They Were Paid Forty Dollars Each

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The early spring of 1832 brought to Springfield and New Salem a most joyful announcement. It was the news of the coming of a steamboat down the Sangamon river-proof incontestable that the stream was navigable. The enterprise was undertaken and carried through by Captain Vincent Bogue, of Springfield, who had gone to Cincinnati to procure a vessel and thus settle the much-mooted question of the river’s navigability. When, therefore, he notified the people of his town that the steamboat Talisman would put out from Cincinnati for Springfield, we can well imagine what great excitement and unbounded enthusiasm followed the announcement. Springfield, New Salem, and all the other towns along the now interesting Sangamon were to be connected by water with the outside world.On its arrival at Springfield, or as near Springfield as the river ran, the crew of the boat were given a reception and dance in the court-house.

That now interesting vessel lay for a week longer at Bogue’s mill, when the receding waters admonished her officers that unless they purposed spending the remainder of the year there they must head her down-stream. In this emergency recourse was had to my cousin Rowan Herndon, who had had no little experience as a boatman, and who recommended the employment of Lincoln as a skilful assistant. These two inland navigators undertook therefore the contract of piloting the vessel-which had now become elephantine in proportions-through the uncertain channel of the Sangamon to the Illinois river. The average speed was four miles a day. At New Salem safe passage over the mill-dam was deemed impossible unless the same could be lowered or a portion removed. Rowan Herndon, describing it to me in 1865, said: “When we struck the dam she hung. We then backed off and threw the anchor over. We tore away part of the dam and raising steam ran her over on the first trial.” The entire proceeding stirred up no little feeling, in which mill owners, boat officers, and passengers took part. The effect the return trip of the Talisman had on those who believed in the successful navigation of the Sangamon is shrewdly indicated by the pilot, who with laconic complacency adds: “As soon as she was over, the company that chartered her was done with her.”

Lincoln and Herndon, in charge of the vessel, piloted her through to Beardstown. There they were paid forty dollars each, according to contract, and bidding adieu to the Talisman’s officers and crew, set out on foot for New Salem again. 

By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life”

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