier-general by Lincoln for his service. On account of failing health he was relieved from duty in October, 1861. In 1865 he was brevetted major-general. He died in France in 1871.

The election came off on August 6th. Lincoln was defeated. 158“This was the only time Abraham was ever defeated on a direct vote of the people,” say his autobiographical notes. He had a consolation in his defeat, however, for in spite of the pronounced Democratic sentiments of his precinct, he received two hundred and seventy-seven votes out of three hundred cast. The facts upon this point are here stated for the first time. The biographers, as a rule, have agreed that Lincoln received all of the votes cast in the New Salem precinct, except three. Mr. Herndon places the total vote at 208; Nicolay and Hay, at 277; and Mr. Lincoln himself, in his autobiography, has said that he received all but seven of a total of 277 votes, basing his statement, no doubt, upon memory. An examination of the official poll-book in the county clerk’s office at Springfield shows that all of these figures are erroneous; exactly three hundred votes were cast. Of these Lincoln received 277. The fact remains, however—and it is a fact which has been commented upon by several of the biographers as showing his phenomenal popularity—that the vote for Lincoln was far in excess of that given any other candidate. The twelve candidates, with the number of votes of each, were: Abraham Lincoln, 277; John T. Stewart, 182; William Carpenter, 136; John Dawson, 105; E. D. Taylor, 88; Archer G. Herndon, 84; Peter Cartwright, 62; Achilles Morris, 27; Thomas M. Neal, 21; Edward Robeson, 15; Zachariah Peters, 4; Richard Dunston, 4.

Of the twenty-three who did not vote for Lincoln, ten refrained from voting for representative at all, thus leaving only thirteen votes actually cast against Lincoln. Lincoln is not recorded as voting. This defeat did not take him out of politics. The first civil office Lincoln ever held was that of clerk of the next election, in September. The report in his hand still exists; as far as we know, it is his first official document.


It was in August, 1832, that Lincoln made his unsuccessful canvass for the Illinois Assembly. The election over, he began to look for work. One of his friends, an admirer of his physical strength, advised him to become a blacksmith, but it was a trade which afforded little leisure for study, and for meeting and talking with men; and he had already resolved, it is evident, that books and men were essential to him. The only employment in New Salem which offered both support and the opportunities 159he sought, was clerking in a store. But the stores of New Salem were in more need of customers than of clerks. The business had been greatly overdone. In the fall of 1832 there were at least four stores in New Salem. The most pretentious was that of Hill and McNeill, which carried a large line of dry goods. The three others, owned respectively by the Herndon brothers, Reuben Radford, and James Rutledge, were groceries.


From a copy of a painting by Samuel M. Brookes, in the Museum of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The remnant of Black Hawk’s force was slaughtered here on August 1st and 2d, while attempting to cross the Mississippi. Only about one hundred and fifty of his original band of one thousand escaped.


Failing to secure employment at any of these establishments, Lincoln resolved to buy a store. He was not long in finding an opportunity to purchase. James Herndon had already sold out his half interest in Herndon Brothers’ store to William F. Berry; and Rowan Herndon, not getting along well with Berry, was only too glad to find a purchaser of his half in the person of “Abe” Lincoln. Berry was as poor as Lincoln; but that was not a serious obstacle, for their notes were accepted for the Herndon stock of goods. They had barely hung out 160their sign when something happened which threw another store into their hands. Reuben Radford had made himself obnoxious to the Clary’s Grove Boys, and one night they broke in his doors and windows, and overturned his counters and sugar barrels. It was too much for Radford, and he sold out next day to William G. Green for a four-hundred-dollar note signed by Green. At the latter’s request, Lincoln made an inventory of the stock, and then offered him six hundred and fifty dollars for it—a proposition which was cheerfully accepted. Berry and Lincoln, being unable to pay cash, assumed the four-hundred-dollar note payable to Radford, and gave Green their joint note for two hundred and fifty dollars. The little grocery owned by James Rutledge was the next to succumb. Berry and Lincoln bought it at a bargain, their joint note taking the place of cash. The three stocks were consolidated. Their aggregate cost must have been not less than fifteen hundred dollars. Berry and Lincoln had secured a monopoly of the grocery business in New Salem. Within a few weeks two penniless men had become the proprietors of three stores, and had stopped buying only because there were no more to purchase.

William F. Berry, the partner of Lincoln, was the son of a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. John Berry, who lived on Rock Creek, five miles from New Salem. The son had strayed from the footsteps of the father, for he was a hard drinker, a gambler, a fighter, and “a very wicked young man.” Lincoln cannot in truth be said to have chosen such a partner, but rather to have accepted him from the force of circumstances. It required only a little time to make plain that the partnership was wholly uncongenial. Lincoln displayed little business capacity. He trusted largely to Berry, and Berry rapidly squandered the profits of the business in riotous living. Lincoln loved books as Berry loved liquor, and hour after hour he was stretched out on the counter of the store, or under a shade tree, reading Shakespeare or Burns.

His acquaintance with the works of these two writers dates from this period. In New Salem there was one of those curious individuals sometimes found in frontier settlements, half poet, half loafer, incapable of earning a living in any steady employment, yet familiar with good literature and capable of enjoying it—Jack Kelso. He repeated passages from Shakespeare and Burns incessantly over the odd jobs he undertook, or as he idled by the streams—for he was a famous fisherman—and Lincoln soon became one of his constant companions. The taste he formed in company with Kelso he retained through life.



From a photograph loaned by H. W. Fay of DeKalb, Illinois. After Lincoln’s nomination for the presidency, Alexander Hesler of Chicago published a portrait he had made of Lincoln in 1857 (see page 49). At the same time he put out a portrait of Douglas. The contrast was so great between the two, and in the opinion of the politicians so much in Douglas’s favor, that they told Hesler he must suppress Lincoln’s picture; accordingly the photographer wrote to Springfield, requesting Lincoln to call and sit again. Lincoln replied that his friends had decided that he remain in Springfield during the canvass, but that if Hesler would come to Springfield he would be “dressed up” and give him all the time he wanted. Hesler went to Springfield, and made at least four negatives, three of which are supposed to have been destroyed in the Chicago fire. The fourth is owned by Mr. George Ayers of Philadelphia. The photograph reproduced above is a print from one of the lost negatives.

163William D. Kelley records an incident which shows that Lincoln had a really intimate knowledge of Shakespeare. Mr. Kelley had taken McDonough, an actor, to call at the White House, and Lincoln began the conversation by saying:

“‘I am very glad to meet you, Mr. McDonough, and am grateful to Kelley for bringing you in so early, for I want you to tell me something about Shakespeare’s plays as they are constructed for the stage. You can imagine that I do not get much time to study such matters, but I recently had a couple of talks with Hackett—Baron Hackett, as they call him—who is famous as Jack Falstaff, from whom I elicited few satisfactory replies, though I probed him with a good many questions.’

“Mr. McDonough,” continues Mr. Kelley, “avowed his willingness to give the President any information in his possession, but protested that he feared he would not succeed where his friend Hackett had failed. ‘Well, I don’t know,’ said the President, ‘for Hackett’s lack of information impressed me with a doubt as to whether he had ever studied Shakespeare’s text, or had not been content with the acting edition of his plays.’ He arose, went to a shelf not far from his table, and having taken down a well-thumbed volume of the ‘Plays’ of Shakespeare, resumed his seat, arranged his glasses, and having turned to ‘Henry VI.’ and read with fine discrimination an extended passage, said: ‘Mr. McDonough, can you tell me why those lines are omitted from the acting play? There is nothing I have read in Shakespeare, certainly nothing in “Henry VI.” or the “Merry Wives of Windsor,” that surpasses its wit and humor.’ The actor suggested the breadth of its humor as the only reason he could assign for its omission, but thoughtfully added that it was possible that if the lines were spoken they would require the rendition of another or other passages which might be objectionable.

“‘Your last suggestion,’ said Mr. Lincoln, ‘carries with it greater weight than anything Mr. Hackett suggested, but the first is no reason at all;’ and after reading another passage, he said, ‘This is not withheld, and where it passes current there can be no reason for withholding the other.’... And, as if 164feeling the impropriety of preferring the player to the parson [there was a clergyman in the room], he turned to the chaplain and said: ‘From your calling it is probable that you do not know that the acting plays which people crowd to hear are not always those planned by their reputed authors. Thus, take the stage edition of “Richard III.” It opens with a passage from “Henry VI.,” after which come portions of “Richard III.,” then another scene from “Henry VI.;” and the finest soliloquy in the play, if we may judge from the many quotations it furnishes, and the frequency with which it is heard in amateur exhibitions, was never seen by Shakespeare, but was written—was it not, Mr. McDonough?—after his death, by Colley Cibber.’


On June 24, 1832, Black Hawk attacked Apple River Fort, fourteen miles east of Galena, Illinois, but was unable to drive out the inmates. The next day he attacked a spy battalion of one hundred and fifty men at Kellogg’s Grove, sixteen miles farther east. A detachment of volunteers relieved the battalion, and drove off the savages, about fifteen of whom were killed. The whites lost five men, who were buried at various points in the grove. During the summer of 1886 the remains of these men were collected and, with those of five or six other victims of the war, were placed together under the monument here represented.—See “The Black Hawk War,” by Reuben G. Thwaites, Vol. XII. in Wisconsin Historical Collections. This account of the Black Hawk War is the most trustworthy, complete, and interesting that has been made.

“Having disposed, for the present, of questions relating to the stage editions of the plays, he recurred to his standard copy, and ... read, or repeated from memory, extracts from several of the plays, some of which embraced a number of lines.... He interspersed his remarks with extracts striking from their similarity to, or contrast with, something of Shakespeare’s, from Byron, Rogers, Campbell, Moore, and other English poets.”[18]



After a steel engraving in the Governor’s office, Springfield, Illinois. John Reynolds, Governor of Illinois from 1831 to 1834, was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, February 26, 1788. He was of Irish parentage. When he was six months old his parents moved to Tennessee. In 1800 they removed to Illinois. When twenty years old, John Reynolds went to Knoxville, Tennessee, to college, where he spent two years. He was admitted to the bar at Kaskaskia in 1812. In the war of 1812 he rendered distinguished service, earning the title of “the Old Ranger.” He began the practice of law in the spring of 1814. In 1818 he was made an associate justice of the Supreme Court; in 1826 he was elected a member of the legislature; and in 1830, after a stirring campaign, he was chosen Governor of Illinois. The most important event of his administration was the Black Hawk War. He was prompt in calling out the militia to subdue the Black Hawk, and went upon the field in person. In November, 1834, just before the close of his term as Governor, he resigned to become a member of Congress. In 1837, aided by others, he built the first railroad in the State—a short line of six miles from his coal mine in the Mississippi bluff to the bank of the river opposite St. Louis. It was operated by horse-power. He again became a member of the legislature in 1846 and 1852, during the latter term being Speaker of the House. In 1860, in his seventy-third year, he was an anti-Douglas delegate to the Charleston convention, and received the most distinguished attentions from the Southern delegates. After the October elections, when it became apparent that Lincoln would be elected, he issued an address advising the support of Douglas. His sympathies were with the South, though in 1832 he strongly supported President Jackson in the suppression of the South Carolina nullifiers. He died in Belleville in May, 1865. Governor Reynolds was a quaint and forceful character. He was a man of some learning; but in conversation (and he talked much) he rarely rose above the odd Western vernacular of which he was so complete a master. He was the author of two books; one an autobiography, and the other “The Pioneer History of Illinois.”



It was not only Burns and Shakespeare that interfered with the grocery-keeping; Lincoln had begun seriously to read law. His first acquaintance with the subject had been made when he was a mere lad in Indiana and a copy of the “Revised Statutes of Indiana” had fallen into his hands. The very copy he used is still in existence, and, fortunately, in hands where it is safe. The book was owned by Mr. David Turnham of Gentryville, and was given in 1865 by him to Mr. Herndon, who placed it in the Lincoln Memorial collection of Chicago. In December, 1894, this collection was sold in Philadelphia, and the “Statutes of Indiana” was bought by Mr. William Hoffman Winters, Librarian of the New York Law Institute, and through his courtesy I have been allowed to examine it. The book is worn, the title page is gone, and a few leaves from the end are missing. The title page of a duplicate volume which Mr. Winters kindly showed me reads: “The Revised Laws of Indiana, adopted and enacted by the General Assembly at their eighth session. To which are prefixed the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Indiana, and sundry other documents connected with the Political History of the Territory and State of Indiana. Arranged and published by authority of the General Assembly. Corydon: Printed by Carpenter and Douglass, 1824.”

We know from Dennis Hanks, from Mr. Turnham, to whom the book belonged, and from other associates of Lincoln’s at the time, that he read the book intently and discussed its contents intelligently. It was a remarkable volume for a thoughtful lad whose mind had been fired already by the history of Washington; for it opened with that wonderful document, the Declaration of Independence, a document which became, as Mr. John G. Nicolay says, “his political chart and inspiration.” Following the Declaration of Independence was the Constitution of the 167United States, the Act of Virginia passed in 1783 by which the “Territory North Westward of the river Ohio” was conveyed to the United States, and the Ordinance of 1787 for governing this territory, containing that clause on which Lincoln in the future based many an argument on the slavery question. This article, No. 6 of the Ordinance, reads: “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: provided always, that any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed, and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labour or service, as aforesaid.”

Following this was the Constitution and the Revised Laws of Indiana, three hundred and seventy-five pages, of five hundred words each, of statutes—enough law, if thoroughly digested, to make a respectable lawyer. When Lincoln finished this book, as he had, probably, before he was eighteen, we have reason to believe that he understood the principles on which the nation was founded, how the State of Indiana came into being, and how it was governed. His understanding of the subject was clear and practical, and he applied it in his reading, thinking, and discussion.

It was after he had read the Laws of Indiana that Lincoln had free access to the library of his admirer, Judge John Pitcher of Rockport, Indiana, where, undoubtedly, he examined many law-books. But from the time he left Indiana in 1830 he had no legal reading until one day soon after the grocery was started, when there happened one of those trivial incidents which so often turn the current of a life. It is best told in Lincoln’s own words.[19] “One day a man who was migrating to the West drove up in front of my store with a wagon which contained his family and household plunder. He asked me if I would buy an old barrel for which he had no room in his wagon, and which he said contained nothing of special value. I did not want it, but 168to oblige him I bought it, and paid him, I think, half a dollar for it. Without further examination, I put it away in the store, and forgot all about it. Some time after, in overhauling things, I came upon the barrel, and emptying it upon the floor to see what it contained, I found at the bottom of the rubbish a complete edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries. I began to read those famous works, and I had plenty of time; for during the long summer days, when the farmers were busy with their crops, my customers were few and far between. The more I read”—this he said with unusual emphasis—“the more intensely interested I became. Never in my whole life was my mind so thoroughly absorbed. I read until I devoured them.”

From a photograph made for this biography.


After a painting by the late Mrs. Obed Lewis, niece of Major Iles, and owned by Mr. Obed Lewis, Springfield, Illinois. Elijah Iles was born in Kentucky, March 28, 1796, and when young went to Missouri. There he heard marvellous stories about the Sangamon Valley, and he resolved to go thither. Springfield had just been staked out in the wilderness, and he reached the place in time to erect the first building—a rude hut in which he kept a store. This was in 1821. “In the early days in Illinois,” he wrote in 1883, “it was hard to find good material for law-makers. I was elected a State Senator in 1826, and again for a second term. The Senate then comprised thirteen members, and the House twenty-five.” In 1827 he was elected major in the command of Colonel T. McNeal, intending to fight the Winnebagoes, but no fighting occurred. In the Black Hawk War of 1832, after his term as a private in Captain Dawson’s company had expired, he was elected captain of a new company of independent rangers. In this company Lincoln reënlisted as a private. Major Iles lived at Springfield to the end of his life. He died September 4, 1883.


But all this was fatal to business, and by spring it was evident that something must be done to stimulate the grocery sales.

On the 6th of March, 1833, the County Commissioner’s Court of Sangamon County granted the firm of Berry and Lincoln a license to keep a tavern at New Salem.

It is probable that the license was procured to enable the firm to retail the liquors which they had in stock, and not for keeping a tavern. In a community in which liquor-drinking was practically universal, at a time when whiskey was as legitimate an article of merchandise as coffee or calico, when 169no family was without a jug, when the minister of the gospel could take his “dram” without any breach of propriety, it is not surprising that a reputable young man should have been found selling whiskey. Liquor was sold at all groceries, but it could not be lawfully sold in a smaller quantity than one quart. The law, however, was not always rigidly observed, and it was the custom of storekeepers to treat their patrons. Each of the three groceries which Berry and Lincoln acquired had the usual supply of liquors, and it was only good business that they should seek a way to dispose of the surplus quickly and profitably—an end which could be best accomplished by selling it over the counter by the glass. To do this lawfully required a tavern license; and it is a warrantable conclusion that such was the chief aim of Berry and Lincoln in procuring a franchise of this character. We are fortified in this conclusion by the coincidence that three other grocers of New Salem—William Clary, Henry Sinco, and George Warberton—were among those who took out tavern licenses. To secure the lawful privilege of selling whiskey by the “dram” was no doubt their purpose; for their “taverns” were as mythical as the inn of Berry and Lincoln. Lincoln may, of course, have desired to go into the tavern business and so have taken out a license, but it is certain that he never realized his ambition and that it was only in the grocery that he sold liquor.


