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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Ellis, Abner Y. 'Abner Y. Ellis (statement for William H. Herndon)' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon170.html


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127. Abner Y. Ellis (statement for William H. Herndon).

I, Abner Y. Ellis,

First became acquainted with Capt. Abraham Lincoln in New Salem then Sangamon County, shortly after his return from the Black Hawk war — but not intimately untill the Summer and fall of 1833, in that year I went to New Salem with a stock of goods belonging to Mr N A Garland now of Springfield I then became I may say intimately acquainted with him We boarded at the Same log Tavern Kept by Henry Onstott and afterwards by Mr Nelson Ally During my stay their he was not engaged in any partcular business, but I think he was preparing himself of Surveying I remember he had an old form Book from which he used in writing Deeds, Wills & Letters when desired to do so by his freinds and neighbours, he also used a Small Size Dictionary when engaged in Writing. He also used to assist Me in the Store on busy days, but he allways disliked to wait on the Ladies he prefered trading with the Men & Boys as he used to Say

I also remember that he Used to sleep in the store on the Counter when they had two Much Company at the Tavern.

I also remember that Mr Lincoln was in those days a Verry shy Man of Ladies — On one occasion while we boarded at this Tavern there came a family Containing an old Lady her Son and Three stilish Daughters from the State of Virginia and stoped their for 2 or 3 weeks and during theer stay I do not remember of Mr Lincoln Ever eating at the Same table when they did. I then thought it was on account of his awkward appearance and his wareing apparel.

I well remember how he was dressed he wore flax & tow linnen pantaloons [1] — I thought about 5 inches too short in the legs and frequently he had but one Suspender — no vest or Coat he Wore a Calico Shert Such as he had in the black Hawk War he wore coarse Brogans Tan Couler Blue Yarn Socks & straw Hat — old style and without a band

Salem in those days was a hard place for a temperate young Man like Mr Lincoln was and I have often wondered how he could be so exremely popular and and not drink and Carouse with them he Used to run footraces & jump with the boys and also play ball I am certain he Never Drank any intoxicating liquors he did not in those days even smoke or chew Tobacco. He was Great at Telling storys and anecdotes & I think that was one great reason of his beaing So popular with It has been Said by Some that Mr Lincoln used to Keep a Dogery in New Salem, I think I Can tell how that story originated during Mr Lincolns resedence ther a young Man by the Name of Wm Bery Kept a store there and he had Liquors to sell and he became so fond of it himself that his freinds got Mr Lincoln to take an interest in the busines Which lasted only a few Months — to get red of the liquor trade — Berry however died and his freinds took charge Concern Berry & Lincoln I understand Make No debts — & Berrys freinds paid

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Mr Lincoln for his Servces by the Month In the year of 1834 Mr Lincoln was persuaded by his old freind Bowling Green to become a candidate for the State Legislator He was then in intire stranger to the people of Springfield in fact I am of the opinion that he New Very few persons except Myself and Blankenship [2] when he came their he in those days put his horse in My old Jail stable that now stands Just back of Mesrs Withers & Bros shop — I Had a room Just whare Concert Hall Now stands [3] and he staid with me Nights. I introduced him to the Leading Men of the old Whig party and they Elected him — and he afterwards removed to Springfield and read Law with J T Stuart I think

I Must tell you of Mr Lincolns appearance and Costums when he first Made his debut before the Sangamon audience

He wore a mixt Jeans Coat Claw hammer stile, short in the sleaves and bob tail in fact it was so short in the tail he could Not sit on it, Flax & Tow linnen Pantaloons and a Straw Hat I think he wore a vest but I do not remember how it looked he then wore Potmetal Boots [4] — I accompanied him on one of his electionarying trips to the Island Grove and he Make a Speach which pleased his party friends Very Well indeed — though some of the Jackson Men tried to Make sport of him, He told several anecdotes in his Speach and applyed them as I thought Verry Well He also told the Boys Several Storys which drew them after him remember them but Modesty and my Veneration for his Memory forbids me to relate I have a coppy of his first speach hear it is

Gentlemen and fellow citizens I presume you all Know who I am I am humble Abraham Lincoln I have been Solicited by Many freinds to become a candidate for the Legislature My politicks are short and sweet like the old Womans dance. I am in favor of a National bank. I am in favor of the internal improvement system and a high protective Tariff — These are my sentiments and politicle principles if Elected I shall be thankful if not it will be all the Same [5]

As to the questions you ask concerning his habitts &c &c. I shall endeavor to do so the best I can

I think Mr Lincoln Was Not as high minded as a man of his honor and Integrity ought to have been for instance Just think of his low flung, black guard story Many of them was redicilus as we both Know

Mr. L. — I think had no desire for strange woman I never heard him speak of any particular Woman with disresect though he had Many opportunities for doing so while in Company with J.F.S. and Wm B two old rats in that way.

