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A LARGE portion of this volume was written before the author 
realized that it had begun. In the preparation of his former 
book, The Soul of Abraham Lincoln, the author undertook 
a painstaking study of Lincoln s successive environments, 
which involved, incidentally, inquiry into his heredity. This 
latter aspect was of secondary interest, nor was the author 
greatly interested at the beginning in the various theories 
which he encountered as to Lincoln s paternity. While he 
made careful notes of all material which came to him in his 
researches, he had no occasion to utilize any of the subject 
matter in his preparation of the other volume, nor did he 
expect to write this one. 

As he proceeded, however, he was surprised to find a num 
ber of intelligent collectors of Lincoln books and students of 
his history who believed that Abraham Lincoln was not the 
son of Thomas Lincoln. He also found that while Mrs. Hitch 
cock had done enthusiastic work with reference to the pater 
nity of Nancy Hanks, and several people had entered the lists 
as champions of her chastity, no one so far as he could learn 
had compiled the various theories adverse to Thomas Lin 
coln s paternity of Abraham and subjected them to a critical 

Moreover, the author found himself at length compelled 
to ask of himself the question, What if these reports are true? 
And he pursued his investigations with an open mind, and, 
as he hopes and believes, in accordance with the true spirit 
of historical inquiry. 

The author had frequent occasion to visit the county of 
Lincoln s birth and other portions of Kentucky in quest of 
material for his previous book, and he made careful inquiry 
on the ground, by personal interview, supplemented by ex 
tended correspondence with all persons there and elsewhere 



who seemed at all likely to be able to give him any informa 
tion favorable or unfavorable to the view which he per 
sonally was disposed to accept. 

All this material was reduced to writing as it accumulated, 
and carefully preserved with the large quantity of Lincoln 
matter which was assembled in the course of an industrious 
study of the whole life of Lincoln; for, in addition to the book 
already published entitled The Soul of Abraham Lincoln, and 
the present monograph, the author hopes and expects to issue 
a work more strictly biographical and containing a character 
study of America s great commoner and liberator. 

By the time the author had arrived at a definite, and as it 
appears to him, a final, opinion regarding the paternity of 
Lincoln, it became evident that he had in his possession 
material for a book, and that no such book was already in 

The author has endeavored to trace every rumor and re 
port relating to the birth of Abraham Lincoln, to assemble all 
the available evidence in favor of it and against it, to judge 
each one of these reports upon its own merits, and to render 
what, he believes, is a judgment from which there can be no 
successful appeal. 

From the time it became evident to his own mind that he 
must write a book on this subject, the author determined to 
make it unnecessary for any one else ever to do so; and he 
sincerely believes that in this he has succeeded. It appears to 
him quite certain that no previous writer has made anything 
approaching a thorough investigation of this subject, though 
many have treated it more or less confidently. 

There exists in some quarters an impression that the stories 
concerning the birth of Abraham Lincoln which were once 
widely current were completely disposed of by the discovery 
of the marriage bond and the minister s return of marriage 
of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. The discovery of that 
document was important, as this book will show; but it is 
probably true that those stories were never so widely current 
as they are today. They have passed the acute stage of curious 
gossip, and have their respectable place in literature and 


oratory. At least one man is even now busy in the preparation 
of a book intended to prove that Abraham Lincoln was not the 
son of Thomas Lincoln, and there may be ten men at work on 
books, more or less conclusive, intended to prove that he was. 
The English biographies of Lincoln, now appearing in con 
siderable number, including Charnwood s, and the Encyclo 
pedia Britannica, give serious attention to these reports; and 
American authors do not feel at liberty to publish their 
books without somewhere intimating that they are at least 
familiar with these stories. Beside books formally devoted 
to the study of Lincoln, a very large number of other volumes 
are issued in which some reference to Lincoln occurs, and 
many of these make more or less direct allusion to these re 
ports. Colonel Watterson s interesting autobiography, " Marse 
Henry, " devotes a half dozen pages to " that calumny " and 
to the like report concerning Andrew Johnson. 

As for oratory, the temptation is far too great for the 
average speaker to resist, and it offers an attractive field to 
orators who are beyond the average. In Chicago, on Lin 
coln s Birthday in 1920, the Sons of the American Revolu 
tion listened to an able address by a distinguished lawyer, him 
self the author of a valuable book on Abraham Lincoln, a 
considerable part of which address was devoted to the state 
ment and refutation of these stories; but he did not succeed 
in refuting them. That address the author of this volume 
heard; it was a notable address, but in this portion it failed 
completely. The old Presiding Elder in the Methodist Church 
gave wise advice to a young minister who was much given to 
superficial refutations of the arguments of infidelity, " Never 
raise the devil unless you are sure you can lay him." 

At the same hour and in the same city where the address 
referred to in the preceding paragraph was delivered, another 
distinguished lawyer, a man of high character and large ability, 
was delivering an address on " The Lineage of Lincoln " at a 
patriotic gathering held in Memorial Hall in the Chicago Pub 
lic Library. It was an address that displayed great industry of 
the painstaking sort which characterizes the work of this emi 
nent attorney and has won him wide repute at the bar, but it 


was inconclusive. He did not know all the facts which he 
needed to know. 

What happened in Chicago probably occurred on the same 
day in other cities; such addresses are to be numbered by the 
hundred if not by the thousand. They are delivered with the 
best of intentions, but their zeal is not always according to 
knowledge, and they serve to disseminate yet more widely the 
stories which they inconclusively oppose. 

We are not at liberty, therefore, to treat the subject of the 
paternity of Abraham Lincoln as one that may safely be dis 
missed with silent contempt. If any one knows the truth about 
this matter, he ought to tell it. 

The present author believes that he knows the truth about 
the paternity of Abraham Lincoln. His investigation has in 
volved no little travel and research. He believes that the 
truth ought to be known, and that the truth is better than either 
falsehood or uncertainty. That is why he has decided to 
pursue to the end the rather unwelcome task which grew out 
of his previous study, and which this book completes. And he 
does not expect to refer to it in any subsequent book about 
Abraham Lincoln; nor does he apprehend that such reference 
will be necessary. 

This volume may be considered as a footnote to the au 
thor s book, The Soul of Abraham Lincoln, and a suppressed 
preface to the Life of Lincoln which he hopes to publish at 
some future date. In that volume he does not now intend 
to make any extended reference to the material in this book, 
but its conclusion will be assumed. 

The author believes that he has gathered all important 
material bearing upon the question of Abraham Lincoln s 
paternity, and this volume contains all the material which a 
diligent search has brought to his knowledge bearing upon that 
subject. Pursuing these investigations with an open mind, he 
has reached for himself a definite conclusion, which together 
with the evidence upon which it rests, he submits herewith in 
confidence that on the more important aspects of the question 
there remains henceforth not very much more to be said. 

As compared with my previous book on Lincoln, the 


preparation of this work has called for comparatively little 
use of books. My obligations for such books as I have used, 
and some measure of my indebtedness to correspondents, is 
indicated in the text; but I shall not be able to acknowledge 
in full my debt to those who have made researches for me. I 
venture to name some of those to whom my obligation is 

Among libraries and librarians, I owe much to Miss Caro 
line M. Mcllvaine, and the Library of the Chicago Historical 
Society; to Mrs. Jessie Palmer Weber and Miss Georgia L. Os- 
borne, and the Library of the Illinois State Historical Society 
at Springfield; to Mr. A. P. C. Griffin, Chief Assistant 
Librarian, and the Library of Congress in Washington; to 
Mr. J. H. Turtle and the Library of the Massachusetts His 
torical Society ; to Miss Euphemia B. Corwin and Mrs. Florence 
Ridgway of the Library of Berea College, Kentucky; to Mrs. 
Charles F. Norton and the Library of Transylvania Univer 
sity of Lexington, Kentucky, and to Miss Helen Bagley and 
the Oak Park Public Library. 

For assistance in correspondence and research I name 
among those who have helped me most: 

Mr. O. M. Mather, Mr. L. B. Handley, Judge Richard W. 
Creal, Mr. Charles F. Creal, Mr. Robert Enlow and Rev. Louis 
A. Warren, all of Hodgenville, Kentucky; Mr. G. H. Geiger 
of Anderson, South Carolina; Hon. James H. Cathey of 
Sylva, North Carolina; Mr. D. J. Knotts of Swansea, South 
Carolina; Mr. L. S. Pence of Lebanon, Kentucky; Mr. George 
Holbert of Elizabethtown, Kentucky; Mr. Jesse W. Weik of 
Greencastle, Indiana; Hon. Clinton L. Conkling, Hon. Hardin 
W. Masters, Hon. G. W. Murray and Mr. H. E. Barker of 
Springfield, Illinois; Mr. Hugh McLellan of Champlain, New 
York, Mr. Truman H. Bartlett of Boston; Hon. Daniel Fish of 
Minneapolis; Mr. Arthur E. Morgan of Dayton, Ohio; Mr. 
Judd Stewart of New York City; Mr. F. H. Meserve of New 
York City; Mr. Oliver R. Barrett of Chicago; Mr. Charles 
F. Gunther, deceased, of Chicago ; Mr. Joseph Polin of Spring 
field, Kentucky; and Mr. O. H. Oldroyd of Washington. Mr. 
Stewart died as this book was nearing press. 


This is far from being a complete list. Some additional 
names will appear in the text. As for the others, I can only 
say that I have endeavored to secure information from every 
one from whom it seemed possible to obtain any, and I thank 
all who assisted me. 

The author is not unaware that it is easy for writers to 
overestimate the importance of their own writings, and to 
attach undue weight to their conclusions. Nevertheless, he 
wishes to affirm that in the preparation of this book he has 
reached a complete and final answer to the many questions 
which were forced upon him at the beginning and at different 
stages of its preparation. He is sending this volume to the 
press with the profound conviction that it contains the truth, 
and the whole truth, and that its conclusions are irrefutable. 

W. E. B. 

First Church Study, 
Oak Park, Illinois, 
August, 1920. 




















TUCKY 157 























I REV. JESSE HEAD . . . . . . . 325 











INDEX 411 




WHEN, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln became a candidate for the 
Presidency of the United States, but little was known of him 
in his own nation and in the world, and less concerning his 
antecedents. The biographical sketches which he furnished to 
Jesse W. Fell in 1859 or 1860 and somewhat later to John 
Locke Scripps, exhibited marked reserve on the subject of 
his family history, especially on his mother s side. In these 
sketches furnished by Lincoln himself, the Lincoln line was 
indicated for several generations, from Berks County, Penn 
sylvania, through Virginia to Kentucky, whence in his own 
childhood his father had migrated in 1816 into Southern In 
diana, and in 1830, the year of Abraham s majority, into 

The meagerness of the information did not escape comment 
at the time, and vague and nebulous rumors were current in 
the campaign of 1860 that Abraham Lincoln had little occa 
sion for pride in his birth. In 1864, the campaign was waged 
with great bitterness, the Copperhead press stopping at noth 
ing that would belittle him, and the rumors became more 
widely extended. So far as the writer is aware, however, these 
did not emerge into print. The writer has seen a considerable 
body of hostile political literature, much of it issued by the 
Society for the Diffusion of Political Knowledge, of which 
Prof. S. F. B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, was President, 
and while Lincoln is mercilessly criticized, lampooned and 
caricatured, the writer has not seen in print any direct charge 
that Abraham Lincoln was illegitimate, or that his mother 



was illegitimate, that was published during either of the 
two campaigns in which Lincoln was running for the Presi 
dency. That the rumors were in circulation by 1864, is, how 
ever, certain. 

The gravamen of these rumors, and the definite charges 
subsequently printed in various forms, is two-fold. The first 
of these is that his mother, Nancy Hanks, was a bastard. 
Her mother, Lucy Hanks, it is alleged, being at that time 
unmarried, bore her, in Virginia, in 1783. Subsequently 
Lucy Hanks married Henry Sparrow, and the illegitimate 
daughter of Lucy was, by the Hanks family, called Nancy 
Sparrow. But that, it is affirmed, was not her name. Her 
father, so it is alleged, and so her son Abraham Lincoln is 
alleged to have believed, was a Virginia planter of good 
family, through whom Nancy inherited qualities which dis 
tinguished her as superior to her own family, qualities which 
she transmitted to her son, Abraham, and which largely made 
him the great man whom he afterward became. 

The other rumor, which has become a definite allegation, 
printed in several forms, is that Abraham Lincoln was an 
illegitimate child; that his mother, Nancy Hanks, either be 
fore or subsequent to her marriage with Thomas Lincoln, if 
indeed she was married to him, became the mother of a son 
whose father was other than Thomas Lincoln. 

In some forms this rumor alleges that she was pregnant 
when Thomas Lincoln married her; in others that the child 
was already born, but an infant; in others that he was " old 
enough to run around," and that " he sat between Thomas 
and Nancy when they went away to be married." In others 
the implication is that he was begotten in adultery, Lincoln 
and his wife having been married, and she proving unfaithful 
to her marriage vows. 

The name of Abraham Lincoln s father is variously given 
by those who hold to the truth of this rumor. He is alleged 
to have been a grandson of Chief- Justice John Marshall, or a 
son of John C. Calhoun; and several other names, noted in 
Kentucky and the older states to the east of it, are men- 


tioned each with more or less confidence as that of his father. 

Certain family names that were current in the immediate 
vicinity of his birth have also been mentioned, among them 
that of Abraham Enlow, Mow or Enloe. According to a 
very widespread rumor, current in various forms in several 
sections of the South, Lincoln received his name of Abraham 
from his real father, Abraham Enlow, Enloe or Inlow, and 
his surname from his putative father, Thomas Lincoln, who 
either than was or later became the husband of Nancy Hanks, 
the mother of the future President. 

With the first of these two questions the present book has 
no concern. Mrs. Caroline Hanks Hitchcock published in 
1899 her little book entitled " Nancy Hanks," and she and 
Miss Ida M. Tarbell in their researches obtained information 
which satisfied them that Nancy Hanks was of legitimate birth. 
The large work of Lea and Hutchinson, while following 
primarily the Lincoln line in England, practically confines 
its American research concerning the immediate progenitors 
of Lincoln to the work already done by Mrs. Hitchcock, 
and accepts her conclusions apparently without independent 
investigation of the maternal line of Abraham Lincoln s an 

The present writer has no occasion to traverse this ground. 
It is not the field of his chief interest, nor, so far as he can 
judge, is it the more important half of the inquiry. We 
should be glad to know that Abraham Lincoln s grandmothers 
and great-grandmothers were virtuous to all generations; but 
we know that few families can go back many generations 
without finding the bar sinister somewhere upon the family 
escutcheon; and every man or woman who boasts of descent 
from William the Conqueror confesses with more or less 
of pride to that condition of his own family register. Each 
receding generation divides by two the feeling of moral ob 
liquity, and each quarter century of remoteness lessens the 
feeling of disgrace. If Nancy Hanks was born in lawful 
wedlock, the fact is of interest; but it is nothing like as im 
portant as it is to find whether she herself was a virtuous 


woman, and her son, the President of the United States, 
the legitimate son of her husband, whose name Abraham 
Lincoln bore. 

This book, therefore, confines itself wholly to the ques 
tion of the paternity of Abraham Lincoln. 

" Regarding the paternity of Lincoln a great many sur 
mises and a still larger amount of unwritten or, at least, un 
published history have drifted into the currents of western 
lore and journalism. A number of such traditions are extant 
in Kentucky and other localities." 

So wrote William H. Herndon in 1889 in the first volume 
of the first edition of his much discussed Life of Lincoln. 
He added that his associate, Mr. Jesse W. Weik, had devoted 
much time to investigating one of these traditions, which he 
outlined, and which we shall have occasion to consider in de 
tail. This paragraph is interesting for many reasons. Among 
others, it shows that on Herndon s first investigation there 
was more than one story. There are several now. The 
author of this present volume has made diligent search, and 
has tabulated all the rumors and definite charges which he 
has been able to secure. Some of them are too vague to 
be certainly identified, but even these will be alluded to, with 
whatever is to be said for and against them. The chief 
stories permit of grouping under seven definite heads, and 
they charge that Abraham Lincoln was not the son of Thomas 
Lincoln, but was the son of another man, who is named with 
evidence, in some cases more and in other cases less circum 
stantial, intended to show that some man other than Thomas 
Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln s father. 

The author has catalogued these allegations. The seven 
men, other than Thomas Lincoln, who are credited with the 
paternity of Abraham Lincoln, and whose claims to that 
honor we shall consider at length, are the following: 

1. Abraham Enlow, a farmer, of Hardin County, Ken 


2. George Brownfield, a farmer, of Hardin County, Ken 



3. Abraham Inlow, a miller, of Bourbon County, Ken 


4. Andrew, an alleged foster son of Chief -Justice John 


5. Abraham Enloe, of Swain County, North Carolina. 

6. John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina. 

7. Martin D. Hardin, of Kentucky. 

It would have been possible to increase the number be 
yond seven, but several stories that at first appeared to be 
distinct resolved themselves into separate forms of the same 
story. These several forms will all be considered either in 
the presentation of the evidence or in its analysis. We will 
also consider one or two of these stories that had more or 
less vogue for a time and then disappeared. This book under 
takes to be complete, so far as the author s information and 
research have enabled him to gather material, and he thinks 
that he has discerned and here recorded all that is of any 
value, and some beside. But he has kept the number of 
Lincoln s alleged fathers down to seven, in addition to Thomas 
Lincoln, who also is to be considered. 

" Seven cities strove for Homer dead, 
Through which the living Homer begged his bread." 

Seven men are now adduced as the alleged fathers of 
Abraham Lincoln, few if any of whom, if living in 1860, 
would have voted for him. But that does not settle the ques 
tion of his paternity. It only illustrates the complexity of 
the task which he assumes who undertakes to trace these 
rumors and discover what truth, if any, lies at their root. 


THE reader of the foregoing chapter will be quite certain 
to ask himself at this point, Is any such inquiry worth while? 
What does it matter, anyway ? Why not let all such rumors 
alone ? 

Let him be assured that the author has asked himself the 
same questions and many others. The answers that have 
come to him are, first, that it does matter, and that the truth 
is better than any form of falsehood, and very much better 
than so many kinds of falsehood that one cannot be sure 
which of them to choose. 

But a more important answer is that we are not per 
mitted to choose whether these rumors shall die out or not. 
They persist. They were in active circulation before the 
death of Lincoln, and troubled him; and they have to be 
reckoned with by every serious student of the life of Lin 
coln. It is better, so the author has come to believe, that 
these be dragged into the open, and met on their merits. If 
Abraham Lincoln was not the son of Thomas Lincoln, it is 
time the world knew whose son he was. If he was the son 
of Thomas Lincoln, those who deny that fact should be 

Abraham Lincoln had his own homely phrase for inves 
tigations of this character. He used it more than once, and 
always effectively. In 1864 a story was industriously cir 
culated, for which General George B. McClellan must have 
been in some measure personally responsible, that Lincoln, 
visiting the field of A ntietam just after the battle, caused 
himself to be amused by the singing of vulgar songs within 
sight and hearing of the burial of the dead. This story was 
published in New York papers, and, while grossly untrue, 



had in it just enough of truth to make it difficult to refute. 1 
Lincoln s associate in this affair, and the man who actually 
sang, though not while the burials were in progress, 

"I ve wandered to the village, Tom, 

I ve sat beneath the tree, 
Upon the school-house playground, 
That sheltered you and me ", 

was Colonel Ward Hill Lamon, who, when the story ap 
peared in New York papers, wished to rush into print with 
a hot denial. Lincoln read Lamon s proposed communica 
tion, and doubted the wisdom of publishing it. Instead he 
wrote, in the third person, an account of the event, which, 
however, he later decided not to print. It was published in 
fac-simile many years afterwards. Lincoln, declining the well- 
meant but too belligerent offices of Lamon, said : 

" No, Hill. Leave this to me. Every man must skin his 
own skunk." 

Abraham Lincoln would gladly have skinned for himself 
the unpleasant story of his paternity if it had been possible 
for him to do so; and beyond a doubt would have done it in 
the third person, a method he employed in other delicate mat 
ters. But this was a matter which Lincoln was unable to 
confront and settle. He knew of these stories, and how 
much he believed of them .we shall presently undertake to 
learn; but he lacked the facts necessary to their settlement. 
Indeed, his own futile efforts to learn something more of 
his ancestry had something to do with the origin of some 
of the rumors, and warned him to desist. This was a skunk 
he would gladly have skinned if he could, and he would have 
been profoundly grateful to any man who could have nailed 
its pelt to the barn-door, and scrubbed his hands with a gourd 

1 While General McClellan was not named as the author, still it 
is impossible to relieve him from a share in the moral responsibility for 
this story. He was present when the incident occurred, and was dis 
pleased with what happened, and when the reports were published he 
did not deny or modify them, though he was named as a witness. This 
fact, and also the fact that his candidate for Vice-President, Hon. 
George H. Pendleton, advertised his campaign speeches in a pamphlet in 
which Lincoln was proclaimed " the Rebel Candidate," illustrate the 
amenities of that campaign. 


of soft soap at the spring before returning to receive the 
reward of his valuable labor. 

But it is a fair question now, and one which the author 
has earnestly asked of himself, whether at this day the skin 
is worth the removing, and whether it would not be better 
to bury the carcase as it is. 

On this matter the author has come to a definite answer 
in his own mind. If he could bury the matter just as it is, 
he would. But it cannot be done. Every biographer of 
Lincoln finds the unburied and unskinned skunk in his path. 
Some authors walk around it, visibly holding their noses. 
Others take a contemptuous kick at it, and pass on, but leave 
the odor behind their well-meant allusion. Each of them 
disclaims responsibility for the actual skinning. 

Miss Ida M. Tarbell has thus written of the several stories 
of Lincoln s illegitimacy: 

Among the many wrongs of history and they are legion 
there is none in our American chapter at least which is 
graver than that which has been done to the parents, and 
particularly the mother, of Abraham Lincoln. Of course, I 
refer to the tradition that Lincoln was born of that class 
known in the South as " poor whites/ that his father was 
not Thomas Lincoln, as his biographers insist on declar 
ing, but a rich and cultured planter of another State than 
Kentucky, and that his mother not only gave a fatherless 
boy to the world, but herself was a nameless child. The 
tradition has always lacked particularity. For instance, there 
has been large difference of opinion about the planter who 
fathered Abraham, who he was and where he came from. 
One story calls him Enloe, another Calhoun, another Har- 
din, and several States claim him. Only five years ago [in 
1899] a book was published in North Carolina to prove that 
Lincoln s father was a resident of that State. The bulk of 
the testimony offered in this instance came from men and 
women who had been born long after Abraham Lincoln, 
had never seen him, and never heard the tale they repeated 
until long after his election to the Presidency. Of the truth 
of these statements as to Lincoln s origin no proof has ever 
been produced. There were rumors, diligently spread in the 


first place by those who for political reasons were glad to 
belittle a political opponent. They grew with telling, and 
curiously enough, two of Lincoln s best friends helped per 
petuate them Messrs. Lamon and Herndon both of whom 
wrote lives of the President which are of great interest and 
value. But neither of these men was a student, and they 
did not take the trouble to look for the records of Mr. Lin 
coln s birth. They accepted rumors and enlarged upon them. 
Indeed, it was not until perhaps twenty-five years ago that 
the matter was taken up seriously and an investigation be 
gun. This has been going on at intervals ever since, and I 
venture to say that few persons born in a pioneer community, 
as Lincoln was, and as early as 1809, have their lineage as 
clearly established as that of Abraham Lincoln. It takes, 
indeed, a most amazing credulity for any one to believe the 
stories I have alluded to after having looked at the records 
of his family. Lincoln himself, backed by the record in the 
Lincoln family Bible, is the first authority for the time and 
place of his birth, as well as the name of his father and 
mother. The father, Thomas Lincoln, far from being a 
" poor white," was the son of a prosperous Kentucky pio 
neer, a man of honorable and well-established lineage, who 
had come from Virginia as a friend of Daniel Boone, and 
had there bought large tracts of land, and begun to grow up 
with the country, where he was killed by the Indians. He 
left a large family. By the law of Kentucky the estate went 
mainly to the eldest son, and the youngest, Thomas Lincoln, 
was left to shift for himself. This younger son was mar 
ried at Beechland, Kentucky, to a young woman of a family 
well known in the vicinity, Nancy Hanks. There is no doubt 
whatever about the time and the place of their marriage. 
All the legal documents 2 required in Kentucky at that period 
for a marriage are in existence. Not only have we the bond 
and the certificate, but the marriage is duly entered in a list 
of marriage returns made by Jesse Head, one of the best 

2 This is not quite correct. The license has not been found, nor, in 
my opinion, has the marriage certificate. In expressing the judgment that 
the marriage certificate of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln has not been 
found, but only the signed return of the minister, and the marriage bond, 
I do not forget that what purports to be the original ^marriage certifi 
cate is in a private collection and that a fac-simile of it has been pub 
lished in one of the Lives of Lincoln. I have not seen the so-called 
original; but any one who wishes may compare the fac-simile with the 


known early Methodist ministers of Kentucky. It is now 
to be seen in the records of Washington County, Kentucky. 
There is even in existence a very full and amusing account 
of the wedding and the fan-fare [infare] which followed 
by a guest who was present and who for years after was 
accustomed to visit Thomas and Nancy. This guest, Chris 
topher Columbus Graham, a unique and perfectly trustworthy 
man, a prominent citizen of Louisville, died only a few years 

But while these documents dispose effectually of the ques 
tion of the parentage of Lincoln, they do not, of course, 
clear up the shadow which hangs over the parentage of his 

The remainder of the interesting little brochure is de 
voted to the ancestry of Nancy Hanks, which does not be 
long to the present inquiry. 

This well written argument, printed in 1907 in a little 
booklet by the Lincoln Farm Association, and used in var 
ious other publications, appeared to me, when I first read 
it, to be eminently satisfactory, and I had no inclination to 
pursue the subject farther. I already believed that Thomas 
Lincoln was the father of Abraham Lincoln, and had no 
temptation to meddle with any other opinion, and was glad 
that Miss Tarbell in so simple a fashion had disposed of the 
whole subject without effort which I had no desire to put 

But, while I still admire the manner in which Miss Tar- 
bell swept up the whole affair into a dustpan and threw it 
out of doors, I am forced to the opinion that that is not the 
best way to treat the matter. Either it should be ignored 
altogether, or the issue should be squarely met: and it is not 
possible for a thoughtful student to ignore it; if it had been 
possible, I should not be writing this book. 

genuine records of Jesse Head. How such a document, if in existence, 
and presumably preserved in the Lincoln family, could have been con 
cealed from President Lincoln, and produced after it ceased to have 
important value as evidence, but when it had undeniable commercial 
value, I do not undertake to explain. I am confident, however, that the 
author of the volume in which it first appeared had no share in the 
imposture, but was imposed upon. 


In the first place, one may not dispose of Lamon and 
Herndon by saying that while they wrote Lives of Lincoln 
of great value, " neither of these men was a student, and 
they did not take the trouble to look for the records of Lin 
coln s birth. They accepted rumors, and enlarged upon 

In his own erratic way, Herndon certainly was a stu 
dent, and a very diligent one. In a matter which interested 
him, as this one did profoundly, he was industrious and dis 
criminating, and followed his clues unremittingly. He did 
"take trouble to look up the records of Lincoln s birth," 
and it was with no little trouble that he found them. And 
Lamon, or whoever wrote Lamon s book, though he wrote in 
most ungracious spirit and in great unwisdom, was no fool, 
nor did he lack the qualities of a student. 

But the thing that most troubled me when I discovered 
it was that, whatever Herndon believed about the parentage 
of Lincoln, he knew all that Miss Tarbell knew. The testi 
mony of Lincoln, as given in his autobiography, and the rec 
ord in the family Bible, were before Herndon when he wrote, 
and he reproduced the record in the family Bible in fac-simile 
in his book. He even knew the place and date of the marriage 
of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, and told of it in his first 
edition; and that is where Miss Tarbell probably learned of 
it. He said, in 1889: 

In only two instances did Mr. Lincoln over his own hand 
leave any record of his history or family descent. One of 
these was the modest bit of autobiography furnished to Jesse 
W. Fell in 1859, in which, after stating that his parents were 
born in Virginia, of " undistinguished or second families," he 
makes the brief mention of his mother, saying that she came 
" of a family of the name of Hanks." The other record 
was the register of marriages, births and deaths, which he 
made in his father s Bible. The latter now lies before me. 
That portion of the page which probably contained the record 
of the marriage of his parents, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy 
Hanks, has been lost; but fortunately the records of Wash 
ington County, Kentucky, and the certificate of the minister 


who performed the marriage, the Rev. Jesse Head fix the 
fact and date of the latter on the i2th day of June, 1806. 
On the loth day of February in the following year a daugh 
ter, Sarah, was born, and two years later, on the I2th of 
February, the subject of these memoirs came into the world. 
Herndon s Lincoln, First Edition, Volume I, pp. 4, 5. 