170The license issued to Berry and Lincoln read as follows:

Ordered that William F. Berry, in the name of Berry and Lincoln, have a license to keep a tavern in New Salem to continue 12 months from this date, and that they pay one dollar in addition to the six dollars heretofore paid as per Treasurer’s receipt, and that they be allowed the following rates (viz.):

French Brandy per ½ pt. 25
Peach Brandy per ½ pt. 18¾
Apple Brandy per ½ pt. 12
Holland Gin per ½ pt. 18¾
Domestic per ½ pt. 12½
Wine per ½ pt. 25
Rum per ½ pt. 18¾
Whiskey per ½ pt. 12½
Breakfast, dinner or supper 25
Lodging per night 12½
Horse per night 25
Single feed 12½
Breakfast, dinner or supper for Stage Passengers 37½

who gave bond as required by law.

At the granting of a tavern license, the applicants therefor were required by law to file a bond. The bond given in the case of Berry and Lincoln was as follows:

Know all men by these presents, we, William F. Berry, Abraham Lincoln and John Bowling Green, are held and firmly bound unto the County Commissioners of Sangamon County in the full sum of three hundred dollars to which payment well and truly to be made we bind ourselves, our heirs, executors and administrators firmly by these presents, sealed with our seal and dated this 6th day of March A.D. 1833. Now the condition of this obligation is such that Whereas the said Berry & Lincoln has obtained a license from the County Commissioners Court to keep a tavern in the Town of New Salem to continue one year. Now if the said Berry & Lincoln shall be of good behavior and observe all the laws of this State relative to tavern keepers—then this obligation to be void or otherwise remain in full force.

Abraham Lincoln [Seal]
Wm. F. Berry [Seal]
Bowling Green [Seal]
171  The black line indicates the route Lincoln is supposed to have followed with the army as far as Whitewater, where he was dismissed. When the army started from near Ottawa, after the 20th of June, to follow the Indians up Rock River, Lincoln’s battalion was sent towards the northwest, and joined the main army near Lake Koshkonong early in July. Soon after, he went to Whitewater, where, on July 10th, his battalion was disbanded, and he returned by foot and canoe to New Salem. The dotted line shows the route he is supposed to have taken. The towns named on the map are those with which Lincoln was connected either in his legal or his political life.  MAP OF ILLINOIS AND PART OF MICHIGAN TERRITORY SHOWING LINCOLN’S SUPPOSED LINE OF MARCH IN BLACK HAWK WAR


172This bond appears to have been written by the clerk of the Commissioners’ Court; and Lincoln’s name was signed by some one other than himself, very likely by his partner Berry.


The license seems to have stimulated the business, for the firm concluded to hire a clerk. The young man who secured this position was Daniel Green Burner, son of Isaac Burner, at whose house Lincoln for a time boarded. He is still living on a farm near Galesburg, Illinois, and is in the eighty-second year of his age. “The store building of Berry and Lincoln,” says Mr. Burner, “was a frame building, not very large, one story in height, and contained two rooms. In the little back room Lincoln had a fireplace and a bed. There is where we slept. I clerked in the store through the winter of 1833–34, up to the 1st of March. While I was there they had nothing for sale but liquors. They may have had some groceries before that, but I am certain they had none then. I used to sell whiskey over their counter at six cents a glass—and charged it, too. N. A. Garland started a store, and Lincoln wanted Berry to ask his father for a loan, so they could buy out Garland; but Berry refused, saying this was one of the last things he would think of doing.”



From the original now on file in the county clerk’s office, Springfield, Illinois. The first civil office Lincoln ever held was that of election clerk, and the return made by him, of which a facsimile is here presented, was his first official document. All the men whose names appear on this election return are now dead, except William McNeely, now residing at Petersburg. John Clary lived at Clary’s Grove; John R. Herndon was “Row” Herndon, whose store Berry and Lincoln purchased, and at whose house Lincoln for a time boarded; Baxter Berry was a relative of Lincoln’s partner in the grocery business, and Edmund Greer was a school-teacher, and afterwards a justice of the peace and a surveyor; James Rutledge was the keeper of the Rutledge tavern and the father of Ann Rutledge; Hugh Armstrong was one of the numerous Armstrong family; “Uncle Jimmy” White lived on a farm five miles from New Salem, and died about thirty years ago, in the eightieth year of his age; William Green was father of William G. Greene, Lincoln’s associate in Offutt’s store; and as to Bowling Green, more is said elsewhere. In the following three or four years, very few elections were held in New Salem at which Lincoln was not a clerk. It is a somewhat singular fact that Lincoln, though clerk of this election, is not recorded as voting.

174Among the other persons yet living who were residents with Lincoln of New Salem or its near neighborhood, are Mrs. Parthenia W. Hill, aged seventy-nine years, widow of Samuel Hill, the New Salem merchant; James McGrady Rutledge, aged eighty-one years; John Potter, aged eighty-seven years; and Thomas Watkins, aged seventy-one years—all now living at Petersburg, Illinois. Mrs. Hill, a woman of more than ordinary intelligence, did not become a resident of New Salem until 1835, the year in which she was married. Lincoln had then gone out of business, but she knew much of his store. “Berry and Lincoln,” she says, “did not keep any dry goods. They had a grocery, and I have always understood they sold whiskey.” Mr. Rutledge, a nephew of James Rutledge the tavern-keeper, has a vivid recollection of the store. He says: “I have been in Berry and Lincoln’s store many a time. The building was a frame—one of the few frame buildings in New Salem. There were two rooms, and in the small back room they kept their whiskey. They had pretty much everything, except dry goods—sugar, coffee, some crockery, a few pairs of shoes (not many), some farming implements, and the like. Whiskey, of course, was a necessary part of their stock. I remember one transaction in particular which I had with them. I sold the firm a load of wheat, which they turned over to the mill.” Mr. Potter, who remembers the morning when Lincoln, then a stranger on his way to New Salem, stopped at his father’s house and ate breakfast, knows less about the store, but says: “It was a grocery, and they sold whiskey, of course.” Thomas Watkins says that the store contained “a little candy, tobacco, sugar, and coffee, and the like;” though Mr. Watkins, being then a young boy, and living a mile in the country, was not a frequent visitor at the store.


This advertisement appeared in the “Sangamo Journal” in April, 1834, and held a place in the paper through the next three years. As the “Four Horse Coach” ran through Sangamontown and New Salem, it doubtless had Lincoln as a passenger now and then; but not often, probably, for the fare from New Salem to Springfield was one dollar and twenty-five cents, and walking, or riding upon a borrowed horse, must generally have been preferred by Lincoln to so costly a mode of travelling.



Even after the license was granted, however, business was not so brisk in Berry and Lincoln’s store that the junior partner did not welcome an appointment as postmaster which he received in May, 1833. The appointment of a Whig by a Democratic administration seems to have been made without comment. “The office was too insignificant to make his politics an objection,” say the autobiographical notes. The duties of the new office were not arduous, for letters were few, and their comings far between. At that date the mails were carried by four-horse post-coaches from city to city, and on horseback from central points into the country towns. The rates of postage were high. A single-sheet letter carried thirty miles or under cost six cents; thirty to eighty miles, ten cents; eighty to one hundred and fifty miles, twelve and one-half cents; one hundred and fifty to four hundred miles, eighteen and one-half cents; over four hundred miles, twenty-five cents. A copy of this magazine sent from New York to New Salem would have cost fully twenty-five cents. The mail was irregular in coming as well as light in its contents. Though supposed to arrive twice a week, it sometimes happened that a fortnight or more passed without any mail. Under these conditions the New Salem post-office was not a serious care.



From a recent photograph by C. S. McCullough, Petersburg, Illinois. The little frame store building occupied by Berry and Lincoln at New Salem is now standing at Petersburg, Illinois, in the rear of L. W. Bishop’s gun-shop. Its history after 1834 is somewhat obscure, but there is no reason for doubting its identity. According to tradition it was bought by Robert Bishop, the father of the present owner, about 1835, from Mr. Lincoln himself; but it is difficult to reconcile this legend with the sale of the store to the Trent brothers, unless, upon the flight of the latter from the country and the closing of the store, the building, through the leniency of creditors, was allowed to revert to Mr. Lincoln, in which event he no doubt sold it at the first opportunity, and applied the proceeds to the payment of the debts of the firm. When Mr. Bishop bought the store building, he removed it to Petersburg. It is said that the removal was made in part by Lincoln himself; that the job was first undertaken by one of the Bales, but that, encountering some difficulty, he called upon Lincoln to assist him, which Lincoln did. The structure was first set up adjacent to Mr. Bishop’s house, and converted into a gun-shop. Later it was removed to a place on the public square; and soon after the breaking out of the late war, Mr. Bishop, erecting a new building, pushed Lincoln’s store into the back yard, and there it still stands. Soon after the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, the front door was presented to some one in Springfield, and has long since been lost sight of. It is remembered by Mr. Bishop that in this door there was an opening for the reception of letters—a circumstance of importance as tending to establish the genuineness of the building, when it is remembered that Lincoln was postmaster while he kept the store. The structure, as it stands to-day, is about eighteen feet long, twelve feet in width, and ten feet in height. The back room, however, has disappeared, so that the building as it stood when occupied by Berry and Lincoln was somewhat longer. Of the original building there only remain the frame-work, the black walnut weather-boarding on the front end, and the ceiling of sycamore boards. One entire side has been torn away by relic-hunters. In recent years the building has been used as a sort of store-room. Just after a big fire in Petersburg some time ago, the city council condemned the Lincoln store building and ordered it demolished. Under this order a portion of one side was torn down, when Mr. Bishop persuaded the city authorities to desist, upon giving a guarantee that if Lincoln’s store ever caught fire, he would be responsible for any loss which might ensue.



From a photograph in the collection of H. W. Fay of De Kalb, Illinois, taken probably in Springfield early in 1861. It is supposed to have been the first, or at least one of the first, portraits made of Mr. Lincoln after he began to wear a beard. As is well known, his face was smooth until about the end of 1860; and when he first allowed his beard to grow, it became a topic of newspaper comment, and even of caricature. A pretty story relating to Lincoln’s adoption of a beard is more or less familiar. A letter written to the authors of this Life, under date of December 6, 1895, by Mrs. Grace Bedell Billings, tells this story, of which she herself as a little girl was the heroine, in a most charming way:

Delphos, Kansas, December 6, 1895.

In reply to your letter of recent date inquiring about the incident of my childhood and connected with Mr. Lincoln, I would say that at the time of his first nomination to the Presidency I was a child of eleven years, living with my parents in Chautauqua County, New York.

My father was an ardent Republican, and possessed of a profound admiration for the character of the grand man who was the choice of his party. We younger children accepted his opinions with unquestioning faith, and listened with great delight to the anecdotes of his life current at that time, and were particularly interested in reading of the difficulties he encountered in getting an education. So much did it appeal to our childish imaginations that we were firmly persuaded that if we could only study our lessons prone before the glow and cheer of an open fire in a great fireplace, we too might rise to heights which now we could never attain. My father brought to us, one day, a large poster, and my mind still holds a recollection, of its crude, coarse work and glaring colors. About the edges were grouped in unadorned and exaggerated ugliness the pictures of our former Presidents, and in the midst of them were the faces of “Lincoln and Hamlin,” surrounded by way of a frame with a rail fence. We are all familiar with the strong and rugged face of Mr. Lincoln; the deep lines about the mouth, and the eyes have much the same sorrowful expression in all the pictures I have seen of him. I think I must have felt a certain disappointment, for I said to my mother that he would look much nicer if he wore whiskers; and straightway gave him the benefit of my opinion in a letter, describing the poster, and hinting, rather broadly, that his appearance might be improved if he would let his whiskers grow. Not wishing to wound his feelings, I added that the rail fence around his picture looked real pretty! I also asked him if he had any little girl, and if so, and he was too busy to write and tell me what he thought about it, if he would not let her do so; and ended by assuring him I meant to try my best to induce two erring brothers of the Democratic faith to cast their votes for him. I think the circumstance would have speedily passed from my mind but for the fact that I confided to an elder sister that I had written to Mr. Lincoln, and had she not expressed a doubt as to whether I had addressed him properly. To prove that I had, and was not as ignorant as she thought me, I rewrote the address for her inspection: “Hon. Abraham Lincoln Esquire.

My mortification at the laughter and ridicule excited was somewhat relieved by my mother’s remarking that “there would be no mistake as to whom the letter belonged.” The reply to my poor little letter came in due time, and the following is a copy of the original, which is still in my possession.

Springfield, Illinois, October 19, 1860.

Miss Grace Bedell.

My Dear little Miss:—Your very agreeable letter of the 15th inst. is received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughter. I have three sons; one seventeen, one nine, and one seven years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin wearing them now? Your very sincere well-wisher,

A. Lincoln.”

Probably the frankness of the child appealed to the humorous side of his nature, for the suggestion was acted upon. After the election, and on his journey from Springfield to Washington, he inquired of Hon. G. W. Patterson, who was one of the party who accompanied him on that memorable trip, and who was a resident of our town, if he knew of a family bearing the name of Bedell. Mr. Patterson replying in the affirmative, Mr. Lincoln said he had “received a letter from a little girl called Grace Bedell, advising me to wear whiskers, as she thought it would improve my looks.” He said the character of the “letter was so unique, and so different from the many self-seeking and threatening ones he was daily receiving, that it came to him as a relief and a pleasure.” When the train reached Westfield, Mr. Lincoln made a short speech from the platform of the car, and in conclusion said he had a correspondent there, relating the circumstance and giving my name, and if she were present he would like to see her. I was present, but in the crowd had neither seen nor heard the speaker; but a gentleman helped me forward, and Mr. Lincoln stepped down to the platform where I stood, shook my hand, kissed me, and said: “You see I let these whiskers grow for you, Grace.” The crowd cheered, Mr. Lincoln reëntered the car, and I ran quickly home, looking at and speaking to no one, with a much dilapidated bunch of roses in my hand, which I had hoped might be passed up to Mr. Lincoln with some other flowers which were to be presented, but which in my confusion I had forgotten. Gentle and genial, simple and warm-hearted, how full of anxiety must have been his life in the days which followed! These words seem to fitly describe him: “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Very sincerely,
Grace Bedell Billings.

179A large number of the patrons of the office lived in the country—many of them miles away—but generally Lincoln delivered the letters at their doors. These letters he would carefully place in the crown of his hat, and distribute them from house to house. Thus it was in a measure true that he kept the New Salem post-office in his hat. The habit of carrying papers in his hat clung to Lincoln; for, many years later, when he was a practising lawyer in Springfield, he apologized for failing to answer a letter promptly, by explaining: “When I received your letter I put it in my old hat, and buying a new one the next day, the old one was set aside, and so the letter was lost sight of for a time.”

But whether the mail was delivered by the postmaster himself, 180or the recipient came to the store to inquire, “Anything for me?” it was the habit “to stop and visit awhile.” He who received a letter read it and told the contents; if he had a newspaper, usually the postmaster could tell him in advance what it contained, for one of the perquisites of the early postmaster was the privilege of reading all printed matter before delivering it. Every day, then, Lincoln’s acquaintance in New Salem, through his position as postmaster, became more intimate.


The only tavern in New Salem in 1833 was that kept by James Rutledge—a two-story log structure of five rooms, standing just across the street from Berry and Lincoln’s store. Here Lincoln boarded. It seems entirely probable that he may have had an ambition to get into the tavern business, and that he and Berry obtained a license with that end in view, possibly hoping to make satisfactory terms for the purchase of the Rutledge hostelry. The tavern of sixty years ago, besides answering the purposes of the modern hotel, was the dramshop of the frontier. The business was one which, in Illinois, the law strictly regulated. Tavern-keepers were required to pay a license fee, and to give bonds to insure their good behavior. Minors were not to be harbored, nor did the law permit liquor to be sold to them; and the sale to slaves of any liquors “or strong drink, mixed or unmixed, either within or without doors,” was likewise forbidden. Nor could the poor Indian get any “fire-water” at the tavern or the grocery. If a tavern-keeper violated the law, two-thirds of the fine assessed against him went to the poor people of the county. The Rutledge tavern was the only one at New Salem of which we have any authentic account. There were other landlords besides Mr. Rutledge; but nothing can be more certain than that Lincoln was not one of them. The few surviving inhabitants of the vanished village, and of the country round about, have a clear recollection of Berry and Lincoln’s store; but not one has been found with the faintest remembrance of a tavern kept by Lincoln, or by Berry, or by both. Stage passengers jolting into New Salem sixty-two years ago must, if Lincoln was inn-keeper, have partaken of his hospitality by the score; but if they did, they all died many, many years ago, or have all maintained an unaccountable and most perplexing silence.



As the summer of 1833 went on, the condition of the store became more and more unsatisfactory. As the position of postmaster brought in only a small revenue, Lincoln was forced to take any odd work he could get. He helped in other stores in the town, split rails, and looked after the mill; but all this yielded only a scant and uncertain support, and when in the fall he had an opportunity to learn surveying, he accepted it eagerly.

The condition of affairs in Illinois in the thirties made a demand for the services of surveyors. The immigration had been phenomenal. There were thousands of farms to be surveyed and thousands of corners to be located. Speculators bought up large tracts, and mapped out cities on paper. It was years before the first railroad was built in Illinois, and, as all inland travelling was on horseback or in the stage-coach, each year hundreds of miles of wagon road were opened through woods and swamps and prairies. As the county of Sangamon was large, and eagerly sought by immigrants, the county surveyor in 1833, one John Calhoun, needed deputies; but in a country so new it was no easy matter to find men with the requisite capacity.