As to the books he read I do Not Know Much. I recollect of one Novel he read and recommened to Me it was George Balcomb [6] your Brother Elliot procured it for me and I read it The plot commenced in and about St Louis and ended in Virginia I was interesting and exciting — I think he read some of Tom Pains

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Works as he frequently spoke of Pains Book Common Since [7] he once asked Me if I had ever Read Volneys ruins [8] he Said he had and supposed that I had by My calling my oldest son Volney, though I had never read them and never wished to

He never recommended me to read them Neither he speak in favor of them.

I rember too of his reading Some of Mrs C. L. Hentys [9] beautiful storys; one in particular the prize story the Mob Cap [10] he said he wished he Could See the Play

He was verry fond of short storys one & two columns long, like

Cousin Sally Dillard —
Becky Wilsons Courtship
The down Easter & the Bull, [11]

How a bashful Young man became a Marrid man with 5 little bashful Boys, & How he and his read headed Wife became Millerits [12] and before they were to ascend they agreed to Make a clean breast of it to each other The old Man insisted that the Wife Should own up first as she had primsed in her Marriage Vow to first obay her husband Well Dear said she our little Sammy is Not your child well Said the husband whoes is he Oh Dear Said She, he is the one Eyed Shoe Maker he came to see Me once when you was away and in an vil hour I Gave way Well said the husband is the rest mine No said she they belong to the Neighbourhood

Well Said the old Man I am ready to leave; Gabarial blow your horn.

I have thought that Mr. L. had something to do with its getting up he used to tell it with Embellishments. I suppose you have heard him telling it he Said he Never saw a Millerite but what he thought of the story

I remember once of Seeing Mr L out of temper & Laughing at the Same time. it was at New Salem the boys were having a Jollification after an Election They had a large fire Made of shavings & hemp [herds?], and Some of the Boys Made a bet with a fellow that I shall call Ike that he could not run his little bob tail Poney through the fire. Ike took them up — and trotted his Poney back about one hundred Yards, to give him a good start as he said. The boys all formed a line on Either side to Make Way for Ike & his poney presently hear he came full tilt With he hat off & Just as he reached the blazing fire raised in his saddle for the Jump Strait ahead but Poney was not of the Same opinion So he flew the track and pitched poor Ike into the devouring Ellement Mr L. Saw it and run to his

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assistance saying You have Carried this thing far enough I could see that he Was Mad though he Could Not help laughing himself the poor fellow Was Concderably scorched about the head & face Jack Armstrong took him to the Dr who shaved his head to fix him up & put salve on the burn &c &c I think M L Was a little Mad at Armstrong & Jack himself was Verry Sorry for it Jack gave Ike Next Morning a Dram his brakefast & a seal skin Cap & sent him home

At another time I Saw Mr L cry, it was at his old freind Bowling Greens Masonic funural [13] Mr L Was to deliver and address on the occasion he Was on the stand but When he arose he only uttered a few Words & commenced choaking & sobing he told he listenes that he Was un Maned & could Not precede he got down and Went to Mrs Greens old family Carriage, and I Saw him No More that day I supposed he Went home with Mrs Green & our lodge took Dinner in Petersburgh I do not remember Who took the stand after M L. got down Mr L Loved Mr Green as he did his Farther & Mr Green looked on him with pride and pleasur. I have heard Mr Green Say that there Was good Material in Abe and he only Wanted Education Mr Green had some little acquaintance with Mr Lincolns Mothers family the Hanks and he thought he inherited his good Sence from the old Stock of his Mothers relations. I Myself New Old Billy Hanks his Mothers Brother — and he was a Verry sesible old Man — He Was farther to Mrs Dillon [14] on Spring creek & Charly Billy Jr & John was his Sons They We all low flung Could Neither read or Write Some of them Used to live in the Island Grove in Sangamon Co

allthough Mr L. Was Verry fond of fun he Never played any pranks on any body & he took few libertys with any one and I do Not think he wanted any one to take them With him but if they had he would not have complained. I have been reading Some of your Lectures & I am Glad that you have Studded him so well and I think you Know him Well Enough, without My Saying any thing of him after he Came to Springfield I Never saw or heard of his playing Cards or gambing in any Way for money