It is impossible to refute Herndon by the production of 
evidence with which he was entirely familiar, but which was 
outweighed (if it was so outweighed) in his mind by more 
than counterbalancing evidence. 

Not only so, but Lamon conceded the fact of the mar 
riage, and fixed the approximate date, although up to the 
time he wrote (1872) and for some years afterward, dili 
gent search had failed to discover the marriage bond and 
the return of Jesse Head. 

Some time in the year 1806 he [Thomas Lincoln] mar 
ried Nancy Hanks. ... It is admitted by all the old resi 
dents of the place that they were honestly married, but pre 
cisely when or how no one can tell. Diligent and thorough 
searches by the most competent persons have failed to dis 
cover any trace of the fact in the public records of Hardin 
and the adjoining counties. The license and the minister s 
return in the case of Lincoln and Sarah Johnston, his sec 
ond wife, were easily found in the place where the law re 
quires them to be; but of Nancy Hanks s marriage there 
exists no evidence but that of mutual acknowledgement and 
cohabitation. LAMON S Life of Lincoln, p. 10. 

Whatever the opinions of Lamon and Herndon, and we 
shall examine them in detail, and whatever their faults in 
other particulars, these are as true and fair statements as 
could have been made when Lamon s book was issued in 1872 
or Herndon s in 1889. 

When I discovered this fact, I saw that Herndon could 
not be confuted in the manner that had been so easily as 
sumed; and that those persons who conceded all that Miss 
Tarbell claimed, but who still believed Abraham Lincoln ille 
gitimate, must either be met by other arguments, or their 
claim admitted. 


Furthermore, I continually discovered other matters which 
compelled attention; and they are hereinafter set forth, and 
in due course analyzed and given what appears to me their 
true value as evidence. 

I have read with keen enjoyment and some profit Colonel 
Henry Watterson s breezy autobiography, " Marse Henry." 
He devoted a portion of one chapter to Andrew Johnson, 
and to the rumor that he was an illegitimate child. He quotes 
a letter received by him from Hon. Josephus Daniels, declar 
ing this story to be false, and saying : 

My own information is, for I have made some investiga 
tion of it, that the story about Andrew Johnson s having a 
father other than the husband of his mother is as wanting 
in foundation as the story about Abraham Lincoln. You 
did a great service in running that down and exposing it, 
and I trust before you publish your book you will be able to 
do a like service in repudiating the unjust, idle gossip with 
reference to Andrew Johnson." Marse Henry," Vol. I, p. 

Colonel Watterson says, among other things, of the Lin 
coln story: 

There used to be a story about Raleigh, North Carolina, 
where Andrew Johnson was born, that he was the natural 
son of William Ruffin, an eminent jurist in the earlier years 
of the nineteenth century. It was analogous to the story 
that Lincoln was the natural son of various paternities from 
time to time assigned him. I had my share in running that 
calumny to cover. It was a lie out of whole cloth, with noth 
ing whatever to support or excuse it. I reached the bottom 
of it to discover proof of its baselessness abundant and con 
clusive. "Marse Henry" Vol. I, p. 155. 

I had known that Colonel Watterson in some address or 
editorial had referred to this matter, but had no knowledge 
of any such thorough inquiry on his part as this seemed to 
imply. I had read his eloquent lecture on Abraham Lincoln, 
and a re-reading of it confirmed the recollection that it con- 


tained nothing on this subject. I therefore wrote to the 
Colonel, asking him to furnish me his material on this sub 
ject, as it was one in which I was deeply interested. I re 
ceived a courteous reply from him, accompanied by a note 
from his secretary, who had made diligent search among 
the Colonel s papers, and could not find it. Colonel Watter- 
son said, however, that what he had written on the subject 
was somewhere in the files of the Courier-Journal, though 
his secretary had not found it, and that the facts on 
which his article was based were those given by Miss 

The article has been found. It is an address by Colonel 
Watterson, delivered November 8, 1911, on the occasion of 
his presentation of the Speed statue of Abraham Lincoln 
to Kentucky and the nation, and it is printed in the current 
issue of the Courier-Journal. The portion of the address 
which deals with this subject quotes in full the Christopher 
Columbus Graham affidavit, which, it appears from this arti 
cle, was reduced to writing and sworn to by Mr. Graham 
at the request of Colonel Watterson. Omitting the affidavit, 
which will appear in another place, the statement of Colonel 
Watterson is as follows: 

Let me speak, with some particularity and the authority 
of fact, tardily but conclusively ascertained, touching the ... 
maternity of Abraham Lincoln. Few passages in history 
have been so greatly misrepresented and misconceived. Some 
confusion was made by his own mistake as to the marriage 
of his father and mother, which had not been celebrated in 
Hardin County, but in Washington County, Kentucky, the 
absence of any marriage papers in the old court house at 
Elizabethtown, the county seat of Hardin County, leading 
to the notion that there had never been any marriage at all. 
It is easy to conceive that such a discrepancy might give 
occasion for any amount and all sorts of partisan falsifica 
tion, the distorted stories winning popular belief among the 
credulous and inflamed. Lincoln himself died without surely 
knowing that he was born in an honest wedlock and came 
from an ancestry upon both sides of which he had no reason 
to be ashamed. For a long time a cloud hung over the name 


of Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln. Per 
sistent and intelligent research has brought about a vindi 
cation in every way complete. It has been clearly established 
that as the ward of a decent family she lived a happy and 
industrious girl until she was twenty-three years of age, when 
Thomas Lincoln, who had learned his trade in the shop of 
one of her uncles, married her, June 12, 1806. The entire 
record is in existence and intact. The marriage bond to the 
amount of 50 was duly recorded seven 3 days before the 
wedding, which was solemnized as became the well-to-do 
folks in those days. The uncle and aunt gave an " infare," 
to which the neighboring countryside was invited. Dr. Chris 
topher Columbus Graham, one of the most highly respected 
of Kentucky, before his death, in 1885, wrote at my request 
his remembrances of that festival and testified to it before 
a notary public in the ninety-sixth year of his age. 

This is well said, and spoken like a gentleman, which 
Marse Henry is and always was; but it certainly cannot be 
called going to the bottom of the matter. It is evident that 
his sources of information were the personal testimony of 
Dr. Graham, and the researches of Miss Tarbell and Mrs. 
Hitchcock, which essentially were nothing more than the plac 
ing of a new emphasis upon the discovery of the marriage 
return, which Herndon had long before proclaimed. 

Let us understand clearly that while the discovery of 
the marriage return and bond is a fact of very great im 
portance, and a complete answer to some forms of the story 
we are discussing, it is of no value in meeting the charge 
that Thomas Lincoln, for a consideration, married a woman 
of bad character, already pregnant by another man, the pater 
nity of whose child he assumed; and further, that the mar 
riage bond, with or without the affidavit of Dr. Christopher 
Columbus Graham in his one-hundredth year, is no answer to 
the charge that Nancy Hanks, after her marriage, enter 
tained men other than her husband, and by one of them 
became the father of Abraham Lincoln; on account of which, 

* This is an unimportant error. The bond was dated June 10, and 
the marriage was performed June 12, 1806. 


and of her husband s ferocious fight with him, the Lincolns 
left Kentucky. 

This story should either be let alone, or it should be met 
resolutely, and the truth ascertained. 

The author of this volume has corresponded with a num 
ber of people who have, to their complete satisfaction, refuted 
the stories that Lincoln was illegitimate, but who, when asked 
for their evidence, have nothing more than they have learned 
from Miss Tarbell and Mrs. Hitchcock. These two excellent 
ladies did service, but they did not go to the bottom of the 

In my judgment, nothing but harm can come from a su 
perficial treatment of this subject, and every attempt thus 
far to treat it is superficial. 

The more carefully one scrutinizes the manner in which 
the biographers of Lincoln have handled this matter, the 
more evident it becomes that they leave much to be desired. 
A considerable number of writers make plain reference to 
these stories, showing that they know of them, and dismiss 
them with some show of indignation that any such stories 
should have been circulated, but give no reason why, having 
been circulated, they should now not be believed. They resent 
the publicity, but do not disprove the charges. They mani 
fest displeasure that the stories are in circulation, but do 
nothing except to increase a little the extent of the publiciy. 

One may glance into almost any recent Life of Lincoln 
and wish that its author had said more or else said less. 

Morse, whose book is of real value, but who writes with 
out much knowledge of social life in backwoods districts, 
and with little warmth or sympathy, exhibits disgust for the 
whole Hanks family; he tells of some cases of illegitimacy 
in that family and hints that there were others, and leaves 
the reader in doubt of Morse s own opinion, save only that 
he evidently has a pained and impatient feeling of disillu 
sionment concerning the entire background of Lincoln s in 
fancy and youth. 

Nicolay and Hay give a somber and vague description 
of the condition of the home of Thomas Lincoln, and say 


that not even to his closest friends did Abraham Lincoln talk 
about the conditions of that home. 

Chapman, in his Latest Light on Lincoln, excoriates every 
man who has had a share in the publication of these rumors, 
and thus effectually publishes them a little more widely, with 
out giving any facts that tend toward their refutation. 

Among English books the situation is evidently one of 
perplexity. The authors do not know what to say. Appar 
ently they feel that there is some truth in these rumors; cer 
tainly they do not feel that they have any call to rush in and 
refute them, for which fact, at least, we have reason to thank 
them. Binns, an early English biographer of Lincoln, tells 
the whole story as Herndon told it, and expresses the feeble 
hope that the situation was not quite so bad as that would 
appear to imply. Lord Charnwood, by far the ablest of 
Lincoln s English biographers, gives these stories recogni 
tion, but leaves the reader in doubt as to his own opinion. 

No English biographer can be expected to investigate 
these rumors independently; and no American biographer has 
done it thoroughly. 

The method which has come to be common among bi 
ographers of Lincoln is to give some general intimation that 
the author is aware of these stories, and dismiss them with 
out discussion. Referring again to Lincoln s figure of speech, 
their method has been virtually to produce a scrap of skunk- 
skin and hint that there is more where that came from, but 
that it is just as well to let it alone. 

The present author proposes rather that the unpleasant 
situation be faced, and the skin, if it is worth removing, be 
nailed securely to the barn-door; and if it is not of value, 
that the skunk receive decent and permanent burial. 

It is time for vague rumor and undenied gossip to be 
brought to bar, and the truth discovered, if at this date it is 
possible to discover the truth. 

There is good reason why some one should face this 
question with courage enough to learn and publish the whole 
truth. Enough has been said, and will continue to be said, 
to make it certain that these stories will not die down of 


themselves, and whoever refers to them but piques the cu 
riosity of his hearers or readers with a desire to know just 
what it is that is being referred to and otherwise concealed. 

If Thomas Lincoln was not the father of Abraham Lin 
coln, less harm will come at this day from admitting it than 
from slurring over a truth which is everywhere recognized 
as an extant rumor which no one has quite courage to face. 
If, on the other hand, he was the legitimate son of Thomas 
and Nancy Lincoln, it is high time that the skinning of the 
skunk, bit by bit, should cease, and the animal be given per 
manent interment. 

If it be asked again, Has not the question been settled 
by the discovery of the marriage return of Thomas and 
Nancy Lincoln? the answer is that that does indeed settle 
some of the stories, and settle them forever; but it does not 
settle them all. Indeed, it does not settle the oldest, the most 
widely disseminated, or the most unpleasant of them. 

This inquiry, therefore, is not one for the frivolous, nor 
is it to be pursued in a manner that will afford delight to 
scandal mongers. It is the serious facing of the questions 
which every student of the life of Lincoln knows must some 
time be faced. And the author is not without hope and 
confidence that he is facing them with promise of a definite 
and permanent result. 

This inquiry has need to be made both as a footnote 
to all extant biographies of Lincoln, and as a source of ma 
terial for all future biographers, as well as a contribution 
to historical knowledge. 


CHANGING the graphic but not wholly pleasant figure of speech 
in the preceding chapter, it is well to ask, Out of what soil 
did these various rumors, reports and charges grow? What 
was their general background, the situation which made it easy 
for them to originate, and which has lent to them a degree 
of plausibility? 

First, we reckon with the fact that Lincoln himself dis 
played " significant reserve " in matters of his family rela 
tionship. He furnished to his biographers very scanty ma 
terial, passed lightly over the maternal side of his genealogy, 
and gave to John Locke Scripps in confidence some informa 
tion which he did not desire to have published and which 
Scripps never published. Lincoln himself must be accounted 
the first and in some respects the most important witness 
against himself in this particular. If he could have displayed 
unquestioned descent from two of the " first families " of 
Virginia, it is hardly possible that these stories would have 
gained circulation. That he was sensitive on this subject is 
beyond question. Herndon relates that when some one under 
took to establish a relationship with him he replied curtly, 
" You are mistaken about my mother." * 

In the next place, we must remember that Lincoln made 
vain effort to discover the record of his parents marriage, 
and that Herndon in 1865 extended that effort. The fact 
that search was made in several counties and no record found 
could not be kept secret. Not till many years afterward, 
about 1878, was the record found by W. F. Booker, clerk of 
the Washington County Court. This was much too late to 
stop the rumors, which had a long start; and for that matter 

was in his letter to Samuel Haycraft in 1860. Reference to 
it is made elsewhere in this volume. 



there were some of them which this discovery did not 

We have to remember, also, as a contributory cause, the 
low social scale of the Hanks family in Kentucky. Although 
careful search has shown that this family had many worthy 
representatives, it was not one of the first families, even in 
the backwoods of Kentucky. Herndon, in a private letter, 
says that the record of this family from 1790 to 1910 shows 
that the Hankses "must have been about the lowest people 
on earth." This is an extravagant statement, but the Hanks 
family was not one of the high-grade families. In it illegiti 
macy was not unknown. 

It is also to be remembered that Sarah Bush Lincoln ap 
pears to have been very reticent in the information which 
she furnished to Herndon when, in 1865, he visited her and 
questioned her about the Hanks family. In the judgment 
of the author, a good deal too much has been read into this 
reticence. She was proud to think of Abe as her own boy, 
and to remember that she had done more for him than Nancy 
Hanks ever did; and she was herself of better family than 
the Hankses. Some of the stories related of her reticence 
to Herndon appear to be without foundation, and Herndon 
sometimes read meanings into such incidents which the in 
cidents did not warrant. Nevertheless, the truth remains that 
when Herndon interrogated Sarah Bush Lincoln concerning 
the personality of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, she seemed to him 
to show more than a second wife s natural reserve touching 
her predecessor. 

It is also to be remembered that Thomas Lincoln was not 
a very tall man, like Abraham, but a close-knit, solidly built 
man, who in mind and body was unlike to Abraham. 

It is further alleged, and that on apparently good author 
ity, that Thomas Lincoln habitually treated Abraham with 
" great barbarity," and Dennis Hanks tells us that Thomas 
knocked him off the fence for answering a civil question that 
was asked of him by a passing traveler. 

It is further alleged that Abraham had no love for his 
father; that he did not visit him when his father was dying; 


that he suspected the old man s veracity; and that he neglected 
his grave. It is remembered that he wrote to Thomas Lin 
coln that if he were to visit him the visit would perhaps be 
more painful than pleasant to both of them; and this has 
been held to mean that the reason was that each of the two 
men knew that Thomas was not Abraham s father. 

To this is added the fact of Lincoln s habitual sadness, 
which, it is alleged, must have had behind it some deep and 
sad secret such as this. 

It is also remembered that William H. Herndon, Lin 
coln s partner for many years, in the first edition of his 
book, seemed to imply that Lincoln was illegitimate, and even 
in his expurgated edition said that he had his origin " in 
the nameless bog where the foot of history leaves no track." 
It is alleged that because of its plain intimation that Lincoln 
was illegitimate, Herndon s first edition was suppressed, as 
earlier had been that of Lincoln s other intimate associate, 
Colonel Ward Hill Lamon. 

The foregoing, and perhaps more of the same sort, stands 
at the background of all these rumors and gives to them color 
and some measure of apparent reasonableness. Particular 
charges are augmented and reinforced in the light of their 
apparent correlation with this general body of tradition. 
More or less, these come into the direct evidence; but whether 
they do or not, they are the soil in which particular rumors 
or charges are rooted. We shall consider these in detail, but 
it is well to have this general background in mind. 


THAT Lincoln looked back upon the conditions of his youth 
and home surroundings with painful realization of their pri 
vation is undoubted. He said to Scripps, his first biographer, 
that neither Scripps nor any one else could make anything 
of his life beyond what was contained in a single line of 
Gray s Elegy, 

"The short and simple annals of the poor." 

" The chief difficulty I had to encounter/ wrote Mr. 
Scripps to Mr. Herndon, " was to induce him to communicate 
the homely facts and incidents of his early life. He seemed 
to be painfully impressed with the extreme poverty of his 
early surroundings, the utter absence of all romantic or heroic 
elements; and I know that he thought poorly of the idea of 
attempting a biographical sketch for campaign purposes. . . . 
Mr. Lincoln communicated some facts to me about his ances 
try which he did not wish published, and which I have never 
spoken of or alluded to before." 

What these supposed facts were, Mr. Scripps never re 
vealed to Herndon, and probably not to any one else. It is 
evident from this that Lincoln believed some thing or things 
concerning his own ancestry which he did not wish to have 
published and about which he felt sensitive. 

One of these things would appear to have been the mat 
ter of the paternity of his mother. Another would appear 
to have been a question concerning the marriage of his father 
and his mother. 

What Lincoln thought of the ancestry of his mother is 
told by Herndon, no doubt substantially as Lincoln had told 
it to him. Whether Herndon ought to have published it is 
open to question, but there is no reason to dispute the essential 



truth of his report of his conversation with Lincoln. Whether 
Lincoln himself was correctly informed, or whether indeed 
he had any definite information beyond his lack of knowledge 
of certain facts, some of which are now known, is, of course, 
another question. 

" On the subject of his ancestry and origin," writes Mr. 
Herndon in his much discussed passage in the first chapter 
of the first edition of his book, " I only remember one time 
when Mr. Lincoln ever referred to it. It was about 1850, 
when he and I were driving in his one-horse buggy to the 
court in Menard County, Illinois. The suit we were going 
to try was one in which we were likely, either directly or 
collaterally, to touch upon the subject of hereditary traits. 
During the ride he spoke, for the first time in my hearing, 
of his mother, dwelling on her characteristics, and mention 
ing or enumerating what qualities he inherited from her. He 
said, among other things, that she was the illegitimate daughter 
of Lucy Hanks and a well-bred Virginia farmer or planter; 
and he argued that from this last source came his power of 
analysis, his logic, his mental activity, his ambition, and all the 
qualities that distinguished him from the other members and 
descendants of the Hanks family. His theory in discussing- this 
matter of hereditary traits had been that, for certain reasons, 
illegitimate children are oftentimes sturdier and brighter than 
those born in lawful wedlock; and in his case, he believed 
that his better nature and finer qualities came from this 
broad-minded, unknown Virginian. The revelation painful 
as it was called up the recollection of his mother, and, as 
the buggy jolted over the road, he added ruefully, God 
bless my mother; all that I am or ever hope to be I owe to 
her; and immediately lapsed into silence. Our interchange 
of ideas ceased, and we rode on for some time without ex 
changing a word. He was sad and absorbed. Burying him 
self in thought, and musing no doubt over the disclosure he 
had just made, he drew round him a barrier which I feared 
to penetrate. His words and melancholy tone made a deep 
impression on me. It was an experience I can never forget. 
Herndon s Lincoln, Vol. I, pp. 3-4. 


This tells us what Abraham Lincoln thought, about 1850, 
of his mother s parentage. What Lincoln thought about his 
own paternity is less certain. We shall presently discover 
what Herndon thought, but he never set forth a claim that 
Lincoln told him anything about his own misgivings, if he 
had any, concerning his own legitimacy. We do know, how 
ever, that Lincoln had caused the records of Hardin County 
to be searched for a record of the marriage of Thomas and 
Nancy Lincoln, and that the record was not found. Lin 
coln lived and died without knowing that this marriage was 
duly recorded in another county. What Lincoln knew is 
probably about what Lamon and Herndon knew in 1872 
when Lamon s biography was published: 

Some time in the year 1806 he [Thomas Lincoln] mar 
ried Nancy Hanks. It was in the shop of her uncle, Joseph 
Hanks, at Elizabethtown, that he had essayed to learn his 
trade. We have no record of the courtship, and any one 
can readily imagine the numberless occasions that would bring 
together the niece and the apprentice. It is true that Nancy 
did not live with her uncle, but the Hankses were all very 
clannish, and she was doubtless a welcome and frequent guest 
at his house. It is admitted by all the old residents of the 
place that they were honestly married, but precisely when 
or how no one can tell. Diligent and thorough searches by 
the most competent persons have failed to discover any trace of 
the fact in the public records of Hardin and the adjoining 
counties. The license and the minister s return in the case 
of Lincoln and Sarah Johnston, his second wife, were easily 
found in the place where the law required them to be; but 
of Nancy Hanks s marriage there exists no evidence but that 
of mutual acknowledgment and cohabitation. LAMON: Life 
of Lincoln, p. 10. 

As every one knows, the record of marriage has been 
found, and is beyond question. But Lincoln did not know 
that it existed, and it was doubtless a matter of considerable 
mental unrest for him. 


In his Life of Abraham Lincoln, from His Birth to His 
Inauguration as President, published in 1872, by Ward Hill 
Lamon, 1 local law partner of Lincoln, at Danville, and Mar 
shall of the District of Columbia, the opening paragraph 
reads : 

Abraham Lincoln was born on the I2th day of February, 
1809. His father s name was Thomas Lincoln, and his 
mother s maiden name was Nancy Hanks. At the time of 
his birth they are supposed to have been married about three 
years. Although there appears to have been but very little 
sympathy or affection between Thomas and Abraham Lincoln, 
they were nevertheless connected by ties and associations 
which make the previous history of Thomas and his family 
a necessary part of any reasonably full biography of the great 
man who immortalized the name by wearing it. 

The implications of this paragraph are unmistakable, nor 
were they misunderstood by the readers of the volume from 
the beginning. Although Thomas Lincoln was said to be the 
father of Abraham, it was intended to be implied that he was 
Abraham s putative father, and that the name Lincoln did 
not belong to Abraham. 

It would not be easy to account for the attitude of Lamon s 
Life of Lincoln on the hypothesis that Lamon was its sole 

1 In Harper s Weekly for July u, 1911 (p. 6), and in Lincoln and 
Herndon, by Joseph Fort Newton, William H. Herndon charges that 
the real author of Lamon s book was not Lamon, but that Chauncey F. 
Black (died 1904), son of Lamon s law partner after the war, and mem 
ber of Buchanan s Cabinet before the war, was hired by Lamon to do 
a better piece of writing than Lamon himself could have done. He 
charges that while Lamon was less true to Lincoln than he ought to 
have been, the real animus of the book was that of Black rather than 
Lamon. But Lamon doubtless believed what Black believed on this 



author. Lamon was Lincoln s friend of many years, his 
local partner, his intimate companion. He held for Lincoln 
genuine affection and respect. But Lamon s own character 
was not such as to make him capable of appreciating the best 
that was in Lincoln, and his familiarity did not breed the 
highest type of reference. Chauncey F. Black, Lamon s liter 
ary associate, was not a friend of Lincoln, though his father 
was Lamon s partner after the war. Black was personally 
and politically hostile to Lincoln and held his memory in 
small respect. The tone, therefore, of the book which bears 
Lamon s name varies with respect to Lincoln, sometimes 
speaking of him in terms of praise, at others thinly veiling 
hostility and scorn. With respect to " Old Tom Lincoln " 
and all his tribe, Black felt no restraint and Lamon no com 
punction. The tone of the book is cynical and contemptuous. 
Not only does Lamon s biography treat the character of 
Thomas Lincoln with little respect, and it takes pains to give 
the impression that Abraham had neither respect nor affec 
tion for him, and that there always existed between Thomas 
and Abraham a lack of such sympathy as ought to exist be 
tween father and son. Lamon says: 

Thomas seems to have been the only member of the fam 
ily who was not entirely respectable. He was idle, thriftless, 
poor, a hunter and a rover. ... In religion he was nothing 
at times, and a number of denominations by turns a Free 
will Baptist in Kentucky, a Presbyterian in Indiana, and a 
Disciple vulgarly called Campbellite in Illinois. In this 
latter communion he seems to have died. In politics he was 
Democrat a Jackson Democrat. 2 (pp. 8, 9.) 

Thomas Lincoln was not tall and thin, like Abraham, 
but comparatively short and stout, standing about five feet 
ten in his shoes. His hair was dark and coarse, his com 
plexion brown, his face round and full, his eyes gray, his 
nose full and prominent. He weighed at different times from 
one hundred and seventy to one hundred and ninety-six. He 
was built so " tight and compact " that Dennis Hanks de- 

2 In The Soul of Abraham Lincoln, I have shown the mistake about 
Thomas Lincoln s religion. 


clares he never could find the points of separation between 
his ribs, though he felt for them often, (p. 8.) 

The contrast between this solidly and compactly built 
man and his extraordinarily long and loosely built son, or sup 
posed son, is recorded not without intent by Lamon, though 
no comment is made upon it. 

In 1828, Abe had become very tired of his home. He 
was now nineteen years of age, and becoming daily more 
restive under the restraints of servitude which bound him. 
. . . Poor Abe! Old Tom still had a claim upon him. . . . 
He must wait a few weary months before he would be of 
age, and could say he was his own man, and go his own 
way. Old Tom was a hard taskmaster, (p. 70.) 

Lamon quotes Colonel Chapman, who married a daugh 
ter of Dennis Hanks, as saying that Thomas habitually treated 
Abraham with great barbarity, and Dennis himself as saying 
that he had seen Tom knock Abe off a fence for giving a 
civil answer to a passing traveler. His references to Thomas 
are habitually lacking in any tone of respect, and when, at 
the age of twenty-one, Abraham leaves home, the biographer 

It is with great pleasure that we dismiss Tom Lincoln, 
with his family and fortunes, from further consideration in 
these pages, (p. 75.) 

He inserts a letter of Abraham to his father in which 
Abraham appears to have believed that Thomas was lying 
to him. He is not much moved by Lincoln s letter written 
when his father was dying, giving him pious advice, but being 
too busy to visit him. He tells of Lincoln s visit to his rela 
tives in February, 1861, after his election to the Presidency: 

Thence they went to the spot where old Tom Lincoln was 
buried. The grave was unmarked and utterly neglected. 
Mr. Lincoln said he " wanted to have it inclosed and a suit 
able tombstone erected." He told Colonel Chapman to go 
to a "marble-dealer," ascertain the cost of the work pro- 


posed, and write him in full. He would then send Dennis 
Hanks the money and an inscription for the stone; and Den 
nis would do the rest. Colonel Chapman performed his part 
of the business; but Mr. Lincoln noticed it no further; and 
the grave remains in the same condition to this day [1872]. 

(P. 463.) 

Lamon s references to " Old Tom Lincoln " are ungra 
cious, and his allusions to Nancy Hanks are anything but 
courteous : 

Nancy Hanks was the daughter of Lucy Hanks. Her 
mother was one of four sisters, Lucy, Betsy, Polly and 
Nancy. Betsy married Thomas Sparrow; Polly married 
Jesse Friend, and Nancy, Levi Hall. Lucy became the wife 
of Henry Sparrow, and the mother of eight children. Nancy, 
the younger, was sent to live with her uncle and aunt, Thomas 
and Betsy Sparrow. Nancy, another of the four sisters, was 
the mother of Dennis F. Hanks, whose name will be fre 
quently met with in the course of this history. He also was 
brought up, or permitted to come up, in the family of Thomas 
Sparrow, where Nancy found a shelter. 

Little Nancy became so completely identified with Thomas 
and Betsy Sparrow that many supposed her to have been their 
child. They reared her to womanhood, followed her to In 
diana, dwelt under the same roof, died of the same disease, 
at nearly the same time, and were buried close beside her. 
They were the only parents she ever knew; and she must 
have called them by names appropriate to that relationship, 
for several persons who saw them die, and carried them to 
their graves, believe to this day that they were her father 
and mother. Dennis Hanks persists even now in the asser 
tion that her name was Sparrow, not Hanks; but Dennis was 
pitiably weak on the cross-examination ; and we shall have to 
accept the testimony of Mr. Lincoln himself, and some dozens 
of other persons, to the contrary. LAMON : Life of Lincoln, 
p. 12. 

He notes that the family Bible, in which Abraham made 
out the record, in his own handwriting, " has not a word 
about the Hankses or the Sparrows." 


He says that on the subject of his father and his mother, 
Abraham " never spoke without great reluctance, and signifi 
cant reserve." (p. 17.) 

