Working and Winning

Society about him—Mrs. Crawford's Description—Population increased—People Superstitious—Examples of Superstition—Influence on Abraham—Becomes a Ferryman, Farmer, Hostler, and House-servant—Reads History of the United States at Night—Employer's Son his Bedfellow—Abe's late Reading vexes him—What he Said about Abe Twenty Years After—Hog-killing—Became a Butcher—His Sister Married—He Writes a Poem for the Occasion—His Presence demanded at Parties—Works for Jones the Store- keeper—Variety of Work—Reads Life of Franklin—Reads a Newspaper here—Discusses Politics—Life of Henry Clay—Visits afterwards to Grocery—Acting the Good Samaritan, himself the Horse—Saved a Man

The reader should understand the society in which Abraham mixed, in order to appreciate fully the elements of character which enabled him to work and win from fifteen to eighteen years of age. Mrs. Crawford, whom we have already quoted, in a letter to Mr. Herndon, furnishes rather a vivid picture of the social state at that time. She says:—

“You wish me to tell you how the people used to go to meeting,—how far they went. At that time we thought it nothing to go eight or ten miles. The old ladies did not stop for the want of a shawl, or cloak, or riding-dress, or two horses, in the winter time; but they would put on their husbands’ old overcoats, and wrap up their little ones, and take one or two of them up on their beasts, and their husbands would walk, and they would go to church, and stay in the neighbourhood until the next day, and then go home. The old men would start out of the fields from their work, or out of the woods from hunting, with their guns on their shoulders, and go to church. Some of them dressed in deerskin pants and mocassins, hunting-shirts with a rope or leather strap around them. They would come in laughing, shake hands all around, sit down and talk about their game they had killed, or some other work they had done, and smoke their pipes together with the old ladies. If in warm weather, they would kindle up a little fire out in the meeting-house yard, to light their pipes. If in the winter-time, they would hold church in some of the neighbours’ houses. At such times they were always treated with the utmost kindness; a bottle of whiskey, a pitcher of water, sugar, and a glass, were set out, or a basket of apples, or turnips, or some pies and cakes. Apples were scarce at that time. Sometimes potatoes were used as a treat. The first treat I ever received in old Mr. Lincoln’s house (that was our President’s father’s house), was a plate of potatoes, washed and pared very nicely, and handed round. It was something new to me, for I had never seen a raw potato eaten before. I looked to see how they made use of them. Each took off a potato, and ate it like an apple. Thus they spent the time till preaching commenced; then they would all take their seats; the preacher would take his stand, draw off his coat, open his shirt-collar, commence service by singing and prayer, take his text, and preach till the sweat would roll off in great drops. Shaking hands and singing ended the service. The people seemed to enjoy religious service more in those days than they do now. They were glad to see each other, and enjoyed themselves better than they do now.”

The population had increased very much at the period of which Mrs. Crawford speaks, and log meeting- houses were found here and there, at least for summer use. Some of them were too open and cold for winter use.

The people were very superstitious, as unlettered people usually are. Mr. Lamon has recorded their superstitious notions in a single paragraph, thus:—

“They firmly believed in witches and all kinds of witch-doings. They sent for wizards to cure sick cattle. They shot the image of the witch with a silver ball, to break the spell she was supposed to have laid on a human being. If a dog ran directly across a man’s path whilst he was hunting, it was terrible ‘luck,’ unless he instantly hooked his two little fingers together, and pulled with all his might, until the dog was out of sight. There were wizards who took charmed sticks in their hands, and made them point to springs of water and all kinds of treasure beneath the earth’s surface. There were ‘faith doctors,’ who cured diseases by per forming mysterious ceremonies and muttering cabalistic words. If a bird alighted in a window, one of the family would speedily die. If a horse breathed on a child, the child would have the whooping-cough. Everything must be done at certain ‘times and seasons.’ They must make fence ‘in the light of the moon,’ otherwise the fence would sink. Potatoes and other roots were to be planted

  By PanEris using Melati.

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