It is Not Strange to Me that Mr L. Should have Such a Great passion For dirty Stories it was his Early training by the Hanks Boys his Cousins and after he left them he commenced a different train of thought and Studdie, Honesty Was bread in the Bone with him and Nothing could induce him to Swerve from the true path He did Not reguard the Right of Petitions Much; provided he New the partys himself This I Know to My Cost but I Suppose he was right in Not appointing Me P.M. in 1861 he Was I am Now Certin he opposed to Me from the begginning I blamed Butler [15] and Old Duboice [16] for Making him think that Was Not for him in 1858

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I once heard Mr. Lincoln tell an anecdote on Col Ethan Allen of Revolutionary notoriety which I have never heard from any one besides him and for your amusement I will try and tell it as well as I Can [17]

It appears that Shortly after we had pease with England Mr Allen had occasion to visit England, and while their the English took Great pleasure in teasing him, and trying to Make fun of the Americans and General Washington in particular and one day they got a picture of General Washington, and hung it up the Back House whare Mr Allen Could see it

and they finally asked Mr A if he saw that picture of his freind in the Back House.

Mr Allen said no. but said he thought that it was a very appropriate for an Englishman to Keep it Why they asked, for said Mr Allen their is Nothing that Will Make an Englishman Shit So quick as the Sight of Genl Washington And after that they let Mr Allens Washington alone

He Tell another on page 11 [18]

Once upon a time but Not so long as to be forgotten

Mr Allen Went With a party of Young Men in Vermont to an apple pealing

And they Knowing that Mr Allen was rather inclined to beleave in ghost story they concluded they Would Slip away from him so he would have to return home alone. and it appears that their was a long covered Bridge through which they had to pass, & they concluded to wrap themselves up in White Sheets and station themselves at the further End of the Bridge and about the time that Mr Allen should reach the Meddle they Would apper to him but it appeard that Mr Allen Caught a glimpse of them on Comeing down the hill and he picked up a hand full of good Sized stones and carried them with him, and as soon as they made their appearanc Mr Allen as follows. — Be Ye Men or Be. Ye Be. Ye. Men. I fear Ye Not And if Ye. Be. Ghosts these stones will not hurt Ye It is Supposed that they vanished in a way better imagined than described [19]

You ask me if reccollect the first time I Saw Mr L. Yes I do

It was shortly after his flat Boat disater at or Near Salem dam, time corn planting time I was out Collecting back Tax for Genl James D. Henry. [20] I went from the Tavern down to Jacob Bales old Mill and their I first Saw Mr L he was Setting on a Saw log taking to Jack and Rial Armstrong and a Man by the Hohammer. I shook hands with the Armstrongs & Hohamer and was conversing with them a few Moments when we was Joined by My old freind and former townsman George Warberton pritty tight as Usual and he Soon asked Me to tell the old story about Ben Johnson and Mrs Dales Blue Dye &c &c which I did. and then Jack Armstrong Said Lincoln tell Ellis the story about Govenor Tickner his city bread son & his Negro Bob Which he did with several others by Jacks Calling for them.

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I found out then that Mr L. was a Cousin to Charley Hanks of Island Grove I told him I New 3 of the Boys. Jo. Charley & John and his Uncle old Billey H who lived up on the North fork of Sangamon River afterwards Near Decature

The Hankes were most of them Red headed & freckel fased and verry unshosible Except Charley he Was funny to the Extreame. By the bye Mrs Samuel Dillon in springfield was a Hanks, and was once Mrs Rezin Ray [21] I think she is still living —

— I do not think I am Making this Scribble of Much interest to you, for My Early acquaintance with Mr Lincoln is so Much associated With anecdotes & storys & If Ever any one should wish to publish his Joke Book I Could do Much better though Many of them would Never do to go to print, evin if they Could be so Shaped into Manuscript form

I onc heard him say in speaking religious denominations that he thought Baptism by imertion Was the true Meaning of the Word for said he John Baptised the Saviour in the river Jorden because their was Much Warter & they Went down into it and Came up out of it. [22]

He Was at one time Verry much taken with Josephus Hewetts preaching Hewett was a Campbellite preacher [23]

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2435 (letter), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 5273 — 85; Huntington Library: LN2408, 1:399 — 411 (enclosure)

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Ellis, Abner Y. 'Abner Y. Ellis (statement for William H. Herndon)' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon170.html
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