With Lincoln, Calhoun had little, if any, personal acquaintance, for they lived twenty miles apart. Lincoln, however, had made himself known by his meteoric race for the legislature in 1832, and Calhoun had heard of him as an honest, intelligent, and trustworthy young man. One day he sent word to Lincoln by Pollard Simmons, who lived in the New Salem neighborhood, that he had decided to appoint him a deputy surveyor if he would accept the position.

Going into the woods, Simmons found Lincoln engaged in his old occupation of making rails. The two sat down together on a log, and Simmons told Lincoln what Calhoun had said. It was a surprise to Lincoln. Calhoun was a “Jackson man;” he was for Clay. What did he know about surveying, and why should a Democratic official offer him a position of any kind? He immediately went to Springfield, and had a talk with Calhoun. He would not accept the appointment, he said, unless he had the assurance that it involved no political obligation, and that he might continue to express his political opinions as freely and frequently as he chose. This assurance was given. The only difficulty then in the way was the fact that he knew absolutely 182nothing of surveying. But Calhoun, of course, understood this, and agreed that he should have time to learn.

With the promptness of action with which he always undertook anything he had to do, he procured Flint and Gibson’s treatise on surveying, and sought Mentor Graham for help. At a sacrifice of some time, the school-master aided him to a partial mastery of the intricate subject. Lincoln worked literally day and night, sitting up night after night until the crowing of the cock warned him of the approaching dawn. So hard did he study that his friends were greatly concerned at his haggard face. But in six weeks he had mastered all the books within reach relating to the subject—a task which, under ordinary circumstances, would hardly have been achieved in as many months. Reporting to Calhoun for duty (greatly to the amazement of that gentleman), he was at once assigned to the territory in the northwest part of the county, and the first work he did of which there is any authentic record was in January, 1834. In that month he surveyed a piece of land for Russell Godby, dating the certificate January 14, 1834, and signing it “J. Calhoun, S. S. C., by A. Lincoln.”

Lincoln was frequently employed in laying out public roads, being selected for that purpose by the County Commissioners’ Court. So far as can be learned from the official records, the first road he surveyed was “from Musick’s Ferry, on Salt Creek, via New Salem, to the county line in the direction of Jacksonville.” For this he was allowed fifteen dollars for five days’ service, and two dollars and fifty cents for a plat of the new road. The next road he surveyed, according to the records, was that leading from Athens to Sangamon town. This was reported to the County Commissioners’ Court, November 4, 1834. But road surveying was only a small portion of his work. He was more frequently employed by private individuals.


According to tradition, when he first took up the business he was too poor to buy a chain, and, instead, used a long, straight grapevine. Probably this is a myth, though surveyors who had experience in the early days say it may be true. The chains commonly used at that time were made of iron. Constant use wore away and weakened the links, and it was no unusual thing 183for a chain to lengthen six inches after a year’s use. “And a good grapevine,” to use the words of a veteran surveyor, “would give quite as satisfactory results as one of those old-fashioned chains.”


Vandalia was the State capital of Illinois for twenty years, and three different State-houses were built and occupied there. The first, a two-story frame structure, was burned down December 9, 1823. The second was a brick building, and was erected at a cost of twelve thousand, three hundred and eighty-one dollars and fifty cents, of which the citizens of Vandalia contributed three thousand dollars. The agitation for the removal of the capital to Springfield began in 1833, and in the summer of 1836 the people of Vandalia, becoming alarmed at the prospect of their little city’s losing its prestige as the seat of the State government, tore down the old capitol (much complaint being made about its condition), and put up a new one at a cost of sixteen thousand dollars. The tide was too great to be checked; but after the “Long Nine” had secured the passage of the bill taking the capital to Springfield, the money which the Vandalia people had expended was refunded. The State-house shown in this picture was the third and last one. In it Lincoln served as a legislator. Ceasing to be a capitol July 4, 1839, it was converted into a court-house for Fayette County, and is still so used.



From a recent photograph. Mr. Burner lived at New Salem from 1829 to 1834. Lincoln for many months lodged with his father, Isaac Burner. He now lives on a farm near Galesburg, Illinois. Mr. Burner is over eighty years of age.


From a photograph in the possession of the Hon. W. J. Orendorff of Canton, Illinois. John M. Cameron, a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, and a devout, sincere, and courageous man, was held in the highest esteem by his neighbors. Yet, according to Daniel Green Burner, Berry and Lincoln’s clerk—and the fact is mentioned merely as illustrating a universal custom among the pioneers—“John Cameron always kept a barrel of whiskey in the house.” He was a powerful man physically, and a typical frontiersman. He was born in Kentucky in 1791, and, with his wife, moved to Illinois in 1815. He settled in Sangamon County in 1818, and in 1829 took up his abode in a cabin on a hill overlooking the Sangamon River, and, with James Rutledge, founded the town of New Salem. According to tradition, Lincoln for a time lived with the Camerons. In the early thirties they moved to Fulton County, Illinois; then, in 1841 or 1842, to Iowa; and finally, in 1849, to California. In California they lived to a ripe old age—Mrs. Cameron dying in 1875, and her husband following her three years later. They had twelve children, eleven of whom were girls. Mr. Cameron is said to have officiated at the funeral of Ann Rutledge in 1835.


From a photograph taken at Jacksonville, Illinois, about thirty years ago. James Short lived on Sand Ridge, a few miles north of New Salem. When Lincoln’s horse and surveying instruments were levied upon by a creditor and sold, Mr. Short bought them in, and made Lincoln a present of them. Lincoln, when President, made his old friend an Indian agent in California. Mr. Short died in Iowa many years ago. His acquaintance with Lincoln began in rather an interesting way. His sister, who lived in New Salem, had made Lincoln a pair of jeans trousers. The material supplied by Lincoln was scant, and the trousers came out conspicuously short in the legs. One day when James Short was visiting with his sister, he pointed to a man walking down the street, and asked, “Who is that man in the short breeches?” “That is Lincoln.” And Mr. Short went out and introduced himself.



Coleman Smoot was born in Virginia, February 13, 1794; removed to Kentucky when a child; married Rebecca Wright, March 17, 1817; came to Illinois in 1831, and lived on a farm across the Sangamon River from New Salem until his death, March 21, 1876. Lincoln met him for the first time in Offutt’s store in 1831. “Smoot,” said Lincoln, “I am disappointed in you; I expected to see a man as ugly as old Probst,” referring to a man reputed to be the homeliest in the county. “And I am disappointed,” replied Smoot; “I had expected to see a good-looking man when I saw you.” After Lincoln’s election to the legislature in 1834, he called on Smoot and said: “I want to buy some clothes and fix up a little, and I want you to loan me two hundred dollars.” The loan was cheerfully made, and, of course, was subsequently repaid.


From an old daguerreotype. Samuel Hill was among the earliest inhabitants of New Salem. He opened a general store there in partnership with John McNeill—the John McNeill who became betrothed to Ann Rutledge, and whose real name was afterwards discovered to be John McNamar. When McNeill left New Salem and went East, Mr. Hill became sole proprietor of the store. He also owned the carding machine at New Salem. Lincoln, after going out of the grocery business, made his headquarters at Samuel Hill’s store. There he kept the post-office, entertained the loungers, and on busy days helped Mr. Hill wait on customers. Mr. Hill is said to have once courted Ann Rutledge himself, but he did not receive the encouragement which was bestowed upon his partner, McNeill. In 1835 he married Miss Parthenia W. Nance, who still lives at Petersburg. In 1839 he moved his store to Petersburg, and died there in 1857.


From an old tintype. Mary Ann Rutledge was the wife of James Rutledge and the mother of Ann. She was born October 21, 1787, and reared in Kentucky. She lived to be ninety-one years of age, dying in Iowa, December 26, 1878. The Rutledges left New Salem in 1833 or 1834, moving to a farm a few miles northward. On this farm Ann Rutledge died, August 25, 1835; and here also, three months later (December 3, 1835), died her father, broken-hearted, no doubt, by the bereavement. In the following year the family moved to Fulton County, Illinois, and some three years later to Birmingham, Iowa. Of James Rutledge there is no portrait in existence. He was born in South Carolina, May 11, 1781. He and his sons, John and David, served in the Black Hawk War.


186Lincoln’s surveys had the extraordinary merit of being correct. Much of the government work had been rather indifferently done, or the government corners had been imperfectly preserved, and there were frequent disputes between adjacent landowners about boundary lines. Frequently Lincoln was called upon in such cases to find the corner in controversy. His verdict was invariably the end of the dispute, so general was the confidence in his honesty and skill. Some of these old corners located by him are still in existence. The people of Petersburg proudly remember that they live in a town which was laid out by Lincoln. This he did in 1836, and it was the work of several weeks.

Lincoln’s pay as a surveyor was three dollars a day, more than he had ever before earned. Compared with the compensation for like services nowadays, it seems small enough; but at that time it was really princely. The governor of the State received a salary of only one thousand dollars a year, the Secretary of State six hundred dollars, and good board and lodging could be obtained for one dollar a week. But even three dollars a day did not enable him to meet all his financial obligations. The heavy debts of the store hung over him. He was obliged to help his father’s family in Coles County. The long distances he had to travel in his new employment had made it necessary to buy a horse, and for it he had gone into debt.

“My father,” says Thomas Watkins of Petersburg, “sold Lincoln the horse, and my recollection is that Lincoln agreed to pay him fifty dollars for it. Lincoln was a little slow in making the payments, and after he had paid all but ten dollars, my father, who was a high-strung man, became impatient, and sued him for the balance. Lincoln, of course, did not deny the debt, and raised the money and paid it. I do not often tell this,” Mr. Watkins adds, “because I have always thought there never was such a man as Lincoln, and I have always been sorry father sued him.”


From Libby Prison Museum, Chicago, Illinois. By permission of C. F. Gunther.


Reproduced by permission from “Menard-Salem-Lincoln Souvenir Album,” Petersburg, 1893.



Between his duties as deputy surveyor and postmaster, Lincoln had little leisure for the store, and its management passed into the hands of Berry. The stock of groceries was on the wane. The numerous obligations of the firm were maturing, with no money to meet them. Both members of the firm, in the face of such obstacles, lost courage; and when, early in 1834, 188Alexander and William Trent asked if the store was for sale, an affirmative answer was eagerly given. A price was agreed upon, and the sale was made. Now, neither Alexander Trent nor his brother had any money; but as Berry and Lincoln had bought without money, it seemed only fair that they should be willing to sell on the same terms. Accordingly the notes of the Trent brothers were accepted for the purchase price, and the store was turned over to the new owners. But about the time their notes fell due the Trent brothers disappeared. The few groceries in the store were seized by creditors, and the doors were closed, never to be opened again.

Misfortunes now crowded upon Lincoln. His late partner, Berry, soon reached the end of his wild career, and one morning a farmer from the Rock Creek neighborhood drove into New Salem with the news that he was dead.

The appalling debt which had accumulated was thrown upon Lincoln’s shoulders. It was then too common a fashion among men who became deluged in debt to “clear out,” in the expressive language of the pioneer, as the Trents had done; but this was not Lincoln’s way. He quietly settled down among the men he owed, and promised to pay them. For fifteen years he carried this burden—a load which he cheerfully and manfully bore, but one so heavy that he habitually spoke of it as the “national debt.” Talking once of it to a friend, Lincoln said: “That debt was the greatest obstacle I have ever met in life. I had no way of speculating, and could not earn money except by labor; and to earn by labor eleven hundred dollars, besides my living, seemed the work of a lifetime. There was, however, but one way. I went to the creditors, and told them that if they would let me alone, I would give them all I could earn over my living, as fast as I could earn it.” As late as 1848, so we are informed by Mr. Herndon, Mr. Lincoln, then a member of Congress, sent home money, saved from his salary, to be applied on these obligations. All the notes, with interest at the high rates then prevailing, were at last paid.



From the collection of Mr. C. F. Gunther of Chicago.

190With a single exception, Lincoln’s creditors seem to have been lenient. One of the notes given by him came into the hands of a Mr. Van Bergen, who, when it fell due, brought suit. The amount of the judgment was more than Lincoln could pay, and his personal effects were levied upon. These consisted of his horse, saddle and bridle, and surveying instruments. James Short, a well-to-do farmer living on Sand Ridge, a few miles north of New Salem, heard of the trouble which had befallen his young friend. Without advising Lincoln of his plans, he attended the sale, bought in the horse and surveying instruments for one hundred and twenty dollars, and turned them over to their former owner. By this kind act of “Uncle Jimmy,” the young surveyor was enabled to continue his business.


From a steel engraving in the possession of R. W. Diller, Springfield, Illinois. John Calhoun was born in Boston, Massachusetts, October 14, 1806. In 1830 he removed to Springfield, Illinois, and after serving in the Black Hawk War was appointed surveyor of Sangamon County. He was a Democratic Representative in 1838; Democratic presidential elector in 1844; candidate for Governor before the Democratic State Convention in 1846; Mayor of Springfield in 1849, 1850, and 1851. In 1854, President Pierce appointed him Surveyor-General of Kansas, and he became conspicuous in Kansas politics. He was president of the Lecompton Convention. He died at St. Joseph, Missouri, October 25, 1859. Mr. Frederick Hawn, who was his boyhood friend, and afterward married a sister of Calhoun’s wife, is now living at Leavenworth, Kansas, at the age of eighty-five years. In an interesting letter to the writer he says: “It has been related that Calhoun induced Lincoln to study surveying in order to become his deputy. Presuming that he was ready to graduate and receive his commission, he called on Calhoun, then living with his father-in-law, Seth R. Cutter, on Upper Lick Creek. After the interview was concluded, Mr. Lincoln, about to depart, remarked: ‘Calhoun, I am entirely unable to repay you for your generosity at present. All that I have you see on me, except a quarter of a dollar in my pocket.’ This is a family tradition. However, my wife, then a miss of sixteen, says, while I am writing this sketch, that she distinctly remembers this interview. After Lincoln was gone she says she and her sister, Mrs. Calhoun, commenced making jocular remarks about his uncanny appearance, in the presence of Calhoun, to which in substance he made this rejoinder: ‘For all that, he is no common man.’ My wife believes these were the exact words.”

Lincoln never forgot a benefactor. He not only repaid the money with interest, but nearly thirty years later remembered the kindness in a most substantial way. After Lincoln left New Salem, financial reverses came to James Short, and he removed to the far West to seek his fortune anew. Early in Lincoln’s presidential term he heard that “Uncle Jimmy” was living in California. One day Mr. Short received a letter from Washington. Tearing it open, he read the gratifying announcement that he had been commissioned an Indian agent.



Photographed for this work. After Lincoln gave up surveying, he sold his instruments to John B. Gum, afterward county surveyor of Menard County. Mr. Gum kept them until a few years ago, when he presented the instruments to the Lincoln Monument Association, and they are now on exhibition at the monument in Springfield, Illinois.


The kindness of Mr. Short was not exceptional in Lincoln’s New Salem career. When the store had “winked out,” as he put it, and the post-office had been left without headquarters, one of his neighbors, Samuel Hill, invited the homeless postmaster into his store. There was hardly a man or woman in the community who would not have been glad to do as much. It was a simple recognition of Lincoln’s friendliness to them. He was what they called “obliging”—a man who instinctively did the thing which he saw would help another, no matter how trivial or homely it was. In the home of Rowan Herndon, where he had boarded when he first came to the town, he had made himself loved by his care of the children. “He nearly always had one of them around with him,” says Mr. Herndon. In the Rutledge tavern, where he afterwards lived, the landlord told with appreciation how, when his house was full, Lincoln gave up his bed, went to the store, and slept on the counter, his pillow a web of calico. If a traveller “stuck in the mud” in New Salem’s one street, Lincoln was always the first to help pull out the wheel. The widows praised him because he “chopped their wood;” the overworked, because he was always ready to give them a lift. It was the spontaneous, unobtrusive helpfulness of the man’s nature which endeared him to everybody, and which inspired a general desire to do all possible in return. 192There are many tales told of homely service rendered him, even by the hard-working farmers’ wives around New Salem. There was not one of them who did not gladly “put on a plate” for Abe Lincoln when he appeared, or did not darn or mend for him when she knew he needed it. Hannah Armstrong, the wife of the hero of Clary’s Grove, made him one of her family. “Abe would come out to our house,” she said, “drink milk, eat mush, cornbread and butter, bring the children candy, and rock the cradle while I got him something to eat.... Has stayed at our house two or three weeks at a time.” Lincoln’s pay for his first piece of surveying came in the shape of two buckskins, and it was Hannah who “foxed” them on his trousers.

His relations were equally friendly in the better homes of the community; even at the minister, the Rev. John Cameron’s, he was perfectly at home, and Mrs. Cameron was by him affectionately called “Aunt Polly.” It was not only his kindly service which made Lincoln loved; it was his sympathetic comprehension of the duties and joys and sorrows and interests of the people. Whether it was Jack Armstrong and his wrestling, Hannah and her babies, Kelso and his fishing and poetry, the school-master and his books—with one and all he was at home. He possessed in an extraordinary degree the power of entering into the interests of others, a power found only in reflective, unselfish natures endowed with a humorous sense of human foibles, and with great tenderness of heart. Men and women amused Lincoln, but so long as they were sincere he loved them and sympathized with them. He was human in the best sense of that fine word.