He records that John Locke Scripps affirmed, 

" Mr. Lincoln communicated some facts to me about his 
ancestry which he did not wish published, and which I have 
never spoken of or alluded to before. I do not think, how 
ever, that Dennis Hanks, if he knows anything about these 
matters, would be very likely to say anything about them." 
(p. 18.) 

He tells that Rev. David Elkin, in his funeral sermon 
over the grave of Nancy Hanks, " either volunteered, or was 
employed, to preach a sermon, which should commemorate 
the many virtues and pass in silence the few frailties of the 
poor woman who slept in the forest." (p. 28.) 

He affirms that when Lincoln spoke in praise of his mother, 
it was not Nancy Hanks, but Sarah Bush whom he had in 
mind. He leaves the reader in no manner of doubt that 
Lincoln had no occasion to be proud of his own mother, whose 
frailty in the matter that resulted in his birth was a matter 
to be forgiven in view of his being a better man than Thomas 
Lincoln could have begotten. While this is nowhere affirmed 
in this blunt language, it is the evident belief of Lamon, and 
is the impression left and intended to be left by the perusal 
of the book. 

Lamon thus describes Nancy Hanks: 

Nancy Hanks, who accepted the honor which Sarah Bush 
declined, was a slender, symmetrical woman of medium stat 
ure, with dark hair, with regular features, and soft, sparkling, 
hazel eyes. Tenderly bred, she might have been beautiful; 
but hard labor and hard usage bent her handsome form, and 
imparted an unnatural coarseness to her features long before 
the period of her death. Toward the close; her life and her 
face were equally sad; and the latter habitually wore the 
woeful expression which afterward distinguished the coun 
tenance of her son in repose. 

By her family, her understanding was considered some 
thing wonderful. John Hanks spoke reverently of her " high 


and intellectual forehead," which he considered but the proper 
seat of faculties like hers. Compared with the mental pov 
erty of her husband and relatives, her accomplishments were 
certainly very great; for it is related by them with pride that 
she could actually read and write. The possession of these 
arts placed her far above her associates, and after a little 
time even Tom began to meditate upon the importance of 
acquiring them. He set to work, accordingly, in real earnest, 
having a competent mistress so near at hand; and with much 
effort she taught him what letters composed his name, and 
how to put them together in a stiff and clumsy fashion. 
Henceforth he signed no more by making his mark; but it 
is nowhere stated that he ever learned to write anything else, 
or to read either written or printed letters, (p. n.) 

On all these matters, Lamon s authority for his facts was 
Herndon, who vigorously, and truthfully, denied having writ 
ten any part of Lamon s book, affirming that Black " wrote 
quite every word of it," but who sold to Lamon for $2,000, 
copies of all his manuscripts, and furnished data which 
Lamon, or Black, used. 

Lamon does not assume responsibility for the story that 
Abraham Lincoln s father was Abraham Enlow, but he takes 
pains to make light of Dennis Hanks refutation of it: 

In the gallery of family portraits painted by Dennis, every 
face looks down upon us with the serenity of innocence and 
virtue. There is no spot on the fame of any one of them. 
No family could have a more vigorous or chivalrous defender 
than he, or one who repelled with greater scorn any rumor to 
their discredit. That Enlow story! Dennis almost scorned 
to confute it; but when he did get at it, he settled it by a 
magnanimous exercise of inventive genius. He knew this 
" Abe Enlow " well, he said, and he had been dead precisely 
fifty-five years (pp. 47, 48) . 8 

Lamon takes pains to bring in the name of Enlow, however, 
in an unexplained fight with Thomas Lincoln, whose attendant 

* If Dennis gave this testimony in 1865, Abraham Enlow had been 
dead not precisely fifty-five years, but only four years. He died in 1861. 


and unrecorded circumstances he declares afforded one of the 
reasons why the family was willing to leave Kentucky and 
migrate to Indiana: 

It has pleased some of Mr. Lincoln s biographers to repre 
sent this removal of his father as a flight from the taint of 
slavery. Nothing could be farther from the truth. . . . He 
was gaining neither riches nor credit; and being a wanderer 
by natural inclination, began to long for a change. His de 
cision, however, was hastened by certain troubles which cul 
minated in a desperate combat between him and one Abraham 
Enlow. They fought like savages; but Lincoln obtained a 
signal and permanent advantage by biting off the nose of his 
antagonist, so that he went bereft all the days of his life, and 
published his audacity and its punishment wherever he showed 
his face. But the affray, and the fame of it, made Lincoln 
more than ever anxious to escape from Kentucky (p. 16). 

It is usually the vanquished, not the victor, who feels the 
disgrace of living in the place where he has had a fight. The 
reader is compelled to ask, and Lamon or Black intended 
that he should ask, what injury roused the usually good 
natured Tom Lincoln to such fury, and why the fame of his 
successful battle should have driven him from the scene of his 

The answer to all these questions is that Lamon, or Black, 
apparently intended to leave the impression that Abraham 
Enlow was the father of Abraham Lincoln, and that Thomas 
Lincoln knew it, and that Abraham Lincoln knew or at least 
suspected it. 

Ward Hill Lamon had great reason to love Abraham 
Lincoln. They were long and intimately associated in Illinois, 
where Lamon s habits were in many respects very different 
from those of Lincoln. Lincoln made Lamon marshal of the 
District of Columbia for the sake of having him close at hand, 
and kept him there in spite of the almost imperative demand 
of Congress for his removal. Lamon professed to the end 
of his life to have been Lincoln s true friend ; and his daughter, 
Dorothy Lamon Teillard, has made that claim for her father 


in two editions of his Recollections of Lincoln (a very dif 
ferent book from his biography of Lincoln) and in a magazine 
article of her own. But if ever a man had reason to pray to 
be delivered from his friends, Lincoln had such reason with 
respect to certain matters which related to the parentage and 
virtue of his mother. 


WHAT Mr. Herndon thought has usually been inferred from 
the passage already quoted in which he relates what Lincoln 
said to him about his mother. Herndon certainly believed that 
Nancy Hanks was of illegitimate birth: did he also believe 
that she was the mother of an illegitimate son? Most readers 
of his book, including his biographer, Dr. Joseph Fort Newton, 
answer unhesitatingly in the affirmative. That, it must be con 
fessed, is a natural inference. 

In his preface, Herndon prepares his readers for " ghastly 
exposures," and says that Lincoln rose from a lower depth 
than any other great man; although some great men have risen 
from very low down in the social and ancestral scale. He says : 

Some persons will doubtless object to the narration of cer 
tain facts which appear here for the first time, and which they 
contend should have been consigned to the tomb. Their pre 
tense is that no good can come from such ghastly exposures. 
To such over-sensitive souls, if any such exist, my answer is 
that these facts are indispensable to a full knowledge of Mr. 
Lincoln in all the walks of life. . . . 

In determining Lincoln s title to greatness we must not only 
keep in mind the times in which he lived, but we must, to a 
certain extent, measure him with other men. Many of our 
great men and our statesmen, it is true, have been self-made, 
rising gradually through struggles to the topmost round of the 
ladder; but Lincoln rose from a lower depth than any of them 
from a stagnant, putrid pool, like the gas which, set on fire 
by its own energy and self-combustible nature, rises in jets, 
blazing, clear and bright. I should be remiss in my duty if I 
did not throw the light on this part of the picture. . . . 
" God s naked truth " as Carlyle puts it, can never injure the 
fame of Abraham Lincoln. Herndon s Lincoln, ix, x. 



Herndon recorded that Mr. Weik had spent much time in 
investigating traditions regarding Lincoln s paternity, par 
ticularly one current in Bourbon County, Kentucky, " that 
Thomas Lincoln, for a consideration from one Abraham In- 
low, a miller there, assumed the paternity of the infant child 
of a poor girl named Nancy Hanks; and after marriage, re 
moved with her to Washington or Hardin County, where the 
son, who was named Abraham, after his real, and Lincoln, 
after his putative father, was born" (p. 6). Against this 
tradition, he cites " the well established fact that the first-born 
child of the real Nancy Lincoln was not a boy, but a girl; and 
that the marriage did not take place in Bourbon but in Wash 
ington County." 

He tells the camp-meeting story to show the uproarious 
and somewhat affectionate manner in which the Hanks girls 
took their religion, and his references to the Hanks family are 
not respectful, though they lack the open contempt which 
Lamon displays for both the Hankses and " old Tom Lincoln." 
His allusion to the funeral of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and to 
Parson Elkin s passing in silence the " few shortcomings and 
frailties "of the poor woman, is suggestive, though not con 

On the whole, it is not surprising that readers of the first 
edition of Herndon s book generally believed that Herndon 
believed that Abraham Lincoln was not the son of Thomas 
Lincoln, and that those who read the later edition were left in 

There is a manuscript of Herndon s, which has never seen 
the light of publicity, in which he goes farther into this matter. 
It is not a letter, but a little treatise with a caption. For what 
purpose he prepared it I am not quite sure. He loaned it to 
a correspondent, permitting him to keep it until he called for 
it, and he never called for it. I shall presently quote it in 
full, and with it will close this chapter. 

The little tract which I am about to quote is a remarkable 
document. It is written on four pages, letter size, and for 
many years was in private hands. It is now in an important 
collection, in a fire-proof building, but is not shown to the 


curious, and I am informed by its custodian that it has never 
been copied except by myself. It is safe from destruction, 
either by fire or caprice, and scholars will find it as they have 

In this document, Dennis Hanks is directly addressed, but 
the tract was not intended as a letter to Dennis. Herndon is 
answering to himself the rebuke which the Hanks family will, 
as he believes, visit upon him, if he publishes the statement that 
Abraham Lincoln s mother s name was Hanks and not Spar 
row. Herndon believed that Dennis knew that Nancy was 
illegitimate, as Dennis himself was, and probably believed 
also that Dennis thought Abraham illegitimate ; but that Dennis 
was shrewd and sly and willing to lie about a matter which 
Abraham Lincoln, sharing the same belief concerning his 
mother, met with silence, because Abraham Lincoln was too 
honest to lie like Dennis. 

Readers of Herndon s book have been left in doubt of his 
own opinion as to the illegitimacy of Nancy Hanks herself: 
but they have not always been sure just what he intended to 
imply as to Abraham Lincoln s own paternity. On that sub 
ject his book is purposely somewhat vague. Herndon had some 
of the shrewdness of Dennis. This little tract leaves no room 
for question that at the time of its composition, Herndon was 
inclined to believe not only that Nancy Hanks was illegitimate 
but that she gave birth to an illegitimate son, whose name was 
Abraham and whose proper surname was not Lincoln. 

This little tract has appended to it a footnote in Hern 
don s own handwriting, saying, " These notes were made about 
20 August, 1887, at Greencastle, Ind., when I was writing the 
Life of Lincoln, or helping to do so. * I believe this footnote 
to be erroneous. I have compared this document with the 
notes which Herndon made at Greencastle, and he used a 
wholly different kind of paper and ink. This little tract is 
much older than his Greencastle papers, and the note was made 
afterward. This was a document which he had previously 
prepared, and which he probably took with him to Green 
castle, and loaned it to a correspondent with other matter 
which he prepared there. In supplying the date, he made 


the mistake of thinking that he had written it there. Such 
mistakes Herndon sometimes made. 

I think he prepared this little tract between 1866 and 1871. 
I think it was in existence when Lamon wrote his book. A 
comparison of the language of this tract with Lamon s refer 
ence to the zeal of Dennis for the reputation of the Hanks 
family, will, I think, convince the critical student that Lamon 
had this before him, or at least that Herndon had by 1871 
formulated his own ideas in essentially this form. It was 
probably written not many months after the date of the letter 
of Dennis, February, 1866. The ink, paper and handwriting, 
when compared with the Greencastle manuscript, show clearly 
that it is several years older than those. 

Whether this was Herndon s final opinion, we shall learn 
toward the end of this book. It certainly was in his mind 
when he furnished his material to Lamon. 


By William H. Herndon 

Dennis Hanks and all the other Hankses, their cousins and 
relatives, call Nancy Hanks, Nancy Sparrow. Lucy Hanks 
was her mother. Lucy, the mother of Nancy, married Henry 
Sparrow. Nancy Hanks was taken and raised by Thomas 
and Betsy Sparrow. Why did not her mother, Lucy Sparrow, 
keep and raise her own daughter? Did Henry Sparrow ob 
ject to the mother, his wife, keeping and raising her own 
daughter ? 

Dennis Hanks says to me, this, substantially, (to be quoted 
word for word) in a letter written by him to me dated Feb. 

" Don t call her Nancy Hanks, because that would make her 

Very well, Dennis, shrewd, sly Dennis! It is a universal 
custom, habit and practical rule of all English-speaking people, 
including the American, as a matter of course, to call all il 
legitimate children after and from the mother s name and not 
the father s name, because of the cruel fiction of the law that 
such children are supposed to be the children of no one a 
rather rash presumption, I willingly admit. 


If Henry Sparrow had been the father of Nancy Hanks, 
then she ought by law and justice be called Nancy Sparrow; 
but, unfortunately, Henry Sparrow, the husband of her 
mother, was not her father. 

Nancy Hanks was born before her mother was married to 
Henry Sparrow. How is this, Dennis? 

Abraham Lincoln, always honest and truthful, says sub 
stantially under his own hand in a short life of himself written 
at Springfield, Illinois, to be a kind of campaign biography of 
60, this: 

"My mother s name is Nancy Hanks"; or, to put it 
exactly, Lincoln says, in that short biography of himself 
written to Fell, " My mother, who died in my infancy, was 
of a family of the name of Hanks." 

Why did he not say, if such was the truth, that she was of 
the family of the Sparrows? 

Simply because she was not of the Sparrow family. 
Lincoln knew her origin, but kept it to himself in that Fell 

I guess I can state what Lincoln himself states in that 
matter; and if to call her Hanks is to make her base-born , 
charge her son with the offense ! 

Dennis, sly, shrewd Dennis, wishes to cover up the truth, 
smother up the sad fact, if it be such. Lincoln boldly and 
truthfully speaks out. 

And now the question comes, Who was the father of Nancy 
Hanks, Lincoln s mother? 

Lucy Hanks, her mother, was never married to any Hanks, 
so far as I can find out, nor to any other person before or 
after she married Henry Sparrow, or before she had Nancy. 
When Nancy Hanks was born, who was Lucy Hanks hus 
band? This is quite a pertinent question. What did Lincoln 
say to Scripps, his campaign biographer? 

No one need for this matter rely on what I say or have 
said, that Lincoln told me his mother was illegitimate. He 
told me that his mother was an illegitimate child of a Virginia 
planter or large farmer. However, the record tells its own 
story, and speaks for itself; and had not the record spoken 
out, it is more than probable that I should have kept the 
secret forever, though I was not forbidden to reveal the fact 
after Lincoln s death. 


I never uttered this to mortal man directly or indirectly 
till after the death of Lincoln. 

And now again, who was the father of Nancy Hanks, 
the mother of the President of the United States? 

Will some gentleman, some lady, kindly tell me? 

The father of Nancy Hanks is no other than a Virginia 
planter, large farmer, of the highest and best blood of Vir 
ginia; and it is just here that Nancy got her good, rich blood, 
tinged with genius. 

Mr. Lincoln told me that she was a genius, and that he 
got his mind from her. 

Nancy Hanks Lincoln was a woman of very fine cast of 
mind, an excellent heart, quick in sympathy, a natural lady, 
a good neighbor, a firm friend. Good cheer and hilarity gen 
erally accompanied her; and had she been raised at all [well] 
she must have flourished anywhere: but as it was, she was 
rude and rough, breaking, and having difficulty, through all 
forms, conditions and customs, habits, etiquettes of society. 
She could not be held to forms and methods of things. And 
yet she was a fine woman, naturally. 

It is quite probable that a knowledge of her origin had 
made her defiant and desperate. She was very sensitive, and 
sometimes gloomy. Who will tell me the amount and influ 
ence of her feelings in this matter, caused by her origin? Let 
the world forgive her, and bless her, is my constant prayer. 

Lincoln often thought of committing suicide. Why? 

Did the knowledge of his mother s origin, or his own, 
press the thought of suicide upon him? 

Who will weigh the force of such an idea as illegitimacy 
on man or woman, especially when that man or woman is 
very sensitive, such as Lincoln was? God help such people! 


ABOUT the end of the nineteenth century appeared a pamphlet 
entitled, The Evidence that Abraham Lincoln Was Not Born 
in Lawful Wedlock; Or, The Sad Story of Nancy Hanks. It 
was badly printed, with many typographical errors, but was 
rather well written. It was signed " Wm. M. C, Dallas, 
Texas." It contained sixteen pages, and was marked to sell 
for twenty-five cents. It did not sell as well as had been 
expected, and the author disposed of his remainder to a New 
York dealer. Some correspondence was had between them, 
which the dealer kept for some years, and subsequently sought 
for at the request of the present writer. It could not be found, 
however, and all that the dealer remembered was that the 
author of the pamphlet, William M. Coleman, seemed to him 
an " unreconstructed Rebel," with much prejudice against Lin 
coln; but he writes me that his recollection is too misty for 
him to be confident of anything further. 

The Seventh Volume of Who s Who in America contains 
a sketch of Coleman, but the sketch dropped out of succeed 
ing volumes, and the Library of Congress has been unable to 
locate him for me. He probably died in Washington about 
1912. I have only one other of his pamphlets a vehement 
attack on the Pilgrim Fathers, called by him, " The First 

All indirection was ended by the Coleman publication. He 
did not leave anything to be inferred. In his booklet, a spade 
was called a sgade. The large sale which he expected did 
not occur, but his outspoken declaration cleared the air of all 
uncertainty. He made no original investigation, but he made 
it impossible for any one to read the books from which he 
quoted without remembering what construction had thus been 
placed upon them. 



Coleman s pamphlet did not really add anything to what 
had already been printed by Lamon and Herndon, except that 
it assembled under one caption what they had said in various 
places, and by skillful arrangement put the worst possible 
face upon it. That, however, was probably what might have 
been expected. The conclusions which Coleman deduced from 
the Lamon and Herndon material were warranted by what 
those two had published. 

The following pages contain the essential parts of the 
Coleman argument. The last pages of his booklet are devoted 
to a synopsis of the Cathey book which we shall examine later. 
Apparently Coleman had written his own booklet without 
knowing of Cathey and his theory, but he learned of it be 
fore his pamphlet was printed, and included a review of it 
without attempting to harmonize its theory with his own. As 
we shall come to the Cathey book in due time, we may omit 
those portions, as also the preface and the rather labored intro 
duction which occupy the first few pages of Coleman s booklet. 


It is agreed on all sides that Mr. Lincoln knew but little, 
and cared still less, about his family history, and that he 
sedulously avoided any reference to it. It is certain that he is 
mistaken, if he is correctly quoted, when he said that both his 
parents were born in Virginia. 

The name of his reputed father, was Thomas Linkhorn, 
or Linkern, (for it is found spelled both ways). It was first 
changed by Mr. Lincoln himself to " Lincoln," and it may be 
added by way of parenthesis, that, taken in connection with 
other facts in this history, this change of name may not be 
without its significance. Why should he bear the name " Link- 
horn," if that person was not his father? Then, again, the 
simplicity of his character will not allow us to suppose that he 
refused the name of his own father and assumed a loftier 
sounding one from petty vanity. 

Wherever Nancy Hanks may have come from, it is be 
yond doubt, that the father of Thomas for whom some 
writers have forged the Christian name of Abraham migrated 


from Virginia to Kentucky, and that Thomas was born in the 
last named state. 

Widespread traditions exist that the son of Nancy Hanks 
was not a legitimate child. 

Writing upon this subject Mr. Herndon says : 

" Regarding the paternity of Mr. Lincoln, a great many 
surmises and a still larger amount of unwritten, or at least 
unpublished, history has drifted into the currents of Western 
lore and journalism. 

" A number of such traditions are extant in Kentucky and 
other localities. Mr. Weik has spent a considerable time in 
investigating the truth of a report current in Bourbon county, 
Kentucky, that Thomas Lincoln, for a consideration from one 
Abraham Enlow, a miller there, assumed the paternity of the 
infant child of a poor girl, named Nancy Hanks; and after 
marriage removed with her to Hardin county." Mr. Herndon 
adds that a gentleman of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, who had been 
judge, and afterwards was an editor, published a paper in 
support of this contention. 

The allegations and arguments of this paper are not given 
further than to say that the paper alleged a resemblance be 
tween Inlow (Enlow) and Mr. Lincoln in facial and physical 
features, in extraordinary stature and length of limb. 

Herndon s reply, however, is feeble. He says the Bible 
record shows that Abraham was the second child. 

In reply to Mr. Herndon it is to be remarked, that this 
Bible record, made by Abraham Lincoln, contained no entry 
of the birth or marriage of his mother; and in regard to 
Abraham being the second child, it must be borne in mind that 
the entries were made by Mr. Lincoln himself long years after 
the events recorded, and admitting for a moment, that he was 
illegitimate, and that he knew it, it was a pious act in him to 
cover his mother s shame as far as in his power to do so, by 
making his sister older than himself in the Bible record. 

There is also an account given by Lamon of a collision 
between Thomas Linkhorn and Abraham Enlow, or Inlow, 
which has its significance. Mr. Lamon says : " They fought 
like savages; but Lincoln (Linkhorn) obtained a signal and 
permanent advantage by biting off Enlow s nose." f This 
affray and the fame of it," continues Lamon, " made Lincoln 
(Linkhorn) more anxious than ever to escape from Ken- 


tucky." We are left to form our own conjecture about the 
origin of the quarrel; no cause is assigned. But is not this 
desperate affray a powerful corroboration of the tradition that 
an illicit relation existed, or was supposed by Linkhorn to have 
existed, between Nancy Hanks and Enlow; and may we not 
presume that the fight was about her? And was not the in 
creased desire of Linkhorn to get away from Kentucky owing 
to the fact that he felt himself disgraced by the publicity given 
to the scandal by his fight with Enlow? Is this an unreason 
able supposition? Does it not, on the contrary, serve to fill 
out, explain, bring into harmony, and strengthen the other 
traditions relating to President Lincoln s birth ? 

Linkhorn did not remove from Kentucky to fly from 
slavery and locate in a free state where toil was honorable, as 
narrated by the romancers; for he was no toiler; but, from all 
accounts, an ignorant, shiftless vagabond. Besides, there was 
not at that time, fifty slaves in the county; his more fortunate 
relatives were slave owners, and there is no reason in sup 
posing that he differed in opinion from other men of his class, 
of Southern birth. This story of his desire to escape from 
a land of slavery is of a piece with those fictions which describe 
the Linkhorn tumble-down shanty, fourteen feet square in an 
Elizabethtown valley, where the inmates lived in squalid pov 
erty, as a frugal Christian home; the father a gallant frontiers 
man and the mother a Roman matron of the wilderness. One 
estimable New England lady, not satisfied with tracing the 
blood of the Hanks to the Saxon Kings of England, carries it 
back to the Egyptian dynasties, because in the old Egyptian 
language she says there is a word, "and" (Hank) meaning 

Nancy Hanks is described as being a beautiful girl, with 
pleasing manners, slender and symmetrical form, and above 
the ordinary height; a brunette with dark hair and soft hazel 
eyes, and a high intellectual forehead. It is further remarked 
of her that she always wore a marked melancholy expression 
which fixed itself upon the memory of everyone who knew or 
saw her. It would be interesting to know if she was possessed 
of this melancholy disposition before her marriage, and if so, 
when or how it originated. 

The reticence of Mr. Lincoln about his mother has been 
alluded to. Mr. Lamon says : " While he seldom if ever spoke 


of his own mother, he loved to dwell on the beautiful character 
of Sally Bush." 

Young Abraham Lincoln was ten years old when his mother 
died. The dearest and sweetest memories and associations 
which. remain of a mother in after years are those which are 
fixed within the first ten years of life. Mr. Lincoln s nature 
was deeply affectionate. Why, then, this strange silence in 
regard to his own mother and the lavishing of all his affections 
on his stepmother, Sally Bush? Mr. Lincoln aspired to posi 
tion in social as well as political life; and it may well be that a 
knowledge of his mother s frailty and his own origin (prob 
ably told him by his stepmother) cast upon him that pall of 
melancholy which shadowed all his life. 

In the autobiography which Mr. Lincoln gave to Fell, he 
disposes of his mother in three lines, giving her Christian or 
maiden name, and saying she came of a family of the name of 

Sally Bush first brought sunshine into young Lincoln s 
life. She was a kind, good, and noble woman; devotedly at 
tached to her step-son, and he no less devoted to her. He 
always spoke of her in after life as his " saintly mother," his 
" angel mother; " and yet, she did one thing which is utterly 
inconsistent with her character unless an explanation can be 
given. She changed the name of the girl, who had been named 
Nancy, after her mother, to Sarah. Unaccounted for, this was 
a mean and contemptible act. Why should not the child be 
permitted to bear her mother s name? If Sally Bush had 
some good reason to obliterate from the child s mind, as far 
as possible, all recollections of her mother, then her conduct 
is in keeping with her character; otherwise it is not. Her 
singular silence, too, in all that related to Nancy Hanks when 
Mr. Herndon visited and interviewed her after the assassina 
tion of President Lincoln is an additional ground for the be 
lief that she held the key to the secret. 

Mr. Herndon says: " There was something about his (Lin 
coln s) origin, that he never cared to dwell on." 

After his nomination for the presidency, Mr. J. L. Scripps, 
of the Chicago Tribune, went to Mr. Lincoln and asked for 
material for a history of his life. Mr. Lincoln replied that it 
was folly to attempt to make anything out of his early years. 
Soon after the death of Mr. Lincoln, Scripps wrote to Mr. 


Herndon as follows: "He (Mr. Lincoln) communicated some 
facts to me concerning his ancestry which he did not wish to 
be published then, and which I have never spoken of or alluded 
to before." 

What these facts were, Mr. Scripps did not tell even to 
Mr. Herndon, who had been Mr. Lincoln s most intimate 
friend, and who was then collecting material for his biography. 

How is the silence of Mr. Scripps under the circumstances 
to be accounted for? On one ground only, the communica 
tions must have been of such a nature that an honorable man 
could not use them without permission. Mr. Lincoln was 
dead, and Mr. Scripps died without revealing them. Was 
this the secret? 

The treatment of young Lincoln by his mother s husband 
requires explanation. Cruelty is not a trait of such indolent, 
happy-go-lucky, contented tramps as Thomas Linkhorn is 
represented to have been. Col. Chapman, who knew as much 
about the family as any one outside of its circle, and who 
had possession of the Bible containing the records, is quoted 
by Mr. Lamon, as saying : " Abe s father habitually treated 
him with great barbarity." Can his treatment of the boy be 
connected with liis " savage fight " with Abraham Enlow and 
a knowledge that the boy was not his child ? 

There is abundant evidence that the Hanks were low and 
ignorant people. Mr. Herndon quotes from a manuscript of 
Mr. J. B. Helms in which it is said : " The Hanks girls were 
great at camp-meeting." Mr. Helms then proceeded to relate 
a scene of which he was an eye witness at Elizabeth town, and 
in which one of the young ladies of the Hanks family figured 
conspicuously. He writes: 

" I remember one camp-meeting in 1806. A general shout 
was about to commence. Preparations were being made. A 
young lady invited me to stand on a bench where we could 
see all over the altar. To the right, a strong athletic young 
man, about twenty-five years old, was being put in trim for the 
occasion, which was done by divesting him of all apparel ex 
cept shirt and pants. On the left, a young lady was being put 
in tune in much the same manner, so that her clothes would 
not be in the way, and so that when her combs flew out, her 
hair would go into graceful braids. She, too, was young, not 
more than twenty. The performance commenced about the 


same time by the young man on the right, and the young lady 
on the left. Slowly and gracefully they worked their way 
towards the center, singing, shouting, and hugging and kiss 
ing (generally their own sex) approaching each other nearer 
and nearer. The center of the altar was reached, and the two 
closed with their arms around each other, the man singing and 
shouting at the top of his voice : 

I have my Jesus in my arms, 
Sweet as honey, strong as bacon hams." 

"Just at this moment, the young lady holding my arm 
whispered, They are to be married next week ; her name is 

Mr. Herndon says he did not learn whether the lady per 
former was the President s mother or not. " The fact that 
Nancy Hanks did marry that year," gives color, he thinks, to 
the belief that it was she. He does not think, however, that 
her hugging partner was Thomas, because such a deed re 
quired an enthusiasm and a dash beyond the capacity of that 
inert individual. 

There was undoubtedly irregular blood in some of the 
Hanks women. Mr. Herndon says he has the written state 
ment of Dennis Hanks, the son of an aunt of the President s 
mother, that he came into the world by nature s back door. 

