« PreviousContinue »
and met him by public appointment in the “greenwood," at Wabash Point, where he threw him twice with so much ease that Needham's pride was more hurt than his body. “Lincoln,” said he, “you have thrown me twice, but you can't whip me.”—“Needham,” replied Abe, “ are you satisfied that I can throw you ? If you are not, and must be convinced through a threshing, I will do that, too, for your sake.” Needham had hoped that the youngster would shrink from the extremity of a fight with the acknowledged “ bully of the patch ;” but finding him willing, and at the same time magnanimously inclined to whip him solely for his own good, he concluded that a bloody nose and a black eye would be the reverse of soothing to his feelings, and therefore surrendered the field with such grace as he could command.
N the west bank of the Sangamon River, twenty miles
north-west of Springfield, a traveller on his way to Havana will ascend a bluff one hundred feet higher than the low-water mark of the stream. On the summit he will find a solitary log-hut. The back-bone of the ridge is about two hundred and fifty feet broad where it overlooks the river; but it widens gradually as it extends westerly toward the remains of an old forest, until it terminates in a broad expanse of meadow. On either side of this hill, and skirting its feet north and south, run streams of water in very deep channels, and tumble into the Sangamon almost within hearing. The hill, or more properly the bluff, rises from the river in an almost perpendicular ascent. 6. There is an old mill at the foot of the bluff, driven by water-power. The river washes the base of the bluff for about four hundred yards, the hill breaking off almost abruptly at the north. The river along this line runs about due north: it strikes the bluff coming around a sudden bend from the south-east, the river being checked and turned by the rocky hill. The mill-dam running across the Sangamon River just at the mill checks the rapidity of the water. It was here, and on this dam, that Mr. Lincoln's flatboat.stuck on the 19th of April, 1831.' The dam is about eight feet high, and two hundred and twenty feet long, and, as the old Sangamon rolls her turbid waters over the dam, plunging them into the whirl and eddy beneath, the roar and hiss of waters, like the low, continuous, distant thunder, can be distinctly heard through the whole village, day and night, week-day and Sunday, spring and fall, or other high-water time. The river, at the base of the bluff, is about two hundred and fifty feet wide, the mill using up thirty feet, leaving the dam only about two hundred and twenty feet long."
In every direction but the West, the country is broken into hills or bluffs, like the one we are attempting to describe, which are washed by the river, and the several streams that empty into it in the immediate vicinity. Looking across the river from bluff to bluff, the distance is about a thousand yards; while here and there, on both banks, are patches of rich alluvial bottom-lands, eight or nine hundred yards in width, enclosed on one side by the hills, and on the other by the river. The uplands of the eastern bank are covered with original forests of immemorial age; and, viewed from “Salem Hill,” the eye ranges over a vast expanse of green foliage, the monotony of which is relieved by the alternating swells and depressions of the landscape.
On the ridge of that hill, where the solitary cabin now stands, there was a few years ago a pleasant village. How it vanished like a mist of the morning, to what distant places its inhabitants dispersed, and what became of the dwellings they left behind, shall be questions for the local antiquarian. We have no concern with any part of the history, except that part which began in the summer of 1831 and ended in 1837,the period during which it had the honor of sheltering a man whose enduring fame contrasts strangely with the evanescence of the village itself.
In 1829 James Rutledge and John Cameron built the mill on the Sangamon, and laid off the town on the hill. The place was then called Cameron's Mill; but in process of time, as cabins, stores, and groceries were added, it was dignified by the name of New Salem. “I claim," says one of the gentlemen who established the first store, "to be the explorer and discoverer of New Salem as a business point. Mr. Hill (now dead) and myself purchased some goods at Cincinnati, and shipped them to St. Louis, whence I set out on a voyage of