Now that the store was closed and his surveying increased, Lincoln had an excellent opportunity to extend his acquaintance, for he was travelling about the country. Everywhere he won friends. The surveyor, naturally, was respected for his calling’s sake; but the new deputy surveyor was admired for his friendly ways, his willingness to lend a hand indoors as well as out, his learning, his ambition, his independence. Throughout the county he began to be regarded as “a right smart young man.” Some of his associates appear even to have comprehended his peculiarly great character, and dimly to have foreseen a splendid future. “Often,” says Daniel Green Burner, Berry and Lincoln’s clerk in the grocery, “I have heard my brother-in-law, Dr. Duncan, say he would not be surprised if some day Abe Lincoln got to be Governor of Illinois. Lincoln,” Mr. Burner adds, “was thought to know a little more than anybody else among the young people. He was a good debater, and liked it. He read much, and seemed never to forget anything.”



From a copy (made by E. A. Bromley of the Minneapolis “Journal” staff) of a photograph owned by Mrs. Cyrus Aldrich, whose husband, now dead, was a Congressman from Minnesota. We owe the photograph to the courtesy of Mr. Daniel Fish of Minneapolis. In the summer of 1860 Mr. M. C. Tuttle, a photographer of St. Paul, wrote to Mr. Lincoln, requesting that he have a negative taken and sent to him for local use in the campaign. The request was granted, but the negative was broken in transit. On learning of the accident, Mr. Lincoln sat again, and with the second negative he sent a jocular note wherein he referred to the fact, disclosed by the picture, that in the interval he had “got a new coat.” A few copies of the picture were made by Mr. Tuttle, and distributed among the Republican editors of the State. It has never before been reproduced. Mrs. Aldrich’s copy was presented to her by William H. Seward when he was entertained at the Aldrich homestead (now the Minneapolis City Hospital) in September, 1860. A fine copy of this same photograph is owned by Mr. Ward Monroe of Jersey City, New Jersey.



These saddle-bags, now in the Lincoln Monument at Springfield, are said to have been used by Lincoln while he was a surveyor.

Lincoln was fully conscious of his popularity, and it seemed to him in 1834 that he could safely venture to try again for the legislature. Accordingly he announced himself as a candidate, spending much of the summer of 1834 in electioneering. It was a repetition of what he had done in 1832, though on the larger scale made possible by wider acquaintance. In company with the other candidates, he rode up and down the county, making speeches at the public sales, in shady groves, now and then in a log schoolhouse. In his speeches he soon distinguished himself by the amazing candor with which he dealt with all questions, and by his curious blending of audacity and humility. Wherever he saw a crowd of men he joined them, and he never failed to adapt himself to their point of view in asking for votes. If the degree of physical strength was their test for a candidate, he was ready to lift a weight, or wrestle with the countryside champion; if the amount of grain a man could cradle would recommend him, he seized the cradle and showed the swath he could cut. The campaign was well conducted, for in August he was elected one of the four assemblymen from Sangamon. The 196vote at this election stood: Dawson, 1390; Lincoln, 1376; Carpenter, 1170; Stuart, 1164.


Reproduced, by permission, from “Menard-Salem-Lincoln Souvenir Album,” Petersburg, Illinois, 1893.

With one exception, the biographers of Lincoln have given him the first place on the ticket in 1834. He really stood second in order. Herndon gives the correct vote, although he is in error in saying that the chief authority he quotes, a document owned by Dr. A. W. French of Springfield, Illinois, is an “official return.” It is a statement, made out in Lincoln’s writing, and certified to by the county clerk, of the total number of votes cast in the whole county for each of the several candidates for the legislature. The official returns are on file in the Springfield court-house.




Born at Brandon, Vermont, April 23, 1813; died in Chicago, June 3, 1861. Douglas learned a trade when a boy, but abandoned it to study law. Obliged to support himself, he went to Illinois in 1833, where he taught school until admitted to the bar. In 1835 he was elected State Attorney-General, but resigned at the end of the year, having been elected to the General Assembly. In 1837 he was appointed register of the land-office at Springfield; in 1838 was defeated in a contest for Congress; in 1840 was appointed Secretary of State; in 1841 was elected judge of the Supreme Court of Illinois. From 1843 to 1846 he was in Congress, and for fourteen years after was a United States Senator. The Lincoln and Douglas debates took place in his last senatorial canvass. In 1860 Mr. Douglas was the Democratic candidate for President, and was defeated by Lincoln. He died in 1861.

The best thing which Lincoln did in the canvass of 1834 was not winning votes; it was coming to a determination to read law, not for pleasure, but as a business. In his autobiographical notes he says: “During the canvass, in a private conversation, Major John T. Stuart (one of his fellow-candidates) encouraged Abraham to study law. After the election he borrowed books of Stuart, took them home with him, and went at it in good earnest. He never studied with anybody.” He seems to have thrown himself into the work with an almost impatient ardor. As he tramped back and forth from Springfield, twenty miles away, to get his law-books, he read sometimes forty pages or more on the 198way. Often he was seen wandering at random across the fields, repeating aloud the points in his last reading. The subject seemed never to be out of his mind. It was the great absorbing interest of his life. The rule he gave twenty years later to a young man who wanted to know how to become a lawyer, was the one he practised:


Photographed for this biography from the original, now on file in the County Clerk’s office, Springfield, Illinois. The survey here reported was made in pursuance of an order of the County Commissioners’ Court, September 1, 1834, in which Lincoln was designated as the surveyor.



Photographed from the original for this biography. This map, which, as here reproduced, is about one-half the size of the original, accompanied Lincoln’s report of the survey of a part of the road between Athens and Sangamon town. For making this map, Lincoln received fifty cents. He received three dollars for the day he spent in relocating the road. (See report, page 198.) The road evidently was located “on good ground,” and was “necessary and proper,” as the report says, for it is still the main travelled highway leading into the country south of Athens, Menard County.

“Get books, and read and study them carefully. Begin with Blackstone’s ‘Commentaries,’ and after reading carefully through, say twice, take up Chitty’s ‘Pleadings,’ Greenleaf’s ‘Evidence,’ and Story’s ‘Equity,’ in succession. Work, work, work, is the main thing.”

Having secured a book of legal forms, he was soon able to write deeds, contracts, and all sorts of legal instruments; and he was frequently called upon by his neighbors to perform services of this kind. “In 1834,” says Daniel Green Burner, Berry and Lincoln’s clerk, “my father, Isaac Burner, sold out to Henry Onstott, and he wanted a deed written. I knew how handy Lincoln was that way, 200and suggested that we get him. We found him sitting on a stump. ‘All right,’ said he, when informed what we wanted. ‘If you will bring me a pen and ink and a piece of paper I will write it here.’ I brought him these articles, and, picking up a shingle and putting it on his knee for a desk, he wrote out the deed.”

As there was no practising lawyer nearer than Springfield, Lincoln was often employed to act the part of advocate before the village squire, at that time Bowling Green. He realized that this experience was valuable, and never, so far as known, demanded or accepted a fee for his services in these petty cases.

Justice was sometimes administered in a summary way in Squire Green’s court. Precedents and the venerable rules of law had little weight. The “Squire” took judicial notice of a great many facts, often going so far as to fill, simultaneously, the two functions of witness and court. But his decisions were generally just.

James McGrady Rutledge tells a story in which several of Lincoln’s old friends figure, and which illustrates the legal practices of New Salem. “Jack Kelso,” says Mr. Rutledge, “owned, or claimed to own, a white hog. It was also claimed by John Ferguson. The hog had often wandered around Bowling Green’s place, and he was somewhat acquainted with it. Ferguson sued Kelso, and the case was tried before ‘Squire’ Green. The plaintiff produced two witnesses who testified positively that the hog belonged to him. Kelso had nothing to offer, save his own unsupported claim.

“‘Are there any more witnesses?’ inquired the court.

“He was informed that there were no more.

“‘Well,’ said ‘Squire’ Green, ‘the two witnesses we have heard have sworn to a —— lie. I know this shoat, and I know it belongs to Jack Kelso. I therefore decide this case in his favor.’”

An extract from the record of the County Commissioners’ Court illustrates the nature of the cases that came before the justice of the peace in Lincoln’s day. It also shows the price put upon the privilege of working on Sunday, in 1832:

January 29, 1832.—Alexander Gibson found guilty of Sabbath-breaking, and fined 12½ cents. Fine paid into court.

“(Signed)       Edward Robinson, J. P.


The session of the ninth Assembly began December 1, 1834, and Lincoln went to the capital, then Vandalia, seventy-five miles southeast of New Salem, on the Kaskaskia River, in time for the opening. Vandalia was a town which had been called into existence in 1820 especially to give the State government an abiding-place. Its very name had been chosen, it is said, because it “sounded well” for a State capital. As the tradition goes, while the commissioners were debating what they should call the town they were making, a wag suggested that it be named Vandalia, in honor of the Vandals, a tribe of Indians which, said he, had once lived on the borders of the Kaskaskia; this, he argued, would conserve a local tradition while giving a euphonious title. The commissioners, pleased with so good a suggestion, adopted the name. When Lincoln first went to Vandalia it was a town of about eight hundred inhabitants; its noteworthy features, according to Peck’s “Gazetteer” of Illinois for 1834, being a brick court-house, a two-story brick edifice “used by State officers,” “a neat framed house of worship for the Presbyterian Society, with a cupola and bell,” “a framed meeting-house for the Methodist Society,” three taverns, several stores, five lawyers, four physicians, a land-office, and two newspapers. It was a much larger town than Lincoln had ever lived in before, though he was familiar with Springfield, then twice as large as Vandalia, and he had seen the cities of the Mississippi.



From the original, in the possession of Z. A. Enos, Springfield, Illinois. “The Sangamon River runs through this section,” says Mr. Enos, himself a veteran surveyor, “and the section lines in the government survey were not extended across, but closed on the river, without any connection being made between the opposite marginal corners or lines; and though shown on the government plats as being continuous straight east or west lines across the river, they were, in fact, surveyed by the government surveyor as represented by Mr. Lincoln’s plat.” This plat is also interesting as “showing,” as Mr. Enos says, “how Illinois lands were valued at that date, as indicated by the value of the several lots in the school section, as determined by the trustees, and marked by them on each tract, and at those estimated values the lots were then subject to purchase.”

203The Assembly which he entered was composed of eighty-one members—twenty-six senators and fifty-five representatives. As a rule, these men were of Kentucky, Tennessee, or Virginia origin, with here and there a Frenchman. There were but few Eastern men, for there was still a strong prejudice in the State against Yankees. The close bargains and superior airs of the emigrants from New England contrasted so unpleasantly with the open-handed hospitality and the easy ways of the Southerners and French, that a pioneer’s prospects were blasted at the start if he acted like a Yankee. A history of Illinois in 1837, published, evidently, to “boom” the State, cautioned the emigrant that if he began his life in Illinois by “affecting superior intelligence and virtue, and catechizing the people for their habits of plainness and simplicity, and their apparent want of those things which he imagines indispensable to comfort,” he must expect to be forever, marked as “a Yankee,” and to have his prospects correspondingly defeated. A “hard-shell” Baptist preacher of this date showed the feeling of the people when he said, in preaching of the richness of the grace of the Lord: “It tuks in the isles of the sea and the uttermust part of the yeth. It embraces the Esquimaux and the Hottentots, and some, my dear brethering, go so far as to suppose that it tuks in the poor benighted Yankees; but I don’t go that fur.” When it came to an election of legislators, many of the people “didn’t go that fur” either.

There was a preponderance of jean suits like Lincoln’s in the Assembly, and there were occasional coonskin caps and buckskin trousers. Nevertheless, more than one member showed a studied garb and a courtly manner. Some of the best blood of the South went into 204the making of Illinois, and it showed itself from the first in the Assembly. The surroundings of the legislators were quite as simple as the attire of the plainest of them. The court-house, in good old Colonial style, with square pillars and belfry, was finished with wooden desks and benches. The State furnished her law-makers few perquisites beyond their three dollars a day. A cork inkstand, a certain number of quills, and a limited amount of stationery were all the extras an Illinois legislator in 1834 got from his position. Scarcely more could be expected from a State whose revenues from December 1, 1834, to December 1, 1836, were only about one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, with expenditures during the same period amounting to less than one hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars.

Lincoln thought little of these things, no doubt. To him the absorbing interest was the men he met. To get acquainted with them, measure them, compare himself with them, and discover wherein they were his superiors and what he could do to make good his deficiency—this was his chief occupation. The men he met were good subjects for such study. Among them were William L. D. Ewing, Jesse K. Dubois, Stephen T. Logan, Thomas Ford, and Governor Duncan—men destined to play large parts in the history of the State. One whom he met that winter in Vandalia was destined to play a great part in the history of the nation—the Democratic candidate for the office of State attorney for the first judicial district of Illinois—a man four years younger than Lincoln (he was only twenty-one at the time); a new-comer, too, in the State, having arrived about a year before, under no very promising auspices either, for he had only thirty-seven cents in his pockets, and no position in view; but a man of metal, it was easy to see, for already he had risen so high in the district where he had settled, that he dared contest the office of State attorney with John J. Hardin, one of the most successful lawyers of the State. This young man was Stephen A. Douglas. He had come to Vandalia from Morgan County to conduct his campaign, and Lincoln met him first in the halls of the old court-house, where he and his friends carried on with success their contest against Hardin.



From a photograph loaned by Mr. Frank A. Brown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. This beautiful photograph was taken, probably early in 1861, by Alexander Hesler of Chicago. It was used by Leonard W. Volk, the sculptor, in his studies of Lincoln.

206The ninth Assembly gathered in a more hopeful and ambitious mood than any of its predecessors. Illinois was feeling well. The State was free from debt. The Black Hawk War had stimulated the people greatly, for it had brought a large amount of money into circulation. In fact, the greater portion of the eight to ten million dollars the war had cost, had been circulated among the Illinois volunteers. Immigration, too, was increasing at a bewildering rate. In 1835 the census showed a population of 269,974. Between 1830 and 1835 two-fifths of this number had come in. In the northeast, Chicago had begun to rise. “Even for Western towns” its growth had been unusually rapid, declared Peck’s “Gazetteer” of 1834; the harbor building there, the proposed Michigan and Illinois canal, the rise in town lots—all promised to the State a great metropolis. To meet the rising tide of prosperity, the legislators of 1834 felt that they must devise some worthy scheme, so they chartered a new State bank, with a capital of one million five hundred thousand dollars, and revived a bank which had broken twelve years before, granting it a charter of three hundred thousand dollars. There was no surplus money in the State to supply the capital; there were no trained bankers to guide the concern; there was no clear notion of how it was all to be done; but a banking capital of one million eight hundred thousand dollars would be a good thing in the State, they were sure; and if the East could be made to believe in Illinois as much as her legislators believed in her, the stocks would go; and so the banks were chartered.

But even more important to the State than banks was a highway. For thirteen years plans of the Illinois and Michigan canal had been constantly before the Assembly. Surveys had been ordered, estimates reported, the advantages extolled, but nothing had been done. Now, however, the Assembly, flushed by the first thrill of the coming “boom,” decided to authorize a loan of a half-million on the credit of the State. Lincoln favored both these measures. He did not, however, do anything especially noteworthy for either of the bills, nor was the record he made in other directions at all remarkable. He was placed on the committee of public accounts and expenditures, and attended meetings with great fidelity. His first act as a member was to give notice that he would ask leave to introduce a bill limiting the jurisdiction of justices of the peace—a measure which he succeeded in carrying through. He followed this by a motion to change the rules, so that it should not be in order to offer amendments to any bill after the third reading, which was not agreed to; though the same rule, in effect, was adopted some years later, and is to this day in force in both branches of the Illinois Assembly. He next made a motion to take from the table a report which had been submitted by his committee, which met a like fate. His first resolution, relating to a State revenue to be derived from the sales of the public lands, was denied a reference, and laid upon the table. Neither as a speaker nor as an organizer did he make any especial impression on the body.



The original of this plat is owned by Mr. J. Davidson Burns of Kalamazoo, Michigan, to whose courtesy we owe the right of reproduction.



In the spring of 1835 the young representative from Sangamon returned to New Salem to take up his duties as postmaster and deputy surveyor, and to resume his law studies. He exchanged his rather exalted position for the humbler one, with a light heart. New Salem held all that was dearest in the world to him at that moment, and he went back to the poor little town with a hope, which he had once supposed honor forbade his acknowledging even to himself, glowing warmly in his heart. He loved a young girl of the village, and now for the first time, though he had known her since he first came to New Salem, was he free to tell his love.

One of the most prominent families of the settlement in 1831, when Lincoln first appeared there, was that of James Rutledge. The head of the house was one of the founders of New Salem, and at that time the keeper of the village tavern. He was a high-minded man, of a warm and generous nature, and had the universal respect of the community. He was a South Carolinian by birth, but had lived many years in Kentucky before coming to Illinois. Rutledge came of a distinguished family: one of his ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence; another was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States by appointment of Washington, and another was a conspicuous leader in the American Congress.



From an ambrotype owned by Miss Hattie Gilmer of Pittsfield, Illinois. The Gilmer ambrotype was taken by C. Jackson, in Pittsfield, October 1, 1858, during the Lincoln and Douglas campaign, immediately after Lincoln had made a speech in the public square. Lincoln was the guest of his friend D. H. Gilmer, a lawyer. He sat for two pictures, one of which was finished for Mr. Gilmer. The other picture is supposed to have been destroyed.