We give in Mr. Herndon s own words what Mr. Lincoln 
told him about his mother. Mr. Herndon says (Chapter I, 
page 3) : 

" It was about 1850, when he and I were driving in his 
one-horse buggy to the court in Menard county, Illinois. The 
suit we were going to try was one in which we were likely, 
either directly or collaterally, to touch upon the subject of 
hereditary traits. During the ride he spoke for the first time 
in my hearing of his mother, dwelling on her characteristics, 
and mentioning or enumerating what qualities he inherited 
from her. He said among other things that she was the il 
legitimate daughter of Lucy Hanks, and a well-bred Virginia 
farmer or planter; and he argued that from this last source 
came his power of analysis, his logic, his mental activity, his 
ambition and all the qualities that distinguished him from the 
other members and descendants of the Hanks family. His 
theory in discussing the matter of hereditary traits had been, 


that for certain reasons illegitimate children are oftentimes 
sturdier and brighter than those born in lawful wedlock; and 
in his case he believed that his better nature and finer qualities 
came from this broad-minded unknown Virginian." 

Mr. Herndon continues: "The revelation painful as it 
was called up recollections of his mother, and, as the buggy 
jolted over the road, he added ruefully, * God bless my mother; 
all that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to her/ and immedi 
ately lapsed into silence. 

" Our interchange of ideas ceased, and we rode for some 
time without exchanging a word. He was sad and absorbed. 
Burying himself in thought, and musing, no doubt, over the 
disclosure he had just made, he drew round him a barrier 
which I feared to penetrate. His words and melancholy tone 
made a deep impression on me. It was an experience I can 
never forget." 

This is one of the " rare occasions " when Mr. Lincoln 
made mention of his mother. His exclamation of pity for 
her is suggestive of what was going on in his mind. His 
melancholy silence is even more so. His mother s mother had 
sinned, and his own mother sinned in like manner, and did he 
know it? 




WHAT I have attempted thus far might be considered a literary 
and chronological introduction to the subject under considera 
tion. I have endeavored to trace the history of these reports 
as they appeared in book or pamphlet form down to the begin 
ning of the year 1909, the centenary of the birth of Abraham 
Lincoln. Concerning two books that appeared in that year we 
shall have much to say later : but the Coleman pamphlet may be 
considered as a summation of the situation as it existed before 
the appearance of the flood of Lincoln literature which the 
centenary evoked. Of oral tradition and newspaper report we 
shall have something also to say, and in due order. 

We are now at a stage in our inquiry where it will be 
convenient (to consider the several stories separately : for, as 
Herndon implied, more than one story was current by 1889: 
and by 1909 the various forms in which the legitimacy of 
Lincoln was attacked, admitted of classification. 

The foregoing chapters present a background for these 
stories and for their subsequent analysis. I now propose to 
present in successive chapters the evidence for each one of 
these in turn. 

It has not been wholly easy to organize this material, and 
to present it as I have desired to do. Even the order in which 
these names should be considered has given rise to some dif 
ficulty ; for in some respects the order in which it seems best 
to introduce them is not the most satisfactory order for their 
later consideration. But the method which I have chosen will, 



I trust, be found to have this merit, that it presents each theory 
candidly and fairly. 

I begin the presentation with the version of the story 
which has long been, and still is, current in the county where 
Abraham Lincoln was born, and which has been related to me 
repeatedly there on successive visits, with substantial uniform 
ity as to its essential features. 

The form in which this story is related in and about Hod- 
genville is that the father of Abraham Lincoln was Abraham 
Enlow, who lived in that part of Hardin County which is now 
La Rue, and whose home was near to that of the Lincolns 
after their removal from Elizabethtown and their settle 
ment upon their own farm where Abraham Lincoln was 

There is no question that Thomas and Nancy Lincoln were 
married when they came to Nolin Creek, and to the vicinity 
of Hodgen s Mill. And that fact gives this story the more 
ugly form. For, if Abraham Enlow of Hodgenville was the 
father of Abraham Lincoln, it was not a case in which an 
inexperienced girl was betrayed, but one in which a woman 
two years married and already the mother of one child, 
proved faithless to her husband and committed adultery with 
another man. 

That, according to this story in its developed form, was 
why Thomas Lincoln and Abraham Enlow had their terrible 
fight, in which Lincoln is alleged to have bitten off Enlow s 

This is virtually all there is of the story. There are no 
details that tell how it happened. The Enlows were neighbors, 
and people of property, and there was apparent opportunity 
for what is alleged to have occurred. The Enlows were tall 
people like Abraham Lincoln, and are alleged to have re 
sembled him more than did Thomas Lincoln. 

On this account, so it is said by Lamon, Thomas Lincoln 
left Kentucky, and the implication is that the removal occurred 
because people knew that the fight Thomas had had with Enlow 
was on account of his wife Nancy. 

The Enlows still live in that part of the country. The author 


has a map of La Rue County marking every creek, road and 
farm-house, and giving the name of every resident. The 
name of Enlow still is common there, and all of those who 
bear it are descendants of Abraham Enlow. The people of 
that name are reputable people. Their names appear, and in 
honorable relations, in the La Rue County papers. Originally 
the family were Baptists; but some branches of it are now 
affiliated with the Southern Methodists. The men are Demo 
crats and during the war the sympathies of this family were 
with the South. I have had personal interviews with several 
of them, and considerable correspondence with one, a grand 
son of Abraham Enlow. 

In this and the following chapters I follow the local spelling 
of particular names. Some names occur which are differently 
spelled in different parts of the South. Hence we shall find 
an Abraham Enlow, an Abraham Inlow and an Abraham 
Enloe. The variant spellings are given with intent. As we 
take up the first of them, Abraham Enlow of Hardin County, 
it may be noted here, as it will appear later, that this is the 
present orthography of the name in that locality. But 
Abraham Enlow s father spelled it Enlaws, and Abraham 
Enlow himself, to the end of his life, spelled it Enlows. He 
was the son of Isom Enlaws, an early settler in Hardin County, 
and he himself was born, lived and died there. 

This book must contain much about Abraham Enlow. The 
prominence of his name in these stories has necessitated on 
the part of the author of this book a diligent effort to learn 
all that can possibly be learned about the man. His grave 
has been visited, and the inscription on his tombstone copied. 
His will has been found in the early records of the county 
where he lived, and a certified copy made. His home has been 
located, and the paths, which now are roads, that led from it 
to the home of Thomas Lincoln and to the several points of 
interest in this chronicle, have been measured upon the county 
map. This book will not end until it has given -to Abraham 
Enlow a permanent record. He will be found a character not 
lacking in interest, and he has a legitimate place in this nar 


For our present purpose it is enough to know that there was 
such a man, one of the old residents of Hardin County, and 
of that part of it which afterward became La Rue. There is 
nothing that we require to know about him which will not be 
discovered and duly attested before this chronicle ends. 


THE Brownfield story can be told very briefly, but it is im 
portant. It is found only in the vicinity of Hodgenville. 

When Thomas and Nancy Lincoln and little Sarah moved 
from Elizabethtown into that part of Hardin County which 
is now La Rue, in late May or early June of 1808, they did 
not immediately go to their own farm. The summer of 1808 
was spent on the farm of George Brownfield, where Thomas 
Lincoln lived as a tenant, and worked as a hired laborer, partly 
on the farm and partly as a carpenter. 

George Brownfield, and not Abraham Enlow, so this story 
goes, was the father of Abraham Lincoln. The Lincolns had 
as yet no known dealings with Enlow, and may not even have 
met him, not having as yet removed to the Enlow neighbor 

George Brownfield had sons, who were tall men like Lin 
coln, one of them, David, was a very tall man, with unusually 
long arms. He bore, so it is said, a striking physical resem 
blance to Abraham Lincoln. None of the Enlows looked so 
much like Lincoln as did David Brownfield. 

That is the Brownfield story, and the whole of it. We 
shall comment upon it later. It now takes its place in the 
list as one of the stories told and still believed by some people 
concerning the birth of Abraham Lincoln. 

George Brownfield, like Isom, the father of Abraham 
Enlow, was an early pioneer to Hardin County, arriving there 
about 1794, and his descendants are numerous in and about 
Hodgenville. They bear a good reputation. Their ancestor, 
George, was 15orn in 1773, and died near Hodgenville in 1851. 
He was 36 years of age when Abraham Lincoln was born. 
He was a man of property, and Thomas Lincoln was in his 
employ when he first moved from Elizabethtown. Mr. L. B. 



Handley, attorney for the Lincoln Farm Association, informs 
me that in connection with his work for that association he 
made careful investigation, and assured himself that Thomas 
Lincoln lived on the Brownfield farm on his first removal from 
Elizabethtown, and was living there in the summer and autumn 
of 1808. He does not, however, credit the report that Brown- 
field was Abraham Lincoln s father. 

George Brownfield is buried in the old South Fork burying- 
ground, one of the oldest in La Rue County. It is located 
five miles south of Hodgenville, two and one-half miles beyond 
the Lincoln Farm. His tombstone bears this record : 

" George Brownfield, Born Oqtober 23, 1773, 
Died May 2, 1851." 

The spot on the Brownfield farm where the Lincoln cabin 
stood is known as the " plum-orchard." It was a natural 
growth of wild crab-apple trees. I caused it to be identified, 
and photographed, as I suppose for the first time. It takes 
its place in the rather long list of residences of Thomas and 
Nancy Lincoln, and thus has a legitimate claim upon the in 
terest of any lover of Lincoln. But for the purpose of this 
narrative, it is of very much greater importance than any other 
one spot with which we have to do. The world is interested, 
and properly so, in the place where Abraham Lincoln was 
born; but for the purposes of this inquiry the place of primary 
importance is that in which Thomas and Nancy Lincoln were 
living nine or ten months previous to his birth. 

The house that stood in the " plum-orchard " is no longer 
standing, and the odor of the wild crab-apple blossoms is 
only a memory, but is fragrant as it was on the day in early 
summer in the year 1808 when Nancy Lincoln discovered in 
herself the premonitions of maternity. In May or early June 
of 1808 Thomas and Nancy Lincoln left the little court-house 
town of Elizabethtown, and took up their residence in a pole 
cabin in the " plum-orchard " on the farm of George Brown- 
field. Late in the autumn, after the crop was gathered, they 
removed to their own home, where in the following February 


Abraham Lincoln was born. But the cabin where he was 
born was not that in which his unborn life began. He was 
conceived either in Elizabethitown or in the cabin among the 
apple-blossoms. We shall recur to this subject, and to the 
probable time, in a later chapter. 



WE come now to what is perhaps the most widespread of all 
the stories concerning the alleged illegitimate birth of Lincoln. 
It is, that Abraham Lincoln was the son of a poor girl, Nancy 
Hanks, and of Abraham Inlow, a miller, who lived on the 
border between Bourbon and Clark Counties, Kentucky. The 
child was born, and was old enough to run around, so this 
story goes, when the father, Abraham Inlow, paid five hundred 
dollars, and a wagon and team, to Thomas Lincoln, in con 
sideration of which, Thomas Lincoln drove away with Nancy 
Hanks and the child. They rode away in the wagon, with the 
child sitting between them, and Thomas and Nancy were 
married in some county to the west of Bourbon. The child 
was already named Abraham after his father, and he took 
the name of Lincoln from his mother s marriage with Thomas 

This story has had wide currency among the members of 
the Kentucky bar, and is or was related in the neighborhood, 
of Clark and Bourbon Counties, always or nearly always with 
the information that the child Abe sat between Tom and Nancy 
when they drove away from Bourbon County to their future 

The man who did most to make this story widely known 
was Hon. Belvard January Peters, of Mount Sterling, Ken 
tucky, a classmate of Jefferson Davis at Transylvania Uni 
versity, and for many years a judge and some time Chief 
Justice of the Appellate Court of Kentucky. He was a prom 
inent member of the Disciples Church, and a man of probity, 
eminent in the annals of the Kentucky bar and bench. A 
sketch of his life is found in a book entitled The Bench and 
Bar of Kentucky, where his honorable record may be found. 



His statement appears in the form of an affidavit, in part 
as follows: 

" I was graduated from Transylvania University, Ken 
tucky, in 1825. I read law with John Boyle, Chief Justice of 
Kentucky; obtained license to practice law in 1827. My legal 
and professional career has extended over a period of over 
sixty years. In all that time I have never heard, among my 
legal friends (and I have known nearly all the lawyers, old and 
young, in the State) the fact of Abraham Lincoln s illegitimacy 

This story has been told and retold to successive genera 
tions of judges and lawyers until it has come very widely to 
be credited. In one of its forms it declares that Jesse Head, 
when a resident of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, told an eminent 
but unnamed lawyer that Abraham Lincoln was born and old 
enough to be running around at the time when he married 
Thomas Lincoln to Nancy Hanks. 

Judge Peters wrote this story for the local papers in his 
home town, and toward the end of his life he took occasion 
to make oath to his belief in the truth of this story. 

This is the story to which Herndon refers, in his statement 
that Mr. Weik spent much time in its investigation. I have 
talked this matter over fully with Mr. Weik, and in the proper 
place will relate what he has told to me concerning it. 

I have made diligent effort, also, to learn whether in Mount 
Sterling, where Judge Peters lived, or in Clark or Bourbon 
Counties, there is any additional information on this subject. 
All essential knowledge of this matter appears to be compassed 
in the general statement, fully and concisely embodied in the 
affidavit of Judge Peters, that the story has long been current 
and widely believed as it has here been stated. No docu 
mentary proofs are submitted, other than a group of affidavits 
by people of mature years, and some of them of good 
standing, to the effect that they have long heard this story, 
and that it is believed by many people in the counties named, 
and in other parts of the State of Kentucky. The high reputa 
tion of Judge Peters, both for ability and veracity, and his 
complete confidence in the story, are, after all, the chief reasons 
to be alleged in favor of it. 


THE story that Abraham Lincoln was the son of Nancy Hanks 
and of a man named Abraham Enloe of North Carolina, 
circulated for some years in Swain County, at the extreme 
western end of North Carolina, and became more widely cur 
rent as Northern tourists to Asheville and vicinity penetrated 
in increasing numbers into that general region. These visitors 
were informed that they were not far from the home of the 
parents of Abraham Lincoln, and in due time pilgrimages 
were made to interview the alleged relatives of the President 
who were still living there. President Lincoln s so-called half- 
brother, Wesley Enloe, became a man of some note, and from 
time to time was interviewed by newspaper reporters and 
others. He and his family were photographed and measured, 
and their supposed resemblances to Abraham Lincoln were 
duly recorded. If at first the family shrank from this pub 
licity, the reluctance of its members in time was overcome; 
and memory at first yielding nothing to the point, gradually 
grew pliant till it substantiated in all important particulars the 
story that came to be accepted in that region, by certain of 
the inhabitants and visitors, as the true history of the origin 
of Abraham Lincoln. 

In the early nineties, allusions began to appear in print, and 
on September 17, 1893, the Charlotte Observer, printed, what 
is, so far as I am aware, the first full statement of the North 
Carolina story. It was signed " Student of History," and 
the author was alleged to have been "a worthy member of 
an illustrious North Carolina family." 

The essential portions of this article follow : 

A few years since, probably in 1889, the writer of this com 
munication was informed by Dr. A. W. Miller that he heard 



in Western North Carolina that there was a tradition in Swain 
county that Abraham Lincoln was born in that county. That 
his father s name was Abram Enloe, and the name of his 
mother was Nancy Hanks. That the house in which he was 
born was at that time occupied by Wesley Enloe, a son of 
Abram Enloe, and, ergo, the half-brother of the great 

In 1890, being in Webster, Jackson County, I met a gentle 
man who was county surveyor of Jackson, who gave me the 
story related by Dr. Miller, and added facts in the tradition. 
The story as related to the doctor was, that Nancy Hanks 
and Abram were carried to Kentucky by a mule-drover who 
was in the habit of stopping at Abram Enloe s, at the foot 
of the Smoky mountains, about 1804. The surveyor s in 
formation was that Felix Walker, the congressional repre 
sentative the author of the famous expression " speaking 
for Buncombe " in order to do his constituent " Abram " a 
good turn, carried Hagar and Ishmael to Hardin county, 
Kentucky. He stated also that two citizens, Davis by name, 
lodged one night at his friend s house and stated that they 
lived in Illinois, and had emigrated to that State from Ruther 
ford county, N. C. These gentlemen state that Abraham 
Lincoln was acquainted with them, and on learning they were 
from Rutherford county, told them his mother had frequently 
told him she had lived in that county. These gentlemen in 
formed their host (Dr. Egerton of Hendersonville, I think) 
that Abram Lincoln was one of the big men of the great west, 
from which they had hailed. This incident happened about 

The following week the writer was in Bryson City. 

Dr. Miller was under the impression that Wesley Enloe was 
a facsimile of Abraham Lincoln, or certain members of the 
Enloe family were very similar in features to him. The Jack 
son surveyor had excited my curiosity, and, having a day off, 
I lost no time, and was soon on my route up the Tuckaseegee, 
bound for the Abram Enloe homestead, just fourteen miles 
from Bryson City. The road was rocky, and my driver was 
of the silent kind, so I gave my attention to the shaping of 
my interview on what loomed up to me as a very difficult 
subject to handle. A silence of five miles was suddenly inter 
rupted by the driver s inquiry as to my business with Mr. 


Wesley Enloe. I replied promptly, " I am going up principally 
to look at him/ This answer left me to my own reflections 
and the scenery of the Ocona Lufta, a branch of the Tucka- 
seegee, which is beautiful beyond description. The native 
Indian sunned himself along the roadside, or paddled his 
smooth canoe under the overhanging Rhododendron. Sud 
denly the driver, overburdened with curiosity, at the ninth 
milestone, interrupted me with the question, " Would I mind 
telling what I wanted to look at Wesley Enloe for? " " Not 
at all; I have heard he resembles Abram Lincoln, and that 
he is his half-brother." The driver then became satisfied 
and talkative. He stated he had heard the story frequently, 
and was a relative of the Enloe family himself. 

Passing Yellow Hill, the Indian school supported by the 
government, a down-grade of three or four miles brought us 
to a beautiful, rich valley farm, the present home of Wesley, 
and the old Abraham Enloe homestead. The house was not 
unlike many of the old houses in North Carolina one story, 
the roof sloping down over the piazza, with the company- 
room opening on the porch. Mr. Enloe and his wife were 
seated in front, a picture of undisturbed contentment and 
rural happiness. The driver carried his team to the barn, and 
Mrs. Enloe retired to look after the dinner. 

Mr. Enloe was about six feet, two or three inches tall, and, 
to my great disappointment, bald-headed; his right shoulder 
a little lower than his left; when standing, just slightly stooped 
forward. Our conversation took a varied turn the force bill, 
the Alliance, crops, walnut rails, etc. I inquired finally if he 
had a picture of himself before he lost his hair. His daughter 
Julia, about nineteen years old, was summoned and brought 
a basketful of photographs. My attention was taken at once 
by the striking resemblance between Julia and Abraham 
Lincoln. The picture with a full head of hair failed to satisfy 
me of a striking face resemblance between Wesley Enloe and 
Abraham Lincoln. The photograph was taken the year Lincoln 
was killed, in Waynesville, to which place Mr. Enloe had 
carried a drove of beef-cattle the summer of 1865. 

Mr. Enloe stated that he had never heard his father s name 
mentioned in his family in connection with Abraham Lincoln. 
He said : " I was the youngest of a family of sixteen. Such 
might have been the fact, but of course the older ones would 


not be apt to talk to me on a subject like that to which you 
allude. About 1871, say ten years ago, I learned and heard 
the story read from an Asheville paper for the first time." 

The subject was dropped until four, when I started for 
home. I remarked, after thanking him for his hospitality, that 
I was perhaps the only man who had ever called just to look 
at him. The old man was without his coat, with wool hat, 
narrow brim. He replied pleasantly : " Now that you have 
seen me, what do you think?" My reply was that I must 
confess that I was disappointed, but that now seeing him with 
his hat on, with his hands crossed behind him (a favorite 
posture with Mr. Lincoln), taking in the whole six feet, three 
or four inches, there was a resemblance which I had no doubt 
was greater twenty-five years past. The resemblance in the 
case of Miss Julia is striking. 

The old gentleman then related the following incident: 
" Two months past, in Dillsboro, in my daughter s parlor (she 
married in that town) is a map picture of President Lincoln. 
She said to me, Look at that picture. Did you ever see a 
better picture of my brother Frank? Frank is my son and 
I have alway heard he was much like my brother Scroup, who 
was said to be very like his father Abraham Enloe. I favor 
my mother s people. In size I am like the Enloes." 

I failed to find Frank Enloe at home. At Dillsboro, having 
a draft to cash, I was informed by the hotel-keeper that 
William Enloe would cash it. On going into the store filled 
with customers, I recognized William Enloe by his resemblance 
to Mr. Lincoln. 

On my return east, arriving at Asheville at 3 P.M., I had 
dismissed the subject from my mind, but resolved to see 
Colonel Davidson, the father of our late attorney-general. 
I found him at home, willing to talk. And now, Mr. Editor, 
here is Colonel Davidson s story as your correspondent re 
members it: 

" Abram Enloe lived in Rutherford county. He had in his 
family a girl named Nancy Hanks, about ten or twelve years 
of age. He moved from Rutherford to Buncombe and settled 
on a branch of the Ocona, in what was afterwards Hay wood, 
and what is now Swain county. At the end of eight years he 
moved to the house at the foot of the Smoky mountain, the 
place above described as the present home of Wesley Enloe. 


" Soon after Abram moved, his own daughter, Nancy En- 
loe, against his wishes, ran away and married a Kentucky 
gentleman named Thompson, from Hardin county in that 

" In the meantime during the absence of Mrs. Nancy Enloe 
Thompson in Kentucky, at the home of Abram Enloe a son 
was born to Nancy Hanks, then about twenty or twenty-one 
years of age. The relations between Mrs. Enloe and her hus 
band became, as a matter of course, unpleasant. 

" There is a lady now living," says Colonel Davidson, 
" who, as a girl, was visiting Abram Enloe. This lady says 
that Nancy Enloe Thompson, having become reconciled with 
her parents, had returned from Kentucky to North Carolina. 
They were to start to Kentucky again in a few days, and she 
remembered hearing a neighbor say, I am glad Nancy Hanks 
and her boy are going to Kentucky with Mrs. Thompson. 
Mrs. Enloe will be happy again/ 

" I married into the Enloe family myself. I settled Abram 
Enloe s estate, and have frequently heard this tradition during 
my life, and have no doubt of its truth." 

He added the following story, which is significant : 

" I am a lawyer. I was seated in my office, since the war 
and soon after its close. A gentleman called, introduced 
himself as Thompson and stated he learned that I was the 
man who settled Abram Enloe s estate; that he was a son 
of Nancy Enloe Thompson. He stated, among other things, 
that he was a Democrat, and had been an Indian agent during 
the Lincoln administration. 

" I asked," said Col. Davidson, " how Lincoln, who was 
a Republican, appointed him, a Democrat, an Indian agent?" 

Thompson replied that Lincoln was under some great ob 
ligation to his (Thompson s) mother, and expressed a desire 
to aid her, if possible, in some substantial way. She finally 
consented that he might do something for her son, and this 
is the way I got my appointment. 

I have written this at your request, Mr. Editor, hoping that 
you will open your columns to Col. Davidson and others, so 
that we may follow the clues these people may furnish, and 
thus see if there is any truth in this interesting North Carolina 



In 1899, Hon. James H. Cathey, State Senator from a dis 
trict in Western North Carolina, published a volume of 185 
pages entitled Truth Is Stranger than Fiction, in which he 
told this story at length. The edition was soon sold out, and 
he issued a new and enlarged edition under the title, The 
Genesis of Lincoln. 

This is the fullest statement in print of the argument against 
the legitimacy of Lincoln, and it brings to its support the 
largest body of recorded testimony. Mr. Cathey sincerely be 
lieved what he wrote, and he signed his own name and gave 
the names of the people who furnished him the information. 
The substance of his argument is thus set forth in the opening 
pages of his book: 

It is the historical teaching that Abraham Lincoln was vir 
tually " without ancestors, fellows, or successors/ Whether 
{his is a delusion it does not concern us to argue. He came 
into the world, and the world understood him not. 

It is, therefore, the sole purpose of this little book to present 
a .tradition tending to prove that this wonderful man was not 
without ancestors. His mother was Nancy Hanks. If he was 
the son of a worthy sire the world is entitled to know who 
that sire was ; when, where and how he lived ; whence he came 
and what his characteristics. 

For ninety years, or thereabout, from the time it is said 
Abraham Lincoln was begotten or born, as the case was, and 
the breeze occurred in the Enloe home, there has subsisted 
among the honest people at the center of authority a lively 
tradition that Abraham, the head of the Enloe family, was 
Lincoln s father by Nancy Hanks, who occupied the position 
of servant-girl in the Enloe household. 

So confident and persistent have the keepers of this old 
testimony to the origin of Abraham Lincoln been, when plied 
with interrogatories, that they knew what they were talking 
about, that there was no opening for superstition, and the 
most one who was inclined to be skeptical could do was to 
wonder and say nothing. 

One might hug his incredulity by imagining that the people 
who fathered the strange accounts of Nancy Hanks and 
Abraham Enloe and a child, and the wonderful story of the 


striking personal likeness of Abraham Lincoln and Wesley 
Enloe, are illiterate, fanatical folk who have conjured up a 
fragmentary fable, how and for what they know not ; but this 
incredulity is all cleared away, like fog before the sunbeams, 
when one learns that the custodians of the " Lincoln tradition " 
are numbered by the scores and hundreds of the first people 
men and women of Western North Carolina. 

Ladies as well as gentlemen, not only of the immediate 
section, but also of distant States, visiting at Asheville and 
other places of resort in our mountains, rinding a thread of 
the tradition, they pulled until their curiosity, at least, be 
coming excited, they visited Wesley Enloe, the alleged half- 
brother of Abraham Lincoln, in his hospitable mountain home, 
were filled with amazement, and went away convinced that 
the tradition was wrought in cords that could not easily be 

People who were familiar with Mr. Lincoln s history, or 
who knew him personally, were struck with the strange physical 
resemblance on first sight, and then watched a series of im 
personations of Lincoln, as they studied the features and noted 
the varying postures of the person of Wesley Enloe. 

The remarkable tradition, with its flesh and blood corrobora- 
tion, was from time to time engaged to be written up by 
journalists, lawyers and clergymen of culture and standing, 
but nothing more than a hasty, desultory newspaper article 
was the result. The people over a very limited area of 
population were being made conversant with the valuable tra 
dition, and its worthy repositors were, one by one, stepping 
from the earthly stage. It was plainly apparent that in a 
very few years the old generation would be gone, and a 
truth of American history, by sheer neglect, would be forever 

We felt our incapacity to undertake so responsible a task. 
,We were conscious of the delicacy of the undertaking, but the 
implicit, unquestioned faith which we had in the truthfulness 
of the tradition gave us a courage which shrank not from 
the most formidable-looking anti-traditional hobgoblin. 

Thus emboldened we set to work to gather the odds and 
ends of our folk-history. We resolved at the outset that we 
would interrogate none but the most trustworthy people who 
were in the best position to give a reason for the faith that 


was in them, together with the story of the relatives of the 
distinguished subject of our memoir. This we have, in every 
instance, done. In 1895 the writer conceived the idea of 
writing a newspaper or magazine article for the simple purpose 
of making known the tradition to the public generally, hoping 
thereby to attract the attention of the enterprising journalist, 
and after that the enduring chronicler; but private concerns 
interfered, and our purpose was frustrated for the time. 
Luckily, however, we then obtained the statements of some 
very aged gentlemen whose testimony will herein appear, and 
which is of the most important character, who have since 

With this statement of his reasons, which the author of 
this volume is confident are truthfully stated, Mr. Cathey pro 
ceeded to set forth in detail the tradition which he had heard in 
the State of his nativity, the publication of his two books, 
or two editions of the same book with changed title and added 
matter in the second issue, stimulated greatly the interest of 
biographers of Lincoln and tourists to the region about 
Asheville. He said: 

The following tradition is more than ninety years old. 
Its center of authority is Swain and neighboring counties of 
Western North Carolina: 

Some time in the early years of the century, variously given 
1803, 1805, 1806, and 1808, there was living in the family of 
Abraham Enloe of Ocona Lufta, N. C., a young woman 
whose name was Nancy Hanks. This young woman remained 
in the household, faring as one of the family until, it becoming 
apparent that she was in a state of increase, and there ap 
pearing signs of the approach of domestic infelicity, she was 
quietly removed, at the instance of Abraham Enloe, to 

This is the most commonly accepted version of the event. 

Another pretty current construction of the story is that 
when Abraham Enloe emigrated from Rutherford county, 
there came with his family a servant-girl whose name was 
Nancy Hanks, and who, after a time, gave birth to a boy child 
which so much resembled the legitimate heirs of Abraham 


Enloe, that their mother warmly objected to the presence of 
so unpleasant a reminder, and the embarrassed husband had 
the young child and its mother spirited to Kentucky. These 
are the two universally accepted versions of the one thoroughly 
accredited fact. 

