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Abraham Lincoln invented "the plug" that is in the aft of boats (to let the water out and then plugged up again.) Lincoln heard the discouraging news that he had been unable to get a flatboat at Beardstown. A young man promptly offered to make the flatboat, since one was not to be bought; and they set to work, felling the trees for it on the banks of the stream. Abraham's father had been a carpenter, so the use of tools was no mystery to him; and during his trip to New Orleans with Allen Gentry he had learned enough about flatboats to give him confidence in this task of shipbuilding. Neither Johnston nor Hanks was gifted with skill or industry, and it is clear that Lincoln was, from the start, leader of the party, master of construction, and captain of the craft. The floods went down rapidly while the boat was building, and when they tried to sail their new craft it stuck midway across the dam of Rutledge's mill at New Salem, a village of fifteen or twenty houses not many miles from their starting-point. With its bow high in air, and its stern under water, it looked like some ungainly fish trying to fly, or some bird making an unsuccessful attempt to swim. The voyagers appeared to have suffered irreparable shipwreck at the very outset of their venture, and men and women came down from their houses to offer advice or to make fun of the young boatmen as they waded about in the water, with trousers rolled very high, seeking a way out of their difficulty. Lincoln's self-control and good humor proved equal to their banter, while his engineering skill speedily won their admiration. The amusement of the onlookers changed to gaping wonder when they saw him deliberately bore a hole in the bottom of the boat near the bow, after which, fixing up some kind of derrick, he tipped the boat so that the water she had taken in at the stern ran out in front, and she floated safely over the dam. This novel method of bailing a boat by boring a hole in her bottom fully established his fame at New Salem, and so delighted the enthusiastic Offut that, on the spot, he engaged its inventor to come back after the voyage to New Orleans and act as clerk for him in a store.

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