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“None better to be found; and he knew more than any man I ever saw; but his dress was comical.”
“How did he dress ?”
“He wore trousers made of flax and tow, cut tight at the ankles, and out at both knees. I looked bad enough myself, but compared with him my dress was superb.” At the time Thomas Lincoln left Indiana, few families in that part of the country used woollen goods. They were unknown there until about 1825.
"I split rails with him a good deal,” continued Cluse. “He'd split more rails in a day than any other man. He was strong as an ox, and never got tired. He made a bargain that season with Nancy Miller, 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 ; and that was the way he got trousers that were not out at the knees.”
“What about reading? Was he fond of books ?”.
“When I worked with him, he'd not much chance to fool with books; but he was allers talkin' history, and politics, and great men; and I have seen him goin' to his work with a book in his hand. Then, Abe walked five, six, and seven miles to his work.”
It is quite evident that Abraham made himself extremely useful in Illinois in the year 1830 by his industry and hard labour. He made himself very agreeable, also, by his intelligence and social qualities. George Cluse says, “ He was a welcome guest in every house in the neighbourhood.” :
In the autumn of that year fever and ague visited the region of Decatur, and every member of the Lincoln family was attacked by it—not severely, nevertheless with sufficient violence to make them “shake.” Even Abraham's stalwart frame came under its power for a brief season ; but he shook it off before it had
much of a chance to shake him. The experience, however, satisfied the family that their location in Illinois was not favourable to health. And we may state here as well as anywhere, that, in consequence of the appearance of this disease, Mr. Lincoln removed subsequently to a more favourable locality, and finally settled in Cole's County, where he died on the 17th of January, 1851.
The first winter of the Lincolns in Illinois was a very trying one. It was the winter of the “great snow," as it was called, when, for weeks, it averaged three feet deep. Being chiefly dependent upon the rifle for meat, the severity of the winter interfered somewhat with their supplies. But for the strength, endurance, and perseverance of Abraham, their comforts would have been abridged much more. His use of the rifle during that rigorous winter well nigh disproved what one of his early associates writes to us, viz. : “Abe was not much of a hunter; we seldom went hunting together. The time spent by us boys in this amusement was improved by him in the perusal of some good book.”
ENTON OFFUTT was a trader, residing at New
Salem. Meeting John Hanks one day, he said :"John! I want you to take a boat for me to New Orleans on a trading trip; you understand the business.” John had some reputation as a waterman.
"I can't do it ; don't fancy the business."
“Fudge! you can do it if you only think so. I'll pay you extra for it. You are the only man who can do it to suit me.”
“I know of a man who can do it for you,” said John. “Abe Lincoln understands it, and perhaps he'll do it."
“Who's Abe Lincoln ?"
“He's a relative of mine; came to Illinois from Indiany about one year ago, and settled a few miles from me."
“Well, I don't know anything about him," continued Offutt, “and I do know about you. Say you'll go.”
“Maybe I'll go if Abe and John Johnston will go." “And who's John Johnston ?”.
“He is Abe Lincoln's step-brother, and lives with him. He came with him from Indiany."
“And you think they are good men for the business ?”
"I know they are; Abe, especially, can't be beat on a boat. He's the tallest and strongest chap in Illinois."
“Well, now, John, I'll do most any way to get you to undertake the trip,” continued Offutt; "and if you'll see
your two friends, and get them to go, I'll see that they'll make a good thing of it.”
“How much pay will you give ?”
“I'll give you—all three of you-fifty cents a day; and, at the end of the trip, I will divide sixty dollars, in addition, equally between you."
“That's good pay, and no mistake,” replied John, who was rather surprised at the generosity of the offer: "I think we'll be able to arrange it.”
Offutt was a man of considerable property for that region, and he was generous, too-some said “too generous for his own good.”
John Hanks lost no time in laying the subject before Abraham and Johnston.
"I should like the job,” Abraham replied at once. “ That is larger pay than I ever had, and I rather like the business.”
“I can't say that I like the bisniss,” said Hanks; “but I think I'll accept this offer. Offutt is a capital feller, and I would go on such a trip for him a leetle quicker than I would for anybody else.”
“Agreed," was John Johnston's laconic way of saying that he would go. The fact was, Offutt had made them a very generous offer-larger pay than any one of them had ever received.
It was February 1831 when Offutt made the offer ; and early in March the fortunate trio left home to meet Offutt at Springfield, according to arrangement. They proceeded down the Sangamon in a canoe to Jamestown (then known as Judy's Ferry), five miles east of Springfield. Thence they walked to Springfield, where they met Offutt at “Elliott's Tavern.” Offutt met Abraham with a look of surprise. He was not expecting to see a giant, although Hanks told him that his relative was the tallest man in Illinois ; nor was he expecting to see a
man as green as he was tall. However, they were soon on the best of terms, and Offutt said,
“ I've been badly disappointed ; expected a boat built by this time, at the mouth of Spring Creek, but I learned yesterday that it wan't touched ; and now what's to be done?”
“Build a boat at once," answered Abraham, with a promptness that won Offutt's heart.
“Can you build a boat?" asked Offutt.
“Of course I can," replied Abraham. “We three can put the job through in three weeks.”
“We'll have the boat, then, in short order," responded Offutt. “ Plenty of timber at Spring Creek, and we can raft it down to Sangamontown, and build the boat there."
They repaired to Spring Creek, and spent about two weeks there cutting timber “on Congress land,” boarding a full mile from their work. While there, Abraham walked back to Judy's Ferry, ten miles distant, and brought down the canoe which they had left there. The timber was rafted down to Sangamontown, where Abraham and his two companions erected a shanty for temporary shelter. Here they boarded themselves, Abraham playing the part of “cook,” to the entire satisfaction of the two Johns. The lumber was sawed at Kilpatrick's mill, one mile and a half distant. With all these inconveniences, the boat was ready for the trip within four weeks, and a very substantial boat it was.
Offutt joined the party at Sangamontown, and was present during the construction of the boat. He soon learned that the long, tall, and green Abraham . was a young man of rare talents. Offutt was a Whig, and so was Abraham now, although the latter was not willing to hear the former abuse Jackson. Offutt indulged his