The tradition subsists on four salient and perfectly con 
versant points: 

First. That in the early years of the century a young 
woman took up her abode at Abraham Enloe s, in the ca 
pacity of hired girl, whose name was Nancy Hanks. 

Second. That this same girl, Nancy Hanks, while living 
at Abraham Enloe s, become enceinte; or entangled in an em 
barrassment in which her illegitimate child was the uncon 
scious instigator. 

Third. That the wife of Abraham Enloe, believing that 
her husband was the father of Nancy Hanks child, and being 
unwilling to countenance what she conceived to be a reproach 
upon herself and children, demanded the disconnection of 
Nancy Hanks from her household. 

Fourth. That Abraham Enloe heeded the demand of his 
wife and forthwith effected the transportation of Nancy Hanks 
and her offspring to the State of Kentucky. 

In support of this theory, Mr. Cathey gave a considerable 
number of statements made to him by old inhabitants of the 
county where Abraham Enloe lived, including Wesley Enloe, a 
son, and William A. Enloe, a grandson, of Abraham Enloe. 
In order to set before the reader the whole body of tradition 
as it was gathered by Mr. Cathey, the following, which are 
his strongest testimonials, are given entire, together with his 
own introductory notes concerning the character of his wit 
nesses : 


Mr. Dills was born in Rutherford county, N. C, January 
10, 1808. His father emigrated to the mountains of Western 
North Carolina almost contemporaneously with Abraham 
Enloe. Although Mr. Dills was four years old when Jackson 
whipped Pakenham at New Orleans, he is nimble both in body 
and mind. He describes the removal of the Cherokees west 


of the Mississippi ; tells of the elections when Clay and Jackson 
were rivals of casting his first vote for the latter; recalls the 
personal appearance of John C. Calhoun, whom he saw and 
with whom he talked; the duel between Sam Carson and Dr. 
Vance, and many other incidents of early days he distinctly 
remembers and recites with genuine gusto. 

Mr. Dills is a citizen of Jackson county. His post-office is 
Dillsboro. He said : 

" Although a generation younger and living some twenty- 
five miles from him, I knew Abraham Enloe personally and 
intimately. I lived on the road which he frequently traveled 
in his trips south, and he made my house a stopping-place. 
He was a large man, tall, with dark complexion, and coarse, 
black hair. He was a splendid looking man, and a man of 
fine sense. His judgment was taken as a guide, and he was 
respected and looked up to in his time. 

" I do not know when I first heard of his relation with 
Nancy Hanks, but it was many years before the civil war, and 
while I was a very young man. The circumstance was related 
in my hearing by the generation older than myself, and I 
heard it talked over time and again later. I have no doubt 
that Abraham Enloe was the father of Abraham Lincoln." 


Mr. Battle was born February 12, 1809, in Hay wood 
county. His father was one of the three men who came to 
Ocona Lufta with Abraham Enloe. He was a highly re 
spected citizen of Swain county. The following statement 
was received from him in 1895. He has since died. His 
son, Milton Battle, a reputable citizen, is familiar with his 
father s statement. His post-office is Bryson City, N. C. 
Walker Battle said : 

" My father was one of the first settlers of this country. 
He came here with Abraham Enloe. I have lived here my 
entire life, and I knew Abraham Enloe and his family almost 
as well as I knew my own. 

" The incident occurred, of course, before my day, but 
I distinctly remember hearing my own family tell of the trouble 
between Abraham Enloe and Nancy Hanks when I was a boy. 
I recall, as if it were but yesterday, hearing them speak of 


Nancy s removal to Kentucky and that she married there a 
fellow by the name of Lincoln; that Abraham Enloe had some 
kind of correspondence with the woman after he sent her to 
Kentucky sent her something and that he had to be very 
cautious to keep his wife from finding it out. 

" There is no doubt as to Nancy Hanks having once lived 
in the family of Abe Enloe, and there is no doubt that she 
was the mother of a child by him. 

" No, I never saw Nancy Hanks name in print in my life, 
and never saw a sketch of Abraham Lincoln, or heard of 
him, until he became a candidate for the presidency in 1860." 


Mr. Conley was born about the year 1812, in Haywood 
county. He lived the greater part of his life within fifteen 
miles of Abraham Enloe s. He was a man of intelligence and 
perfect veracity. The following statement, the original of 
which is in the writer s possession, was obtained from him in 
1895. He has since died. 

Mr. Conley said: 

" My father, James Conley, was the first white man to 
settle on the creek in this (Swain) county, which bears his 
name. Abraham Enloe was one of the first to settle on 
Ocona Lufta. Enloe and my father were warm friends. I 
knew Abe Enloe myself well. He was an impressive looking 
man. On first sight you were compelled to think that there 
was something extraordinary in him, and when you became 
acquainted with him your first impression was confirmed. He 
was far above the average man in mind. 

" As to the tradition : I remember when I was a lad, on 
one occasion some of the women of the settlement were at 
my father s house, and in conversation with my mother they 
had a great deal to say about some trouble that had once oc 
curred between Abe Enloe and a girl they called Nancy Hanks, 
who had at some time staid at Enloe s. I heard nothing more, 
as I now remember, about the matter, until the year before 
the war, the news came that Abraham Lincoln had been 
nominated for the presidency, when it was the common under 
standing among the older people that Lincoln was the son 
of Abe Enloe by Nancy Hanks. 


" Not one of them had ever seen, up to that time, a written 
account of Lincoln. There is no doubt that Nancy Hanks 
lived at Abraham Enloe s. She became pregnant while there 
by Abraham Enloe, and to quell a family disturbance Enloe 
had her moved to Kentucky, just as my Jfather and mother, 
and others, have time and again related in my hearing. 

" I have no doubt that Abe Enloe was the father of 
Abraham Lincoln." 


Captain Everett was born April 4, 1830, in Davy Crockett s 
native county, Tennessee. He came to what was then Jackson, 
now Swain county, in the late fifties, and has since lived in 
twelve miles of the Abe Enloe homestead. He was captain 
of Company E, Third Tennessee. He served through the 
entire war, showing conspicuous courage at First Manassas. 
He helped to organize the county of Swain, in 1871. He was 
a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1875, that 
amended the Constitution of the State. He has been magis 
trate, mayor of the town of Bryson City, and sheriff of the 
county. He is well known throughout the State as one of 
her best and brainiest citizens. He said : 

" In time of the war, in conversation with various old 
and reliable citizens of this section, I learned that Abe 
Lincoln s mother, Nancy Hanks, once lived in the family of 
Abe Enloe and was sent from there to Kentucky, to be de 
livered of a child. The cause of her removal to Kentucky was 
a threatened row between Abe Enloe and old Mrs. Enloe, his 
wife. The people in this county all the old people with whom 
I talked were familiar with the girl as Nancy Hanks. This 
subject was not only the common country rumor, but I saw it 
similarly rehearsed in the local newspapers of the time. I 
have no doubt of its truth. " 


Captain Terrell was born in Rutherford county, S. C, the 
last day of the year 1829. At the age of sixteen he came to 
Haywood, where he lived with his grandfather, Wm. D. 
Kirkpatrick, until 1852, when he joined himself in business 
with Col. Wm. H. Thomas, a man of great shrewdness and 
enterprise. In 1854 he was made disbursing agent to the 
North Carolina Cherokees. In 1862 he enlisted in the Con- 


federate service as lieutenant in a company of Cherokee 
Indians. Later he was promoted. Since the war he has 
merchandised and been a railroad contractor. He has repre 
sented his county in the legislature and filled other offices of 
trust and honor. He is recognized throughout Western North 
Carolina as a most excellent and useful citizen. He said : 

" Having personally had some hints from the Enloes, of 
Jackson and Swain, with whom I am intimately acquainted, 
my attention was seriously drawn to the subject by an article 
which appeared in Bledsoe s Review, in which the writer gives 
an account of a difficulty between Mr. Lincoln s reputed father 
and a man named Enloe. 

" I then began to inquire into the matter and had no dif 
ficulty in arriving at the following indisputable facts, for 
which I am indebted to the following old people : The late 
Dr. John Mingus, son-in-law to Abraham Enloe; his widow 
Mrs. Polly Mingus, daughter of Abraham Enloe (lately de 
ceased), and their son Abram Mingus, who still lives; also to 
the late William Farley and the late Hon. William H. Thomas, 
besides many other very old people, all of whom, I believe, 
are now dead. 

" ist. Some time about the beginning of the present cen 
tury, a young orphan girl was employed in the family of Abram 
Enloe, then of Rutherford county, N. C. Her position in 
the family was nearly that of member, she being an orphan 
with no relatives that she knew. Her name was undoubtedly 
Nancy Hanks. Abram Enloe moved about the year 1805 f rom 
Rutherford, stopping first for a short while on Soco Creek, 
but eventually settled on the Ocona Lufta, where his son, 
Wesley M. Enloe, now resides, then Buncombe, after Hay- 
wood, later Jackson and now Swain county. 

" 2d. Some time after settling on the Ocona Lufta Miss 
Hanks became enceinte, and a family breeze resulted and 
Nancy Hanks was sent to Kentucky. 

" 3rd. She was accompanied to Kentucky by or through 
the instrumentality of Hon. Felix Walker, then a member of 
Congress from the Buncombe district/ 

" There is no doubt of the truth of these statements. They 
were all of them well known to a generation just passed away, 
and with many of whom I was well and intimately acquainted. 
The following I give as it came to me : 


" A probable reason for sending the girl Nancy Hanks to 
Kentucky was that at that time some of the Enloe kindred 
were living there. I was informed that a report reached here 
that she was married soon after reaching Kentucky. 

" Mrs. Abram Enloe s maiden name was Egerton, and she 
was a native of Rutherford county some years ago, meeting 
with Dr. Egerton, of Hendersonville, and finding that he was 
a relative of Mrs. Enloe, our conversation drifted toward the 
Enloe family, and he imparted to me the following : 

" Some time in the early fifties two young men of Ruther 
ford county moved to Illinois and settled in or near Spring 
field. One of them, whose name was Davis, became intimately 
acquainted with Mr. Lincoln. In the fall of 1860, just before 
the presidential election, Mr. Davis and his friend paid a visit 
back to Rutherford and spent a night with Dr. Egerton. Of 
course the presidential candidates would be discussed. Mr. 
Davis told Dr. Egerton that in a private and confidential talk 
which he had with Mr. Lincoln the latter told him that he 
was of Southern extraction, that his right name was, or ought 
to have been, Enloe, but that he had always gone by the name 
of his stepfather. 

" Mr. Enloe s Christian name was Abram, and if Mr. 
Lincoln was his son he was not unlikely named for him. 

" About the time of the famous contest between Lincoln 
and Stephan A. Douglass, Hon. Wm. H. Seward franked to 
me a speech of Mr. Lincoln s, made in that campaign, entitled : 
Speech of Hon. Abram Lincoln/ He himself invariably 
signed his name * A. Lincoln/ 

" To my mind, taking into consideration the unquestioned 
fact that Nancy Hanks was an inmate of Abram Enloe s 
family, that while there she became pregnant, that she went 
to Kentucky and there married an obscure man named Lincoln, 
the story is highly probable indeed, and when fortified with 
the wonderful likeness between Wesley H._Enloe, legitimate 
son of Abram Enloe, and Mr. Lincoln, I cannot resist the 
conviction that they are sons of the same sire. A photo of 
either might be passed on the family of the other as their 
genuine head." 


Mr. Dills is a native of Jackson county, N. C, and resides 
in the thriving little town which was named in his honor 


Dillsboro. He is an intelligent, progressive citizen. His people 
have honored him with place and power. He has represented 
his county in the lower house of the legislature. He said : 

" My information with regard to the subject, so far as this 
country is concerned, is traditional, as the events named oc 
curred long before I was born. 

" Several years ago, while I was teaching school in the 
State of Missouri, I read a sketch of the life of Abraham 
Lincoln, which ran as follows : Abraham Lincoln was born 
in the State of Kentucky, of a woman whose name was Nancy 
Savage or Nancy Hanks. His father is supposed to have 
been a man by the name of Enloe. When the boy was eight 
years old his mother married an old man by the name of 
Lincoln, whose profession was rail-splitting. Soon after the 
marriage he took a large contract of splitting rails in the State 
of Illinois, where he took the boy and his mother, and the boy 
assumed the name of Lincoln/ The above is a verbatim 
quotation of the sketch that far. 

" On my return from Missouri I took occasion to investi 
gate the old tradition to my own satisfaction. I found that 
Nancy Hanks once lived with Abraham Enloe, in the county of 
Buncombe (now Swain), and while there became involved with 
Enloe; a child was imminent, if it had not been born, and 
Nancy Hanks was conveyed to Kentucky. 

* The public may read in Wesley M. Enloe, son of Abraham 
Enloe, a walking epistle of Abraham Lincoln. If there is 
any reliance to be placed in tradition of the strongest class they 
are half-brothers. I have not the shadow of a doubt the 
tradition is true. 

"For further information, I refer you to Col. Allen T. 
Davidson, of Asheville." 


Mr. Collins is fifty-six years of age and resides in the town 
of Clyde, in Haywood county. He served three years of the 
war between the States as a private, after which he was pro 
moted to the second lieutenancy of his company, in which 
capacity he continued until the surrender. He has been in the 
mercantile business for twenty-five years, ten years of which 
he was a traveling salesman. He is now proprietor of a hard- 


ware store in his home town. He is well known over the 
entire western part of the State as a gentleman of the most 
unquestionable integrity. He said : 

1 The first I knew of any tradition being connected with 
Abraham Lincoln s origin on his father s side was in 1867. 
At that time I was in Texas, and while there I made the 
acquaintance of Judge Gilmore, an old gentleman who lived 
three miles from Fort Worth. 

" He told me he knew Nancy Hanks before she was mar 
ried, and that she then had a child she called Abraham. * While 
the child was yet small/ said Judge Gilmore, * she married a 
man by the name of Lincoln, a whisky distiller. Lincoln, 
he said, was a very poor man, and they lived in a small log 

" After Nancy Hanks was married to the man Lincoln, 
said Gilmore, the boy was known by the name of Abraham 
Lincoln. He said that Abraham s mother, when the boy was 
about eight years old, died. 

" Judge Gilmore said he himself was five or six years older 
than Abraham Lincoln; that he knew him well; attended the 
same school with him. He said Lincoln was a bright boy 
and learned very rapidly; was the best boy to work he had 
ever known. 

" He said he knew Lincoln until he was almost grown, 
when he, Gilmore, moved to Texas. During his residence in 
Texas he was elected judge of the county court. He was an 
intelligent, responsible man. 

Years ago I was traveling for a house in Knoxville. On 
Turkey creek, in Buncombe county, N. C., I met an old gentle 
man whose name was Phillis Wells. He told me that he 
knew Abraham Lincoln was the son of Abraham Enloe, who 
lived on Ocona Lufta. 

" Wells said he was then ninety years of age. When he 
was a young man he traveled over the country and sold tinware 
and bought furs, feathers, and ginseng for William Johnston, 
of Waynes ville. He said he often stopped with Abraham 
Enloe. On one occasion he called to stay over night, as was 
his custom, when Abraham Enloe came out and went with 
him to the barn to put up his horse, and while there Enloe said : 

" My wife is mad ; about to tear up the place; she has not 
spoken to me in two weeks, and I wanted to tell you about 


it before you went in the house. Then, remarked Wells: 
I said what is the matter ? and Abraham Enloe replied : The 
trouble is about Nancy Hanks, a hired girl we have living 
with us/ Wells said he staid all night, and that Mrs. Enloe 
did not speak to her husband while he was there. He said 
he saw Nancy Hanks there ; that she was a good-looking girl, 
and seemed to be smart for business. 

" Wells said before he got back there on his next trip that 
Abraham Enloe had sent Nancy Hanks to Jonathan s creek 
and hired a family there to take care of her; that later a child 
was born to Nancy Hanks, and she named him Abraham. 

" Meantime the trouble in Abraham Enloe s family had not 
abated. As soon as Nancy Hanks was able to travel, Abraham 
Enloe hired a man to take her and her child out of the country, 
in order to restore quiet and peace at home. He said he 
sent her to some of his relatives near the State line between 
Tennessee and Kentucky. He said Nancy and the child were 
cared for by Enloe s relatives until she married a fellow by the 
name of Lincoln. 

" I asked the old gentleman if he really believed Abraham 
Lincoln was the son of Abraham Enloe, and he replied: 
I know it, and if I did not know it I would not tell it/ 

" I made special inquiry about the character of Wells, and 
every one said that he was an honest and truthful man and a 
good citizen/ 


Mr. Beck was born and reared and has all his life lived on 
Ocona Lufta. He was one of Abraham Enloe s neighbors, as 
was his father before him. He is now an octogenarian. He 
is well-to-do, intelligent and of upright character. He said: 

" I have heard my father and mother often speak of the 
episode of Abraham Enloe and Nancy Hanks. They said 
Abraham Enloe moved from Rutherford county here, bring 
ing with his family a hired girl named Nancy Hanks. Some 
time after they settled here Nancy Hanks was found to 
be with child, and Enloe procured Hon. Felix Walker to take 
her away. Walker was gone two or three weeks. If they 
told where he took her I do not now think of the place. 

" As to Abraham Enloe, he was a very large man, weighing 


between two and three hundred. He was justice of the peace. 
The first I remember of him, I was before him in trials. 
In these cases, of difference between neighbors, he was always 
for peace and compromise. If an amicable adjustment could 
not be effected he was firm and unyielding. He was an ex 
cellent business man." 


Captain Enloe was born in Hay wood (now Jackson) county, 
and is sixty-six years of age. He is a successful merchant and 
business man. He is a gentleman of superior sense, modesty, 
firmness and integrity. He was Captain of Company F, 2Qth 
N. C. Regiment, commanded by Robt. B. Vance, and served 
through the war. He has represented his county in the 
General Assembly. He is a grandson of Abraham Enloe. 
He said: 

" There is a tradition come down through the family that 
Nancy Hanks, the mother of President Lincoln, once lived at 
my grandfather s, and while there became the mother of a 
child said to be my grandfather Abraham Enloe s. 

" One Mr. Thompson married my aunt Nancy, daughter of 
Abraham Enloe, contrary to the will of my grandfather; to 
conceal the matter from my grandfather s knowledge, Thomp 
son stole her away and went to Kentucky; on the trip they 
were married. Hearing of their marriage, my grandfather 
reflected and decided to invite them back home. On their 
return they were informed of the tumult in my grandfather s 
household because of Nancy Hanks, who had given birth to a 
child; and when my uncle and aunt, Thompson and wife, 
returned to their Kentucky home, they took with them Nancy 
Hanks and her child. This is the family story as near as 
I can reproduce it from memory. 

"In 1 86 1 I came home from Raleigh to recruit my com 
pany. On my return, while waiting for the stage in Asheville, 
I took dinner at what was then the Carolina House. The 
table was filled largely with officers going to and from their 
various commands. The topic of conversation seemed to 
be Abraham Lincoln. One of the gentlemen remarked that 
Lincoln was not the correct name of the President that his 
name was Enloe and that his father lived in Western North 


Carolina. I maintained the part of an interested listener, and 
no one suspected that my name was Enloe. 

" After this, during the war, and while stationed in East 
Tennessee, I was handed a paper with nearly a column of what 
purported to be a sketch of Abraham Lincoln s early life in 
Kentucky alleging that his father s name was Enloe, and that 
he (Lincoln) was born in Western North Carolina." 


Mr. Enloe was born 1811, in Haywood county, N. C, and 
is the ninth and only surviving son of Abraham Enloe. He 
resides on the same farm and in the same house in which 
his father lived when Nancy Hanks was banished from the 
household. He is a quiet, suave, intelligent gentleman of the 
old school, and a prosperous farmer. He said : 

" I was born after the incident between father and Nancy 
Hanks. I have, however, a vivid recollection of hearing the 
name Nancy Hanks frequently mentioned in the family while 
I was a boy. No, I never heard my father mention it ; he was 
always silent on the subject so far as I know. 

" Nancy Hanks lived in my father s family. I have no 
doubt the cause of my father s sending her to Kentucky is the 
one generally alleged. The occurrence as understood by my 
generation and given to them by that of my father, I have 
no doubt is essentially true." 

Mr. Cathey s Second Edition reprinted the first edition 
entire, and added more than a hundred pages of supplementary 
matter. This was largely a discussion of what had preceded, 
and a comparison of the theories of the different biographers 
of Lincoln. There is also considerable added correspondence 
with scattered members of the Enloe family, but no important 
addition to the story. Perhaps the most important part of 
appended matter is in the following pages: 

Four things have combined to prevent the real life of 
Abraham Lincoln: blind hero-worship; aristocratic sentiment; 
false modesty and aversion to laborious research four things 
Abraham Lincoln trampled under his feet as an elephant 
would trample the mire of the jungle. 


Little wonder Abraham Lincoln s origin has been the sub 
ject of imagination and conjecture. In childhood and youth 
his place of abode a squalid camp in a howling wilderness; his 
meal an ashen crust; his bed a pile of leaves; his nominal 
guardian a shiftless and worthless wanderer; his intimate as 
sociates and putative relatives a gross, illiterate and supersti 
tious rabble. 

Little wonder that in some quarters Abraham Lincoln s 
fame has bordered upon deification. His all but miraculous 
burst from the wilderness into the nation s eye ; his heroic and 
glorious life-achievement; his sudden passing at the assassin s 
hand, these, with the element of sadness which was the in 
separable genius of his nature and culminating incident of his 
fortune, are the elements needful to magnify the subject be 
yond human proportion. Abraham Lincoln passed from the 
mountain top of earthly greatness into the vast unknown in 
a halo of heroism, mysticism and sorrow; and doubtless he 
shall continue for all time to come to draw from all mankind 
admiration, wonder and tears. In the glamor of this mingled 
mist and glare the huge proportion of one of the greatest and 
most human of men has been despoiled by the rude hand of 
the ignorant enthusiast. The great, refreshing spectacle has 
been bungled. The pity of it! As a result of the operation 
of these abnormal influences the entire life of Abraham Lincoln 
has suffered, but no chapter like that on his origin. Here 
was something out of the ordinary something unseen; but 
instead of allowing the light to shine into this grotto in a 
great life, fanatic biographers and other sinister and designing 
persons, have endeavored to magnify and involve the mystery 
for purposes of heathen worship, or have sought to come into 
possession of it that they might destroy it. The paternal origin 
of Abraham Lincoln : this is the secret. Light, once deflected 
here and an hundred other nooks and corners in his per 
sonality, will light up and become plain and comprehensible. 

To evade or conceal a cardinal fact relative to Abraham 
Lincoln is not only a moral wrong, but a reflection upon his 
character and a violation of his memory. The nature of his 
origin is primarily indispensable to an intelligent, not to say 
full, conception of his character. The correct source of his 
origin is, practically, universally accepted as a matter of doubt 
an unsettled question an unknown quantity in his life. 


If no trustworthy means were in existence or accessible for 
the removal of the doubt, for the settlement of the question, 
moral responsibility would not obtain and the mystery would 
continue. But, fortunately for posterity, there is in existence 
and available all the means necessary to a final, correct and 
satisfactory solution. Using the approved methods of the his 
torian in collecting 1 data, there is not a fact in the first twenty 
years of the life of Abraham Lincoln easier of establishment 
than that of his real paternal origin. 

There could be but three ways of accounting for the being 
of Abraham Lincoln or any other man : First, that he was of 
natural legitimate origin; second, that he was of natural 
illegitimate origin; and third, that he was of miraculous origin. 
The first hypothesis has been taken for granted as true and 
passed without further thought by the casual layman and 
biographical novice. The second hypothesis or theory has 
been affirmed by tradition so well defined, closely connected 
and emphatic that the element of myth is entirely absent; by 
the two most intimate and distinguished personal biographers 
of Mr. Lincoln after the most laborious, exhaustive and con 
scientious research; and by an extensive, intelligent and 
authentic public consensus. The third hypothesis has been 
whispered by the few, and voiced by at least one reputable 
eulogist who said that "Abraham Lincoln was without an 
cestors, fellows or successors." It is barely possible that some 
of Mr. Watterson s contemporaries should construe him liter 
ally, and that mankind generally a thousand years hence would 
do so, it is more than probable. Granted that the third hy 
pothesis is unreasonable, the settlement of the question turns 
upon the weight of evidence between the first and second. 

It is the office of these pages to submit testimony in support 
of the second theory that Abraham Lincoln was of illegiti 
mate origin, his father being Abraham Enloe, and not Thomas 
Lincoln or any one else. 

In addition to the sound, sustained and perennial tradition 
of North Carolina, the author submits in this addenda ex 
trinsic historical data and other cumulative evidence. 

Before giving to the public the record of the paternity of 
Abraham Lincoln in the present enlarged form, we desire to 
say that the data bearing upon the subject is cumulative, and 
promises to continue to be for an indefinite time. There is 


other material now in sight, but inaccessible for the present, or 
at all, without the expenditure of much time and no little 

This enlarged edition is the result of the acquisition of 
several years, and, when time and opportunity permits, facts 
that may come to light that are worth while, will be included 
in a subsequent edition. Now that this investigation has been 
begun it is our duty to accept, preserve and publish all the 
material, trustworthy facts bearing upon the subject. 

Two things, we contend, our research have disclosed be 
yond question: First, that Abraham Lincoln was illegitimate, 
and second, that his father was an Abraham Enloe. 

Another thing is clear as a result of our research : That 
there has been a determined and systematic effort on the part 
of at least two of Mr. Lincoln s most intimate personal biog 
raphers to discover the truth of his paternal origin and publish 
the same to the world these biographers were William H. 
Herndon, his law partner, and Ward H. Lamon. 

Again, there is another fact that is, as a result of this in 
vestigation, equally as certain: That there has been a deter 
mined and systematic war of suppression and destruction 
against the publication and dissemination of the truth of Mr. 
Lincoln s real paternal origin by certain individuals. 

It was the original purpose of Mr. Wm. H. Herndon to 
write a rigidly truthful narrative of the life of Abraham 
Lincoln. How much this purpose was influenced or prevented 
is a matter that is familiar to persons now living. 

Mr. Jesse W. Weik, of Greencastle, Indiana, toward the 
last in the preparation of his biography, became a collaborator 
with Mr. Herndon. In 1865 Mr. Herndon visited the scenes 
of Mr. Lincoln s birth and early years in Kentucky, as did Mr. 
Weik, later. 

These personal visits to Kentucky were made with a view 
to ascertaining the truth pertaining to these early periods in the 
life of their hero. Mr. Herndon says that " Mr. Weik spent 
considerable time investigating the truth of a report current in 
Bourbon county, Kentucky, that Thomas Lincoln from one 
Abraham Inlow, a miller there, assumed the paternity of the 
infant child of a poor girl named Nancy Hanks, and after 
marriage, moved with her to Washington or Hardin county, 
where the son, who was named Abraham, after his real, and 


Lincoln after his putative father, was born." Mr. Herndon 
does not say that Mr. Weik after investigation, found the 
report to be untrue, but, instead, goes on at considerable length 
to substantiate the report. 

See suppressed matter following. 

This much may be found in the suppressed three-volume 
edition of Lincoln by Messrs. Herndon and Weik. The ques 
tion then recurs upon the fact as to whether there was an 
elaborate investigation of the illegitimate paternity of Mr. 
Lincoln, and if so, did they write down in their manuscript 
for posterity, the complete account of their findings. The 
facts are that Mr. Weik, because of influences brought to bear 
upon him, receded from his original position of independent 
recorder of truth and fact and destroyed the original manu 

Mr. Lamon bought from Mr. Herndon the use of his 
original manuscript, paying him three thousand dollars there 

But Mr. Weik and those associated with him in their cam 
paign of destruction, were careful to make way with every 
volume of Lamon they could lay hand on. 

Through Weik s influence other valuable evidence gathered 
by Mr. Herndon at great expense was destroyed. 

It will be noted that the facts touching Abraham Lincoln s 
illegitimate origin as first recorded by his intimate friend and 
law partner between whom and Mr. Lincoln, as Mr. Horace 
White assures us, there was never an unkind word or thought, 
are three editions removed from Mr. Herndon s original manu 
script. The Lamon biography which we count as one edition, 
it having within its covers the original Herndon manuscript, 
the three-volume Life by Messrs. Herndon and Weik, and 
the two-volume edition by Messrs. Herndon and Weik. 

It is evident that the three-volume edition was suppressed 
because of the statements with regard to Mr. Lincoln s illegiti 
mate paternity, for the reason that these are the identical 
statements expurgated in the last or two-volume edition of 
Herndon and Weik. 

