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were scattered far apart; but the inhabitants would travel long distances to a log-rolling, a house-raising, a wedding, or any thing else that might be turned into a fast and furious frolic. On such occasions the young women carried their shoes in their hands, and only put them on when about to join the company. The ladies drank whiskey-toddy, while the men took it straight; and both sexes danced the live-long night, barefooted, on puncheon floors.
The fair sex wore "cornfield bonnets, scoop-shaped, flaring in front, and long though narrow behind." Shoes were the mode when entering the ball-room; but it was not at all fashionable to scuff them out by walking or dancing in them. "Four yards of linsey-woolsey, a yard in width, made a dress for any woman." The waist was short, and terminated just under the arms, whilst the skirt was long and narrow. "Crimps and puckering frills" it had none. The coats of the men were home-made; the materials, jeans or linsey-woolsey. The waists were short, like the frocks of the women, and the long "claw-hammer" tail was split up to the waist. This, however, was company dress, and the hunting-shirt did duty for every day. The breeches were of buck-skin or jeans; the cap was of coon-skin; and the shoes of leather tanned at home. If no member of the family could make shoes, the leather was taken to some one who could, and the customer paid the maker a fair price in some other sort of labor.
The state of agriculture was what it always is where there is no market, either to sell or buy; where the implements are few and primitive, and where there are no regular mechanics. The Pigeon Creek farmer "tickled" two acres of ground in a day with his old shovel-plough, and got but half a crop. He cut one acre with his sickle, while the modern machine lays down in neat rows ten. With his flail and horse tramping, he threshed out fifteen bushels of wheat; while the machine of to-day, with a few more hands, would turn out three hundred and fifty. He "fanned" and "cleaned with a sheet." When he wanted flour, he took his team and went to a "horse-mill,"
where he spent a whole day in converting fifteen bushels of grain.1
The minds of these people were filled with superstitions, which most persons imagine to be, at least, as antiquated as witch-burning. They firmly believed in witches and all kind of witch-doings. They sent for wizards to cure sick cattle. They shot the image of the witch with a silver ball, to break the spell she was supposed to have laid on a human being. If a dog ran directly across a man's path whilst he was hunting, it was terrible "luck," unless he instantly hooked his two little fingers together, and pulled with all his might, until the dog was out of sight. There were wizards who took charmed twigs in their hands, and made them point to springs of water and all kinds of treasure beneath the earth's surface. There were faith doctors," who cured diseases by performing mysterious ceremonies and muttering cabalistic words. If a bird alighted in a window, one of the family would speedily die. If a horse breathed on a child, the child would have the whooping-cough. Every thing must be done at certain "times and seasons," else it would be attended with "bad luck." They must cut trees for rails in the early part of the day, and in "the light of the moon." They must make fence in "the light of the moon;" otherwise, the fence would sink. Potatoes and other roots were to be planted in the "dark of the moon," but trees, and plants which bore their fruits above ground, must be "put out in the light of the moon." The moon exerted a fearful influence, either kindly or malignant, as the good old rules were observed or not. It was even required to make soap "in the light of the moon,” and, moreover, it must be stirred only one way, and by one person. Nothing of importance was to be begun on Friday. enterprises inaugurated on that day went fatally amiss. horse-colt could be begotten only "in the dark of the moon,
1 " Size of the fields from ten, twelve, sixteen, twenty. Raised corn mostly; some wheat, enough for a cake on Sunday morning. Hogs and venison hams were legal tender, and coonskins also. We raised sheep and cattle, but they did not fetch much. Cows and calves were only worth six dollars; corn, ten cents; wheat, twenty-five cents at that time.” — DENNIS HANKS.
and animals treated otherwise than "according to the signs in the almanac" were nearly sure to die.
Such were the people among whom Abe grew to manhood. With their sons and daughters he went to school. Upon their farms he earned his daily bread by daily toil. From their conversation he formed his earliest opinions of men and things, the world over. Many of their peculiarities became his; and many of their thoughts and feelings concerning a multitude of subjects were assimilated with his own, and helped to create that unique character, which, in the eyes of a great host of the American people, was only less curious and amusing than it was noble and august.
His most intimate companions were of course, for a long time, the members of his own family. The reader already knows something of Thomas Lincoln, and that pre-eminently good woman, Sally Bush. The latter, we know, washed, clothed, loved, and encouraged Abe in well-doing, from the moment he fell in her way. How much he owed to her goodness and affection, he was himself never able to estimate. That it was a great debt, fondly acknowledged and cheerfully repaid as far as in him lay, there can be no doubt. His own sister, the child of Nancy Hanks, was warmly attached to him. Her face somewhat resembled his. In repose it had the gravity which they both, perhaps, inherited from their mother; but it was capable of being lighted almost into beauty by one of Abe's ridiculous stories or rapturous sallies of humor. She was a modest, plain, industrious girl, and is kindly remembered by all who knew her. She was married to Aaron Grigsby at eighteen, and a year after died in child-bed. Like Abe, she occasionally worked out at the houses of the neighbors, and at one time was employed in Mrs. Crawford's kitchen, while her brother was a laborer on the same farm. She lies buried, not with her mother, but in the yard of the old Pigeon Creek meeting-house. It is especially pleasing to read the encomiums lavished upon her memory by the Grigsbys; for between the Grigsbys on one side, and Abe and his step-brother on the other, there once subsisted a fierce feud.
As we have already learned from Dennis Hanks, the two families the Johnstons and the Lincolns-"got along finely together." The affectionate relations between Abe and his two step-sisters were the subject of common remark throughout the neighborhood. One of them married Dennis Hanks, and the other Levi Hall, or, as he is better known, Squire Hall, a cousin of Abe. Both these women (the latter now Mrs. Moore) furnished Mr. Herndon very valuable memoirs of Abe's life whilst he dwelt under the same roof with them; and they have given an account of him which shows that the ties between them were of the strongest and tenderest kind. But what is most remarkable in their statements is, that they never opened their lips without telling how worthy of everybody's love their mother was, and how Abe revered her as much as they did. They were interesting girls, and became exemplary women.
John D. Johnston, the only son of Mrs. Lincoln, was not the best boy, and did not grow to be the best man, in all the Pigeon Creek region. He had no positive vice, except idleness, and no special virtue but good temper. He was not a fortunate man; never made money; was always needy, and always clamoring for the aid of his friends. Mr. Lincoln, all through John's life, had much trouble to keep him on his legs, and succeeded indifferently in all his attempts. In a subsequent chapter a letter will be given from him, which indirectly portrays his step-brother's character much better than it can be done here. But, as youths, the intimacy between them was very close; and in another place it will appear that Abe undertook his second voyage to New Orleans only on condition that John would go along.
But the most constant of his companions was his jolly cousin, Dennis Hanks. Of all the contributors to Mr. Herndon's store of information, good, bad, and indifferent, concerning this period of Mr. Lincoln's life, Dennis is the most amusing, insinuating, and prolific. He would have it distinctly understood that the well of his memory is the only proper