211The third of the nine children in the Rutledge household was a daughter, Ann Mayes, born in Kentucky, January 7, 1813. When Lincoln first met her she was nineteen years old, and as fresh as a flower. Many of those who knew her at that time have left tributes to her beauty and gentleness, and even to-day there are those living who talk of her with moistened eyes and softened tones. “She was a beautiful girl,” says her cousin, James McGrady Rutledge, “and as bright as she was pretty. She was well educated for that early day, a good conversationalist, and always gentle and cheerful; a girl whose company people liked.” So fair a maid was not, of course, without suitors. The most determined of those who sought her hand was one John McNeill, a young man who had arrived in New Salem from New York soon after the founding of the town. Nothing was known of his antecedents, and no questions were asked. He was understood to be merely one of the thousands who had come West in search of fortune. That he was intelligent, industrious, and frugal, with a good head for business, was at once apparent; for he and Samuel Hill opened a general store, and they soon doubled their capital, and their business continued to grow remarkably. In four years from his first appearance in the settlement, besides having a half-interest in the store, McNeill owned a large farm a few miles north of New Salem. His neighbors believed him to be worth about twelve thousand dollars.


Now owned by Mrs. Samuel Hill, Petersburg, Illinois.


John McNeill was an unmarried man—at least so he represented himself to be—and very soon after becoming a resident of New Salem he formed the acquaintance of Ann Rutledge, then a girl of seventeen. It was a case of love at first sight, and the two soon became engaged, in spite of the rivalry of Samuel Hill, 212McNeill’s partner. But Ann was as yet only a young girl; and it was thought very sensible in her, and very gracious and considerate in her lover, that both acquiesced in the wishes of Ann’s parents that, for some time, at least, the marriage be postponed.


After a photograph owned by his widow, Mary Nash Stuart, Springfield, Illinois. John T. Stuart was born in Fayette County, Kentucky, seven miles east of Lexington, November 10, 1807. He was a son of Robert Stuart, a Presbyterian minister, and professor of languages in Transylvania University. His mother’s maiden name was Hannah Todd. She was a daughter of General Levi Todd, and a sister of Robert S. Todd, the father of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln. John T. Stuart graduated at Center College, Danville, Kentucky, in 1826, and after studying law in Richmond, Kentucky, he went to Springfield, Illinois. This was in 1828. Here he at once began the practice of the law. In the Black Hawk War he was major of the battalion in which Lincoln commanded a company, and here his acquaintance with Lincoln seems to have been formed. In 1832 he was elected a representative in the State legislature, and was reëlected in 1834. In 1836 he was an unsuccessful Whig candidate for Congress. Two years later he was again a candidate, and this time was elected, defeating Stephen A. Douglas. He was reëlected in 1840. Lincoln, upon his removal to Springfield in the spring of 1837, became Major Stuart’s law partner. The partnership continued until April 14, 1841, when Lincoln became the partner of Judge Stephen T. Logan. For many years Major Stuart was the senior member of the law firm of Stuart, Edwards and Brown, the two other members being Benjamin S. Edwards and Christopher C. Brown. In 1837, at Jacksonville, Illinois, he was married to Mary V. Nash, who is still living. Major Stuart died in 1885.

Such was the situation when Lincoln appeared in New Salem. He naturally soon became acquainted with the girl. She was a pupil in Mentor Graham’s school, where he frequently visited, and rumor says that he first met her there. However that may be, it is certain that in the latter part of 1832 he went to board at the Rutledge tavern, and there was thrown daily into her company.

During the next year, 1833, John McNeill, in spite of his fair prospects, became restless and discontented. He wanted to see his people, he said, and before the end of the year he had decided to go East for a visit. To secure perfect freedom from his business while gone, he sold out his interest in the store. To Ann he said that he hoped to bring 213back his father and mother, and to place them on his farm. “This duty done,” was his farewell word, “you and I will be married.” In the spring of 1834 McNeill started East. The journey overland by foot and horse was in those days a trying one, and on the way McNeill fell ill with chills and fever. It was late in the summer before he reached his home and wrote back to Ann, explaining his silence. The long wait had been a severe strain on the girl, and Lincoln had watched her anxiety with softened heart. It was to him, the New Salem postmaster, that she came to inquire for letters. It was to him she entrusted those she sent. In a way the postmaster must have become the girl’s confidant; and his tender heart, which never could resist suffering, must have been deeply touched. After the long silence was broken, and McNeill’s first letter of explanation came, the cause of anxiety seemed removed; but, strangely enough, other letters followed only at long intervals, and finally they ceased altogether. Then it was that the young girl told her friends a secret which McNeill had confided to her before leaving New Salem.


He had told her what she had never even suspected before, that John McNeill was not his real name, but that it was John McNamar. Shortly before he came to New Salem, he explained, his father had suffered a disastrous failure in business. He was the oldest son; and in the hope of retrieving the lost fortune, he resolved to go West, expecting to return in a few years and share his riches with the rest of the family. Anticipating parental opposition, he ran away from home; and, being sure that he could never accumulate anything with so numerous 214a family to support, he endeavored to lose himself by a change of name. All this Ann had believed and not repeated; but now, worn out by waiting, she took her secret to her friends.

With few exceptions, they pronounced the story a fabrication and McNamar an impostor. Why had he worn this mask? His excuse seemed flimsy. At best, they declared, he was a mere adventurer; and was it not more probable that he was a fugitive from justice—a thief, a swindler, or a murderer? And who knew how many wives he might have? With all New Salem declaring John McNamar false, Ann Rutledge could hardly be blamed for imagining that he either was dead or that he had ceased to love her.


It was not until McNeill, or McNamar, had been gone many months, and gossip had become offensive, that Lincoln ventured to show his love for Ann, and then it was a long time before the girl would listen to his suit. Convinced at last, however, that her former lover had deserted her, she yielded to Lincoln’s wishes, and promised, in the spring of 1835, soon after Lincoln’s return from Vandalia, to become his wife. But Lincoln had nothing on which to support a family—indeed, he found it no trifling task to support himself. As for Ann, she was anxious to go to school another year. It was decided that in the autumn she should go with her brother to Jacksonville and spend the winter there in an academy. Lincoln was to devote himself to his law studies; and the next spring, when she returned from school and he was a member of the bar, they were to be married.

A happy spring and summer followed. New Salem took a cordial interest in the two lovers, and presaged a happy life for them; and all would undoubtedly have gone well if the young girl could have dismissed the haunting memory of her old lover. The possibility that she had wronged him; that he might reappear; that he loved her still, though she now loved another; that perhaps she had done wrong—a torturing conflict of memory, love, conscience, doubt, and morbidness lay like a shadow across her happiness, and wore upon her until she fell ill. Gradually her condition became hopeless; and Lincoln, who had been shut from her, was sent for. The lovers passed an hour alone in an anguished parting, and soon after, on August 25, 1835, Ann died.



After a photograph owned by Mrs. Harriet Chapman of Charleston, Illinois. Mrs. Chapman is a granddaughter of Sarah Bush Lincoln, Lincoln’s step-mother. Her son, Mr. R. N. Chapman of Charleston, Illinois, writes us: “In 1858 Lincoln and Douglas had a series of joint debates in this State, and this city was one place of meeting. Mr. Lincoln’s step-mother was making her home with my father and mother at that time. Mr. Lincoln stopped at our house, and as he was going away my mother said to him: ‘Uncle Abe, I want a picture of you.’ He replied, ‘Well, Harriet, when I get home I will have one taken for you and send it to you.’ Soon after, mother received the photograph, which she still has, already framed, from Springfield, Illinois, with a letter from Mr. Lincoln, in which he said, ‘This is not a very good-looking picture, but it’s the best that could be produced from the poor subject.’ He also said that he had it taken solely for my mother. The photograph is still in its original frame, and I am sure is the most perfect and best picture of Lincoln in existence. We suppose it must have been taken in Springfield, Illinois.”



From the original, in the possession of Z. A. Enos, Springfield, Illinois. In a convention of surveyors, held at Springfield in 1859, the question was much discussed whether the act of Congress of February 11, 1805, relating to surveys, was intended to control all future surveys and subdivisions of the government lands. It was decided to submit the question to a lawyer for an opinion. Mr. Lincoln was selected, for the reason not only that he was a lawyer of recognized ability, but also because he had been a practical surveyor. A committee having waited upon him, he wrote out the opinion of which a facsimile is here presented. Mr. Enos, who holds the original document, was an active participant in the convention to which this opinion was rendered.



James McGrady Rutledge, son of William Rutledge, is now past eighty-one years of age, having been born in Kentucky, September 29, 1814. He is now a resident of Petersburg. He is active and remarkably free from the infirmities of age. When a boy, with a yoke of oxen, he hauled the logs for the construction of the mill and the dam at New Salem and for some of the cabins of the village. “‘Rile’ Clary and I carried chain for Lincoln many a time,” he says; “‘Rile’ going foremost and I following. We became accustomed to it and Lincoln preferred us.” Ann Rutledge and her cousin were nearly the same age, and being thoroughly congenial, she made a confidant of him. They were much in each other’s company, and Ann often talked to him of Lincoln. “Everybody was happy with Ann,” says Mr. Rutledge. “She was of a cheerful disposition, seeming to enjoy life, and helping others enjoy it.”

The death of Ann Rutledge plunged Lincoln into the deepest gloom. That abiding melancholy, that painful sense of the incompleteness of life, which had been his mother’s dowry to him, asserted itself. It filled and darkened his mind and his imagination, tortured him with its black pictures. One stormy night he was sitting beside William Greene, his head bowed on his hand, while tears trickled through his fingers; his friend begged him to control his sorrow, to try to forget. “I cannot,” moaned Lincoln; “the thought of the snow and rain on her grave fills me with indescribable grief.”

He was found walking alone by the river and through the woods, muttering strange things to himself. He seemed to his friends to be in the shadow of madness. They kept a close watch over him; and at last Bowling Green, one of the most devoted friends Lincoln then had, took him home to his little log cabin, half a mile north of New Salem, under the brow of a big bluff.

Here, under the loving care of Green and his good wife Nancy, Lincoln remained until he was once more master of himself.

But though he had regained self-control, his grief was deep and bitter. Ann Rutledge was buried in Concord cemetery, a country burying-ground seven miles northwest of New Salem. To this lonely spot Lincoln frequently journeyed to weep over her grave. “My heart is buried there,” he said to one of his friends.

When McNamar returned (for McNamar’s story was true, and, two months after Ann Rutledge died, he drove into New Salem, with his widowed mother and his brothers and sisters in the “prairie schooner” beside him) and learned of Ann’s death, he “saw Lincoln at the post-office,” as he afterward said, and “he seemed desolate and sorely distressed.” On himself, apparently, her death produced no deep impression. Within a year he married another woman; and his conduct toward Ann Rutledge is to this day a mystery.

Many years ago a sister of Ann Rutledge, Mrs. Jeane Berry, told what she knew of Ann’s love affairs; and her statement has been preserved in a diary kept by the Rev. R. D. Miller, now Superintendent of Schools of Menard County, with whom she had the conversation. She declared that Ann’s “whole soul seemed wrapped up in Lincoln,” and that they “would have been married in the fall or early winter” if Ann had lived. “After Ann died,” said Mrs. Berry, “I remember that it was common talk about how sad Lincoln was; and I remember myself how sad he looked. They told me that every time he was in the neighborhood after she died, he would go alone to her grave and sit there in silence for hours.”

In later life, when his sorrow had become a memory, he told a friend who questioned him: “I really and truly loved the girl and think often of her now.” There was a pause, and then he added: “And I have loved the name of Rutledge to this day.”



When the death of Ann Rutledge came upon Lincoln, for a time threatening to destroy his ambition and blast his life, he was in a most encouraging position. Master of a profession in which he had an abundance of work and earned fair wages; hopeful of being admitted in a few months to the bar; a member of the State Assembly, with every reason to believe that, if he desired it, his constituency would return him—few men are as far advanced at twenty-six as was Abraham Lincoln.



From a photograph by C. S. McCullough, Petersburg, Illinois. Concord cemetery lies seven miles northwest of the old town of New Salem, in a secluded place, surrounded by woods and pastures, away from the world. In this lonely spot Ann Rutledge was at first laid to rest. Thither Lincoln is said often to have gone alone, and “sat in silence for hours at a time;” and it was to Ann Rutledge’s grave here that he pointed and said: “There my heart lies buried.” The old cemetery suffered the melancholy fate of New Salem. It became a neglected, deserted spot. The graves were lost in weeds, and a heavy growth of trees kept out the sun and filled the place with gloom. A dozen years ago this picture was taken. It was a blustery day in the autumn, and the weeds and trees were swaying before a furious gale. No other picture of the place, taken while Ann Rutledge was buried there, is known to be in existence. A picture of a cemetery, with the name of Ann Rutledge on a high, flat tombstone, has been published in two or three books; but it is not genuine, the “stone” being nothing more than a board improvised for the occasion. The grave of Ann Rutledge was never honored with a stone until the body was taken up in 1890 and removed to Oakland cemetery, a mile southwest of Petersburg.

Intellectually he was far better equipped than he believed himself to be, better than he has ordinarily been credited with being. True, he had had no conventional college training, but he had by his own efforts attained the chief result of all preparatory study, the ability to take hold of a subject and assimilate it. The fact that in six weeks he had acquired enough of the science of surveying to enable him to serve as deputy surveyor shows how well trained his mind was. The power to grasp a large subject 220quickly and fully is never an accident. The nights Lincoln spent in Gentryville, lying on the floor in front of the fire, figuring on the fire-shovel; the hours he passed in poring over the Statutes of Indiana; the days he wrestled with Kirkham’s Grammar, alone made the mastery of Flint and Gibson possible. His struggle with Flint and Gibson made easier the volumes he borrowed from Major Stuart’s law library.


Joseph Duncan, Governor of Illinois from 1834 to 1838, was born in Kentucky in 1794. The son of an officer of the regular army, he at nineteen became a soldier in the war of 1812, and did gallant service. He removed to Illinois in 1818, and soon became prominent in the State, serving as a major-general of militia, a State Senator, and from 1826 to 1834 as a member of Congress, resigning from Congress to take the office of Governor. He was at first a Democrat, but afterwards became a Whig. He was a man of the highest character and public spirit. He died in 1844.

Lincoln had a mental trait which explains his rapid growth in mastering subjects—seeing clearly was essential to him. He was unable to put a question aside until he understood it. It pursued him, irritated him, until solved. Even in his Gentryville days his comrades noted that he was constantly searching for reasons and that he “explained so clearly.” This characteristic became stronger with years. He was unwilling to pronounce himself on any subject until he understood it, and he could not let it alone until he had reached a conclusion which satisfied him.

This seeing clearly became a splendid force in Lincoln; because when he once had reached a conclusion he had the honesty of soul to suit his actions to it. No consideration could induce him to abandon the course his reason told him was logical. Not that he was obstinate, and having taken a position, would not change it if he saw on further study that he was wrong. In his first circular to the people of Sangamon County is this characteristic passage: “Upon the subjects I have treated, I have spoken as I thought. I may be wrong in any or all of them; but, holding it a sound maxim that it is better only sometimes to be right than 221at all times to be wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them.”


From a painting owned by his daughter, Mrs. N. W. Branson, Petersburg, Illinois. Dr. Regnier was one of the New Salem physicians. He lived in the place until most of its inhabitants had deserted it, and then removed to Petersburg. He was for many years a leading citizen in the community. He died in 1858.

Joined to these strong mental and moral qualities was that power of immediate action which so often explains why one man succeeds in life while another of equal intelligence and uprightness fails. As soon as Lincoln saw a thing to do he did it. He wants to know; here is a book—it may be a biography, a volume of dry statutes, a collection of verse; no matter, he reads and ponders it until he has absorbed all it has for him. He is eager to see the world; a man offers him a position as a “hand” on a Mississippi flatboat; he takes it without a moment’s hesitation over the toil and exposure it demands. John Calhoun is willing to make him a deputy surveyor; he knows nothing of the science; in six weeks he has learned enough to begin his labors. Sangamon County must have representatives; why not he? And his circular goes out. Ambition alone will not explain this power of instantaneous action. It comes largely from that active imagination which, when a new relation or position opens, seizes on all its possibilities and from them creates a situation so real that one enters with confidence upon what seems to the unimaginative the rashest undertaking. Lincoln saw the possibilities in things, and immediately appropriated them.

But the position he filled in Sangamon County in 1835 was not all due to these qualities; much was due to his personal charm. By all accounts he was big, awkward, ill-clad, shy; yet his sterling honor, his unselfish nature, his heart of the true gentleman, inspired respect and confidence. Men might laugh 222at his first appearance, but they were not long in recognizing the real superiority of his nature.


From a photograph made for this work by C. S. McCullough, Petersburg, Illinois, in September, 1895. On the 15th of May, 1890, the remains of Ann Rutledge were removed from the long-neglected grave in the Concord graveyard to a new and picturesque burying-ground a mile southwest of Petersburg, called Oakland cemetery. The old grave, though marked by no stone, was easily identified from the fact that Ann was buried by the side of her younger brother, David, who died in 1842, upon the threshold of what promised to be a brilliant career as a lawyer. The removal was made by Samuel Montgomery, a prominent business man of Petersburg. He was accompanied to the grave by James McGrady Rutledge and a few others, who located the grave beyond a doubt. In the new cemetery, the grave occupies a place somewhat apart from others. A young maple tree is growing beside it, and it is marked by an unpolished granite stone bearing the simple inscription, “Ann Rutledge.”

