A new home made

The Axe a Symbol of Pioneer Life—Strength Developed—Incident Forty Years Later—Erecting a Half- faced Camp—How Abe began Pioneer Life—Built Log-house next Year—Described—Putting up a Bed—Making Table and Stools—Abe's Parlour Chamber—The Home-made Grist-mill—Process of making it—How Pioneer Families got Meal—Reading in his New Home—Improving in Penmanship—Surroundings described—No Water near—How got this Farm—Spencer County—State of Society Two Years later, and Physical Condition described by Turnham—Mrs. Lincoln against Drinking Customs

It was in the new home in Indiana that Abraham began to be a genuine pioneer boy. The axe was the symbol of pioneer life; and here he began to swing one in dead earnest. From the time he was eight years old until he had passed his majority, he was accustomed to the almost daily use of the axe. His physical strength developed with wonderful rapidity, so that he became one of the most efficient wood- choppers in that region. After he became President, and the “War of the Rebellion” was on his hands, he visited the hospitals at City Point, where three thousand sick and wounded soldiers were sheltered. He insisted upon shaking hands with every one of them; and, after performing the feat, and friends were expressing their fears that his arm would be lamed by so much hand-shaking, he remarked,—“The hardships of my early life gave me strong muscles.” And, stepping out of the open door, he took up a very large, heavy axe which lay there by a log of wood, and chopped vigorously for a few moments, sending the chips flying in all directions; and then, pausing, he extended his right arm to its full length, holding the axe out horizontally, without its even quivering as he held it. Strong men who looked on—men accustomed to manual labour—could not hold the same axe in that position for a moment. When the President left, a hospital steward gathered up the chips, and laid them aside carefully, “because they were the chips that Father Abraham chopped.”

It was necessary for the Lincoln family to erect a habitation as soon as possible, and “a half-faced camp” could be more easily and quickly built than a cabin, because it could be constructed of “poles” instead of logs. For this reason Mr. Lincoln decided to erect the “camp” for a temporary abode, and the next year build a substantial log-cabin. He could cut the logs and prepare slabs during the winter, so that the labour of erecting a cabin would not be great after the planting of the next spring was done.

A “half-faced camp” was “a cabin enclosed on three sides and open on the fourth,” a very poor habitation for the cold winters of Indiana. But pioneers accepted almost any device for a shelter, and made the best of cold, hunger, and hardship.

Abraham began pioneer life by assisting his father in erecting the “camp.” Cutting “poles” was an easy method of initiating him into the hard work of chopping wood. It was not, however, until the following summer, when the more substantial cabin was erected, that Abraham engaged in the enterprise with all his heart. A severe winter and unusual exposure caused him to appreciate a better habitation.

After “clearing some land, and planting corn and vegetables,” in the spring of 1817, and the summer work was well under way, Mr. Lincoln proceeded to erect his log-cabin. His nearest neighbour rendered him essential aid, and Abraham proved himself very efficient for a boy of eight years. One who often found shelter under the hospitable roof of this cabin has furnished the following description of it:—

“It was sixteen by eighteen feet in size, without a floor, the unhewn logs put together at the corners by the usual method of notching them, and the cracks between them stopped with clay. It had a shed-roof, covered with slabs or clapboards, split from logs. It contained but one room, with a loft, slabs being laid on the logs overhead, so as to make a chamber, to which access was had by pins driven into the logs in one corner. It had one door and one window. The latter, however, was so ingeniously constructed that it deserves particular attention. Mr. Lincoln made a sash of the size of four six-by-eight squares of glass; and, in place of glass, which could not be obtained in that region, he took the skin that covers the fat portion of a hog, called the leaves, and drew it over the sash tight. This furnished a very good substitute for glass; and the contrivance reflected much credit upon the inventive genius of the builder.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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