It is establishable that the collaborator of Mr. Herndon, 
who was the collector of this illegitimate-paternity data, was 
also the chief agent in the destruction of it. It is even more 
remarkable that the current expurgated edition in two volumes 


contains numerous hints of illegitimate paternity but in very 
subdued form. 

These facts evidently show that the original findings of 
William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, upon the question 
of Abraham Lincoln s paternity, were indubitable. This being 
admitted the facts which were published in meager or subdued 
form would indicate the facts which were written or published 
in complete or elaborate form. 

And more, is it reasonable that two reputable citizens, cul 
tured and refined gentlemen, the one the law-partner and life 
long, intimate friend, and the other an ardent admirer, of a 
man among the greatest and most illustrious of the time, would, 
as his personal biographers, write down for the gaze of pos 
terity a rumor, a report affecting so personal and vital a sub 
ject as that of his origin, and that, too, in defiance of the 
well-known canons of society? 

In view of these facts the conclusion is inevitable, leaving 
the North Carolina tradition entirely out of the question, that 
Abraham Lincoln was the son of an Abraham Enloe by Nancy 

We shall not discuss the question of Mr. Lincoln s illegiti 
mate paternity from the Lamon biography point of view fur 
ther than to invite the reader s careful attention to the entire 
quotation on the subject, and particularly to the allusions to 
the relations existing between Thomas Lincoln and Abraham 
Enloe or Inlow, the name being spelled differently in different 

Mr. Lamon s opening paragraphs are significant. He says 
almost emphatically that Lincoln was of illegitimate paternity. 
He wrote in the major part from Mr. Herndon s manuscript, 
and it is evident that he knew that Abraham Lincoln was an 
illegitimate. Subsequent references to the " Mows," and to 
" Abraham Inlow," afford strong reason for the inference that 
he knew to a certainty the fact he had obliquely though un 
mistakably stated at the outset. 

It were far better had Messrs. Herndon and Weik and Mr. 
Lamon written and published the plain, blunt facts. By record 
ing a rumor, a vague report, these biographers lowered, vul 
garized and jeopardized their office. If, as it is our opinion 
based upon thorough investigation, these biographers wrote 
down the true facts about Mr. Lincoln s origin, and these facts 


were afterward modified and accommodated by others to the 
end that they might be shadowed with doubt, and ultimately 
ignored by the student of Abraham Lincoln, the perpetrators 
misjudged mankind and threw a challenge in the teeth of the 
very incident they were designing to intercept. Somewhere 
in the deep of the heart of mankind there is a chamber sacred 
to the love of truth. The tallest and whitest heroes of history 
are the martyrs to the cause of truth. 

Through Mr. John E. Burton, of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, 
the author entered into an extended correspondence with Mr. 
Cathey. He proved to be a frank and gracious correspondent. 
His first letter was addressed to Mr. Burton, and was answered 
by the present author, in a series of questions to which the 
reply was delayed for some time, but which came at length 
and was very pleasant in its spirit and ready with all desired 
information. As the author will comment later upon these 
letters and upon Mr. Cathey s theory, his own letters, with a 
single exception, are omitted; but enough will be given from 
the pen of Mr. Cathey to show his full and mature judgment 
of the matter. 

My letter to Mr. John E. Burton, after purchasing the Cole- 
man pamphlet and the Cathey book which had previously be 
longed to him, called attention to the following facts: 

1. That these two did not agree. One represents Abraham 
Enloe, the father of Lincoln, as resident in North Carolina, 
and the other Abraham Enlow as a neighbor of the Lincolns in 
La Rue County, Kentucky. According to one, Nancy was sent 
to Kentucky alone, leaving Enloe in North Carolina to adjust 
matters with his wife as best he could; according to the other 
he and Thomas Lincoln were both married and neighbors in 

2. Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were certainly mar 
ried in 1806. Abraham was born in 1809. The pregnancy 
of Nancy did not antedate her marriage. Moreover, the pic 
ture which Mr. Helm gave to Herndon of her public per 
formance at camp-meeting (if it was indeed Nancy whom Mr. 
Helm describes) does not indicate that she was then visibly 


advanced in pregnancy, yet this was just before her marriage. 
In a community like that she would not have been likely to 
publish her condition by such conspicuous performance. The 
theory that she was pregnant at the time when she was married 
fails to meet many important conditions. 

3. If Enlow was Lincoln s father, the matter could hardly 
have been one of seduction before marriage; it must have been 
of adultery after marriage. The two books compel the as 
sumption of radically different conditions. 

Mr. Burton forwarded my letter to Mr. Cathey, who wrote 
to him under date of May 16, 1919: 


SYLVA, N. C, May 16, 1919. 

I was surprised and delighted to get a letter in your bold 
and steady hand at the comfortable age of 72, once again. 

I congratulate you on the vigor which this letter discloses 
of body and mind. I cannot see why you should not attain 
the coveted human limit of a hundred. 

No, I cannot help your ministerial friend, however much on 
your own or his account I should wish to do so, if he cannot 
find the information desired in my last edition of The Genesis 
of Lincoln. This he says he has read. I refer to the enlarged 
edition, containing your admirable lecture on Mr. Lincoln. 

It was after I had published my book containing the 
North Carolina story that I ran across the local yarn with 
regard to the " Old Abe Enlow " of Kentucky and Nancy 
Hanks. There is no exact date mentioned by any witness in 
my book as to when Nancy Hanks lived in the North Carolina 
Abe Enloe s home, or when she became pregnant. 

The Enloes of North Carolina had knowledge of the fact 
that branches of the family lived contemporaneously in Ken 
tucky. There is no doubt about this. They intervisited occa 
sionally as business or pleasure impelled them. 

I do not pretend to speak with the force of an oracle or 
even to present indubitable facts in my story. I simply con 
serve a most interesting tradition custodianed by plain pioneers 
of veracity and integrity who deal not in dates or in the re- 
finemenjts of philosophy. 


In fact I do not pretend to believe with the faith that would 
remove a mole-hill that Abe Enloe of Kentucky could not 
have been the father of Abraham Lincoln. There is no 
doubt about there having been a North Carolina Abe Enloe, 
and that this, the narrative which my book recounts, origi 
nated and gained currency in North Carolina or Kentucky 
about the beginning of the last century. 

I am as certain as I am of anything not actually demon 
strable that some Abraham Enloe was the father of Abraham 
Lincoln, and that that responsibility lay between the " miller " 
Abe of Kentucky and the farmer Abe of North Carolina. I 
shall not enter into any explanation as to how the story became 
mixed, but the fact of family relationship and the intercourse 
between the two families would easily afford a premise from 
which to proceed. 

The very fact that Herndon s and Lamon s lives of Lincoln 
were suppressed by men of high standing and influence some 
years ago, and that expurgated parts of these "lives" were 
the paragraphs which referred to Lincoln s Enloe origin, is 
sufficient proof of the foundation on -fact of these statements. 
Neither Col. Lamon nor Mr. Herndon would have recorded 
a lie about Lincoln s paternity, and these suppressors knew it. 

The real truth is that Abraham Lincoln, among the great 
men of history has had more than his share of pure personal 
fiction. Lincoln, like all the very powerful leaders of men, 
possesses in the language of Chauncey Depew "a super 
abundance of common sense," with an eccentric turn of intel 
lect susceptible of the strange combination of emotion, deep, 
tense and feeling, and humor. And yet, in keeping with an 
other character of superlative force, he could be cold and 
implacable, should occasion arise. 

His own cabinet never properly or justly appraised him 
until he was cold in death. Stanton looked upon him and 
treated him as though he had been a sort of grotesque heavy 
weight clown, a sort of wilful incumbrance upon his cabinet. 
Lincoln is the most difficult of all modern leaders to account 
for in the usual conventional way. I have studied him from 
every angle, and the only way I can account for him is, that 
from his conception to his death he was the child and instru 
ment of a special Divine Providence. 

To tell you the truth, it little matters to me or the average 


or common man, how he came into being. We know that he 
was our friend and brother, and that his life was spent for our 
welfare. We know he overruled egotism and ignorance in his 
own camp, for Union and Liberty. 

If you are looking for a religious man in Lincoln, as the 
orthodox world accepts and interprets the term, you shall be 
disappointed. Lincoln was a religion unto himself. He per 
sonified the virtues of mankind. In early life he was skeptical; 
in his maturer years he was no churchman. It may have 
been that in his Presidential years, with the awful weight of 
responsibility upon him, and in the shadow which the death of 
his son cast upon his great soul, he became humble and trusting 
and worshipful of the Deity. It is certain that he always 
recognized the Almighty in his messages and state papers, 
and that he acknowledged his dependence, and that of the 
nation, upon His blessing and guidance. 

No ! To a person who has spent much time and pains upon 
the story of Lincoln, there is so much that bears the marks 
of sinister and objective tempering that one despairs of the 
facts, and would wipe out the whole blurred thing if he could, 
and leave the great man alone in his naked, human, soul- 

You, sir, are just 20 years my senior, but I venture you 
are in some respects the younger man. In my younger days I 
was fool enough to hurt myself by drink; and while I am a 
teetotalist I shall never entirely recover from the effects. I 
lost my father two years ago; my two sons went to the army, 
and my eldest daughter and youngest son died from influenza 
last winter. 

I suffered the loss of my business and my home, and am 
reduced to poverty, yet I have not lost faith in God or my 
fellow man, and am hopeful of a better day. . . . 

I shall never forget the peculiar circumstances under 
which we came to collaborate on the last edition of the Lincoln 
" Genesis," and shall always cultivate a rich plot in my heart 
for you. May your elderly years be extended, and your peace 
be perfect when you " put out to sea." 

I am, Yours at your instant service, 




"At this point I took up correspondence with Mr. Cathey, 
and I quote one of his letters here, and others in the latter 
part of the book: 


SYLVA, N. C., Aug. 29, 1919. 


I am frank to confess to pure negligence and procrastina 
tion in failing to answer your letter. This is a very ugly 
failing of mine. I beg your pardon. 

No, I did not construe your letter as antagonistic or pro 
vocative. I think I understand your attitude. For fear you 
might misconceive my attitude toward the subject of Mr. 
Lincoln s origin, I wish to say that I do not deem the subject 
of the very pro roundest importance. I think, if possible, the 
truth should be known, and that Mr. Lincoln should be ac 
counted for through the regular human channels. I am sure 
from my limited investigation there has been more of news 
paper exaggeration and prevarication, fiction and blaring un 
truth written and spoken about Abraham Lincoln than any 
other great man in history. 

Lincoln was not of divine origin, as was the Carpenter 
of Nazareth, and he did not spring from nothing, as he must 
surely have done if Tom Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were 
his real parents. Worshipful biographers and delirious ora 
tors like Robert G. Ingersoll and Marse Henry Watterson 
have invested his advent with a godlike glamour and his 
character and career with superhuman qualities of the myth 
of pagan deities. Some of these ascribe to Nancy Hanks 
the highest and noblest characteristics of intellect and soul. 
There is absolutely no base founded in fact for any such 
extravagance. Not a single one of Mr. Lincoln s deifiers 
have had the audacity to claim anything superior for Tom 
Lincoln. We make no doubt that Lincoln s mother was a 
woman of good native sense and sensibility, but like many 
another of Eve s progeny of unfortunate environment. 

My attitude toward the North Carolina and Kentucky tra 
ditions is this: 


I am as completely convinced as I could be of any fact 
not mathematically provable that an Abraham Enloe was the 
" accidental " father of Abraham Lincoln. I think Lincoln 
was a child of special providence. That his unconventional 
advent into the world is one of the mysteries. I think God, 
if you please, shaped him from before his conception for the 
work which he wrought and the identical destiny which he ful 
filled. The Architect designed him in the mold of the mass of 
men and gave him a mind to perceive and a soul to feel. To 
these was added a personality of perfect poise which func 
tioned like a healthy human organ to the cry of every creature. 
Lincoln was always human. Indeed, he was one of the two 
greatest humans in a thousand years of Anglo-Saxon history. 
The other was Robert Lee. Lee was the greatest spiritual 
commoner among aristocrats. Lincoln was the great intel 
lectual aristocrat among commoners. Both were virtuous as 
Socrates. Yes, Lincoln was the instrument of Providence, 
through and by human if extraordinary means. It seems 
that if you would read my little book, brother Barton, you 
would get my attitude toward the story itself. I simply 
wrote it to preserve an interesting tradition. I do not claim 
infallibiliy for the " recollections " or the main fact. I do 
claim that it is very extraordinary; the subsistence of their 
tradition since the early years of last century here and in Ken 
tucky among two generations of people as honest, honorable, 
and truthful as any. 

Of late I have become somewhat disgusted with the at 
tempt of a South Carolinian to prove that John C. Calhoun 
was Lincoln s father. If this sort of thing persists, I shall 
call in every book of mine unsold, burn the last remaining 
copy, and wash my hands of the whole business. I have 
never been too deeply impressed with the correctness of the 
morals involved in the dissemination of such a story. I may 
be prudish or cowardly. If it is a lie that Lincoln was sired 
by old Tom Lincoln, ought the world to be enlightened or 
should it remain in blissful ignorance? 

As to my own story: 

I am like the great savior of the Union, " The short 
and simple annals of the poor." 

I am fifty-three years of age next December; a long, lank 
Appalachian mountaineer of Scotch-Irish ancestry, as the 


name Cathey implies. I was raised up on the farm by a 
rigorous-minded hard- working great-hearted father; received 
a very common school training. Have farmed, lumbered, 
clerked in store, got law-license; written a little and drank 
liquor betimes. My wife has raised a highly respected family 
of four boys and three girls, three of whom are dead. Drink 
and the devil have deprived me of a career, but I am happy 
to tell you that I have done with drink and the devil, and with 
the return of fair health, I have hope and purpose to cut 
some figure for the better yet. 

I did not tell you that I have misrepresented my section 
of the Tar-Heel State in both houses of the General Assembly. 

I would advise you to say nothing in your book on the 
religious side * of Lincoln about his illegitimate origin. If you 
doubt, give the public the benefit of your silence. 

Pardon this presumption. 

Yours very respectfully, 


P.S. I am due you and myself to say that I have been a 
semi-invalid since last October, but am improving. Write me 
again, and pardon my open-speaking, as this (frankness) is 
my trait. J. H. C. 

1 This letter was written when the author was preparing his The 
Soul of Abraham Lincoln for the press. He had no occasion in that 
volume to refer to these stories. 


IN a short essay by Miss Ida M. Tarbell on the parents of 
Abraham Lincoln, used in a brochure for the Lincoln Farm 
and also as the preface of one set of Lincoln s writings, sev 
eral names are given of men who severally have been reputed 
as the father of Abraham Lincoln. Among the family names 
she gives that of Hardin. In the course of my investigation 
of this subject, I listened for any mention of that name, but 
for a long time I did not hear it. I made a few inquiries 
without result, and had come to question whether this name 
belonged in the list which I was compiling. At length, in 
Washington County, Kentucky, I learned the story. It was 
given to me by a lawyer, belonging to one of the old families, 
who, however, took pains to assure me that he did not him 
self credit it. He said, however, that so far as he had ever 
heard, this was the only form in which the story of Lincoln s 
illegitimacy had ever been current in that county ; and I found 
that he was totally ignorant of such other forms of the story 
as I had occasion to mention to him. 

The story in brief is this : That while Nancy Hanks was 
living in Washington County in the home of Richard Berry, 
Martin D. Hardin, afterward known as General Hardin, 
visited her on his way to Frankfort, he being at that time a 
member of the Kentucky Legislature, with the result that a 
child was born who was subsequently known as Abraham 
Lincoln. This is virtually all there is of the story, and any 
additional details are to be supplied from the records of the 
Hardin family. 

The Hardin family is one of the oldest and most honor 
able in Kentucky. It first settled in Washington County in 
1786 and its history in the state is nothing short of illus 
trious. The family is of Huguenot descent. After the mas- 



sacre of St. Bartholomew three Huguenot brothers migrated 
from France to Canada. Finding the climate there too cold, 
one of them migrated to South Carolina and two to Virginia. 
About 1765 Martin Hardin, descended from one of the two 
Virginia brothers, removed from Fauquier County, Virginia, 
to George s Creek on the Monongahela River. His seven chil 
dren, three sons and four daughters were born in Virginia be 
tween 1741 and 1760. All these removed to Kentucky and 
settled within a circuit of ten miles of the present site of 

The eldest of these three sons was Colonel John Hardin, 
for whom Hardin County was named. He was born in Vir 
ginia October i, 1753. He fought against the Indians in 1774 
and was wounded. He fought bravely in the Revolution. 
In 1780 he located lands in Kentucky on his treasury warrants. 
In April, 1786, he removed with his wife and family to Nelson 
County, settling in that part which afterward became Wash 
ington County. He fought with George Rogers Clark. He 
had three sons and three daughters. 

One of his sons, Martin D. Hardin, was born June 21, 
1780, and died October 8, 1823. He married, 1808, Elizabeth, 
daughter of General Benjamin Logan. He studied law with 
Colonel George Nichols and practiced it at Richmond and 
Frankfort in that state. He was Secretary of State of Ken 
tucky under General Isaac Shelby, 1812-1816, and United 
States Senator, 1816-1817. He died in Frankfort, October 
8, 1823, aged 43. He was the father of Colonel John J. Hardin, 
M.C., of Illinois, who was killed at the battle of Buena Vista 
in Mexico, February 23, 1847. 

General Martin D. Hardin is the hero of whatever romance 
is associated with the name of Nancy Hanks in Washington 
County. Those who told me of this story were careful to 
say that it never had any wide vogue in that county and now is 
never heard of. In a subsequent chapter I shall have occasion 
to refer to it again. 


THE Enlow or Inlow story as related in Bourbon County, 
Kentucky, is the one most widely current in the State, and 
the one vouched for by the highest names that stand behind 
any of these stories. It is the one to which Mr. Jesse W. Weik 
gave most attention when investigating these rumors before 
the publication of Herndon s first edition. 

In the same locality is found another story, which names 
Inlow, but assigns him a more honorable part; making him 
in a way the protector rather than the betrayer of Nancy, and 
a chief agent in securing for her a home and a husband and 
a name for her boy. 

This story has a place in literature, having been written 
up in a thin volume which now lies before the author. 

In 1889, Mrs. Lucinda Joan (Rogers) Boyd published 
her book The Sorrows of Nancy. Its argument is : 

1. That Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln, 
was an illegitimate child, daughter of Lucy Hanks, Horn- 
back or Sparrow, and a man named Marshall, son of Judge 
Marshall, of Virginia, Chief Justice of the United States. 
Nancy Hanks was born near Lynchburg, Virginia, in sight of 
the Blue Ridge mountains, and there her mother, Lucy Hanks, 
Hornback or Sparrow, lies buried. The father of Nancy 
Hanks, son of Hon. John Marshall, was killed " in border 
warfare." BOYD, The Sorrows of Nancy, pp. 77-78. 

2. That Abraham Lincoln, son of Nancy Hanks, was 
born out of wedlock, near Thatcher s Mill, on or near the 
line that divides Clark from Bourbon County, Kentucky. " In 
the year 18 ," Nancy was living " with other women " in a 
cabin near this mill, a place apparently open to all comers. 

Lincoln s father was Andrew , adopted son of John 



Marshall. Andrew s father was an Englishman who perished 
in the same battle with young Marshall. In that " battle," 

therefore, Abraham Lincoln lost both his grandfathers, 

Marshall, and the English father of Andrew . 

In this narrative, " Inlow, the miller," is represented as 
having been intimate with the women of the cabin, but as not 
being the father of Abraham. Inlow is represented as ex 
postulating with Andrew and warning him not to desert 
Nancy, the mother of his child. Nancy was deserted, how 
ever, and Inlow was presumably the agent of Andrew, or 
else acted under some sense of consideration for the forlorn 
young woman, whom he also had assisted in the downward 
path. Although he himself was neither her betrayer nor the 
father of her child, he felt some responsibility for her shame, 
and appears to have been the man who secured a shiftless fel 
low, Thomas Lincoln, to marry her and assume the parentage 
of a son who sat between Thomas and Nancy as they rode 
away to be married. 

On this theory the name of Abraham Lincoln s father is 
not given, and Inlow is shielded from direct responsibility for 
her condition. But the implication concerning her is that she 
was at this time a public prostitute; though the story which is 
written around these alleged facts holds her up to pity because 
of her love for her betrayer, and her hard fate in marrying 
a man who was her inferior. 

Mrs. Lucinda Boyd set forth her theory in a statement in 
her preface: 

I visited Washington, D.C., for the first time, about ten 
years ago. As I was approaching the Capitol, I came in sight 
of the statue of Chief-Justice Marshall, seated. There, 
thought I, as I looked at it, is the finest likeness of President 
Lincoln I have ever seen. I looked at it for some time from 
all points of view before I read the name. After reading the 
inscription, a certain saying of my father s flashed across my 
mind, and I determined to learn the truth, the whole truth, 
concerning Abraham Lincoln s ancestry. I have done so as 
the following affidavits will show. The Sorrows of Nancy\ 
pp. 6, 7. 


The visit to Washington would appear to have been made 
about 1889; the book was issued in 1899. 

The affidavits which make up the Appendix are several in 
number, and some of them will be cited in other relations. 
That portion of her own affidavit which embodies her father s 
testimony is immediately in point : 

The affiant, L. Boyd, states that a few days after the as 
sassination of President Lincoln, her father, the Rev. Samuel 
Rogers, born near Charlotte Court House, Va., in the year 
1789, (a soldier in the War of 1812, and minister of the 
Christian Church in Kentucky and other states from the time 
or shortly after the time when Alexander Campbell founded 
the Disciples Church, until 1877, when he died) said to her: 

" The grandmother of Abraham Lincoln was called by the 
several names of Lucy Hanks, Hornback, or Sparrow. Nancy, 
Lincoln s mother, was the child of Lucy Hanks, Hornback or 
Sparrow, and a son of Judge John Marshall, of Virginia. 
Nancy Hanks, Hornback or Sparrow was born near Lynch- 
burg, Va., and in sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and at 
the foot of them, her mother, Lucy, lies buried. 

" Nancy s father son of Judge Marshall was killed in 
Border Warfare/ 

" Lincoln s father was the adopted son (whether by law 
or not, I do not know,) of the same Judge Marshall, of Vir 
ginia, mentioned above, and was the son of an Englishman, 
who fought and was killed in the same battle in which the said 
Nancy s father perished. Abraham (afterward called Lin 
coln) was born near Thatcher s Mill, on or near the line that 
divides Clark County from Bourbon County, Kentucky, and 
was born out of wedlock. I have often seen the place where 
he was born." 

Rev. Samuel Rogers is dead, as above stated, but in his life 
he knew Kentucky and Virginia well, and was among the first 
men who preached the new religion in those two states. 
The Sorrows of Nancy, Appendix. 

This statement, with other matter with which we are not 
immediately concerned, was sworn to by Mrs. Boyd, probably 
in Lexington, as it is witnessed by the clerk of the Fayette 
County Court, September 25, 1895. 


It opens at least three interesting lines of inquiry, 

1. The identity of " Nancy Hanks, Hornback or Spar 
row/ and her mother, " Lucy Hanks, Hornback or Sparrow," 
with the mother and grandmother of the President. 

2. The identity of the son of Chief Justice John Marshall 
who was the father of Nancy Hanks, and who was killed in 
" Border Warfare." 

3. The identity of the " son of an Englishman who was 
killed in the same battle in which the son of Judge Marshall 
was killed," thus depriving Abraham Lincoln of both grand 
fathers at one swing of the scythe of Time. In the narra 
tive which makes up the body of the book, and of which an 
outline follows, she names him " Andrew," but does not give 
his last name. 

Between the Preface, in which she sets forth her thesis 
that Lincoln was the son of a protege of Chief Justice Marshall, 
and his mother a daughter of one of Judge Marshall s sons, 
and the Appendix, in which she publishes the affidavits on 
which her theory rests, Mrs. Boyd tells in the form of a short 
story or novelette what she believes happened to Nancy Hanks. 
While she does not pretend to confine herself to historic facts 
in this part of her book, the novelette is her reconstruction of 
history, and claims to be in its essential statements historical. 

The story begins in Virginia, at the foot of the Blue 
Ridge Mountains, in the latter part of the eighteenth century. 
In a cabin lives a young unmarried woman, Lucy, and her little 
daughter, Nancy, who has no right to a father s name. Near 
them lives an old Negro woman, Joult, whose stories of 
frontier life are interwoven, but form no vital part of the 

In her girlhood, Nancy meets a boy named Andrew, who 
assists her at the burial of a dead bird, whose death sets 
Nancy to asking questions of immortality and the resurrec 
tion, when she might better, perhaps, have been strengthening 
her soul against the time when she should meet Andrew again. 

There is an aged white woman, Old Nance, who visits the 
cabin, and who knows that the best blood in Virginia flows in 
the veins of little Nancy. Old Nance comes to celebrate the 


birthday of little Nancy, which Lucy keeps as a day of mourn 
ing. Lucy remembers her unwedded lover, and believes that 
had he not been killed in border warfare, he would have come 
back and married her. She still loves the dead man who gave 
her child life. 

One day a grand gentleman in three cornered hat and 
gold knee-buckles x visits the neighborhood, and is struck by 
the appearance of little Nancy. He inquires whose child she 
is, and Lucy covers her face with her hands and does not 
tell him. But " the grand gentleman lost his self-control, and 
dashed the gourd " in which Lucy was giving him a drink, 
upon the rocky bridle path, and rode away. In answer to 
Nancy s question, "Who is that?" Old Nance, little Nancy s 
aunt, replies, " That is your grandfather, Judge Chief Justice 
M ." 

Andrew is with the judge, and Nancy asks about him. 

" He is the son of his adoption. He is the son of an Eng 
lishman, who came here and died, and Judge M made him 

his heir at law after his own son was killed on the frontier, 
some years ago." 

Lucy did not live long after this incident. She died on 
the next Christmas, and was buried there in sight of the Blue 
Ridge. Slaves dug her grave and made her coffin, and no 
minister conducted a funeral service, but the dome of heaven 
was her mausoleum, and above her grave was whispered by 
the winds, " I am the resurrection and the life." 

The next Spring the widowed robin, whose mate Nancy 
and Andrew had buried, came with a new mate, and Nancy 
prayed by her mother s grave. 

The second part of the story is laid in Kentucky. " How 
old Nancy and little Nancy came to Kentucky, and with whom, 
is not known. Certain it is, however, that in the year 18 
they were living with other women in a cabin on the line that 
divides Clark County from Bourbon." 

There, in time, Andrew appears: and Mrs. Boyd dis 
courses on the negligence of the guardian angel, on the selfish 

1 Chief Justice Marshall was as negligent in his attire as was Abraham 
Lincoln. The gold knee-buckles are probably not historical. 


way in which men love and of the tender and confiding and 
unprotected way in which the women love. In these respective 
ways Andrew loved Nancy and Nancy loved Andrew. 

" Inlow the miller " is introduced, apparently to clear his 
name. He sits on a log with Andrew and whittles, and as 
they sit he warns Andrew that Nancy is young and loves 
him, and that he must not treat her as if she were a hardened 
sinner. But the lesson was lost upon Andrew. 

11 That man never lived, who, if he heard a girl loved him, 
and were convinced of the fact before he heard it from another, 
did not seek the girl and prove it again and again to the 
satisfaction of his own inordinate vanity." This is the not 
very flattering opinion of Mrs. Boyd, and Andrew is her in 
stance in point. 

One day Old Nance and Little Nancy visited Winchester, 
the county seat of Clark County. It was new and rough 
but had its own pride and fashion. There Nancy met face to 
face Andrew, with " a real lady " on his arm. Not only did 
he pass Nancy without speaking, but the " lady " asked An 
drew, in Nancy s hearing, " What lovely barbarian is that? " 

Nancy went back to the cabin with the other women, sick 
in body and mind, nor did she ever recover her cheerfulness. 

Two years later a new lover appeared, and Nancy accepted 
his suit, pressed through Abraham Inlow. She consented to 
become the bride of Thomas Lincoln, and when the two went 
away together, there rode between them a little boy, the child 
of Nancy and Andrew. 

Nancy did not live long. She died still kissing the hand 
that had smitten her and loving Andrew to the end. "Nancy 
died young, and her soul has long since confronted the soul 
of the man without whom Abraham Lincoln never would 
have been born." 

Above her lonely grave in Indiana, Parson Elkin, whom 
Mrs. Boyd calls Robert, though other authorities call him 
David, read the words of Holy Scripture, " I am the resur 
rection and the life." 

So ends the story, and then follow the affidavits which 
attest the principal facts alleged. We shall later inquire into 
the accuracy of this story. 