Such was Abraham Lincoln at twenty-six, when the tragic death of Ann Rutledge made all that he had attained, all that he had planned, seem fruitless and empty. He was too sincere and just, too brave a man, to allow a great sorrow permanently to interfere with his activities. He rallied his forces and returned to his law, his surveying, his politics. He brought to his work a new power, that insight and patience which only a great sorrow can give.




Prepared especially for this volume by the Hon. L. E. Chittenden, Register of the Treasury under Lincoln, and author of “President Lincoln,” etc.

The Hon. Solomon Lincoln of Hingham, Massachusetts, in an article on the “Lincoln Families of Massachusetts,” in the “New England Historical and Genealogical Register,” 1865, Volume XIX., page 357, says: “We now come to the family of Samuel Lincoln, in which we find more names than in any other, which leads to the belief that it is in this direction that we must look for the ancestor of Abraham Lincoln. To this family belong the honored names of Levi Lincoln, Attorney-General of the United States, Lieutenant and acting Governor of Massachusetts after the death of Governor Sullivan; also his two distinguished sons, Levi, 1802, who, besides other offices, was by nine elections the popular Governor of Massachusetts; and Enoch Lincoln, Governor of Maine; and many other able men.

“In a correspondence with the late President, in 1848, when he was in Congress, he stated: ‘My father’s name is Thomas, my grandfather’s was Abraham, the same as my own. He went from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Kentucky, about the year 1782, and two years afterwards was killed by the Indians. We have a vague tradition that my great-grandfather was a Quaker who went from Pennsylvania to Virginia. Further than this I have not heard anything. It may do no harm to say that Abraham and Mordecai are common names in our family.’

“In a subsequent letter in 1848, he wrote: ‘I have mentioned that my grandfather’s name was Abraham; he had, as I think I have heard, four brothers, Isaac, Jacob, Thomas, and John. He had three sons, Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas—the last my father. My uncle Mordecai had three sons, Abraham, James, and Mordecai. My uncle Josiah had several daughters and only one son, Thomas. This is all I know certainly on the subject of names. It is, however, my father’s understanding that Abraham, Mordecai, and Thomas are old family names of ours.’”

Mr. Solomon Lincoln continues: “We have already mentioned among the sons of the first Samuel—Daniel, Mordecai, and Thomas; and among his grandsons—Mordecai, Isaac, and Abraham.

“It has been stated ... that about the middle of the last century the great-grandfather of Abraham Lincoln removed from Berks County, Pennsylvania, to Augusta County, Virginia. These facts, from ‘Rupp’s History of 224Berks County,’ are furnished by William B. Trask, Esq., of the Genealogical Society.”

From the “History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts,” four volumes, 8vo, 1893, by a committee comprising Ex-Governor Long and two members of the Lincoln family. See Volume I., page 271.

“The Lincolns fill the pages of local and Commonwealth history with the story of their services in the field, the town, the halls of legislation, and the council chamber, from the earliest day to the present time. During the French wars we have seen Benjamin Lincoln, as colonel of his regiment, the historical Third Suffolk, ... taking an active part. Colonel Lincoln died in March, 1771, leaving, among others, the son Benjamin who so worthily filled the place he long occupied in public estimation and usefulness. The affection that is felt for the great President Abraham Lincoln, also a descendant from the Hingham family, has given a national fame to the name in later years.”

From “The Lineage of Abraham Lincoln traced from Samuel Lincoln.” By Samuel Shackford, Esq., of Chicago, a descendant of Samuel Lincoln. See New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1887, Volume XLI., page 153.

“Samuel Lincoln came from Norfolk County, England—probably from the town of Hingham—in 1637, at the age of eighteen years, ... first to Salem, as an apprentice to a weaver; then to Hingham, where his brother Thomas ... lived.... He had ten children.... Through his first son, Samuel, came the Governors Levi Lincoln, father and son, and Enoch Lincoln, Governor of Maine. Mordecai, fourth son of Samuel, born at Hingham, June 17, 1767, was a blacksmith; worked at his trade in Hull; married Sarah, daughter of Abraham and Sarah (Whitman) Jones. From Hull the family removed to the neighboring town of Scituate, about 1704, where Mordecai established a furnace for smelting iron ore. The children of Mordecai and Sarah (Jones) Lincoln were five in number: Mordecai, born April 1, 1686; Abraham, born January 13, 1689; Isaac, born October 21, 1691; and Sarah, born July 29, 1691—all in Hingham. By a second wife he had Elizabeth and Jacob, born in Scituate.

“The will of Mordecai, dated Scituate, March 3, 1727, is of an unusual character. Isaac and Jacob, the younger sons—Jacob a lad of sixteen years—were named executors; and to them are bequeathed all the testator’s lands in Hingham and Scituate, with the saw and grist mill, and all his interest in the iron works. To ‘son Mordecai’ is left one hundred and ten pounds in money or bills of credit; to ‘son Abraham,’ sixty pounds in money or bills, ‘besides what he has already had.’ To the oldest sons of Mordecai and Abraham, each ten pounds when they come of age; and provision is made for sending three grandsons to college, if they wish a liberal education.

“Shortly before this time the names of Mordecai and Abraham disappear from, and are not after 1727 found on, the records of Massachusetts. They were active men of property; and this fact, in connection with the will, which gave them only money, and all the immovable property to Isaac and Jacob, raises an almost irresistible inference that Mordecai and Abraham no longer lived in Massachusetts.

225“We now turn to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and find that, in the early part of the last century, the Moores, Hales, Rolfs, Pikes, and other families from eastern Massachusetts, came to Middlesex County, New Jersey, and founded a town which they named, in honor of their old pastor in Newbury, Massachusetts, Woodbridge. At a somewhat later date the names of Mordecai and Abraham Lincoln appear on the records of Monmouth, which adjoins Middlesex County.

“Mordecai Lincoln had married Hannah (Bowne) Salter of Freehold, Monmouth County, New Jersey. Her uncle John Bowne’s will, dated September 14, 1714, gives to Hannah Lincoln a bequest of two hundred and fifty pounds. She was the daughter of Richard Salter, a leading lawyer, member of the assembly, and judge. Captain John Bowne was also a leading and influential citizen. The settlement of his estate involved several lawsuits shown by the court records. The first in 1716, by Obadiah Bowne, executor, against the other heirs, Mordecai Lincoln being a defendant. In this a non-suit was entered, and the second suit ended in the same way. The third, in 1719, also included Mordecai Lincoln as a defendant, but the sheriff returns him non est, and in 1720 the suit as to Mordecai was withdrawn.

“These facts are satisfactory proof that Mordecai Lincoln had, before 1720, left Monmouth County.”

As further proof of the identity of the New Jersey with the Hingham Mordecai, there is a letter shown to Mr. Shackford by John C. Beekman, Esq., of Monmouth, written by John Bowne, one of the heirs to his uncle Obadiah, in which he calls Mordecai “brother.”

A deed on file in the office of the Secretary of State in Trenton, New Jersey, dated February 29, 1720, from Richard Salter to Mordecai Lincoln, both of Freehold, conveys four hundred acres of land, situate on the Machaponix River and Grand Bank, Middlesex County. A like deed, of May 25, 1726, conveys one hundred acres of land in the same locality, and describes Mordecai Lincoln, the grantee, as of Chester County, Pennsylvania.

It appears from these records that Mordecai was in New Jersey in 1720. In 1876 there was unearthed in the old burying-ground near Allentown, New Jersey, a tombstone, bearing this inscription: “To the memory of Deborah Lincoln, who died May 15, 1720, aged three years and four months.” As no other Lincolns have been found in the vicinity, it is probable that she was the child of Mordecai and Hannah Lincoln.

A deed on file in the Department of Internal Affairs of Pennsylvania, dated December 24, 1725, from Mordecai Lincoln of Coventry, County of Chester, Pennsylvania, conveys to William Branston, merchant, of Philadelphia, one-third of one hundred and six acres of land, according to an agreement between Samuel Nutt and Mordecai Lincoln, with “the mynes, and minerals, forges, buildings, houses, and improvements.” This is important, for it shows that Mordecai first resided in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he made iron, a trade learned at his father’s establishment in Scituate.

It is through Mordecai that the pedigree of President Lincoln is traced to Samuel Lincoln. But it is also essential that Abraham of Monmouth County, New Jersey, should be identified as one of the missing sons of Mordecai and Sarah (Jones) Lincoln of eastern Massachusetts.

226Abraham, like his father, was a blacksmith, as the next deed shows. By it, on the records of Monmouth County, New Jersey, February 20, 1727, Abraham Lincoln, “blacksmith,” conveys to Thomas Williams two hundred and forty acres of land near Creswick, in said county, and two hundred acres conveyed to Abraham Lincoln by Abraham Van Horn. He was probably preparing to follow his brother Mordecai to Pennsylvania.

The will of Abraham Lincoln is dated in Springfield, Chester County, Pennsylvania, April 15, 1745, and was entered for probate on the 29th of the same month. His estate, a plantation in Springfield and two houses in Philadelphia, was divided among his children, viz.: Mordecai, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, John, Sarah, and Rebecca. Four of his sons bore the same Old Testament names as the four sons of the first Mordecai of Scituate.

Returning to Mordecai, we find in his will, proved June 7, 1736, that he is described as of Amity, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. By it he bequeaths to “my sons Mordecai and Thomas all my lands in Amity,” etc.; to his daughters Hannah and Mary a piece of land in Machaponix, New Jersey; and to “my son John three hundred acres of land in the same town;” and to his daughters Ann and Sarah one hundred acres, also lying in Machaponix, New Jersey.

His oldest son, John, was by his first wife, Hannah Salter, and went with his father to Pennsylvania. A deed from John, on file in the Secretary of State’s office in Trenton, New Jersey, describes him as the “son and heir of Mordecai Lincoln, of the town of Carnaervon, County of Lancaster,” and the deed conveys to William Dye “three hundred acres in Middlesex County, New Jersey, part of the property conveyed October 20, 1720, by Richard Salter to Mordecai Lincoln, and by him bequeathed to his said son John.”

John Lincoln, in 1758, owned a farm in Union township, adjoining Exeter (Pennsylvania?), which he sold, and went to Virginia, settling in that portion of Augusta County which was organized into Rockingham County in 1779. His will cannot now be found, part of the papers in the probate office at Harrisonburgh having been destroyed by fire. But there is ample proof that he had sons—John, Thomas, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and daughters.

The son Abraham married Mary Shepley in North Carolina, just over the Virginia boundary line, where their sons Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas were born. In 1782, or about that time, the family removed to Kentucky, where their daughters Mary and Nancy were born. The son Thomas Lincoln married Nancy Hanks, September 23, 1806, near Springfield, Kentucky, and Abraham Lincoln, their son, was born on the twelfth day of February, 1809.

Mr. Shackford continues: “The Lincolns through which the President’s genealogy is traced were for six generations, with a single exception, pioneers in the settlement of new countries. I. Samuel, an early settler at Hingham, Massachusetts. II. Mordecai, of Scituate, who lived and died near where he was born. III. Mordecai, settled in Pennsylvania, thirty years before Berks County was organized. IV. John, went to the wilds of Virginia. V. Abraham, went to Kentucky with Boone when it was infested by savages. VI. Thomas, with his son Abraham, pioneers to Indiana.”

Mr. Shackford has traced the pedigrees of other members of the Lincoln family, in which the persistence of Scripture names is very marked. We content ourselves with the following, which bears directly on the connection of the Pennsylvania and Virginia families:

“Abraham, the posthumous son of Mordecai and Mary Lincoln of Amity, born in 1736, married Ann Boone, a cousin of Daniel, the Kentucky pioneer. Their grandson, David J. Lincoln of Birdsboro’, Pennsylvania, informs me that his father James, who died in 1860, at the age of ninety-four, and his uncle Thomas, who died in 1864, told him that Daniel Boone often visited his friends in Pennsylvania, and always spent part of his time with his cousin Ann, and that his glowing accounts of the South and West induced John Lincoln to remove to Virginia. After his removal he was known as ‘Virginia John,’ to distinguish him from others of the same name.”

A fact which will probably impress the reader is that among the numerous Lincolns mentioned in the six generations from Samuel, the immigrant in 1637, to Abraham, the President, two centuries later, there is not one that does not bear a scriptural name. A coincidence not less remarkable is the identity of names in the successive families.

Among the children of the first Mordecai, 1686, were Mordecai, Abraham, Isaac, Sarah.

Of the second Mordecai, 1727: Mordecai, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.

Of Abraham, brother of second Mordecai, 1745: Mordecai, Abraham, Isaac, Sarah—identical with the children of the first Mordecai; also John, Jacob, and Rebecca.

Of John of Virginia, or “Virginia John,” 1758: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Thomas, John.

If there are any doubting Thomases who cannot see in this extraordinary identity of names any blood relationship, no evidence would convince them; neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.

Aside from this identity of names, the foregoing facts, taken from original documents on file, and family papers, prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Samuel Lincoln of Hingham was the ancestor of Abraham Lincoln of Illinois by a line of descent through the first and second Mordecai, “Virginia John,” Abraham, and Thomas Lincoln. In genealogical studies it is seldom, indeed, that a pedigree is so clearly established.



The most important testimony we have in regard to the character of the parents of Abraham Lincoln, and of the conditions under which they lived, is that of Christopher Columbus Graham. Dr. Graham was born at Worthington’s Station, near Danville, Kentucky, in 1784. He lived in the State until his death at Louisville in 1885. This long period was to the very end one of useful activity. A physician by profession, Dr. Graham was, by his love of nature, 228botanist, geologist, naturalist; and his observations on the flora, fauna, and strata of Kentucky are quoted on both sides of the Atlantic by scientists. For many years Dr. Graham was the owner of the famous Harrodsburg Springs. About 1852 he sold this property to the War Department of the United States as a Retreat for Invalid Military Officers. After the sale of the Springs he spent most of this time in study and in arranging his fine cabinet of Kentucky geology and natural history, before selling it to the Louisville Library Association.

It was only by an accident that Dr. Graham’s knowledge of the history of Thomas Lincoln was given to the public. Recluse and student, he heard little or nothing of the stories about the worthlessness of Thomas Lincoln and his wife which were circulated at the time of the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. To what he did hear he paid little or no attention. One day in the spring of 1882, however, he was visiting at the home of Capt. J. W. Wartmann, Clerk of the United States Court at Evansville, Indiana, and Mr. Wartmann overheard him say that he was present at the marriage of Thomas Lincoln. Realizing at once the historical importance of such a testimony, and thinking that it might lead to the discovery of documentary proofs of the marriage, Mr. Wartmann secured from Mr. Graham the following affidavit:

“I, Christopher C. Graham, now of Louisville, Kentucky, aged ninety-eight years, on my oath say: That I was present at the marriage of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, in Washington County, near the town of Springfield, Kentucky; that one Jesse Head, a Methodist preacher of Springfield, Kentucky, performed the ceremony. I knew the said Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks well, and know the said Nancy Hanks to have been virtuous and respectable, and of good parentage. I do not remember the exact date of the marriage, but was present at the marriage aforesaid; and I make this affidavit freely, and at the request of J. W. Wartmann, to whom, for the first time, I have this day incidentally stated the fact of my presence at the said wedding of President Lincoln’s father and mother. I make this affidavit to vindicate the character of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, and to put to rest forever the legitimacy of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. I was formerly proprietor of Harrodsburgh Springs; I am a retired physician, and am now a resident of Louisville, Kentucky. I think Felix Grundy was also present at the marriage of said Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, the father and mother of Abraham Lincoln. The said Jesse Head, the officiating minister at the marriage aforesaid, afterward removed to Harrodsburgh, Kentucky, and edited a paper there, and died at that place.

Christopher Columbus Graham.

“Subscribed and sworn to before me, this March 20, A.D. 1882. N. C. Butler, Clerk United States Circuit Court, First District, Indiana. By J. W. Wartmann, Deputy Clerk.”

This affidavit attracted wide attention, and the “New York Christian Advocate,” the leading organ of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in its issue of April 13, 1882, raised several pertinent questions:

1. Was Christopher Columbus Graham, at ninety-eight years of age, in full possession of his faculties?

2. Why had he not given his precious information before to the public?

3. Was there a Methodist preacher named Jesse Head?

These questions called out a large number of answers. The Rev. William M. Grubbs, of the Southwest Indiana Conference, stationed at Castleton, 229Marion County, in answer to the editor’s first point gave a brief history of Dr. Graham, and explained why he “should never have been heard of before as the possessor of this precious information”:

“The Doctor himself was a man of more than ordinary intelligence, almost a Chesterfield in manners, and a leader for years of the Whig party—a great friend of Henry Clay—and unless he has greatly degenerated, he is now, at ninety-eight years, a good specimen of ‘the fine old Kentucky gentleman.’ Additional to the fact that he has been quite deaf for many years, he is a great lover of nature in its varied forms. As an evidence of this, at the time I was their guest, in 1855, he had been absent six months in the mountains of Kentucky, pursuing his favorite studies in natural history, geology, etc. Thus, though on good terms with his family, his habits became those of the student and the recluse. The family told us pleasantly that such was his passion for nature in its wildest forms that they did not know when he would think of paying them a visit. The last time I saw him was in Louisville, Kentucky, arranging his large cabinet of natural history, geology, etc., for the Library Association of that city, to which he had sold the same for quite a large sum. Since the death of his wife and the marriage of his daughters, I think he has had no settled home—something of a rover—with ample means and friends everywhere. It is not, therefore, surprising that his habits of indifference to passing events and themes kept him ignorant of the mooted point that he sets to rest by his late statement.”

