Super Athlete of the Sangamon.
1. Two wrestlers stood in a circle of shouting onlookers and sized up each other. One was of medium height, sturdily built and strong as an ox. He was stripped to the waist, revealing a huge chest overlaid with hard muscle. His arms were like the limbs of a tree. The other man towered over him, six feet and four inches tall and slender, his long arms dangling from his shoulders. His muscles were long and smooth, like those of a panther. The muscle man was Jack Armstrong. His tall opponent was 22-year-old Abraham Lincoln.
2. Had Lincoln lived today, he would be a football coach's dream, a great tackle, a speed end, a genius at quarterback. He would be a one-man track team. As a baseball player, he would be a home-run hitter. But his day was yesterday, and he was destined for greater things.
3. That Saturday afternoon in the village of New Salem, in Sangamon Country, Illinois in the year 1831, every man, and boy in town was at the circle that formed to watch the unknown Lincoln wrestle. Armstrong was the leader of a gang of rough men from Clary's Grove, a strip of land three miles from the village. Lincoln was a newcomer, almost a stranger.
4. A vacant lot beside a store was the site chosen for the match. The men agreed that it was to be a friendly affair, with such customary tricks as eye gouging, hair pulling, ear tearing and nose biting barred. At the signal Armstrong went after Lincoln with the rushes of a maddened bull, trying to knock him off his feet, but Abe held him off with his arms.
5. Lincoln tried to lift his opponent off the ground and slam him hard on his back. Armstrong was not to be handled so easily and they shoved each other all over the lot. The crowd moved along with them. The Clary's Grove Champion finally lost his temper and fouled Lincoln by grinding his foot with a boot heel. That touched off the fireworks. All rules were now forgotten. His face dark with anger, Lincoln grasped Armstrong by the throat, lifted him clear of the ground, shock him as thought he were a rag and threw him so hard that he lay stunned.
6. The Clary's Grove boys looked at their beaten leader and turned on Lincoln. He retreated a few steps to the grocery building, braced himself against the wall and told them to come and get him if they dared. Armstrong put an end to that. He got up, pushed his friends aside and grabbed Lincoln's hand. Turning to the crowd, Armstrong said he had been fairly beaten and that Abe Lincoln was the "best feller" who ever came to New Salem.
7. Lincoln's feats of strength became the talk of the nearby town of Gentryville. A farmer wished to move a corncrib, so Abe picked it up placed it on the desired spot while four men, who had come with poles to help, looked on, surprised. People in Gentryville saw him move a chicken house alone and they swore it weighed 600 pounds.
8. One of the most frequently told tales about Lincoln's strength is that he won a bet the could drink from a barrel held in his arms. It was a trick he did time and again. A man who knew him well in Indiana said he had often seen Lincoln grasp a barrel of cider and lift it to his face as if to drink. “And he did it," said his friend, ”with the greatest ease."
9. When Lincoln was about 20 and still living in Indiana, he starred in a roughhouse that began with a fist fight. His sister, Sarah, married into the Grigsby family. The Grigsby family did not invite him when their two sons were married later in a double ceremony, and he evened matters by writing some tomfoolery that was passed around the neighborhood with a chuckle. He later wrote a rhyme about another Grigsby son, William, noted for his ugly face and bald head. William threatened to beat up Lincoln, but Abe refused to fight him, saying he was much too big and too strong to meet a Grigsby.
10. Lincoln got his step-brother, John Johnston, as his proxy. The fight did not go as Lincoln figured; Grigsby gave John a sound thrashing, but broke the rules by jumping on him after he was down. Lincoln pulled Grigsby off, raised him shoulder high and threw him aside as though he were a sack of meal.
11. Grigsby's friends thought Lincoln had no right to interfere and told him so. Waving his arms over his head, Lincoln declared he was the "big buck of the lick" and was ready to prove it. The Grigsby crowd rushed him and a free-for-all followed, much to the regret of the Grigsbys .Lincoln came out the winner.
12. After he had beaten Armstrong at New Salem, Lincoln added to his reputation by proving that wrestling was not the only sport in which he was good. He won foot races in the village streets. He had little competition in the running high jump. When the boys were broad jumping, Lincoln would wait until every one had done his best, and then beat them all with a single effort.