« PreviousContinue »
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-
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. 0. H. Smith,t "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. 0. A. 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
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 the 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
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 was a better sample of his class than he. He had now become a Saul among his associates, having reached the hight of nearly six feet and four inches, and with a comparatively slender yet uncommonly strong, muscular frame. He was even then, in his mental and moral characteristics, no less than in his physical proportions, one not to be forgotten or unappreciated by those who knew him. Many reminiscences of those days of his hardy endeavor and rough experience linger in the minds of the plain, earnest people among whom his lot for a long period was thus cast, and will some time be repeated, with such exaggerations or fabulous glosses as are wont gradually to gather, like the sacred halo of the painters, around the memorials of a recognized hero. And a hero, ever hereafter, in the traditions of Southern Indiana, will be the youthful Abraham Lincoln, gigantic and stalwart in his outward form, no less than in the glowing and noble spirit already beginning to foresee and prepare for a high destiny. Wherever he has dwelt becomes classic and consecrated ground, and to have known him, even in his obscurest days, will be deemed a cir. cumstance to be recounted with pride. To gather up such recollections and to perpetuate them with the pen, will be the work of future times and other hands.
This period of young Lincoln's life was terminated by another removal of his father, as will appear in the next chapter.
The French Settlements.-The North-west.-The Advance of Emigra
tion. Four Great States Founded in the Lifetime of Mr. Lincoln's Father.-North and South Meeting in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.Sentiments of Southern Emigrants. The First Emigrations.--A Coincidence of Dates.-Mordecai and Josiah Lincoln. Removal to Illinois.-Settlement on the Sangamon, in Macon County.--The Locality Described.- Abraham Lincoln Engaged in Splitting Rails.-Another Removal of his Father.--He Settles in Coles County.-Abraham Lincoln makes Another Trip as a Flatboatman.--Becomes Clerk in a Store on his Return.-Postmaster at New Salem.
The early French settlements of Illinois, at Kaskaskia and Cahokia, had proved as little successful or permanent as those of Indiana around Vincennes. The territory had come into the possession of the British Government just before the Revolution, and emigration from Virginia had commenced almost simultaneously to that quarter and to Kentucky. In 1787, as is well known, the settlements here, in common with those scattered throughout the great expanse of United States territory, north-west of the Ohio river, were brought under a territorial government, as wide in its local scope as it was apparently insignificant in the extent of its population and power. Time speedily demonstrated the error of such an estimate of the remarkable region between the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Lakes, yet, even to this day, the people of the East accept the idea of this greatness and coming power rather as an abstract proposition than as a living reality, deeply affecting their own relative interests and the common resources and grandeur of the country.
The rapid growth of Kentucky on the one side, and of Ohio and Indiana on the other, we have incidentally seen in these pages. The birth of Mr. Lincoln's father, Thomas Lincoln, was anterior to, or nearly coeval with, the very first settlements in all those States, excepting only the lifeless French colonies of Indiana. The State of Illinois may be added to those of which it may be said, in like manner, his own life was the measure of their age, dating from the first substantial and growing existence of their colonial settlements. In Illinois, as in Indiana, the earliest waves of a healthful emigration had come from Kentucky and Virginia, and in both cases alike, the Southern portion was the earliest to be occupied. Between these early outflowings of free labor from the land of slavery, and those later ones from the free States of the East, on more northern parallels, there is a marked difference, still traceable---creating, in a certain sense, in all the States of the North-west which touch the imaginary line of Mason and Dixon, a division of North and South. Experience and increased. commingling between these localities are fast abating the distinctness of this somewhat indefinite separating line, but for years to come it can not be wholly obliterated. These two elements, combined
against each other in widening separation, will go to constitute the strongest of States. The Southern emigration gave character to the earlier legislation of Indiana and Illinois especially. With evidences of a lurking attachment to the peculiar institution of the States on the other side of the Ohio river, the general tenor of public sentiment and action was as positive and distinct, as were the opinions of the more Northern multitudes who came in to fill up these new commonwealths. And yet, the views of slavery prevalent in southern Indiana and Illinois, were at that time not much diverse from those which were entertained in the communities from which these settlers had come. They regarded slavery as an evil to be rid of; and to make sure of this, those who were not already too much entangled with it, left in large numbers for a region which, by request of Virginia herself, was “forever" protected from the inroads of this moral and social mischief.