One man in Gentryville, Ind., a Mr. Jones, the storekeeper, took a Louisville paper, and here Lincoln went regularly to read and discuss its contents. All the men and boys of the neighborhood gathered there, and everything which the paper related was subjected to their keen, shrewd common sense. It was not long before young Lincoln became the one listened to most eagerly. Politics was warmly discussed by these Gentryville citizens, and it may be that sitting on the counter of Jones’ grocery Lincoln even discussed slavery. It certainly was one of the live questions of Indiana at that date.
Young Lincoln was not only winning in those days in the Jones grocery store a reputation as a debater and story teller, but he was becoming known as a kind of backwoods orator. He could repeat with effect all the poems and speeches in his various school readers, he could imitate to perfection the wandering preachers who came to Gentryville, and he could make a political speech so stirring that he drew a crowd about him every time he mounted a stump. The applause he won was sweet, and frequently he indulged his gifts when he ought to have been at work—so thought his employers and Thomas, his father. It was trying, no doubt, to the hard pushed farmers to see the men who ought to have been cutting grass or chopping wood throw down their sickles or axes to group around a boy whenever he mounted a stump to develop a pet theory or repeat with variations yesterday’s sermon. In his fondness for speechmaking he attended all the trials of the neighborhood and frequently walked 15 miles to Booneville to attend court.