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chap. vi. had given him. But an opening for another kind of business occurred, which prevented his entering upon any merely mechanical occupation. Two of his most intimate friends were the brothers Hern-don, called, according to the fashion of the time, which held it unfriendly to give a man his proper name, and arrogant for him to claim it, "Rowland " Jim." They kept one of those grocery stores in which everything salable on the frontier was sold, and which seem to have changed their occupants as rapidly as sentry-boxes. " Jim " sold his share to an idle and dissolute man named Berry, and " Row" soon transferred his interest to Lincoln. It was easy enough to buy, as nothing wTas ever given in payment but a promissory note. A short time afterwards, one Eeuben Eadford, who kept another shop of the same kind, happened one even-­ing to attract the dangerous attention of the Clary's Grove boys, who, with their usual prompt and practical facetiousness, without a touch of malice in it, broke his windows and wrecked his store. The next morning, while Eadford was ruefully contemplating the ruin, and doubtless concluding that he had had enough of a country where the local idea of neighborly humor found such eccen­tric expression, he hailed a passer-by named Greene, and challenged him to buy his establish­ment for four hundred dollars. This sort of trade was always irresistible to these Western specu­lators, and Greene at once gave his note for the amount. It next occurred to him to try to find out what the property was worth, and doubting his own skill, he engaged Lincoln to make an invoice of it. The young merchant, whose appetite for


speculation had just been whetted by his own investment, undertook the task, and, finding the stock of goods rather tempting, offered Greene $250 for his bargain, which was at once accepted. Not a cent of money changed hands in all these transactions. By virtue of half a dozen signatures, Berry and Lincoln became proprietors of the only mercantile establishment in the village, and the apparent wealth of the community was increased by a liberal distribution of their notes among the Herndons, Eadford, Greene, and a Mr. Eutledge, whose business they had also bought.

Fortunately for Lincoln and for the world, the enterprise was not successful. It was entered into without sufficient reflection, and from the very nature of things was destined to fail. To Berry the business was merely the refuge of idleness. He spent his time in gossip and drank up his share of the profits, and it is probable that Lincoln was far more interested in politics and general reading than in the petty traffic of his shop. In the spring of the next year, finding that their merchandise was gaining them little or nothing, they concluded to keep a tavern in addition to their other business, and the records of the County Court of Sangamon County show that Berry took out a license for that purpose on the 6th of March, 1833.1 But it was even then too late for any expedients to save the moribund partnership. The tavern was never opened, for about this time Lincoln and Berry

1 The following is an extract tirnie twelve months from this

from, the court record: "March date, and that they pay one

6,1833. Ordered that William dollar in addition to six dollars

F. Berry, in the name of Berry heretofore prepaid as per Treas-

and Lincoln, have license to keep urer's receipt, and that they be

a tavern in New Salem, to con- allowed the following rates, viz.:


chap. vi. were challenged to sell out to a pair of vagrant brothers named Trent, who, as they had no idea of paying, were willing to give their notes to any amount. They soon ran away, and Berry expired, extinguished in rum. Lincoln was thus left loaded with debts, and with no assets except worthless notes of Berry and the Trents. It is greatly to his credit that he never thought of doing by others as others had done by him. The morality of the frontier was deplorably loose in such matters, and most of these people would have concluded that the failure of the business expunged its liabilities. But Lincoln made no effort even to compromise the claims against him. He promised to pay when he could, and it took the labor of years to do it; but he paid at last every farthing of the debt, which seemed to him and his friends so large that it was called among them " the national debt."

He had already begun to read elementary books of law, borrowed from Major Stuart and other kindly acquaintances. Indeed, it is quite possible that Berry and Lincoln might have succeeded better in business if the junior member of the firm had not spent so much of his time reading Black-stone and Chitty in the shade of a great oak just outside the door, while the senior quietly fuddled himself within. Eye-witnesses still speak of the grotesque youth, habited in homespun tow, lying on his back with his feet on the trunk of the tree, and poring over his book by the hour, "grinding

French, "brandy, per pint, 25; 12^; Horse for night, 25;

Peach, 18%; Apple, 12; Hoi- Single feed, 12^2; Breakfast,

land gin, 18%; Domestic, 12f^; dinner, or supper, for stage

Wine, 25 ; Rum, 18% ; Whisky, passengers, 37^.