The Rev. John R. Eads, pastor of the Danville, Kentucky, Methodist Episcopal Church, wrote of Dr. Graham: “I have never heard his veracity or his integrity questioned.” Of Jesse Head he said: “He is remembered by some of the old people of this community.” He added:

“You seem surprised that the testimony of Dr. Graham to the ‘precious information’ which he communicates should not have been procured earlier. I frankly confess that, while I am a native of central Kentucky, and have spent most of my life here, I never heard before, so far as I can now remember, a question raised as to the legal marriage of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. Thinking this might be exceptional in my case, I have taken the pains to-day to ask others if they ever heard such a question raised, and they tell me they have not. I feel quite sure that there must be very few people in central Kentucky who ever heard of a doubt expressed concerning the legal marriage of Thomas Lincoln.”

Letters were received from the Rev. R. T. Stephenson of Shelbyville, Kentucky, and others, supplying information as to who the Rev. Jesse Head was and what were his relations to the Methodist Episcopal Church. The facts, however, are all given in condensed shape in the following:

Lawrenceburg, Kentucky,
Anderson County, May 3, 1882.
To the Rev. J. M. Buckley, D.D.

Dear Sir and Brother:—Your favor reached me on the eve of my leaving Harrodsburg for this place, hence the delay in responding to your request. The Rev. Jesse Head referred to was my grandfather. He was born in Maryland, near Baltimore; was married to Miss Jane Ramsey, of (what is now) Bedford County, Pennsylvania. He removed to Kentucky, and settled at Springfield, Washington County. He was an ordained minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, but was never connected with the itinerancy in Kentucky, on account of feeble health. He held several prominent civil offices while living in Springfield, and was actively engaged preaching the gospel of God’s grace. He celebrated the rites of matrimony between Thomas Lincoln and Miss Nancy Hanks, father and mother of President Lincoln, in 1806, near 230Springfield. He afterwards moved to Harrodsburg, Mercer County, where he lived until his death, which occurred in March, 1842. At Harrodsburg he engaged in merchandising, also owned and edited the county paper for a term of years. He was largely instrumental, if not wholly, in building the first church ever erected in Harrodsburg; also organized and conducted the first prayer-meeting. In gospel labors he was always abundant. His house was the home for several years of Rev. H. B. Bascom, afterwards Bishop; also of Bishop McKendree especially, as they were bosom friends. Some time before his death he left the Methodist Episcopal Church, and connected himself with the Radical Methodists, on account of slavery, and also some dissatisfaction with the Episcopacy. He then had charge of and preached for a church for years at Lexington, Kentucky. His name at Harrodsburg and through the surrounding country is as ointment poured forth. He was a man of decided and positive character, bold and aggressive, and died loved and honored by all. He died as he lived, in the triumph of the faith of the Gospel of God’s Son.

“Fraternally yours,
E. B. Head, P.E.,
“Lawrenceburg Circuit, Kentucky Conference.”

The “Christian Advocate,” upon receipt of the first letter, requested the Rev. John R. Eads of Danville, Kentucky, to have the marriage record examined, the following reply being returned:

Danville, Kentucky, April 25, 1882.
Dr. Buckley.

My Dear Brother:—Your postal card received. I have just received the accompanying paper, which, though somewhat singular in form in some of its parts, will be plain to you in its essential facts. You have received my other two letters, which in connection with this certificate will, I trust, set the whole matter to which they relate in a satisfactory light.

John R. Eads.”

Here follows the certificate:

“Clerk’s Office, Washington County Court,
“W. F. Booker, Clerk.
Springfield, Kentucky, April 24, 1882.
The Rev. John R. Eads.

Dear Sir:—Yours in regard to the marriage certificate of Thomas Lincoln to Nancy Hanks reached here during my absence in Louisville. I now send you a copy of the same:

“I do hereby certify that the following is a true list of the marriage solemnized by me between Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, September 23, 1806.

Jesse Head, D. N. E. C.
“(Copy attest.)
“W. F. Booker,
“Clerk, Washington County Court.
“Yours respectfully,       W. F. B.”

The “Christian Advocate,” in publishing the letters, said:

“In summing up the whole the following points may be considered as forever settled:

“1. There was such a man as Jesse Head, a local deacon in the Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1806.

“2. He married Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks on September 23, 1806,[20] of whom was born the venerated and never-to-be-forgotten Abraham Lincoln.

231“3. The fact of the marriage was duly certified by Jesse Head, in the clerk’s office of Washington County, Kentucky, where it may now be seen.

“4. The Rev. E. B. Head has spoken of this fact in the family history prior to the publication of this affidavit.

“5. Dr. Graham is a competent witness, and his testimony is confirmed in every point.

“6. In view of these facts, that there should ever have been any doubts raised about the marriage of the parents of Mr. Lincoln, and that it should have been gravely discussed, and never explicitly settled in the various biographies, is remarkable.”

Soon after the publication of the above facts a historian of Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Henry Whitney Cleveland, realizing the importance of Dr. Graham’s reminiscences, secured from him, in his hundredth year, an account of what he remembered of Thomas Lincoln. Mr. Cleveland took down word for word what Dr. Graham told him, and we print it in full below. We regard it as in many ways the most important unpublished document we have been able to discover in regard to Thomas Lincoln. As to the mental condition of Dr. Graham in 1884, we have the testimony of some of the leading citizens of Louisville. In the paper read before the Southern Historical Society in 1880, in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of Louisville, Dr. Durrett said of Mr. Graham:

“Four years more will make him a centenarian, and yet he moves along the streets every day with the elastic step of manhood’s prime, and the eagle eye which made him in youth the finest rifle-shot in the world is shorn but little of its unerring sight. He was a practising physician three-quarters of a century ago, and is the author of several learned books of a professional and philosophical character. His health is yet good, his faculties well preserved, and he seems to-day more like a man of sixty-nine than ninety-six.”

In 1884, when Dr. Graham had become a centenarian, a banquet was given him at which all the leading citizens of Louisville were present. Without exception, every one of the persons with whom we have talked of Dr. Graham’s condition at this time affirms that he was mentally vigorous and his memory trustworthy. In the face of such testimony the statements in the following document must be accepted:


The original statement was written out, at Dr. Graham’s dictation, by Dr. Henry Whitney Cleveland of Louisville, Kentucky, but was signed by Dr. Graham’s own hand.

I, Christopher Columbus Graham, now in my hundredth year, and visiting the Southern Exposition in Louisville, where I live, tell this to please my young friend Henry Cleveland, who is nearly half my age. He was often at the Springs Hotel in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, then owned and kept by me for invalids and pleasure-seekers. 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 232the twelfth day of June, 1806. He was born at what was then known as the Rock Spring Farm—it is now called the Creal Place—three miles south of Hodgensville, in Larue County, Kentucky.

Kentucky was first a county of Virginia after its settlement, and then was divided into three counties; and these, again divided, are pretty much the present State. The first historian was Filson, who made and published the first map of the separate territory, with the names of streams and stations as given by Daniel Boone and Squire Boone, James Harrod, and others. I knew all of these, as well as President Lincoln’s parents.

I think they lived on the farm four years after he was born. Another boy was born in Hodgensville, or, I should say, buried there. The sister, Sally, was older than Abe, I think. I think the paper now owned by Henry Cleveland is the “marriage lines” written by Rev. Jesse Head, a well-known Methodist preacher. I do not think the old Bible it was found in was that of Tom Lincoln. It would cost too much for him. All of the records in it were those of the father’s family—the John M. Hewetts—of the wife of Dr. Theodore S. Bell. Dr. Bell was only about twenty years younger than I am, and probably got the certificate in 1858 or 1860, when assertions were made that Tom Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were not married when Abe was born.

He was reputed to have been born February 12, 1809, and I see no good reason to dispute it. Sally, I am sure, was the first child, and Nancy was a fresh and good-looking girl—I should say past twenty. Nancy lived with the Sparrow family a good bit. It was likely Tom had the family Bible from Virginia, through his father, called Abraham Linkhorn. His brothers, however, were older—if they were brothers, and not uncles, as some say. I was hunting roots for my medicines, and just went to the wedding to get a good supper, and got it.

Bibles cost as much as the spinning-wheel, or loom, or rifle, and were imported in the main. A favorite with the Methodists was Fletcher’s, or one he wrote a preface for. Preachers used it, and had no commentaries. A book dedicated to King James or any other king did not take well in Revolutionary times. The Bibles I used to see had no printed records or blanks, but a lot of fine linen hand-made paper would be bound in front or back. On this, family history and land matters were written out fully like a book. Some had fifty pages. The court-houses even were made of logs, and the meeting-houses too, if they had any. No registers were kept as in English parish churches, and are not yet. Before a license could be had, a bond and security was taken of the bridegroom, and the preacher had to return to the court all marriages of the year. This was often a long list, and at times papers were lost or forgotten, but not often. The “marriage lines” given by the preacher to the parties were very important in case the records were burned up by accident. Such is the paper that Henry Cleveland has shown to me. The ring was not often used, as so few had one to use. The Methodist Church discipline forbid “the putting on of gold or costly apparel,” and I think a preacher with a gold watch—if not an inherited one—would have been dismissed. A preacher that married was “located,” and that ended his itinerancy in the Methodist Church. The Presbyterians were educated and married; Baptists not educated.

233Tom Lincoln was a carpenter, and a good one for those days, when a cabin was built mainly with the axe, and not a nail or bolt or hinge in it, only leathers and pins to the door, and no glass, except in watches and spectacles and bottles. Tom had the best set of tools in what was then and now Washington County. Larue County, where the farm was settled, was then Hardin.

Jesse Head, the good Methodist preacher that married them, was also a carpenter or cabinet-maker by trade, and as he was then a neighbor, they were good friends. He had a quarrel with the bishops, and was not an itinerant for several years, but an editor, and county judge afterwards, in Harrodsburg. Mr. Henry Cleveland has his commission from Governor Isaac Shelby.

Many great men of the South and North were then opposed to slavery, mainly because the new negroes were as wild as the Indians, and might prove as dangerous. Few of the whites could read, and yet Pope and Dryden and Shakespeare were as well known as Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” and Baxter’s “Saints’ Rest.” Some were educated in Virginia and North Carolina before they came, and these, when they became teachers, wrote out their school-books entirely by hand.

Thomas Lincoln, like his son after him, had a notion that fortunes could be made by trips to New Orleans by flatboat. This was dangerous, from snags and whirlpools in the rivers, from Indians, and even worse—pirates of the French, Canadians, and half-breeds. Steam was unknown, and the flats had to be sold in New Orleans, as they could not be rowed back against the currents. The neighbors joked Tom for building his boat too high and narrow, from an idea he had about speed, that has since been adopted by ocean steamships. But he lacked in ballast. He loaded her up with deer and bear hams and buffalo, which last was then not so plenty for meat or hides as when the Boone brothers came in. Besides, he had wax, for bees seemed to follow the white people, and he had wolf and coon and mink and beaver skins, gentian root (that folks then called “gensang” or “‘sang”), nuts, honey, peach-brandy and whiskey, and jeans woven by his wife and Sally Bush, that he married after Nancy died. Some said she died of heart trouble, from slanders about her and old Abe Enloe, called Inlow, while her Abe, named for the pioneer Abraham Linkhorn, was still little. But I am ahead of my story, for Nancy had just got married where I was telling it, and the flatboat and Sally Bush Lincoln come in before he goes over to what people called “Indiany.” I will finish that, and then go back.

He started down Knob Creek when it was flush with rains; but the leaves held water like a sponge, and the ground was shaded with big trees and papaw and sassafras thickets and “cain,” as Bible-read folks spelt the cane, and streams didn’t dry up in summer like they do now. When he got to the Ohio it was flush, too, and full of whirlpools and snags. He had his tool-chest along, intending to stop and work in Indiana and take down another boat. But he never got to the Mississippi with that, for it upset, and he only saved his chest and part of his load because he was near to the Indiana shore. He stored what he saved under bark, and came home a-foot, and in debt to neighbors who had helped him. But people never pressed a man that lost by Indians or water.

Now I go back for a spell. Thomas and Nancy both could read and write, and little Abe went to school about a year. He was eight years old at the time 234of the accident to Tom Lincoln’s down-the-river venture. Thomas and Nancy were good common people, not above nor below their neighbors, and I did not take much notice of them, because there was no likelihood that their wedding would mean more than other people’s did.

The preacher Jesse Head often talked to me on religion and politics, for I always liked the Methodists. I have thought it might have been as much from his free-spoken opinions as from Henry Clay’s American-African colonization scheme in 1817, that I lost a likely negro man, who was leader of my musicians. It is said that Tom Corwin met him in Ohio on his way to Canada, and asked if I was along. The boy said no, he was going for his freedom. Governor Corwin said he was a fool; he had never been whipped or abused, but dressed like a white man, with the best to eat, and that hundreds of white people would be glad of such a good place, with no care, but cared for.

The boy drew himself up and said: “Marse Tom, that situation with all its advantages is open to you, if you want ter go an’ fill it.”

But Judge Head never encouraged any runaway, nor had any “underground railroad.” He only talked freely and boldly, and had plenty of true Southern men with him, such as Clay. The Eli Whitney cotton-gin had now made slavery so valuable that preachers looked in Hebrew and Greek Testaments for scripture for it.

Tom Lincoln and Nancy, and Sally Bush were just steeped full of Jesse Head’s notions about the wrong of slavery and the rights of man as explained by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Abe Lincoln the Liberator was made in his mother’s womb and father’s brain and in the prayers of Sally Bush; by the talks and sermons of Jesse Head, the Methodist circuit rider, assistant county judge, printer-editor, and cabinet-maker. Little Abe grew up to serve as a cabinet-maker himself two Presidential terms.

It was in my trip to Canada after my negro that I met the younger brother of the great chief Tecumseh. A mob wanted to kill me because I was after my property that had legs and a level head. The Indian was one of the finest looking men I ever saw, and in the full uniform of a British officer. He protected me, and we had a talk after the danger was over. He said that history was right about the death of his great brother Tecumseh at the battle of the Thames in 1813. But the story of his skin being taken off by soldiers to make razor-straps was all a lie, as they never had the chance. He was not even slain at the point in the battle indicated by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, whose accession to the Vice-Presidency in 1836 was largely due to the credit which he gained for this supposed exploit. My Indian protector said he was a lad at the time, but [was] there; and that the red men never abandoned their chiefs, dead nor alive.

I come back again to the Lincoln-Hanks wedding of 1806. Rev. or Judge Jesse Head was one of the most prominent men there, as he was able to own slaves, but did not on principle. Next, I reckon, came Mordecai Lincoln, at one time member of the Kentucky legislature. He was a good Indian fighter; and although some say he was the elder brother of Tom Lincoln, I understood he was his uncle, or father’s brother. The story of his killing the Indian who killed old Abraham Linkhorn is all “my eye and Betty Martin.”

My acceptance of this whole pedigree is on hearsay, and none of it from 235the locality of Tom Lincoln’s home. There is a Virginia land warrant, No. 3,334, of March 4, 1780, for four hundred acres of land, cost one hundred and sixty pounds, located in Jefferson County, Kentucky, on Long Run; and [there is a report of survey for the same tract (see pages 22 and 23)] signed by William Shanon, D. S. J. C., and William May, S. J. C., witnessed by Ananiah Lincoln and Josiah Lincoln, C. C. (chain-carriers), and Abraham Linkhorn, Marker, dated May 7, 1785, five years later. “Mordecai Lincoln, Gentleman,” is the title given one who died in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 1735, and his will is recorded in the Register’s office in Philadelphia. New Jersey, Virginia, and Tennessee also have the name correctly, in the last century. The fame of General Benjamin Lincoln of the Revolution was on every tongue at that time. In the field-book of Daniel Boone, owned by Lyman C. Draper, five hundred acres of land was entered for Abraham Lincoln on treasury warrant No. 5,994, December 11, 1782. The officers of the land-office of Virginia could spell, and so could the surveyor and deputy surveyor (Record “B,” p. 60 of Jefferson County in 1785). The two chain-carriers spelled the name correctly. Why not also think that the third man spelled his correctly? A very illiterate man could pronounce what he could not spell, and Abraham Linkhorn, who had money and could write, knew his own name. President Lincoln told James Speed: “I don’t know who my grandfather was, and am more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” I am not sure that we know, either, perfectly yet.[21]

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 (that you can eat the grease of, and it not rise like other fats); 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 or whiskey; 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; and a race for the whiskey bottle. The sheep cost the most, and corn was early raised in what is now Boyle County, at the Isaac Shelby place. I don’t know who stamped in the first peach-seed, but they grew before the apples. Our table was of the puncheons cut from solid logs, and on the next day they were the floor of the new cabin.

It is all stuff about Tom Lincoln keeping his wife in an open shed in a winter when the wild animals left the woods and stood in the corners next the stick-and-clay chimneys, so as not to freeze to death; or, if climbers, got on the roof. The Lincolns had a cow and calf, milk and butter, a good feather bed, for I have slept in it (while they took the buffalo robes on the floor, because I was a doctor). They had home-woven “kiverlids,” big and little pots, a loom and wheel; and William Hardesty, who was there too, can say with me that Tom Lincoln was a man and took care of his wife.

