The “Bees” of Abraham Lincoln’s Early Life

New Salem, Illinois

New Salem, Illinois

What were the “Bees” in Abraham Lincoln’s early years?
1) Cornhusking bees:
This event was both a fun activity and a way of accomplishing a needed task. Two stacks of corn would be set up with two teams facing each stack. Each team raced to see which side could husk the entire stack first.
2) Barn/House Raising Bees:
If a neighbor needed a house or barn built, everyone in the area chipped in to help. It wasn’t a game-it was work. However, with the many neighbors and friends helping the work went quick. The women would serve the meals while the workers kept on working!
3) Quilting Bees:
The women made their own quilts. Typically, they would all meet at someone’s home and work a quilt together-which was quite an involved process. Of course, during the event there was plenty of opportunity for talk. Afterward, there would be a meal. Sometimes there was even entertainment in the evening-including square dancing.
4) Spelling Bees:
Author Ida Tarbell tells us that young Lincoln not only participated in school spelling bees but he was also had a reputation as a good speller.  The teams he was on nearly always won. In fact, he became excluded at one point because he was so good. She relates that Lincoln sometimes gave visual clues to his team-mates during the contests. He had, apparently signaled to a young girl a clue by pointing a finger at his eye. She understood the hint and got the word right. In spite of all this, Lincoln as an adult was not an accurate speller. For instance, he was known to spell the word very as verry. Oh well, Lincoln must have been like so many of us-the older we get the worse we spell!
These activites were part of the young Lincoln’s world. I doubt if he ever helped make a quilt but I bet he sure had some experience building barns and houses-and schucking corn.
Of course, there is yet another kind of bee- the bee insect.
Lincoln referred to bees once when he said about the preachers of his day:
“When I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees.”
Finally, I submit this for your approval. It’s from the book: ‘The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting’ by Eva Crane:
“As a child in Indiana,” Lincoln “was used to eating honey from bees’ nests,” and even as an adult he was “very fond of honey.” He was known to have his honey on bread.
These are a few of the “Bees” of Lincoln’s day. Hope you enjoyed it! Now let’s have lunch. Anyone for honey?
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