MOST of these traditions have given us instead of Thomas 
Lincoln male parents not greatly above him in mental caliber 
or in culture. But we have found certain stories which can 
not thus be reproached. We end this list with one which 
ascribes the paternity of Abraham Lincoln to John C. Cal- 
houn, the noted South Carolina Senator and advocate of 
States Rights. Together with Henry Clay and Daniel Web 
ster, he made up the famous triumvirate of the Senate, during 
the long discussions that preceded the Civil War. 

This story appeared in four articles in The State, a leading 
newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina, by Mr. D. J. Knotts, 
a resident of that State. 

With some difficulty the author secured access to these 
articles. Extra copies of the papers containing them were not 
available, and few if any of the great libraries had noticed or 
preserved them. They were obtained, however, after some 
search. 1 But the author will not quote them here, as a pro 
longed correspondence with the author led him to go over the 
ground more thoroughly than the articles had done; and the 
story can best be presented in his letters, which, after having 
been copied, were sent to him for revision, and were corrected 
by his hand: 


Swansea, S. C., Aug. 23, 1919. 

MY DEAR SIR: Your letter of inquiry with regard to 
President Lincoln dated Aug. 17 was received today. I 
will say, I continued my investigations very much beyond 

1 1 am indebted to Mr. F. H. Meserve of New York for photostat 
reproductions of these articles; but as my own letters from Mr. Knotts 
are much more complete, I use those instead of the articles in The State. 



what was reported in the four articles in The State. I ex 
amined by mail through clerks in the office of lands and wills 
in about 44 counties in about nine states, Illinois included. I 
found the Illinois and Indiana clerks very careful and prompt 
and exceedingly attentive. Some of the Virginia, North Caro 
lina and Kentucky clerks were slow and indifferent. Most of 
the clerks were very communicative as to conveyances and 
wills. I always sent $1.00 as a spy-out, to see if there was 
anything of value; if so, I would send more and ask more; and 
that would furnish ground for more talk. In all I spent 
several hundred dollars. 

The great war broke into my plan for a full pamphlet. I 
wrote an article of about four columns, and another of about 
4 or 5 more for the paper, but the war occupied so much 
space they could not publish the contributions now. 

Mr. John P. Arthur of North Carolina wrote a history 
of Western North Carolina about four years ago and gave 
space to about twenty pages as to my views and endorsed them 
fully. He had previously written some in a North Carolina 
paper claiming Abraham Enloe, a man near his home in 
North Carolina. A book had been written by Cathey of the 
same county as Enloe, who knew all the Enloe descendants 
and they all claim that, too. 

A daughter of this Enloe, then quite old (she made her 
statement twenty-five years ago) stated that when she was 
8 or 10 years old she could well remember a young Nancy 
Hanks and child in her father s home; and that an old negro 
woman that had belonged to this family would swear (she 
was nearly grown at the time) " that there was a young lady 
by the name of Hanks and baby in her master s home, and 
caused Old Mis much trouble." From this they fully be 
lieved it when told that this girl was taken across into Ten 
nessee. Their efforts failed to get any refuge for this Nancy 
Hanks how she got there, and finally resolved she was a hired 
girl in the Enloe home and came to this end. Enloe s eldest 
daughter, also a Nancy, carried her across into Tennessee, 
where she (Nancy Enloe) had married, and thus they pro 
vided this escape for this poor deceived girl. Nancy Enloe 
married John Thompson, recorded as owning land in Carter 
County, Tennessee. In 1809 she sold out, and with the En- 
loes moved west. 


My own research is from Amelia County, Virginia, where 
William Hanks came from the Rappahannock country and 
raised a family of twelve children, and hence the great exodus 
of this family almost everywhere. 

One of the girls married Abraham Lincoln s father, 
Thomas Lincoln, and moved to Kentucky. 1 Then Joseph 
settled in Nelson County, Kentucky. Two of the girls married 
Berrys and settled in Washington County, and also a single 
sister, Lucy, came to Washington County with them. 

Now remember Lucy; she cuts a big figure in this play. 

Luke, the youngest boy, James and John came to South 
Carolina. James and John shortly went on to Kentucky and 
Tennessee. Luke left a will which I found after hard search 
ing giving 210 acres of land and all other property to his 
wife, A nn. Joseph in Kentucky died, leaving will and one 
horse to each of five boys and a heifer to each of three girls 
eight children. Nancy, the youngest, got a heifer named 
" Pied." Nancy gave birth to Dennis Hanks, and then mar 
ried. Here is the firm hold of Mrs. Hitchcock and Henry 
Watterson for Lincoln s mother. 

I fortunately got hold of Mary Ellen Hanks, who mar 
ried a Manon, and now lives in California. She is a daughter 
of John Hanks, Lincoln s associate, rail-splitter in Illinois, 
and grandson of Joseph and nephew of Nancy. Mrs. Manon 
writes fully and freely about matters. She says she was 
about 1 8 years old when Abraham was nominated; was in 
Springfield at the time; knew him, and also Dennis, who 
was her father s cousin. Lucy Hanks, of Washington County, 
was mother of Nancy, and then married Thomas Sparrow. 
Lucy was Thomas Lincoln s aunt, and one of four sisters 
in the county near Springfield, Kentucky (two Berrys and 
Mrs. Sparrow and Lucy). Thomas and Nancy had one 
child, Sarah, and their friends after Nancy s death tried to 
fix the records to date back the marriage, and failed signally. 
Richard Berry signs as Nancy s guardian the marriage bond 
of Thomas Lincoln and marries Thomas, and then Jesse 
Head poses as a Methodist minister and returns for mar 
riage eighteen certificates 2 alleged to have been performed 

1 This paragraph stands as Mr. Knotts wrote it and as it was ap 
proved by him in the revision, but I think he did not intend to say 
this exactly as it is said. W. E. B. 

1 The number is sixteen. W. E. B. 


by him in about two years. The law requires an order from 
the clerk of the court before the issue of the bond or the 
performance of the marriage ; these forgers were really ignor 
ant of the law s requirements. 

I wrote the great Methodist publishing house of Louis 
ville to inquire if there was any Methodist minister of the 
name of Jesse Head in Kentucky from 1800 to 1820. They 
replied that they had no such man on their record, but that 
Dr. Gross Alexander, of Nashville, Editor of the Methodist 
Review, had all records and could answer fully. I appealed 
to him in the same words, without giving reasons, if any 
Jesse Head was a Methodist minister in Kentucky from 
1800 to 1820. He answered emphatically, " No." 

The clerk in Springfield, Kentucky, would answer no let 
ter or give any information. I tried three lawyers and asked 
them to search the records and neither of them would an 
swer. I hired a lady expert from Nelson County who had 
done my work there. She reported fully the bad condition 
of office, and said the clerk said he was a Democrat and 
he could not afford to hurt the feelings of Lincoln s friends; 
that the vote was too close. She gave inventories of the Lin- 
coins and Berrys estates (all good, and owned several ne 

I do not know when Luke s wife Ann came into Ander 
son County, North Carolina. But she kept for several years 
a tavern near her home at the famous cross roads called 
Craytonville. In 1807 John C. Calhoun passed there from 
his home and law office at Abbeville Court House. It was 21 
miles to the tavern and 20 miles to Pendleton, the next Court 
House. It was in 1807 that John C. Calhoun commenced his 
practice at Abbeville, and in that year began his journeys which 
occasioned his visits to the tavern going and coming. The 
lawyers and judges were accustomed to stop at the tavern for 
dinner or over night. Here Calhoun met Nancy Hanks. She 
was born February 10, 1787, and was just about twenty years 
of age. 

Well, to make a long story short, for it would take several 
pages to show the reality of this from his kindred and from 
hers, which I have beyond question, Abe Enloe, from North 
Carolina, was a horse-dealer and slave-trader also. Thomas 
Lincoln had come from his uncle, Isaac Lincoln s, home in 


Carter County, Tennessee, to assist Enloe with his mules and 
slaves, and here Calhoun hired Lincoln for $500 to take this 
girl to the west with him. She was confined on the way at 
Enloe s home, and several weeks after crossed through into 
Tennessee. Enloe lived in what is now Swain County, North 
Carolina, on its western edge adjoining the mountains. 

The Enloes surrendered their claim of kinship to Lin 
coln when they got this trail. 

In 1816 Isaac Lincoln died, and in 1816 Thomas sold 
his little farm in Hardin County, Kentucky. He had never 
paid for his farm, and he started his westward trail. Nancy, 
poor girl, died in May, 1818, and was released from this 
unnatural confinement and entered into rest. 

In 1834 Ann Hanks s estate was settled, and the dis 
closure shows twelve children, and one, Nancy, missing. I 
have searched the record closely and there are full returns 
of each, except Nancy. 

Lincoln s life is a sad story, and, he said, made him a 
fatalist. He was a truly great figure in history, a plain, un 
pretending man, the opposite of Jeff Davis and Woodrow 

What Lincoln told his co-partner, Herndon, in 1850 about 
his lineage, and reported in his Life of Lincoln, was obnox 
ious to his many friends, and they recalled the entire pub 
lication, except about half a dozen copies, which they did 
not get: they expunged that matter completely in the new 
edition. W. C. Hinson, of Charlestown, S. C., who was a 
great admirer of the war President, and a wealthy producer 
of sea-island cotton, and who died about two years ago, strug 
gled hard to obtain one of these copies, and finally succeeded 
in procuring one for about $3OO. 1 He kindly loaned it to 
me, and I compared it with the second edition, which I own, 
and it certainly is true. Mr. Herndon seemed to admire his 
great friend truly, and to be fair, but told the entire truth, 
good and bad, as he saw it. 

Jeff Davis record is really worse than Lincoln s. Thomas 
Lincoln and Joe Davis, Jeff s father, were both very trifling 
men. Joe s wife taught in the family of Simeon Christie, 
and is said to have been a very intelligent woman. Christie 

* If Mr. Hinson paid $300 for a first edition of Herndon, he paid 
an excessive price. It can be had for $50. W. E. B. 


was a slave lord, and a wealthy man. When things had gone 
too far with Mrs. Davis, Christie gave Joe Davis four slaves 
and some money, and sent him off to Kentucky, too. His 
family shifted further South, and got more under slave con 
ditions; Thomas Lincoln went North and got under abolition 
ideas. These two men, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, 
came to the front in the critical time of God s providence, 
each the right man. Davis energy and independence served 
the negro in the end, for it drove the Confederacy to its ruin; 
and Lincoln s capacity to keep the Union mainmast up brought 
the war to an end with the nation unbroken. I am a real 
believer in God s sovereignty, and can see how He managed 
our Civil War. I see His hand, also, in this last great war. 




I asked Mr. Knotts so many questions suggested by this 
letter, he responded in a formal article, with a caption. Al 
though it repeats some things which he had previously writ 
ten, and states some things which appear in his later letters, 
it deserves to be printed entire; for it is the most complete 
exposition of the theory of which Mr. Knotts is the earnest 
protagonist, that John C. Calhoun was the father of Abraham 



We have located the Hanks family, William and Joseph, 
in Nelson County, Kentucky, and the wives of the two Berry s, 
Mrs. Lincoln and Lucy, in Washington County. Abraham 
Hanks sold out and moved West. Thomas and his sister, 
Mrs. Draper, remained and died in Virginia. James and his 
wife, Nancy, and John, who owned real estate, are of record 
as selling out in Virginia. John is on record as being in two 
law suits by the court records. Both these brothers left Vir 
ginia. The Anderson tradition is that Luke, the youngest, and 
his three older brothers, came to South Carolina. John and 
James are especially mentioned as two of them and others 
by tradition, name a George or a Robert. They all went West 


and left Luke in South Carolina. In his own sons he calls 
his eldest son, Thomas, for his oldest brother in Kentucky. 
The next bears his own name Luke; then follow John, Robert 
and George, named for his other brothers. He calls his young 
est daughter Nancy, the name of his brother James wife. 

In 1785, Benjamin Harris obtained among other grants in 
South Carolina one of two hundred and ten acres of land on 
Hen Coop Creek of Rocky River. On this place Luke Hanks 
lived and made a will on May 14, 1789, giving to "my be 
loved wife, Ann Hanks," all his property, real and personal, 
and appointing her and " my friend, John Hanie," as co- 
executors. In October afterwards it was properly probated 
from record by John Ewing Calhoun. The real estate and 
personal property were appraised in pounds, shillings and 
pence, the farm being valued at forty-two pounds, or $210, 
and the personal property at one hundred pounds, or $500. 
It included one mare and colt at $38.50; one bay filley, $20; 
two cows and calves, $18.50; one steer, $7.75, and one heifer, 
$5. Among the items was one feather bed and furniture, 
$38.50; another feather bed and furniture, $42. There were 
ten hogs valued at $17. This place was then in Pendleton 
County and the records in the clerk s office at Abbeville have 
been destroyed, except records of wills were saved. I cannot 
learn when or how Luke Hanks obtained ownership. 

Nothing more is of record until 1833, by which time An 
derson County was formed. A suit for division is of record 
in the clerk s office and it is there the heirs or children are 
named. The sons, Thomas, Luke, John, Robert and George, 
and the daughters, Lucinda Pruit, Scilla South and Elizabeth, 
who had married the co-executor, John Hanie. He was a 
widower, and three of his sons, Stephen, George and Anthony 
Hanie, had married three of the younger girls, Martha, Susan 
and Judith. Anthony had died and his widow, Judith, had 
married John Hall. In all there were eleven heirs when prop 
erly classified, but most of them were dead or living in other 
States and the illegal arrangement and citation made the pro 
cess anullity. Valentine Davis and his wife, Jane, who was 
daughter of the eldest girl, Elizabeth, now dead, brought a 
suit properly by employing Peter Van Diver, a competent 
lawyer, and he properly arranged the entire heirship and noti 
fied in all fifty-six heirs of the estate. Twenty-seven of them 


were beyond the State. Amongst them appears a new heir 
to this humble estate, Nancy Hanks. 

Nancy Hanks and the other twenty-six heirs who lived 
beyond the State were legally notified by a newspaper cita 
tion. There was no personal property, the real estate alone 
being advertised and sold. 

Mr. Geiger, of the law firm of Geiger & Wolfe, and my 
self searched carefully for the cost and result of sale and for 
the receipts. Of these which we knew to be in full, or the 
definite amount of the dead ancestor, we discovered by com 
paring with other receipts of known percentage of the estate 
that twelve shares of equal amount were necessary to balance 
properly the total and make possible a clear sale receipt. This 
showed that they first tried to settle with one share too few, 
and the appearance of a Nancy beyond the State explains 
fully the twelfth heir. Myself and my old friend and school 
mate, James F. Tribble, and Mr. Geiger, made search after 
ward and could find no receipt for this Nancy Hanks, either 
personally or by proxy. The poor girl had been resting in 
the little graveyard on Pigeon Creek, Indiana, since 1818, and 
it was 1834 before the estate was finally settled. Of course, 
living members of the family knew of the escape of Nancy; 
but really these men did not likely know the real trail of this 
exiled South Carolina girl, which has so bewildered her biog 

The mystery remained till 1849, when James L. Orr was 
elected to Congress and chanced to meet Mr. Lincoln, who had 
previously served for two years, but was not re-elected for this 
Congress. Mr. Orr was afterward Governor of South Caro 
lina and also judge. He died in 1872 in St. Petersburg, Rus 
sia, whither President Grant had sent him as Ambassador. 

Judge Orr had made physiognomy a special study in his 
political life. On meeting with Mr. Lincoln in Washington, 
after the expiration of his term, possibly as a lawyer appear 
ing before the Supreme Court, or as a political explorer for 
the future, Judge Orr informed him of his marked resem 
blance to the Hanks men, in Anderson County, South Carolina. 
Mr. Lincoln replied, " We may be of kin, as my mother was 
a Nancy Hanks." On pursuing the matter, Judge Orr noticed 
Mr. Lincoln quietly but decidedly denied him the opportunity 
of any further inquiry, and he so informed the Hanks men on 


his return. From them he got the truth of the trouble which 
led to the flight of Nancy Hanks. 

Judge Orr s father had succeeded Ann Hanks as tavern- 
keeper at Craytonville about five miles east of the historic 
two hundred and ten acres of land already referred to. This 
tavern was at the famous cross-roads, one leading from Abbe 
ville by Craytonville on to Pendleton. It was eighteen miles 
to Craytonville and twenty miles farther to Pendleton. This 
was a regular resting place for the lawyers going either way. 
Here John C. Calhoun, the young lawyer from Abbeville, 
who had graduated from Yale and commenced his practice at 
Abbeville in 1807, met very often this orphaned country girl. 

Who was Mrs. Ann Hanks or when she died I have no 
information excepting that contained in these lists made in 
the suits and by the assistance of Mrs. Laura Hanks, who, in 
1841, married Stephen Hanks, the grandson of this Ann 
Hanks, and Mrs. Jane Drake, a daughter of James Emer 
son, who was born in 1821 and raised in this Hanks settlement 
with whom I had two interviews; and also by the aid of 
Matthew E. Hanks, of Gum Log, Arkansas, who left here in 
1846, when he was twenty-one, with whom I had an extended 
correspondence. These three knew mostly all of these Hanks 
heirs, and through their contact with these could tell of the 
others. All these could tell me very decidedly that about all 
members of the family whom they knew who were members 
of any church were Baptists. Mr. M. E. Hanks says that his 
father, George, joined no church, and he himself became a 
Methodist after he moved West. He could remember when 
he was a small boy of their damming a little branch on his 
father s place to provide a pool for the baptism of Elizabeth, 
his aunt Betty. In later years the Hanks family became di 
vided between Baptists and Methodists. 

I have already related that General Armistead Burt, who 
married a niece of John C. Calhoun, and served for a long 
time in Congress with Calhoun, told some young lawyers in 
great secrecy and in the privacy of his own home that young 
John C. Calhoun in his early life loved a handsome country 
girl named Nancy Hanks, and when things came to the worst 
he hired a man named Lincoln to take her away; and that 
this proved to be a very serious period in Calhoun s young 


Mrs. Anna L. Byrd, whose first husband was Dr. W. C. 
Brown, of Belton, S. C., and who was younger brother to 
Governor Joe Brown, of Georgia, was before marriage a Dean, 
a highly respected family of intelligence, moral worth and 
refinement. She was herself a cultured, refined matron. She 
gave me before her death a statement that in 1856 she married 
Dr. Brown and shortly after her husband, in her presence, 
asked old man Johnny Hanks if these reports of Lincoln s 
being Calhoun s son had any base in truth, and that Mr. Hanks 
replied that they were true, saying " Nancy was my father s 
sister and I know whereof I speak." He said that when it 
was known that Nancy had sinned, she asked permission to 
stay until she conferred with her uncle, who lived as she said, 
as best I can remember, in Tennessee; that Calhoun was the 
cause of her trouble and that he had promised to give her 
$500 to take her away. 

Mr. J. B. Lewis also told me that he was for years secre 
tary of the Masonic Lodge at Anderson, and while he was 
making out Judge Orr s Masonic credentials to go to St. 
Petersburg as Ambassador in 1872, he talked freely about 
this matter to his brethren in the hall, how he came to catch 
on to this, and that he had investigated to his full satisfaction. 
He said that Nancy went from South Carolina with horse- 
traders and that little Abe was born on the way and subse 
quently went on to Kentucky after a few weeks. 

I had a lengthy correspondence with the Enlow family in 
western North Carolina in whose charge Nancy was placed 
by her friends here to convey her West. Abraham Enlow 
lived in western Buncombe County, in the part which is now 
Swain County, on Ocona Lufta River, right at its entrance 
through the Smoky Mountains. J. J. Enlow, a grandson of 
Abraham Enlow, says very flatly that the Enlows all know 
that in the early part of the nineteenth century a girl named 
Nancy Hanks was in their grandsire s home with a little baby, 
who afterwards became the President of the Republic, but 
they always considered that he was really Abraham Enlow s 
son. He told me these two facts, that his father s sister, 
Polly Mingus, was at this time quite small, but could relate 
the facts, not being old enough to comprehend the situation, 
but that " old Aunt Milly," who was nearly a grown negro 
girl at the time and raised by his father, had told his father 


and mother (Wesley Enloe and wife) she knew that young 
girl Nancy well and it gave old Miss " a heap of trouble," but 
Miss Nancy, who had run away and married John Thompson, 
carried her off when she came back to see old Master and 
Missis before she moved to the West, and Mr. Enloe says 
that Al. Davidson and others say that President Lincoln had 
appointed her son as agent in the Indian Mission, a paying 
and responsible office, as a reward for " his mother s kind 
ness to my dear mother." 

I was in Asheville, N. C, two years ago and spent a half- 
day in the clerk s office, and with Mr. J. S. Styles, a great 
grandson of Abraham Enlow. He frankly admitted that the 
presence of this girl in his grandsire s home was conceded 
by all the family and that they all looked on President Lin 
coln as a kinsman, but had never been able to ascertain how 
and from where he came. He said President Lincoln had 
appointed members of the family to two offices in Washing 
ton in 1861 and that he had attempted writing up the matter 
from this view, but that a year or so ago his house had burned 
and had destroyed all his data and proof. He said that be 
yond a doubt his great-grandsire employed Congressman Felix 
Walker to see and convey this girl and her infant son across 
into Tennessee; that there was no question concerning Mr. 
Walker, who represented the government in charge of the 
Cherokee Indian interest near his home. He placed Nancy 
in charge of a prominent Indian, named New, who took charge 
of this girl and his great aunt, Nancy Thompson, and con 
veyed them through the Pass in the mountains into Tennes 
see. Mr. Styles was a middle aged man and a successful law 
yer at Asheville. He talks freely and without reserve about 
this matter. The records in Carter County show that John 
Thompson bought a hundred acres of land in 1801 and sold 
them in 1809, and disappears from the records. Abraham 
Enlow bought several tracts in Henderson County and sold 
out, and in 1808 bought the home in Swain. 

Mr. John P. Arthur, who wrote the History of Western 
North Carolina a few years ago, obtained for me the state 
ment of two ladies whom he said were reliable, that they 
heard Miss Elvira Davidson, who married the son of this 
Congressman Felix Walker, say that she was visiting Mrs. 
Walker before marriage and saw Enlow and Walker in a 


long conversation, and when Walker came in he told Mrs. 
Walker that Mr. Enlow was arranging with him " to carry 
that young woman and her baby across into Tennessee " ; and 
that Mrs. Walker replied, " I do hope now that will bring 
peace to Mrs. Enlow s home." She said also that Enlow and 
Walker lived near each other and this Mrs. Elvira Walker 
died about forty years ago, an old woman, but she made this 
same statement to others before her death. She was a sister 
of Colonel A. F. Davidson, of Asheville, who was the lawyer 
that controlled the estate matters of Abraham Enlow in 1844, 
about the time that Colonel Van Duyver was straightening 
up the Ann Hanks estate in South Carolina. Mr. John P. 
Arthur vouches for the veracity of these two ladies who gave 
him this statement. 

While in Asheville two years ago attending the Southern 
Baptist Convention, I searched the office for records. The 
estate had been settled I found in Heyward County, which 
had been cut from Buncombe County and included what is 
now Swain County. The clerk very kindly assisted me. We 
found a transcript of a portion of the estate sent up from 
Heyward to arrange with some heirs who lived in Buncombe 
still. In this transcript was a record of sixteen negroes divided 
by the widow, Mrs. Abe Enlow, amongst her children and one 
named Milly is in the list and described as " active, hearty 
and intelligent, but old." Also I find Nancy Enloe Thompson 
named among the heirs who had already gotten her share and 
that she was beyond the State, a very strong corroboration 
of J. J. Enloe s statement. Mr. Enloe is a son of Wesley 
Enloe, who was born in 1808 and died about fifteen years 
ago. J. J. Enloe says he is fifty-five years old and has talked 
this over with his father and mother. 

Mr. James H. Cathey, who lives near the old Enloe home 
in North Carolina, several years ago gathered a great amount 
of information from the older citizens of the surroundings 
and from the family. Their family tradition is an effort to 
prove that Abraham Lincoln was a son of Abe Enloe, as he 
was familiarly called, but Cathey cannot account for the pres 
ence of this girl there and furnished suppositious statements 
from others to the effect that she was there as a servant girl 
attending to the duties of the home and was thereby caught 
in this misfortune. 


Isaac Lincoln owned several tracts of land across in Ten 
nessee on Watauga River, from 1787 to 1815. This home 
was about three miles from Elizabethtown and now holds 
the remains of Isaac Lincoln and Mary Ward Lincoln, his 
wife. Their resting place is nicely marked by suitable tomb 
stones. So Mrs. W. M. Vaught and James D. Jenkins both 
inform me. They have given me the epitaphs from both, 
and furnished me copy of wills of each from record. It is 
near Cumberland Gap through the mountains in Virginia and 
about fifty or sixty miles from Enloe s home in North Car 

It was here Thomas Lincoln had gone and awaited the 
arrival of this belated girl, who met him at Isaac Lincoln s 
farm. The details of her stay there and her removal into 
Kentucky and the time of her leaving Isaac Lincoln s home 
and the length of her stay in Kentucky before her leaving in 
1816 for Pigeon Creek, Indiana, will ever remain the mys 
tery and uncertainty in this wonderful tragedy in American 
history. From her leaving Kentucky in 1816 till her death 
in 1818, there is much less speculation, but only a few things 
are known beyond controversy and doubt Much has been 
written without any foundation in fact or reality of those two 
years, prior to her death in 1818, with no minister to preach 
her funeral, until a Baptist minister named Elkin rode from 
Kentucky several months afterward and preached it. 

This and Mr. Lincoln s statement to a prominent Baptist 
editor that " What I may be worth to the world is due to the 
influence of my dear Baptist mother/ and what Mr. Hern- 
don says in his life of Lincoln, that the influence of his Bap 
tist mother in his early life made Lincoln a fatalist for life 
is about all the definite information we possess as to her re 
ligious faith and life. The Hanks family elsewhere than 
Luke s family are pedobaptist as far as can be learned, and 
Mrs. Manon sustains this statement of the Kentucky and 
Illinois branches. 

Thomas Lincoln was a religious cosmopolite. He had no 
firm abiding faith and went from one denomination to an 
other, and finally died a Campbellite. He seems to have had 
as little aim in life as in his religious faith. 

The statement so often made that Thomas Lincoln worked 
for years at Elizabethtown, Kentucky, with a Joseph Hanks, 


a carpenter, who had brought up this girl Nancy Hanks, is 
all without any foundation. This Joseph Hanks died in Nelson 
County in 1783, leaving a will. There is no record of his 
ever owning any property in Hardin County. Mrs. Mary 
Ellen Manon, daughter of John Hanks, says the old Hanks 
home was out on the falls of Rough Creek, about fourteen 
miles from Bardstown, the county seat of Nelson. 

I have gotten from Miss Barber, the librarian of the Car 
negie Library at Atlanta, a true copy from the Atlanta Con 
stitution, made for me September 5, 1915, of a letter of Abra 
ham Lincoln of April 2, 1848, to a relative of his, David Lin 
coln, of Virginia, in answer to his of March 30, inquiring 
about the Lincoln family. He says he knows but little of the 
brothers of his grandfather, Abraham; speaks a good deal of 
Mordecai, Thomas Lincoln s oldest brother, and can tell a 
good deal of him and that he moved to Illinois, where he 
died. He says, " My father is still living in the seventy-first 
year of his age in Coles County, Illinois; I am in my for 
tieth year." He says, " Thomas, my father, has told me that 
my grandfather had four brothers, Isaac, Jacob, John and 
Thomas : is this correct ? " He seems to know but little of 
them in the rest of the letter, except of Isaac, of whom he 
says, " I am quite sure that Isaac resided on the Watauga 
River near a point where Tennessee and Virginia join and 
that he has been dead more than twenty or perhaps thirty 
years, and that Thomas moved to Kentucky, where he died 
many years ago." 

Now Isaac bought his home in that locality in 1787 and 
Thomas Lincoln was then not over eleven years old, but he 
was the one from whom Abraham seems to have gotten all 
his information of the Lincoln family and he appears clearly 
to have known the exact place of Isaac s residence and about 
when he died. Thomas Lincoln bought 238 acres of land 
in Hardin County in 1803 and sold in 1814. He possibly 
lived here till 1809 and went with Enloe, with Kentucky mules 
and horses, and met Nancy, whom he brought back with him. 
He never paid for this place and may have lived in Tennes 
see at Isaac Lincoln s when employed by Enloe to go into 
South Carolina. He moved on five or six miles from this 
place and then in 1816 left for Indiana. He moved often, 
was a wandering Arab. He and Nancy of Washington 


County could have commenced life when he was twenty-one 
and given room for Sarah to have married Aaron Grigsby 
in 1816 and not 1826, as the biographers claim. When this 
Nancy died no one knows and where this Sarah lived while 
he was away after 1809 in Tennessee no one can tell. Likely 
she lived with her grandmother, Lucy Sparrow, or in the 
home of one of her three aunts. Her mother Nancy must 
have died shortly after 1806, or about that time, after spend 
ing these years with Thomas Lincoln. In 1806 it is claimed 
this forged marriage took place. It is very certain when he 
came off to South Carolina in 1809 he had made overtures 
to Miss Sarah Bush, whom he afterward married and brought 
to the situation in 1819, after Nancy s death. That is why 
I have struggled so hard with the clerk of Washington County 
and the three lawyers to ascertain definitely as to the date of 
the marriage and its record and why they all evade. 

