In a Pioneer Store
Going to New SalemWaitingActing as Polling ClerkGoing on Flatboat to BeardstownOffutt coming with GoodsInstalled StorekeeperCare of Saw-mill tooW.G. Green, Assistant ClerkHis Popularity in the StoreHis HonestyExamples of itSilencing the Drunken BullyMinter Graham and Pinkham's GrammarHow Abraham Found and Studied itLamon's WordsStudied in Cooper's ShopGreat ProgressTalk with AlleyHis Estimate of GrammarMeeting Richard BatesSpilling the Milk and Breaking BowlA Noble TraitMastered GrammarIts Blessing to him thereafter
About the 1st of August, 1831, Abraham met Offutt at New Salem as previously arranged. His employer had collected a quantity of goods at Beardstown, awaiting transportation. Until the goods arrived Abraham had nothing to do, but loitered about the town, then numbering only from twelve to fifteen habitations. Some of the people recognized him as the ingenious fellow who engineered the boat over Rutledges dam a few months before; and they scraped acquaintance with him at once.
On the day of the election he was loitering about the polling place, when one of the judges remarked to Minter Graham, the schoolmaster, We are short of a clerk; what shall we do?
The schoolmaster replied, Perhaps the tall stranger yonder can write; and maybe he will serve in that capacity.
Possibly, responded the judge, as he advanced towards Abraham, and said,
Can you write? It must be remembered that at that time, in that region, many people could neither read nor write, so that getting a clerk was not an easy matter
Yes, a little, answered Abraham.
Will you act as clerk of the election to-day?
Yes, Ill try, was Abrahams modest reply. I will do the best I can, if you so request.
Well, it will accommodate us very much if you will, continued the judge, conducting the stranger to the polls. As yet Abraham had not announced to any one that he was soon to preside over the store of New Salem.
That he discharged the duties of the office acceptably on that day we have positive evidence; for Minter Graham, the schoolmaster, who was clerk also, says,
He performed the duties with great facility, much fairness, and honesty and impartiality. This was the first official act of his life. I clerked with him on the same day, and at the same polls. The election-books are now in the city of Springfield, Illinois, where they can be seen and inspected any day.
Dr. Nelson of New Salem was about to remove to Texas, and had built a flat-boat on which to convey his goods and family thither. He was ready to start when Abraham was waiting for the arrival of Offutts merchandise. The Sangamon river was at best a turbulent stream, and was then swollen to overflowing, so that the doctor required a pilot to Beardstown. Some-one suggested to him the young fellow who took the boat over Rutledges dam; and Abraham was accordingly engaged. He piloted the flat-boat successfully to Beardstown, although he said the river overflowed its banks so unprecedentedly for that season of the year, that he sometimes floated over the prairie, three miles from the channel. At Beardstown he received his pay, and left the doctor to run down the Illinois, while he returned on foot to New Salem.
On the arrival of Offutts merchandise, the inhabitants of the village understood what the tall strangers business was in the town; for Abraham proceeded at once to unpack the goods, and arrange them for exhibition in the store. There were groceries, dry goods, hardwares, stonewares, earthenwares, cups and saucers, plates, knives and forks, boots and shoes, coffee, tea, sugar, molasses, butter, gunpowder,
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