12^; Breakfast, dinner, or "Who gave bond as required

supper, 25 ; Lodging for night, by law,"



around with the shade," as it shifted from north to chap.vl east. After his store, to use his own expression, had " winked out," he applied himself with more continuous energy to his reading, doing merely what odd jobs came to his hand to pay his current expenses, which were of course very slight. He sometimes helped his friend Ellis in his store; sometimes went into the field and renewed his exploits as a farm-hand, which had gained him a traditional fame in Indiana; sometimes employed his clerkly hand in straightening up a neglected ledger. It is probable that he worked for his board oftener than for any other compensation, and his hearty friendliness and vivacity, as well as his industry in the field, made him a welcome guest in any farm-house in the county. His strong arm was always at the disposal of the poor and needy; it is said of him, with a graphic variation of a well-known text, "that he visited the fatherless and the widow and chopped their wood."

In the spring of this year, 1833, he was appointed isss. Postmaster of New Salem, and held the office for three years. Its emoluments were slender and its duties light, but there was in all probability no citizen of the village who could have made so much of it as he. The mails were so scanty that he was said to carry them in his hat, and he is also reported to have read every newspaper that arrived; it is altogether likely that this formed the leading inducement to his taking the office. His Incumbency lasted until New Salem ceased to be populous enough for a post-station and the mail went by to Petersburg. Dr. J. Gr. Holland relates a sequel to this official experience which illustrates vol. I—8


chap. vi. the quaint honesty of the man. Several years later, when he was a practicing lawyer, an agent of the Post-office Department called upon him, and asked for a balance due from the New Salem office, some seventeen dollars. Lincoln rose, and open­ing a little trunk which lay in a corner of the room, took from it a cotton rag in which was tied up the exact sum required. " I never use any man's money but my own," he quietly remarked. When we consider the pinching poverty in which these years had been passed, we may appreciate the self-


denial which had kept him from making even a temporary use of this little sum of government money.

John Calhoun, the Surveyor of Sangamon County, was at this time overburdened with work. The principal local industry was speculation in land. Every settler of course wanted his farm surveyed and marked out for him, and every community had its syndicate of leading citizens who cherished a scheme of laying out a city some­where. In many cases the city was plotted, the sites of the principal buildings, including a court­house and a university, were determined, and a sonorous name was selected out of Plutarch, before



its location was even considered. For this latter office the intervention of an official surveyor was necessary, and therefore Mr. Calhoun had more business than he could attend to without assist­ance. Looking about for a young man of good character, intelligent enough to learn surveying at short notice, his attention was soon attracted to Lincoln. He offered young Abraham a book containing the elements of the art, and told him when he had mastered it he should have employ­ment. The offer was a nattering one, and Lincoln, with that steady self-reliance of his, accepted it, and armed with his book went out to the school­master's (Menton Graham's), and in six weeks' close application made himself a surveyor.1

It will be remembered that "Washington in his youth adopted the same profession, but there were few points of similarity in the lives of the two great Presidents, in youth or later man­hood. The Virginian "had every social advantage in his favor, and was by nature a man of more

i There lias Ibeen some discus­sion as to whether Lincoln served as deputy under Calhoun or Neale. The truth is that he served under both of them. Cal­houn was surveyor in 1833, when Lincoln first learned the business. Neale was elected in 1835, and immediately appointed Lincoln and Calhoun as his dep­uties. The " Sangamo Journal" of Sept. 12, 1835, contains the following official advertisement:

" surveyor's notice.—I have appointed John B. Watson, Abram Lincoln, and John Cal­houn deputy surveyors for San-gamon County. In my absence

from town, any persons wishing their land surveyed will do well to call at the Recorder's office and enter his or their names in a book left for that purpose, stat­ing township and range in which they respectively live, and their business shall be promptly at­tended to.

