網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

Left at home, in their dismantled cabin, with a scanty supply of provisions, the mother and little ones made the most of their time. The two children attended Caleb Hazel's school, but Abraham found time to snare game for the family dinner-pot, and, in an emergency, the house-mother could knock over a deer at long range. One bedticking, filled with dried forest leaves and husks, sufficed for their rest at night, and, bright and early in the morning, the future President was out in the nipping autumn air, chopping wood for the day's fire. As the time drew near for the father's return, Mrs. Lincoln, leading her living boy, paid her last visit to the grave of the little one whom she had lost in infancy. And his sad mother's prayers and tears by the side of the unmarked mound in the wilderness, soon to be left behind by the emigrants, made an impression on the mind of the lad that time never effaced.

But when Thomas Lincoln returned to his small brood, it was not with any boastfulness. He had met with what was to them a great loss. Much of their meagre stock of household stuff and farming tools was at the bottom of the Ohio River. Leaving the rescued fragments in care of a friendly settler, he had made a bee-line for the old Kentucky home; and here he was with a flattering report of the richness of the land to which they were bound to go.

It was a long journey that was before them. Procuring two horses, and loading them with the household stuff and wardrobe of the family, Thomas Lincoln, wife, and two children took up their line of march for the new home in Indiana. At night they

slept on the fragrant pine twigs; and by day they plodded their way toward the Ohio River. They were like true soldiers of fortune, subsisting on the country through which they marched. Here and there it was needful to clear their way through tangled thickets, and now and again they came to streams that must be forded or swum. By all sorts of expedients, the little family contrived to get on from day to day, occupying a week in this transit from one home to another. The nights were cool but pleasant. No rain fell on them in the way, and when, after a week of free and easy life in the woods, they came to the bank of the river and looked over into the promised land, they saw nothing but forest, almost trackless forest, stretching far up and down the stream, silent save for its ripplings and the occasional note of some wandering bird.

CHAPTER II.

THE BOYHOOD OF LINCOLN.

The Lincoln Home in Indiana-Hard Times—The Boy of the Back

woods--Log Cabin Building—Abraham Lincoln's First Letter The Funeral in the Wilderness—The Boy's First Book.

INDIANA had been admitted

into the Union as a State, and the tide of immigration setting into the new State was full and far-spreading. But neighbors were not uncomfortably near the Lincolns in their new home. Picking up their property left in charge of one of the scattered settlers by Thomas Lincoln on his first visit, the forlorn family pushed on into the wilderness, where, on a grassy knoll in the heart of the untrodden forest, they fixed upon the site of their future dwelling-place.

A slight hunter's camp was all that could be built to shelter the new settlers during their first winter in the woods of Southern Indiana. This was what was sometimes called a “half-faced camp,” open on one side and that the lower. Four uprights, forked at the top, formed the corner-posts, the rear being higher than the front. On these corner-poles were laid the cross-pieces needed to form the edges of the roof, and across these were the sloping rafters, covered with split “shakes,” or thin slabs from the trees felled by the hardy backwoodsman and his boy.

Poles set up against the outer framework and "chinked in” with chips and clay made a shelter from the blasts that howled around. The open front was partially screened with “pelts," as the halfdressed skins of wild animals were called. A fireplace of sticks and clay, with a chimney of the same materials, occupied one corner of the hut. Here the future President of the republic spent his first winter in the new State of Indiana.

Let us consider the lad and some of the circumstances of the time. He was now in his eighth year, tall, ungainly, fast-growing, long-legged, and clad in the garb of the frontier. Cotton and linen goods were scarce and costly in those primitive days and in that far-off wilderness. Abraham wore a shirt of linsey-woolsey, a fabric home-spun of mixed cotton and wool, and dyed, if at all, with colors obtained from the roots and barks of the forest. Accurding to his own statement, he never wore stockings until he was “a young man grown.

His feet were covered with rough cowhide shoes, but oftener with moccasins fashioned deftly by his mother's hands. Deerskin leggings, or breeches, and a hunting-shirt of the same material completed his outfit, except for the coon-skin cap that adorned his shaggy head, the tail of the animal hanging down behind, at once an ornament and a convenient handle when occasion required.

A rifle only was needed to finish this picture of a backwoodsman in miniature. But the lad did not take kindly to hunting. He pursued the wild-woods game only when the family demand for meat could

not be satisfied in any other way. Once, as he used to tell of himself, while yet a child, he caught a glimpse of a flock of wild turkeys feeding near the camp, and, venturously taking down his father's rifle from its pegs on the wall, he took aim through a chink in the cabin and killed a noble bird. It was his first shot at a living thing, and he never forgot the mingled pain and pleasure that it brought-pain because he dreaded to take life, and pleasure because he had brought down his game.

It was a poor time all over the land in those early years of the Lincoln family in Indiana. The War of 1812 had just closed. The consequences of the long embargo, when all American ports were closed to commerce, none coming in and none going out, were still felt in every town, city, and hamlet in the land. The manufacturing industries of the republic were feeble, and imported articles were so dear as to be out of the reach of all but the rich. Thorns were used for pins, slices of cork covered with cloth, or ingeniously fashioned bits of bone, did duty for buttons; except in times of plenty, crusts of rye bread were substituted for coffee, and leaves of sundry dried herbs took the place of Bohea tea. Corn whiskey tempered with water was a common drink, and the stuff was ɔne of the readiest forms of business currency in the country of the West.

As we have seen, the West was productive of the means of sustaining life. The woods swarmed with bears, deer, woodchucks, raccoons, wild turkeys, and other creatures, furry or feathered, useful for the

« 上一頁繼續 »