9. Henry McHenry to William H. Herndon (interview) .
Petersburg Ills, My 29 1865
Mr. Lincoln came into Sangamon County — now Menard Co in the fall of 1830 — : he came down the Sangamon River in a flat boat with Offut in the summer of 1830 — went down the Sangamon to Beardstown on the Illinois and from this last he Came to the little town of New Salem: Offut brought some goods wares & merchandise up from Beardstown and Lincoln put them up — unboxed them & put them up on shelves — , he being then 21 ys of age & some few months — He attended — clerked for Offut, attending store and a mill at the foot of the Hill on the Sangamon River. He stayed with Offut from the fall of 1830 to about August 1831 — this was during the winter of the deep snow: He was a good — obliging clerk & an honest one: he increased Offuts business much by his simplicity — open — Candid — obliging & honest — Evry body loved him — . Soon after this and during the same year 1831 — he was deputy P. M under Saml Hill in New Salem — At this time he borrowed law books of Jno. T. Stuart: he read He read law sometimes — always during good weather — in the open air: he sat on a goods box under a large white oak tree in Salem, barefooted as he came into the world — : Lincoln would come out & stay with me a week or two at a time, reading law — hunting squirrels with a gun. In the Spring or Summer of 1832 I had a horse race with Geo Warburton. I got Lincoln, who was at the race to be a judge of the race much against his will and after hard persuasion. Lincoln decided correctly and the other judge said — "Lincoln is the fairest man I ever had to deal with If Lincoln is in this County when I die I want him to be my admr., for he is the only man I ever met with that was wholy & purely and unselshly honest". Soon after this and during the latter part of the year 1832 — or first part of 1833 he studied surveying and went at surveying practically during the same year. He studied surveying under Mentor Graham who now lives not more than two hundred yars from my residence in Petersburg Menard Co: he is a good, truthful & honest: he did not learn surveying of Calhoun, but became Calhoun's deputy surveyor. He still Continued reading law at the same time: he read so much — was so studious — took so little physical exercise — was so laborious in his studies that he became Emaciated & his best friends were afraid that he would craze himself — make himself derange from his habits of study which were incessant. I then moved to Cass and did see him only occasionally till 1836. We — the neighbors — had a disputed Corner in Town 18 N. of 8 R west. We agreed to send for Lincoln & to abide by his decision as surveyor & judge: he came down with Compass — flag staff — Chain &c and stopped with me 3 or 4 days and surveyed the whole section. When the disputed corner arrived at by actual survey, Lincoln then stuck down his staff and said — "Gentlemen — here is the Corner." We then went to
work and dug down in the ground — & found about 6 or 8 inches of the original stake, sharpened & cut with an axe and at the bottom a piece of charcoal, put there by Rector — who surveyed the whole County — . When the supposed Corner was struck and when Lincoln's survey was demonstrated by figures & well as Material Evidences — namely the original stake & charcoal, all parties without a jar were Completely satisfied & that corner stands there this day a monument of all mens titles in the whole section of the County round about. The Black Hawk war was in 1831 & 2. Lincoln went into army — Volunteers — as a private and was Elected by the Company Captain of that Company: All the men in the Company — as well as the Regiment to which he & they belonged loved him well — almost worshipped him. I heard him making his first speech after returning from the Black Hawk war. He brushed up his hair from his tall dark forhead and said: "Gentlemen I have just returned from the Campaign My personal appearance is rather shabby & dark. I am almost as red as those men I have been chasing through the prairies & forests on the Rivers of Illinois — "
Lincoln in Politics was a whig: he became a candidate for the Legislature in 1832: he was defeated: he was a candidate in 1834, & was Elected. In 1836 he was Elected again & Elected and about the years 1835 or 6 he went from New Salem to the City of Springfield.
During all this time — during all these years — I never knew Mr Lincoln to run a horse race — it then being Common, if not universal over the whole County. I never knew him to drink a drop of liquor — or get drunk — or gamble or play Cards — nor fool nor seduce Women. I wish to say that he never sold liquor — nor dealt in it, he being opposed in his New Salem nor other places whilst in Menard County — or Sangamon. When he was a candidate for small or large offices I always voted for him — his Presidential terms both included and his virtues & honesty &c were the main reasons for so doing.
In 1859 I again renewed an intimate acquaintance in Sangamon. I there Employed him together with W H Herndon to attend to a suit for me involving many serious & knotty questions of law in relation to land — I had put up a house on the disputed land and I was then in possession of the land and living in the house — . Under false impressions — wrong views of my lines of my land; he told me to move out and give my opponent the possession of the land. I remarked somewhat angrily — I will be — d — d if I do: Mr. Lincoln then in the same spirit of momentary anger said — "I will be d — d if I attend to your suit, if you don't — I then remarked to him — "I will employ & other man then — You are not all the Lawyers in Springeld". Mr Lincoln — "Well — Henry, let us have a fair understanding of these things — we never differed before". I then sketched to him on what precise part of the land this house stood on, by a drawing on a piece of paper, he drawing it in sections. When he found out the precise facts of the Case, he
then said: "Henry — you are right," and then took a good hearty laugh over the mistake. He further remarked to me in the End — "Henry hold the possession of the land — you will beat the Enemy in the End — " After 3 years struggle Lincoln's prophecy was fulfilled. soon as the Suit was finally decided Mr Lincoln hitched up old bob and brought out with him his son Robert; they remained with me all day — Mr Lincoln said to me there: "Henry I want to see that old line of peach trees talked about so much in the Suit — " which I showed him, and which he looked over. From this time I saw Mr Lincoln as a friend frequently. During the whole of my acquaintance he always acted toward me as a brother — a christian and a gentleman & in my humble judgment no man living or dead was a better man. God bless him.
Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2128 — 34; Huntington Library: LN2408, 1:345 — 50
1. Written out by WHH in the form of a letter and signed by McHenry.
2. AL's flatboat trip (to New Orleans) with Denton Offutt took place between April and July 1831.
3. Township 18 North, Range 8 West of the 3d Principal Meridian lies west of Petersburg on the line between present-day Menard and Cass Counties.
4. Elias and Wharton Rector contracted to survey this area in 1822.
5. Although a brief campaign against Black Hawk took place in 1831, AL's involvement was in the decisive engagement in the spring and early summer of 1832.
6. For another account of this case, see §104.