The Boys' Life of Abraham Lincoln HTML version

Captain Lincoln
By this time the Lincoln homestead was no longer on the frontier. During the years that
passed while Abraham was growing from a child, scarcely able to wield the ax placed in
his hands, into a tall, capable youth, the line of frontier settlements had been gradually
but steadily pushing on beyond Gentryville toward the Mississippi River. Every summer
canvas-covered moving wagons wound their slow way over new roads into still newer
country; while the older settlers, left behind, watched their progress with longing eyes. It
was almost as if a spell had been cast over these toil-worn pioneers, making them forget,
at sight of such new ventures, all the hardships they had themselves endured in subduing
the wilderness. At last, on March 1, 1830, when Abraham was just twenty-one years old,
the Lincolns, yielding to this overmastering frontier impulse to "move" westward, left the
old farm in Indiana to make a new home in Illinois. "Their mode of conveyance was
wagons drawn by ox-teams," Mr. Lincoln wrote in 1860; "and Abraham drove one of the
teams." They settled in Macon County on the north side of the Sangamon River, about
ten miles west of Decatur, where they built a cabin, made enough rails to fence ten acres
of ground, fenced and cultivated the ground, and raised a crop of corn upon it that first
season. It was the same heavy labor over again that they had endured when they went
from Kentucky to Indiana; but this time the strength and energy of young Abraham were
at hand to inspire and aid his father, and there was no miserable shivering year of waiting
in a half-faced camp before the family could be suitably housed. They were not to escape
hardship, however. They fell victims to fever and ague, which they had not known in
Indiana, and became greatly discouraged; and the winter after their arrival proved one of
intense cold and suffering for the pioneers, being known in the history of the State as "the
winter of the deep snow." The severe weather began in the Christmas holidays with a
storm of such fatal suddenness that people who were out of doors had difficulty in
reaching their homes, and not a few perished, their fate remaining unknown until the
melting snows of early spring showed where they had fallen.
In March, 1831, at the end of this terrible winter, Abraham Lincoln left his father's cabin
to seek his own fortune in the world. It was the frontier custom for young men to do this
when they reached the age of twenty-one. Abraham was now twenty-two, but had
willingly remained with his people an extra year to give them the benefit of his labor and
strength in making the new home.
He had become acquainted with a man named Offut, a trader and speculator, who
pretended to great business shrewdness, but whose chief talent lay in boasting of the
magnificent things he meant to do. Offut engaged Abraham, with his stepmother's son,
John D. Johnston, and John Hanks, to take a flatboat from Beardstown, on the Illinois
River, to New Orleans; and all four arranged to meet at Springfield as soon as the snow
should melt.
In March, when the snow finally melted, the country was flooded and traveling by land
was utterly out of the question. The boys, therefore, bought a large canoe, and in it
floated down the Sangamon River to keep their appointment with Offut. It was in this