Imágenes de páginas



demagogues mere hollow cant, became to him a true and appreciable reality.

Here, as in Kentucky, he attended private schools, and in other ways increased his little stock of learning, aided by what he had already acquired. The same want of systematic public instruction, and the same mode of remedying this lack, prevailed in Indiana, as in his former home. One of his teachers was named Andrew Crawford, to whom he used to be occasionally indebted for the loan of books, to read at such leisure hours as he could command. His last teacher was Azel W. Dorsey, who had the satisfaction, in later years, of taking his former scholar by the hand, rejoicing to recognize the once obscure boy as one of the foremost leaders of the people. Dorsey was lately residing in Schuyler County, Illinois, where he also had sons living.

That we may estimate Mr. Lincoln in his true character, as chiefly a self-educated man, it should be stated that, summing up all the days of his actual attendance upon school instruction, the amount would hardly exceed one year. The rest he has accomplished for himself in his own way. As a youth he read with avidity such instructive works as he could obtain, and in winter evenings, by the mere light of the blazing fireplace, when no better resource was at hand.

An incident having its appropriate connection here, and illustrating several traits of the man, as already developed in early boyhood, is vouched for by a citizen of Evansville, who knew him in the days referred to. In his eagerness to acquire knowledge, young Lincoln had borrowed of Mr. Crawford a copy of Weems' Life of Washington-the only one known to be in existence in the neighborhood. Before he had finished reading the book, it had been left, by a not unnatural oversight, in a window. Meantime, a rain storm came on, and the book was so thoroughly wet as to make it nearly worthless. This mishap caused him much pain; but he went, in all honesty, to Crawford with the ruined book, explained the calamity that had happened through his neglect, and offered, not having sufficient money, to "work out" the value of the book.

"Well, Abe," said Crawford, "as it's you I wont be hard on

you. Come over and pull fodder for me for two days, and we will call our accounts even."

The offer was accepted and the engagement literally fulfilled. As a boy, no less than since, Abraham Lincoln had an honorable conscientiousness, integrity, industry, and an ardent love of knowledge.

The town on the Ohio river, nearest his home, was Troy, the capital of Perry county down to the date of its division. This place, at the mouth of Anderson's Creek, had been settled as early as 1811, and was a place of some consequence, both for its river trade and as the county-seat. After this latter advantage was lost, by the formation of a new county in 1818, Troy dwindled away, and is now a place of only about five hundred inhabitants. Rockport, nearly twenty miles south-west of Gentryville, became the capital of Spencer county, and thenceforward a point of interest to the new settlers. It is situated on a high bluff of the Ohio river, and receives its name from "Lady Washington's Rock," a picturesque hanging-rock at that place. At these two points young Lincoln gained some knowledge of the new world of river life and business, in addition to his farm experience, and to his forest sports with rod and rifle. For several months he is said to have been ferryman at Anderson's Creek Ferry.

It was during one of the later of these thirteen years, that Abraham, at nineteen, was permitted to gratify his eager longing to see more of the world, and to try the charms of an excursion on the Beautiful River. He had inherited much of the adventurous and stirring disposition of his Virginian grandfather, and was delighted with the prospect of a visit to New Orleans, then the splendid city of Western dreams. He performed this journey on a common flatboat, doing service as one of the hands on that long yet most exhilarating trip. We have no particulars of this his sole excursion as a flatboatman during his Indiana days, yet to his own mind it probably long afforded many not unpleasing recollections. He was undoubtedly the life of the little company, delighting them with his humorous sallies no less than with his muscular superiority, and with his hilarious activity and intuitive tact in all that immediately concerned their voyage.

If there had been any forebodings at the time of departure from their first home on Nolin Creek, these were to be ere long realized by the Indiana emigrants. Scarcely two years had passed, in this changed climate, and in these rougher forest experiences, before the mother of young Abraham-perhaps too gentle to encounter the new trials added to those she had before partially surmounted, and to endure the malarious influences in which this wild country abounded-was called to a last separation from those she had so tenderly loved. She died in 1818, leaving as her sole surviving children, a daughter less than twelve years old, and a son two years younger, of whose future distinction, even with a mother's fondness, she probably had but an indefinite hope. A grave was made for her

"Where the wind of the West breathes its softest sigh;

Where the silvery stream is flowing nigh

Where the sun's warm smile may never dispel

Night's tears o'er the form that was loved so well-
Where no column proud in the sun may glow,

To mock the heart that is resting below." *

A year or two later, Thomas Lincoln contracted a second marriage with Mrs. Johnston, a widow with three children, that were brought up with those of Mr. Lincoln. Besides these step-children, there were no additions to the family as before enumerated.

In concluding this brief account of the thirteen important years which were spent by Abraham Lincoln as an Indianian, the personal recollections of a distinguished lawyer and statesman of an older generation, who emigrated to Indiana at nearly the same date, will aid in conveying a correct impression of those times, and of the circumstances with which the youth was surrounded.

Indiana, says the late Hon. O. H. Smith,† "was born in the year 1816, with some sixty-five thousand inhabitants-only about forty years ago. A few counties only were then organ

J. B. Dillon.

† Early Indiana Trials and Sketches. Reminiscences by Hon. O. H. Smith, page 285.

ized. The whole middle, north, and north-west portions of the State were an unbroken wilderness, in the possession of the Indians. Well do I remember when there were but two families settled west of the Whitewater Valley-one at Flat Rock, above where Rushville now stands, and the other on Brandywine, near where Greenfield was afterward located. When I first visited the ground on which Indianapolis now stands, the whole country, east to Whitewater and west to the Wabash, was a dense, unbroken forest. There were no public roads, no bridges over any of the streams. The traveler had literally to swim his way. No cultivated farms, no houses to shelter or feed the weary traveler, or his jaded horse. The courts, years afterward, were held in log huts, and tho juries sat under the shade of the forest trees. I was Circuit Prosecuting Attorney at the time of the trials at the falls of Fall Creek, where Pendleton now stands. Four of the prisoners were convicted of murder, and three of them hung, for killing Indians. The court was held in a double log cabin, the grand jury sat upon a log in the woods, and the foreman signed the bill of indictment which I had prepared, upon his knee; there was not a petit juror that had shoes on-all wore moccasins, and were belted around the waist, and carried sideknives used by the hunter. The products of the country consisted of peltries, the wild game killed in the forest by the Indian hunters, the fish caught in the interior lakes, rivers and creeks, the pawpaw, wild plum, haws, small berries gathered by the squaws in the woods. The travel was confined to the single horse and his rider, the commerce to the pack-saddle, and the navigation to the Indian canoe. Many a time and oft have I crossed our swollen streams, by day and by night, sometimes swimming my horse, and at others paddling the rude bark canoe of the Indian. Such is a mere sketch of our State when I traversed its wilds, and I am not one of its first settlers."

Thus it was that young Lincoln grew up to the verge of manhood; he led no idle or enervating existence. Brought up to the habits of sobriety, and accustomed to steady labor, no one of all the working-men with whom he came in contact

« AnteriorContinuar »