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قراءة كتاب McClure's Magazine December, 1895

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‏اللغة: English
McClure's Magazine December, 1895

McClure's Magazine December, 1895

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 6

Hanks, yet residing in Macon County, hired themselves to Denton Offutt to take a flat-boat from Beardstown, Illinois, to New Orleans, and for that purpose were to join him—Offutt—at Springfield, Illinois, so soon as the snow should go off. When it did go off, which was about March 1, 1831, the country was so flooded as to make travelling by land impracticable; to obviate which difficulty they purchased a large canoe and came down the Sangamon River in it from where they were all living (near Decatur). This is the time and manner of Abraham's first entrance into Sangamon County. They found Offutt at Springfield, but learned from him that he had failed in getting a boat at Beardstown. This led to their hiring themselves to him for twelve dollars per month each, and getting the timber out of the trees, and building a boat at old Sangamon town on the Sangamon River, seven miles northwest of Springfield, which boat they took to New Orleans, substantially on the old contract."


Sangamon town, where Mr. Lincoln built the flatboat, has, since his day, completely disappeared from the earth; but then it was one of the flourishing settlements on the river of that name. Lincoln and his friends on arriving there in March immediately began work. There is still living in Springfield, Illinois, a man who helped Lincoln at the raft-building—Mr. John Roll, a well-known citizen, and one who has been prominent in the material advancement of the city. Mr. Roll remembers distinctly Lincoln's first appearance in Sangamon town. To a representative of this MAGAZINE who talked with him recently in Springfield he described Lincoln's looks when he first came to town. "He was a tall, gaunt young man," Mr. Roll said, "dressed in a suit of blue homespun jeans, consisting of a roundabout jacket, waistcoat, and breeches which came to within about four inches of his feet. The latter were encased in raw-hide boots, into the top of which, most of the time, his pantaloons were stuffed. He wore a soft felt hat which had at one time been black, but now, as its owner dryly remarked, 'it had been sunburned until it was a combine of colors.'"

Mr. Roll's relation to the newcomer soon became something more than that of a critical observer; he hired out to him, and says with pride, "I made every pin which went into that boat."


It took some four weeks to build the raft, and in that period Lincoln succeeded in captivating the entire village by his story-telling. It was the custom in Sangamon for the "men-folks" to gather at noon and in the evening, when resting, in a convenient lane near the mill. They had rolled out a long peeled log on which they lounged while they whittled and talked. After Mr. Lincoln came to town the men would start him to story-telling as soon as he appeared at the assembly ground. So irresistibly droll were his "yarns" that, says Mr. Roll, "whenever he'd end up in his unexpected way the boys on the log would whoop and roll off." The result of the rolling off was to polish the log like a mirror. Long after Lincoln had disappeared from Sangamon "Abe's log" remained, and until it had rotted away people pointed it out, and repeated the droll stories of the stranger.


The flatboat was done in about a month, and Lincoln and his friends prepared to leave Sangamon. Before he started, however, he was the hero of an adventure so thrilling that he won new laurels in the community. Mr. Roll, who was a witness to the whole exciting scene, tells the story as follows:


This costume, worn by Mrs. Lucy M. Bennett of Petersburg, Illinois, has been a familiar attraction at old settlers' gatherings in Menard County, for years. The dress was made by Mrs. Hill, of New Salem, and the reticule or workbag will be readily recognized by those who have any recollection of the early days. The bonnet occupied a place in the store of Samuel Hill at New Salem. It was taken from the store by Mrs. Hill, worn for a time by her, and has been carefully preserved to this day. It is an imported bonnet—a genuine Leghorn—and of a kind so costly that Mr. Hill made only an occasional sale of one. Its price, in fact, was $25.

"It was the spring following the winter of the deep snow.6 Walter Carman, John Seamon, myself, and at times others of the Carman boys, had helped Abe in building the boat, and when he had finished we went to work to make a dug-out, or canoe, to be used as a small boat with the flat. We found a suitable log about an eighth of a mile up the river, and with our axes went to work under Lincoln's direction. The river was very high, fairly 'booming.' After the dug-out was ready to launch we took it to the edge of the water, and made ready to 'let her go,' when Walter Carman and John Seamon jumped in as the boat struck the water, each one anxious to be the first to get a ride. As they shot out from the shore they found they were unable to make any headway against the strong current. Carman had the paddle, and Seamon was in the stern of the boat. Lincoln shouted to them to 'head upstream' and 'work back to shore,' but they found themselves powerless against the stream. At last they began to pull for the wreck of an old flatboat, the first ever built on the Sangamon, which had sunk and gone to pieces, leaving one of the stanchions sticking above the water. Just as they reached it Seamon made a grab, and caught hold of the stanchion, when the canoe capsized, leaving Seamon clinging to the old timber, and throwing Carman into the stream. It carried him down with the speed of a mill-race, Lincoln raised his voice above the roar of the flood, and yelled to Carman to swim for an elm-tree which stood almost in the channel, which the action of the high water changed. Carman, being a good swimmer, succeeded in catching a branch, and pulled himself up out of the water, which was very cold, and had almost chilled him to death; and there he sat, shivering and chattering in the tree. Lincoln, seeing Carman safe, called out to Seamon to let go the stanchion and swim for the tree. With some hesitation he obeyed, and struck out, while Lincoln cheered, and directed him from the bank. As Seamon neared the tree he made one grab for a branch, and, missing it, went under the water. Another desperate lunge was successful, and he climbed up beside Carman. Things were pretty exciting now, for there were two men in the tree, and the boat was gone.

"It was a cold, raw April day, and there was great danger of the men becoming benumbed and falling back into the water. Lincoln called out to them to keep their spirits up and he would save them. The village had been alarmed by this time, and many people had come down to the bank. Lincoln procured a rope, and tied it to a log. He called all hands to come and help roll the log into the water, and after this had been done, he, with the assistance of several others, towed it some distance up the stream. A daring young fellow by the name of 'Jim' Dorrell then took his seat on the end of the log, and it was pushed out into the current, with the expectation that it would be carried downstream against the tree where Seamon and Carman were. The log was well directed, and went straight to the tree; but Jim, in his impatience to help his friends,