T. M. neale."

An article by Colonel G. A. Pierce, printed April 21, 1881, in the Chicago "Inter-Ocean, "de­scribes an interview held in that month with W. G.Green, of Menard County, in which this matter is referred to. But Mr. Green relies more on the document in his



/. w- jr


The lower half is the right-hand side of the plan which, in. the original, is in one piece.



thrift and greater sagacity in money matters. He used the knowledge gained in the practice of his profession so wisely that he became rather early in life a large land-holder, and continually increased his possessions until his death. Lincoln, with almost unbounded opportunities for the selection and purchase of valuable tracts, made no use whatever of them. He employed his skill and knowledge merely as a bread-winner, and made so little provision for the future that when Mr. Van Bergen, who had purchased the Eadf ord note, sued and got judgment on it, his horse and his survey­ing instruments were taken to pay the debt, and only by the generous intervention of a friend was he able to redeem these invaluable means of living. He was, nevertheless, an excellent surveyor. His portion of the public work executed under the directions of Mr. Calhoun and his successor, T. M. Neale, was well performed, and he soon found his time pretty well employed with private business which came to him from Sangamon and the adjoin-

chap, VI.

possession than on his recollec­tion of what took place in 1833. u< Where did Lincoln learn his surveying ?' I asked. ' Took it up himself/ replied Mr. Green, l as he did a hundred things, and mastered it too. When he acted as surveyor here he was deputy of T. M. Neale, and not of Calhoun, as has often "been said. There was a dispute about this, and many sketches of his life gave Calhoun (Candle-box Calhoun, as he was afterwards known dur­ing the Kansas troubles and election frauds) as the surveyor, but it was Neale.7 Mr. Green turned to his desk and drew out an old certificate, in the hand-

writing of Lincoln, giving the boundaries of certain lands, and signed, * T. M. Neale, Surveyor, by A. Lincoln, Deputy,' thus settling the question. Mr. Green was a Democrat, and has leaned towards that party all his life, but what he thought and thinks of Lincoln can be seen by an in­dorsement on the back of the certificate named, which is as follows:"

Preserve this, as it is the noblest of God's creation —A. Lincoln, the 2d preserver of his coiintry. May 3, 1865.— Penned Iby W. G. Green, who taught Lincoln the English grammar in 1831.





ing counties. Early in the year 1834 we find him appointed one of three " viewers " to locate a road from Salt Creek to the county line in the direction of Jacksonville. The board seems to have con­sisted mainly of its chairman, as Lincoln made the deposit of money required by law, surveyed the route, plotted the road, and wrote the report.1

Though it is evident that the post-office and the surveyor's compass were not making a rich man of him, they were sufficient to enable him to live decently, and during the year he greatly increased his acquaintance and his influence in the county. The one followed the other naturally ; every ac­quaintance he made became his friend, and even before the end of his unsuccessful canvass in 1832

i As this is probably the earli­est public document extant writ­ten and signed by Lincoln, we give it in full:

" March 3, 1834. Reuben Harrison presented the following petition: We, the undersigned, respectfully request your honor­able body to appoint viewers to view and locate a road from Musick's ferry on Salt Creek, via New Salem, to the county line in the direction of Jacksonville.

'' And Abram Lincoln deposited with the clerk $10, as the law directs. Ordered, that Michael Killion, Hugh Armstrong, and Abram Lincoln be appointed to view said road, and said Lincoln to act as surveyor.

"To the County Commission­ers' Court for the county of San-gamon, at its June term, 1834. We, the undersigned, being ap­pointed to view and locate a road, beginning at Musick's ferry on Salt Creek, via New Salem, to

the county line in the direction to Jacksonville, respectfully re­port that we have performed the duties of said view and location; as required by law, and that we have made the location on good ground, and believe the estab­lishment of the same to be neces­sary and proper.

"The inclosed map gives the courses and distances as required by law. Michael Killion, Hugh Armstrong, A. Lincoln."

(Indorsement in pencil, also in Lincoln's handwriting:)

" A. Lincoln, 5 days at $3.00, $15.00. John A. Kelsoe, chain-bearer, for 5 days at 75 cents, $3.75. Robert Lloyd, at 75 cents, $3.75. Hugh Armstrong, for services as axeman, 5 days at 75 cents, $3.75. A. Lincoln, for making plot and report, $2.50."

(On Map.)

road, 26

Scale, 2

" Whole length of miles and 70 chains, inches to the mile."

chap, VI.


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