I have been in bark camps with Daniel and Squire Boone and James Harrod. We have had to wade in the “crick,” as Daniel spelt it, to get our scent lost in the water, and the Indian dogs off our trail. When trailed and there was no water handy, I have seen Daniel cut a big grapevine loose at the bottom, with his tomahawk, from the ground. Then, with a run and swing from the tree it hung to, swing and jump forty feet clear, to break the scent on the ground. I have done it too, but not so far. He could beat any man on the run and jump, but it took more than two Indians or one bear to make him do it. If no dog barked in the silent woods, we could run backward very fast, and make Mr. Indian think we had gone the way we came. They went that way, and we the other for dear scalps and hair. Squirrels barking or chattering at Indians, or dogs, often told us of our danger. I wanted to have a pioneer exhibit at the great Louisville Southern Expositions of 1883 and 1884. I wanted the dense laurel and the papaw thickets planted in rich soil; the bear climbing the bee-tree, and beaten by the swinging log hung by the hunter in his way; the creeping Indian with his tomahawk, and the hunter with the old flint-and-steel rifle, just as I had seen them. Then I wanted to have women from the mountains and the counties that railroads and turnpikes have not opened, and have them in real life, to spin and weave, or bead and fringe the moccasin and hunting-shirt and leggings as they did when I was a boy. This, by the side of the industries and arts of the new era, and the wool and cotton machinery in its present perfection, would indeed tell to the eyes of the changes seen by an old man who has lived a hundred years. As they did not listen to me, I have asked Henry Cleveland, who was a boy and played with my little children at the Harrodsburg Springs in the forties, to write it as I talked to him. I am very deaf, but can see and talk, and will now write my autograph to what he has written and copied off, and will take up James Harrod at another time.

Christopher Columbus Graham in my 100th year


From the Collection of Mr. William H. Lambert of Philadelphia.

Mr. Lambert’s collection of Lincolniana has been made most intelligently. Primarily it consists of the literature directly relating to Lincoln, and includes a large number of books and pamphlets, the list of biographies and eulogies being very full. It also comprises a large number of engravings of Lincoln, and a number of autograph letters and documents, chief among which are a leaf from Lincoln’s sum-book, 1824; the precipe in his first lawsuit; letter to William H. Herndon, relative to General Taylor and the Mexican War; letter to his step-brother, John D. Johnston, refusing assent to the latter’s proposition to dispose of the mother’s interest in property; printed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Lincoln, attested by Mr. Seward, and certified by Mr. Nicolay, being one of the twenty copies made for the great Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia, 1864; and a series of autograph letters of William H. Herndon, written in 1866 and 1867, relative to his lectures on Lincoln and the biography which he proposed writing. Among the books are a copy of Paley’s works, from Lincoln’s private library; “Angel on Limitations,” from his law library; and “Webster’s Dictionary,” used by Lincoln at the White House.

The office table, bookcase, revolving chair, and wooden inkstand owned and used by Lincoln in his law office at Springfield, with certificates from Mr. Herndon and others as to the genuineness of these articles, are in the collection. From the inkstand, Mr. Herndon states, the “house-divided-against-itself” speech was written.

The Volk life-mask and casts of hands, the Clark-Mills life-mask, and an original ambrotype of Lincoln, made in August, 1860, are also owned by Mr. Lambert.



The oldest and probably the largest collection of Lincolniana which has been made is known as the Oldroyd collection, and is at present in the house in Washington, D. C., where Lincoln died, April 15, 1865. The collection takes its name from its owner, Colonel O. H. Oldroyd. The germ of the collection was a campaign badge which excited the possessor’s desire to have others. In the days of 1860 in Ohio—Mr. Oldroyd lived in Ohio—it was easy to get badges adorned with Mr. Lincoln’s face, or with a section of the rail fence and the flatboat which had been adopted by the people as his armorial bearings. The campaign badges which young Oldroyd saved naturally drew other things to them; pictures off tomato cans, tobacco pouches, soap and chewing-gum wrappers, and what not; cuts from the newspapers, campaign pictures.

If Mr. Oldroyd had not been born with the collecting spirit all this would probably have amounted to nothing. It would have been relegated to the garret and one day have been burned. But he had that itching for possession, and the more he had the more he wanted. He spent all he could earn in buying new treasures, and he began a general exchange with other collectors, until by the close of the war he probably had the finest lot of Lincolniana in the United States.

It was the possession of this collection which induced Mr. Oldroyd to go to Springfield, Ill. Here he hoped to add easily to what he had already gathered, much concerning Lincoln’s early life, and to find a permanent home for his whole collection. Few people appreciated the value of Lincoln souvenirs in those days, and many curious pieces came into Mr. Oldroyd’s hands for the 238asking. As the collection became larger and the public began to show interest in it, Mr. Oldroyd determined to put it in a place where he could exhibit it freely. The old Lincoln homestead, bought by Mr. Lincoln in 1846, the house where he was living when elected to the Presidency, was standing. It had been sadly neglected for many years, and now was vacant. Mr. Oldroyd rented it, and put his collection into the double parlors of the house. The place became soon one of the “monuments” of Springfield, and visitors went out of their way to see it. It became the headquarters for old soldiers and the starting point for all kinds of patriotic gatherings. Mr. Robert Lincoln, seeing the interest which the public took in his father’s old home, and appreciating the efforts of Mr. Oldroyd to make a complete collection, turned over the Lincoln homestead in 1887 to the State as a perpetual memorial to Abraham Lincoln. The legislature of Illinois formally accepted the gift, and installed Mr. Oldroyd as guardian of the house, it being understood that his collection was to remain with him.

The undertaking proved a success, and matters went well until in 1893 the administration changed. For some reason which only those initiated into the mysteries of party government can understand, it was deemed unwise by the party rulers to allow Mr. Oldroyd, who happened to be of the opposing faith, to remain in charge of the Lincoln Home; so he was relieved of his functions as guardian, and a new incumbent selected. One result of the change, which the new administration had probably not counted on, was that, as the collection in the house belonged to Mr. Oldroyd, and not to the State, when he went out that went out too. The intelligent people of Springfield of both parties regretted exceedingly this ludicrous application of party principles to so non-partisan a subject as a collection of Lincoln relics; but nothing was done to save the museum, and Mr. Oldroyd was obliged to leave the town where he had struggled with pathetic patience for so many years to get a permanent home for his Lincolniana.

After some casting about he finally determined to remove to Washington, and he was encouraged to this step by several men of the city and government—prominent among whom were Chief Justice Fuller, Dr. Hamlin, a leading clergyman, General Schofield, and the Hon. G. G. Hubbard. These gentlemen had founded a Lincoln Memorial Association; and, renting the house on Tenth Street where Lincoln had died on April 15, 1865, they installed Mr. Oldroyd in it. Their plan was to petition Congress to buy the house and collection, and to appropriate enough for the guardian’s salary. Considerable interest was awakened in the enterprise, and the association, on the strength of this, felt justified in keeping the house open for several months. The appropriation did not come, however, and the gentlemen decided that the expenses could not be kept up indefinitely, and that it would be necessary to close up the exhibit until the heart of Congress could be converted.

The situation was a difficult one for Mr. Oldroyd. He had made the change from Springfield to Washington at large expense to himself, and now he could ill afford to carry on the enterprise alone. But with a pluck and a devotion to his cause which has characterized all his movements he decided to take the burden on himself, rent the house, keep open the museum, and trust to the public to support it. To aid in the undertaking, he compiled and published 239a small volume—“The Words of Lincoln.” The profits from the sale of this book, together with the small fee charged to enter the museum, are all that now support the undertaking.

The collection whose history has been here sketched is full of curious and interesting articles. Among the personal effects of Mr. Lincoln which Mr. Oldroyd has collected, the most valuable is undoubtedly the tall silk hat which was worn by Lincoln on the night of his assassination. There are several specimens of the plain and homely garments used by Mr. Lincoln in his early days in Illinois. Of household furniture there are many examples. The most touching is, undoubtedly, the simple, old-fashioned cradle in which Mrs. Lincoln, and, if tradition is correct, Mr. Lincoln also, rocked “Tad” and Willie. A wooden settee which stood for years on the veranda of the Springfield house, is exhibited, as well as the cooking-stove which stood in the Lincoln kitchen at the time when the family moved to Washington. Mr. Oldroyd says that he has been offered extravagant sums by stove dealers for this stove, they wanting it presumably to use as an advertisement. Another valuable piece of furniture is the wooden office chair which Mr. Lincoln used when he first began to practise law in 1837. A chair of still greater interest is an old-fashioned haircloth rocker in which he sat in Ford’s Theatre on the night on which he received his death-wound.

Several autograph letters from Mr. Lincoln are owned by Mr. Oldroyd. By far the most interesting specimen of his writing is the short autobiography which he prepared for his friend Jesse Fell before the campaign of 1860. This autobiography was the foundation of all the histories which were issued in such great numbers just before and after his first election.

In Lincoln portraiture the collection is very full, though it is rather from a historical point of view than from an artistic that it is valuable. Mr. Oldroyd has copies of nearly all of the engravings and lithographs issued in Mr. Lincoln’s lifetime. He has also a splendid lot of wood-cuts gathered from newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets. In this collection of prints there are numbers of views of the Lincoln family and of various scenes connected with Mr. Lincoln’s public career. From the spring of 1860 until after the funeral, in 1865, there were few issues of the illustrated papers in this country which did not contain something on the President. Mr. Oldroyd has succeeded in getting nearly all of these prints, among them a great many caricatures. He has a full set of “Vanity Fair,” and many of the Currier and Ives lithographs, now so rare. An interesting feature of the collection is the number of curios it contains—campaign documents of various kinds, such as badges, medals, pins, letter paper and envelopes, flags, etc.

The use that was made by advertisers of Lincoln’s face during his Presidency is shown by a case of common articles; there are tomato cans, soap, washing fluid, tobacco pouches, cigarette cases, spruce gum, and many other trivial articles, all enclosed in highly-colored papers bearing portraits of Mr. Lincoln, surrounded by a rail fence or some popular campaign legend.

The only complete collection of the portraits of Lincoln issued by the government which we have ever seen, Mr. Oldroyd owns. Among them is a revenue stamp calling for five pounds of tobacco; another is good for seventy gallons of distilled spirits, a third for four ounces of snuff, and a fourth 240calls for cigarettes. Lincoln’s head appears on a variety of postage stamps; the four, six, fifteen, and ninety-cent stamps all bear his face. The six-cent stamp of each of the Departments has a head of Lincoln. The old fifty-cent “shin plaster” is exhibited. It was the only one of our scrip issue which bore a head of Lincoln. His picture is also to be found on a ten-dollar greenback, a one-hundred-dollar United States note, and a one-hundred-dollar government bond.

The most valuable portion of the Oldroyd collection is undoubtedly its books, pamphlets, and clippings. The library contains almost all of the biographies which have been issued, a large number of memoirs by contemporaries of Lincoln, and many war records. There are copies of some three hundred different sermons delivered at the time of Lincoln’s death, as well as a great number of the pieces of music composed in his honor.

A precious book in Mr. Oldroyd’s Lincoln library is the Bible owned by Thomas Lincoln, the father of the President. This Bible bears the date of 1798; it undoubtedly went with the Lincolns from Kentucky to Indiana, and was carried from there by them when they moved into Illinois. It was kept in the family of Thomas Lincoln’s step-children until 1892, when it was sold to be exhibited at the World’s Fair. It afterward passed to Mr. Oldroyd.

At present it is not known what will be done with the Oldroyd collection. The owner has made heroic efforts to keep it together, and it is to be hoped that some way will open by which he can realize his ambition.

A series of articles on the middle and later periods of Lincoln’s life will be found in the McClure’s Magazine, beginning with the number for March, 1896. These articles are prepared by the authors of the present volume, assisted by many persons who were in close personal association with Lincoln, and possess important facts and reminiscences never before published. The articles are very fully illustrated with numerous portraits of Lincoln, his friends and associates, and with pictures, specially drawn or photographed for the Magazine, of all important places and scenes with which he was connected.

1.  This table was prepared especially for this work by the Hon. L. E. Chittenden of New York, Register of the Treasury under Mr. Lincoln. In the Appendix will be found a full memorandum of Lincoln’s genealogy, also prepared by Mr. Chittenden.

2.  We owe this interesting document to the courtesy of R. T. Durrett, LL.D., of Louisville, Kentucky, a gentleman who for many years has made a specialty of the pioneer history of his State, and through whose energetic and intelligent researches most of the documents concerning the pioneer Abraham Lincoln have been unearthed.

3.  Christopher Columbus Graham, as reported by H. W. Cleveland of Louisville, Ky., in an interview in 1884, in Mr. Graham’s hundredth year, and never before published.

4.  Unpublished MS. of an interview with Austin Gollaher, by D. J. Thomas.

5.  The first flour cake made in Louisville, Kentucky, was made in 1779. The records of the city thus describe the event: “It is related that, when the first patch of wheat was raised about this place, after being ground in a rude and laborious hand-mill, it was sifted through a gauze neckerchief, belonging to the mother of the gallant man who gave us the information, as the best bolting-cloth to be had. It was then shortened, as the housewife phrased it, with raccoon fat, and the whole station invited to partake of a sumptuous feast upon a flour cake.”—History of the Ohio Falls Counties, page 174.

6.  Unpublished MS. by A. Hoosier.

7.  The first authorized sketch of Lincoln’s life was written by the late John L. Scripps of the Chicago “Tribune,” who went to Springfield at Mr. Lincoln’s request, and by him was furnished the data for a campaign biography. In a letter written to Mr. Herndon after the death of Lincoln, which Herndon turned over to me, Scripps relates that in writing his book he stated that Lincoln as a youth read Plutarch’s “Lives.” This he did simply because, as a rule, almost every boy in the West in the early days did read Plutarch. When the advance sheets of the book reached Mr. Lincoln, he sent for the author and said, gravely: “That paragraph wherein you state that I read Plutarch’s ‘Lives’ was not true when you wrote it, for up to that moment in my life I had never seen that early contribution to human history; but I want your book, even if it is nothing more than a campaign sketch, to be faithful to the facts; and in order that that statement might be literally true, I secured the book a few days ago, and have sent for you to tell you I have just read it through.”—Jesse W. Weik.

8.  From an unpublished MS. by A. Hoosier.

9.  Preserved in “Abraham Lincoln. Complete Works.” Edited by John G. Nicolay and John Hay. Volume I., page 639. The Century Company.

10.  Interview with Mr. T. W. S. Kidd of Springfield, Illinois, editor of “The Morning Monitor.”

11.  It still happens frequently in the mountain districts of Tennessee that the funeral services are not held until months after the burial. A gentleman who has lived much in the South tells of a man marrying a second wife at a decent interval after the death of his first, but still before the funeral of the first had taken place.

12.  Letter to —— Johnston, April 18, 1846. “Abraham Lincoln. Complete Works.” Edited by John G. Nicolay and John Hay. Volume I., pages 86, 87. The Century Co.

13.  1830–1831. “The winter of the deep snow” is the date which is the starting point in all calculations of time for the early settlers of Illinois, and the circumstance from which the old settlers of Sangamon County receive the name by which they are generally known, “Snow-birds.”

14.  This story of Kirkpatrick’s unfair treatment of Lincoln we owe to the courtesy of Colonel Clark E. Carr of Galesburg, Illinois, to whom it was told several times by Greene himself.

15.  William Cullen Bryant, who was in Illinois in 1832, at the time of the Black Hawk War, used to tell of meeting in his travels in the State a company of Illinois volunteers, commanded by a “raw youth” of “quaint and pleasant” speech, who, he learned afterwards, was Abraham Lincoln. As Lincoln’s captaincy ended on May 27th, and Mr. Bryant did not reach Illinois until June 12th, and as he never came nearer than fifty miles to the Rapids of the Illinois, where the body of rangers to which Lincoln belonged was encamped, it is evident that the “raw youth” could not have been Lincoln, much as one would like to believe that it was.

16.  See “Wisconsin Historical Collections,” Volume X., for Major Anderson’s reminiscences of the Black Hawk War.

17.  There were many prominent Americans in the Black Hawk War, with some of whom Lincoln became acquainted. Among the best known were General Robert Anderson; Colonel Zachary Taylor; General Scott, afterwards candidate for President, and Lieutenant-General; Henry Dodge, Governor of the Territory of Wisconsin, and United States Senator; Hon. William L. D. Ewing and Hon. Sidney Breese, both United States Senators from Illinois; William S. Hamilton, a son of Alexander Hamilton; Colonel Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone; Lieutenant Albert Sydney Johnston, afterwards a Confederate general. Jefferson Davis was not in the war, according to the muster-rolls of his company, which report him absent on furlough from March 26 to August 18, 1832.

18.  “Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln.” Edited by Allen Thorndike Rice, 1886.

19.  This incident was told by Lincoln to Mr. A. J. Conant the artist, who in 1860 painted his portrait in Springfield. Mr. Conant, in order to catch Mr. Lincoln’s animated expression, had engaged him in conversation, and had questioned him about his early life; and it was in the course of their conversation that this incident came out. It is to be found in a delightful and suggestive article entitled, “My Acquaintance with Abraham Lincoln,” contributed by Mr. Conant to the “Liber Scriptorum,” and by his permission quoted here.

20.  The date here given is wrong; the marriage took place on June 12, 1806. The error arose in copying the record the first time, the date of the marriage following that of Thomas Lincoln being taken instead of the one before his name.

21.  The memoranda for Lincoln’s genealogy (page 223), and the introduction to this work, as well as the first chapter, show that we do know now, beyond a doubt, who and what Lincoln’s ancestors were.


  1. Silently corrected typographical errors.
  2. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.