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Settlers Clearing
Settlers Clearing

In 1860 Republican Party leaders styled their candidate Abraham Lincoln as "the Railsplitter" in an attempt to appeal to the common man. While Lincoln, eager to leave his backwoods past behind, was not happy with the designation, it had a basis in shrewd observation. Frontier men, and sometimes women, knew that in order to survive they must be handy with an axe. On the trail to a new home forests provided fuel for campfires and the makings of temporary shelters. Settlers in woodland areas, which included most of the southern Illinois and portions of the state's central and northern regions, found themselves confronted by a daunting first task: clearing an area for habitation and cultivation. Working alone, a settler might take weeks to clear his land.

Image source: Northern Illinois University
©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project