Mr. James D. Jenkins says Mrs. W. S. Tipton, now of 
Texas, and a very old lady and a near relative, had written 
him that she is a daughter of David Lincoln Stover and a 
great-niece of Mrs. Isaac Lincoln. She says that in early life 
she had seen a chimney on the side of Lynn Mountain where 
once stood a house, the foundations of which are still visible, 
and says her grandmother told her that Thomas and Nancy 
Lincoln once lived in that house and that they were very 
poor people. This was on the farm of his uncle, Isaac Lin 

Mrs. Tipton s grandfather went and lived with Isaac Lin 
coln and his wife after they lost their only son and child by 
drowning. Her relatives became the heirs by the will of Mrs. 
Isaac Lincoln at her death in 1834. She relates that it was 
said Thomas Lincoln was a very lazy, thriftless man and his 
uncle could not improve him. Her estate in 1815 possessed 
about thirty-eight negroes. 

We have read much of Nancy Lincoln s bright intelli 
gence and of her capacity to teach little Abe and Sarah, but 
the records show that the only place where her signature 
occurs is to a deed in Kentucky, where she joins Thomas Lin 
coln in the sale of the farm, and she signs with a cross mark. 
Her father, in 1789, in the certified copy of his will, also 
signs with a cross mark, and Joseph Hanks in Nelson County 
in his will in 1783 signed with a cross mark. But illiterate 


as she seems to have been she left an ineffaceable impression 
on the mind of her distinguished son; and has left the im 
pression so far as collectable of being a woman of good, hard 
sense. But she is justly accused of brooding over a sad sit 
uation too hard and too severe for endurance. 

On Pigeon Creek, Indiana, the admirers of her son have 
erected a nice monument to her memory; but the life of her 
son and its results will ever be the greatest crown to that 
mother of whom he always spoke with a respect and rever 
ence nigh akin to adoration. 

He was a child of destiny, if ever such a one existed. 
He had the peculiar traits to fit him for his arduous, irksome 
task, and no public servant in American history ever more 
earnestly or more unselfishly devoted himself to his task. Not 
till General Garfield could telegraph, " President Lincoln is 
killed, but, blessed be God, the Republic lives," did his eventful 
life come to its end and he to rest from his labors. 

He was a man elevated from the common people, but it 
never misled him. Though sorely tried he was never cast 
down; though awfully beset by trials he never gave up, but 
met his duty with reverent energy. 

After 1832 John C. Calhoun made slavery and not the 
tariff the real issue and his letters to distinguished Southern 
men showed that we could not unite the Southern people on 
the tariff, but that the slavery question must be pressed as the 
vital issue and the tariff and others as secondary or subsidiary. 
For twenty years this distinguished Carolinian was forging the 
issue which really brought on the collision of 1860 and be 
came the chief factor and agency in the slave-lord dynasty in 
urging the crisis for which the hard life and early labors of 
his own son carried by fortune to the atmosphere of a dif 
ferent political region prepared him to be the Union s great 
friend. Thus it was that the influence of the father s life was 
largely nullified by that of his distinguished son. 

When his part in the nation s great drama had been played 
and his performance came to its eventful end the admiration 
of friends and those who were once his foes now vie with 
each other in doing reverence to his memory. Before his 
nomination in 1860 he became fully convinced of his lineage 
and nativity. 

Mr. Herndon, his law partner, says he knows of many 


an occasion of his receiving letters from his old reputed home 
asking about his life and those rumors of his legitimacy and 
that he always destroyed and never answered them. Hern- 
don says that these rumors became so common and scandalous 
that Mr. Lincoln received only six votes from La Rue County, 
which furnished 500 soldiers for the Union Army. La Rue 
was cut from Hardin in 1840 and is a small county. I have 
tried hard to get the vote that John C. Breckenridge and 
Stephen A. Douglas received for the Presidency at the same 
election, but the records there do not furnish me the informa 
tion. I tried Mr. Lever, Congressman, to try at Washington, 
D. C., for them and he states that he cannot get the informa 
tion for me there and that he tried through the Congressman 
from that district in Kentucky to procure them. After some 
effort he reported to Mr. Lever that the records were destroyed 
or lost and he could not get the vote of the three men for 
the Presidency in La Rue County in 1860. 

Slavery, once a blessing, had come to be a severe curse. It 
was a blessing to the negro savage who was taken from his 
haunts of brutality and idolatry and placed amongst the most 
advanced state of Christian civilization in the world. He 
became Christianized and worth far more to himself and his 
race than if he had been left alone in his stolid heathenism 
in Africa. In his new home he became a wonderful factor in 
our national development, in spite of all that has been said 
and is being said against the negro by Southern politicians. 
In his case the missionary custom was reversed, and by the 
cupidity and selfishness of his white master, North and South, 
the heathen was brought to the Gospel. Great interest was 
taken in the moral and spiritual condition of the slave by the 
American master. The white man believed it would redound 
to the comfort and elevation of the slave; but they forbade 
his educational advancement because they believed it would 
destroy the good of his moral elevation and endanger his use 
fulness as a servant, and even imperil his ownership and con 
tinued servitude. Not many men who would invest hundreds 
and thousands of dollars in the slave trade would pay a single 
cent to send the Gospel to the Africans at home. Our selfish 
aims and intentions were controlled by God to very beneficent 
ends and splendid results. And while it occupied the time 
of our national Legislature for a long time, and while many 


men, North and South, were debating the slave question and 
slave rights, and Abolition, like all great issues, had to have 
an igniting to bring it forth. The papers and periodicals did 
much to this end, but when the time was ripe for the change, 
" Uncle Tom s Cabin " set the magazine on fire and our 
Civil War and its terrors were required to relieve the situa 
tion and bring a lasting quietus to this country. Wars are 
the greatest civilizers and reformers in the world. The four 
years war did more to change and advance the American sit 
uation and political life than fifty years of campaigning and 
political speech-making and Congressional disputations could 
have done, and it was more perfectly enacted. The peculiar 
traits and superiority of the Anglo-Saxon are his capacity to 
revolutionize and make changes slowly without bloodshed; 
but the time had come in his progress when that method was 
too slow and God had to use a speedier means of change to 
meet these emergencies. God s forecast is always equal to 
the emergency. 

The situation proved, all told, the greatest Protestant mis 
sionary effort of the world and he is the most completely 
Protestant of any race of men on earth, and in the South the 
Catholic efforts to catch him are a dismal failure, even in 
New Orleans the Catholic negroes are not a corporal s guard. 
In 1860 one defense the Confederacy and propagators urged 
against Abolition was that the Catholic would catch him and 
teach him superstition and ruin him, and a second was the 
free negro would be lazy and produce no cotton and our 
chief industry would be destroyed, but the free negro has 
glutted the markets of the world and as a citizen has in 
war met every duty and as a soldier in Europe equally with 
his former masters successfully met the German a failure 
of prophecy complete. 

Mr. Knotts wrote in pencil, and in some places his manu 
script was not easy to read. I caused it to be copied as it 
was received, and sent each of the longer letters, and all of 
whose reading there was any doubt, to him for revision. He 
often made additions and wrote postscripts, sometimes as long 
as the original communication, and frequently of as great 
interest. His revision of the foregoing brought back with 
it this addition : 



SWANSEA, S. C., Aug. 30, 1919. 

DEAR SIR Yours of 28th, inclosing typewritten copies of 
my letter at hand, and I am glad to make very important 
changes. I write, as you see, a bad hand, and in a hurry, and 
sometimes omit to express things fully. 

John Hanks daughter was Mrs. Mary Ellen Manon, and 
lives in California. She wrote me a dozen letters, I suspect, 
from first to last, on various features of the situation, trying 
to get at what I wanted. About two years ago or so she had 
been in hospital, but was then at home, and was thought bet 
ter, from an operation. Her husband answered that. If she 
is dead, she had a cousin, Mrs. Jordan, living in same town 
who was Hanks who frequently united with her on some 
statement about which she was not certain. You may get 
yet one of the three. 

I have no copies of the State paper, and the Editor says he 
has none and has had several pleas for copies. 

I will give also statement of Mrs. W. M. Vaught, a great- 
niece of Mary Lincoln, Isaac s wife, of what her great aunt 
and others have told her of Thomas Lincoln s home on Isaac s 
farm. She says Thomas and Nancy lived on side of Lynn 
mountain, and that the old rock foundations of the house 
still are there on Isaac s old farm. 

Mr. John Arthur lived in a little town near Asheville. His 
book was published by the Daughters of the American Revo 
lution or Confederacy. He died last year. 

I don t object to your quoting me at all, as I am fully 
convinced these facts are true. 

I am busy for a day or two, but next week will answer 
you more fully as to your inquiries, especially as to the local 

One from the husband of the niece of John C. Calhoun, 
and was in Congress with him many years (in the lower 
house) and a great lawyer, who died since the war. In 1866 
he told some young law students of this affair in great secrecy 
in his home and sitting room, which I got accidentally. I 
wrote one of them and he declined, but owned my informa 
tion was true, but refused to be quoted. I told Mr. Arthur 


of this, and he said he and this man went to law school to 
gether, and he was a personal friend and he would make him 
tell. Mr. Arthur states these facts in his book, but said his 
friend was a strong friend of the Calhouns and he did not 
care to offend them. 

I have also a statement of John Hanks, a nephew of 
Nancy (son of Luke, her brother) to Dr. Brown, his fam 
ily physician, brother of Governor Joe Brown, of Georgia, in 
presence of his (Brown s wife), who died four or five years 
ago. She was very old and feeble and her daughter and eldest 
child, Mrs. A. C. Latimer, the widow of Hon. A. C Latimer, 
a U. S. Senator from South Carolina, who died about ten 
years ago. Also statement of Mr. Lewis, secretary of Ma 
sonic Lodge in 1872, of what Judge Orr said to his Masonic 
brethren while he (Lewis) was making out Orr s Masonic 
credentials to go to St. Petersburg when President Grant had 
appointed him as Minister. Judge Orr was a lawyer at the 
county seat, and knew all the older Hanks men. His father 
succeeded Ann Hanks as tavern-keeper at Craytonville. He 
was Congressman from South Carolina, and Speaker of the 
House before the war. He saw Lincoln in Washington and 
told him of his resemblance to the Hanks family and Lincoln 
said, "Very likely of kin; my mother was a Nancy Hanks." 
But when pushed Judge Orr said he retired into silence and 
he could not venture further. Judge Orr told it to Luke 
Hanks, Nancy s brother, and learned the real facts of the 
fate of his sister Nancy, " and, poor girl, we don t know what 
finally became of her," said Luke. 

I will give you this and other soon. 


Mr. Knotts made plain in this extended correspondence 
that he was an admirer of Lincoln, and a firm believer in the 
soundness of his policies. Though the son of a slave-holder, 
he looked back upon slavery with profound disapproval, and 
he is in politics a Republican, and, as it appeared, an opponent 
of the policies of President Wilson. Indeed, his interest in 
current political questions as expressed in some of these letters, 
almost overshadowed that in their main theme. Most of these 


discussions of current politics I have omitted, but here and 
there have permitted some of the briefer allusions to 
remain : 


(September i, 1919.) 

The Hanks home was about eight or nine miles from 
Bolton, South Carolina, where Dr. W. C. Brown, a young 
physician, settled, and in 1856 was married to Miss Anna 
Dean, an intelligent, cultured Christian young lady, of one of 
the standard well-bred families of the county. Dr. Brown was 
a younger brother of Governor Joe Brown, later a U. S. 

Judge Orr was from that county, and had met Lincoln in 
Washington, and noticed his likeness to Luke Hanks and others 
of the family, and attempted to discuss the matter with Lincoln. 
Lincoln would only say that his mother was Nancy Hanks, and 
then retired into his shell, and Congressman Orr desisted. He 
pursued the matter further at home, however, and his investi 
gation disclosed the fact that the slave debater with Douglas 
was the son of an Anderson County girl, some of whose 
brothers and sisters were still living, and furnished the data 
to this congressman, Orr. This spread all around, and Mrs. 
Byrd, Mrs. Brown s niece, told where she learned of what she 
knew. I asked her daughter, Mrs. A. C. Latimer, widow of a 
South Carolina senator, A. C. Latimer, then recently deceased, 
to get her statement. She was very feeble, and in declining 
health. She, in substance, said : 

" In 1856 I married Dr. W. C. Brown of Bolton. Very 
shortly after my removal to my new home, Uncle Johnny 
Hanks/ a patron, came to Dr. Brown for medicine for some 
of his family. Dr. Brown in my presence asked him, was 
there any good ground for all this talk about Lincoln and Cal- 
houn ? The old gentleman replied very decidedly, * I am sorry 
to tell you, Doctor, that there is. Nancy was my father s 
youngest sister and I know whereof I am talking. When the 
family found out that Nancy had sinned and gone astray, she 
asked to be allowed to stay till she could get away to her uncle s, 
as best I remember, in Tejmessee; that Calhoun had promised 
her $500 to take her away where it would not hurt him. This 


uncle was a John Hanks, who came here with her father, and 
had moved out to Tennessee. Just at this time Thomas Lincoln 
appeared, with Enloe, as helper with horses, and solved the 
trouble. He became scapegoat for Calhoun s sins/ 

Mrs. Brown said that Mr. Hanks stood well as a reliable, 
truthful man. Hanks further said that young Calhoun often 
stopped as he passed through, and fished and hunted with 
the Hanks boys. 

In 1849, James L. Orr was elected to Congress. Anderson 
was his home. The Hanks home was about eleven miles 
south of the County Seat. Orr knew all the Hanks men and 
girls and their husbands. Luke, the older brother, was a 
" court crier " for years, and Orr was a lawyer, and became 
Speaker of the National House of Representatives, before the 
War. He was afterwards Governor of South Carolina and 
Judge. In 1870, President Grant appointed him minister to 
Russia, and there he died in 1872. He was a great figure in 
Masonry. While the clerk of his lodge was making out his 
credentials to carry with him, he was talking freely of this 
tragedy, and comparing Lincoln s and Calhoun s portraits and 
discussing their likenesses. Mr. Lewis, the clerk, told me and 
wrote me of this matter very frankly, and told me what he had 
heard old men then dead, relate of the matter. Lewis said he 
was busy, but could remember a good deal of what Judge Orr 
said to his brother Masons in the hall. Orr related the meet 
ing with Lincoln and its results, and he had traced the matter 
through the Hanks family, and was fully convinced that there 
could be no mistake about it whatever. Luke Hanks had two 
sons, Thomas and James; and Mr. Lewis and other Anderson 
men say they were living portraits of President Lincoln. The 
mole, so prominent on Mr. Lincoln s right cheek, had its 
counterpart in many of the older Hanks men. Monroe Hanks, 
who is now doing business in Anderson, on side view is a 
splendid profile of the President. He promised me a side- 
view portrait for publication, but has not done so. He drove 
me around and assisted me much in getting a mass of lineage 
and history too large for this letter. I went to the old burying 
lot of long ago. There are about 35 or 40 graves in it, all 
of the Hanks family. After about 1845 they removed their 
burying place to Ebenezer, a Methodist Church some two and 
one half miles from the old home. 


In the southeast corner of the plat is the lonely resting 
place of Luke and Ann Hanks. Around this little grave plat 
in 1789, in May, trod a little country girl three years and three 
or four months old, whose wanderings have baffled the skill 
of historians and biographers alike, but the path and highway 
trodden by her distinguished son are in reach of every grate 
ful American. 

You may think it strange, but Lincoln has more and truer 
admirers here in this Southern country now than has either 
Jefferson Davis or John C. Calhoun. 

I am the son of a slave lord and land baron in 1860, and 
who was a sincere and outspoken secessionist, and have no 
natural antipathy for the cause. But we see now that ruin 
would have resulted from Confederate success. I am a firm 
believer in God s sovereignty and control in national affairs. 
I feel confident the world s history shows that, but the rage 
now in the last war now seems to assume that man power and 
money can do anything. God s control seems but little recog 
nized. In our Confederate cause it took draining, loss and 
drainage, to bring General Lee to Appomattox and the South to 
a real true conquest. 

General Armistead Burt was a lawyer of great celebrity in 
upper South Carolina in 1860, and before the war. He mar 
ried Calhoun s niece. He and his wife had considerable slave 
property. He greatly admired Calhoun as a man and his ideas 
of government. Just after the Civil War, under protection 
of coverture of his own home he confided in secrecy that in 
his early life Calhoun fell in love with a handsome, poor coun 
try girl, named Nancy Hanks. When things came to the 
worst he hired a man named Lincoln to carry her away. He 
never intimated to them where Lincoln was from or how he 
got possession of this poor girl, or whatever became of her. 
He lived in the town when Calhoun commenced the practice 
of law, and near here lived others of the Calhoun line. They 
were well to do in slave property. John C. Calhoun became 
near the same time the father of an illegitimate child, who 
became during the war and after one of South Carolina s 
brightest stars in the legal fraternity. A brother of John C. 
Calhoun (older) became father of a boy by a girl in a very 
poor, common family in Abbeville (his county) and educated 
him, and gave him a start. He became a rampant secession- 


ist in South Carolina and in Washington, was Governor, 
and then a national figure. He was George McDuffy. 

It was in this General Burt s house that Jeff Davis spent 
his last night in South Carolina. In his house the Confed 
erate Cabinet had its last sitting at night, and used the Great 
Seal of the Confederate Government for the last time, and 
no one can trace the seal from there. In his house General 
John C. Breckenridge began to dismiss the Southern Army 
from service by giving discharges to soldiers. He had two 
brigades with him, and he asked each general if his men 
could be relied on as a nucleus for a new army, and each 
replied : " No, their men were going home." He burst into 
tears and said he had done the best he could with his charge, 
and his mistakes, if any, were of the head and not the heart. 

Mrs. Fanny Marshall, of this town, told me she was in 
this home that night to try and interest and care for this 
honorable body. She was a Calhoun, and second cousin of 
John C. Calhoun; and told me a great deal more of the inner 
life of the Calhouns a very intelligent woman. She owned 
the land and house a few blocks from this, where the public 
meeting was held in 1860 to call a secession convention. 
Here were quite a number of distinguished South Carolinians, 
and around here was a good deal of slave-land aristocracy. 
With them it became very common for close kin to marry, 
" to keep the negroes in the family." That was getting to 
be one of the slavery curses, and also that of masters having 
slave wives, and in so many cases becoming common, of 
their sons having concubines among the better looking negro 
girls and then remaining single otherwise. 

I spent two days there in Calhoun s home town looking 
up records. It was here I found Luke Hanks will, dated 
May 3 I 7%9> an d signed by making his mark. Joseph Hanks, 
in Nelson County, Kentucky, in 1783 (a brother) also made 
his mark. In 1816 in Hardin County, when Thomas Lin 
coln sold out, his wife, Nancy, signed with him, and made 
her mark. This was two years before the poor girl died. 

After the death of the Nancy of Washington County, 
Thomas Lincoln courted and was engaged to a Miss Sarah 
Bush, of Hardin County, and so matters stood when he went 
with Abe Enloe to South Carolina to assist with his drove 
of Kentucky mules. This left Sally Bush destitute : but she 


married a Johnston, and when Nancy died this Sally Bush, 
or Mrs. Johnston, was a widow with some children. Then 
Thomas Lincoln came back and married her. She was alive 
after the war when Mr. Herndon made such a failure in 
trying to get any information about Nancy, and says she 
would become angry and positively refuse to answer any in 
quiry about this poor, ill-fated girl.* 

The Hanks family, in all the records of marriage, etc., 
seems to have been Pedo-Baptist in faith, except this family 
of Luke Hanks. They were all Baptists as far as any records 
show. There is positive evidence of the mother, Ann, and 
Luke and four sisters who died near the old home. Tom 
Lincoln was a religious cosmopolite, belonging to several 
churches at different times, and finally died a Campbellite. 
Luke and the girls here had membership in a Baptist church, 
and a Baptist, Elkin, rode a long distance several months 
after Nancy s death to preach her funeral. President Lin 
coln told a Baptist editor during the war his mother was a 
Baptist, and what good he was to the world was due to " my 
angel Baptist mother," as he reports her. 

Mr. Herndon 5 says the early training of his Baptist 
mother made him a fatalist for life. This is, so far as I 
know, all I know of her denominational faith. She made 
a profound impression on his mind in the few years she had 
his control, and it is to his lasting honor he always spoke of 
her in almost a sacred manner. 

President Lincoln s inclination to those periods of sad 
ness and ennui is due to his Calhoun inheritance. Mr. Cal- 
houn s biographers (one at least) report this and also some 
letters by a Presbyterian minister who married his sister, 
and with whom he stayed and went to school in boyhood 
for a while ; and I believe his brother-in-law was his teacher. 
He wrote to the family he feared these periods of sadness 
and anguish might yet have a sad influence on his life, and 
told his home folks to encourage him to active outdoor exer 
cise, such as hunting, fishing, etc. But most of his biogra 
phers do not like to report this fact, and generally omit it. 
Calhoun had a high power of analysis and discrimination, 

4 This is not an accurate report of Herndon s statement. W. E. B. 

Herndon says that Lincoln s early Baptist environment made him 
a fatalist. He does not, in that connection, make direct reference to 
Lincoln s mother. W. E. B. 


and these President Lincoln possessed in a high degree. Mr. 
Calhoun, though of a Presbyterian family, was accused of 
being dangerously infidel, like Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Cal 
houn greatly admired Jefferson, and Jefferson was a pro 
nounced infidel, and a very immoral man. It was through 
his influence that a house of impure women was attached to 
the University of Virginia, and all under medical control. 
In all his early and middle life President Lincoln was strongly 
infidel : but the press and weight of the war seems to have 
about eliminated his infidelity, as his two greatest efforts 
show, the Gettysburg address and the Second Inaugural. 
I was writing some articles for the press on the great men 
of history, Cyrus, Alexander, etc., showing how God con 
trolled in the civil convulsions of men: and in one of them 
referred to Lincoln as coming to the top just as the world 
needed a great man, and dilated a little on his capacity and 
fitness and how he brought to a finale the long life of his dis 
tinguished father. Then I got into a hornet s nest. For a 
while after my reply not all was quiet in Warsaw. 

I feel really that Lincoln passed out in a really beautiful 
evening. His mission was ended, and his big heart was not 
adapted to the convulsions which followed. 

Lincoln could appoint a personal enemy to service, if he 
was suitable for the job. Jeff Davis never could do that. 
Like Mr. Wilson, he favored his friends, whether capable or 
not. Mr. Davis was painfully so. Being an Episcopalian, he 
strongly advanced that faith whenever possible in any ap 
pointment. He was continually flouting or snubbing some 
member of his Cabinet or Senate whom he feared or sus 
pected was trying to succeed him. He was often in a sweat 
with some member of Richmond high society whose wife had 
criticised Davis* wife as being unsuited to lead in Richmond 
high life, but he had the energy and vim to carry out the 
views of his slave-lord creators, and to bring God s aims to 
their fruition, and running down the South s force and power 
to a nullity. What Davis aimed at failed, but God s aim bore 
fruit in providing the two most suitable men for the situation. 

Mr. P. B. Christie, several years ago, ran a large store 
in Columbia, S. C, and I was frequently there, living only 
twenty-five miles south of it. I suggested to him one day 
right cautiously that I had heard that he and President Davis 


were half-brothers. He smiled right pleasantly and said, 
" Mr. Knotts, I am told by the best men and women in Edge- 
field, his county, that this is true; and really, I believe so my 
self. If you will go with me out to dinner I will show their 
pictures side by side." 

I accepted, and really there is the rarest number of cases 
where a father and son more decidedly favor each other. 
He told me that often times men in his home had taken his 
father as a brother or near kinsman of Davis, and when 
told that he was his father, the next question generally was, 
What kin was he to President Davis? 

How strange that both the principal actors should come 
from South Carolina, and from adjoining counties, and both 
sons of poor ladies by slave lords! 

Lincoln s exportation placed him under different ideals. 

In the record made by President Lincoln in his father s 
family Bible, he says, " Sarah, daughter of Thomas Lin 
coln, married Aaron Grigsby." Again, " Sarah, daughter of 
Thomas Lincoln, wife of Aaron Grigsby, died." He twice 
denies, thus, that she is Abraham s sister, and does not say 
in either case when she was born. I doubt if he knew. But 
being Nancy s daughter of Washington County might con 
fuse with his kinship, and he leaves that part off. But in 
writing his own birth he says, " son of Thomas and Nancy 
Lincoln." He says also " Nancy Lincoln was born 1-87." 
The second figure is gone, and the third shows that it can 
not be an "o," to make it 1807. Herndon says that he was 
recording his own mother s birth. A microscope shows it 
to be very much as above. Henry Watterson and others say 
this was the daughter Nancy, and that she and Sarah were 
the same. But Mr. Herndon says that Mrs. Lincoln, John 
and Dennis Hanks all deny positively that she was ever called 
anything but Sarah. Mrs. Manon, daughter of John Hanks, 
does not say who Lincoln s mother was; seems a little con 
fused; but does give all of Joseph Hanks children, and the 
three girls and who two of them married, and says that Den 
nis was Nancy s son. She says about this, " I know that 
Dennis Hanks was father s first cousin." She says she knows 
the two older girls husbands and says that neither of them 
was Lincoln s mother, and leaves the only alternative for 
Nancy as his mother. 


In such a condensed statement I have to leave out a 
great deal that would make better connection. I cannot think 
of Lincoln as taking such huge responsibilities on his single 
shoulders as the League and Treaty. Wilson s course in 
Versailles and here will be a peculiar possession of Mr. Wil 
son. It seems to me to be one of the most erratic, insane 
productions in all diplomacy. Mr. Wilson seems to have 
no conception whatever of God s control in civic affairs. He 
seems to regard that a peculiar fitness of his and a field for 
man s greatness and research. To take this great question 
into his own custody is a vanity I do not think even Nebuch 
adnezzar exceeded. 

I trust I have not wearied you. 


The correspondence of Mrs. Manon, daughter of old John 
Hanks, was one of the important features in Mr. Knotts 
letters to me, and I endeavored to learn from him all that he 
had learned from her. As there were important gaps in the 
narrative, I wrote to Mrs. Manon and to her cousin; but I 
did not find them communicative. I infer from her letters 
to Mr. Knotts that she does not confirm the tradition of 
Mrs. Hitchcock, which fact I regret; for I should like to 
have that tradition confirmed by the Hanks family. I did 
not press the matter, however, because it had only an inci 
dental interest and no real importance for this inquiry. Mrs. 
Manon says that her father, John Hanks, was a first cousin 
of Dennis. Nancy Hanks, the mother of Dennis and aunt 
of the President s mother, appears to have been John Hanks 
first cousin. 


September 3, 1919. 

Mrs. Manon gives fully the names of all the Joseph 
Hanks family (five sons and three girls), just as they are 
in his will, a copy of which I have from the records, giving 
one horse to each son, naming the horses, and one heifer to 
each of the girls, naming the heifers. Nancy s was " Pied." 
Mrs. Manon tells whom each boy married, and whom the 


two older girls married. One married Jesse Friend, and the 
other I do not remember just now. Mrs. Manon was daugh 
ter of William s oldest son, who was executor of Joseph 
Hanks will and eldest brother of Nancy. Mrs. Manon says 
she knows her father, John Hanks, was son of William, and 
gives names of all John s brothers and sisters. She says she 
knows positively that Dennis and her father were first cous 
ins, and of course that means that one of the three girls was 
his mother. She says she knows that he was illegitimate. 
She knew him from girlhood, and was frequently in his 
home, even after he moved to Charlestown; that he was a 
splendid shoemaker and married one of Sarah Bush Johns 
ton-Lincoln s daughters. 

Mr. Herndon says Etennis told him that he was illegiti 
mate and that his mother was a Nancy Hanks. Mr. Hern 
don also says that Dennis told him that Lincoln s mother 
was Nancy Sparrow, and that she was not a Hanks at all : 
that she was a daughter of Thomas and Lucy Sparrow. 

I questioned Mrs. Manon, and she did not know who 
Nancy, her great-aunt, married, or what became of her, but 
she knows Dennis was illegitimate and her father s first cousin, 
and that his mother was Nancy. The Washington County 
Nancy was the one alleged to have been Lincoln s mother 
till Mrs. Hitchcock found the will of Joseph and his daugh 
ter Nancy, and she fully settled the matter without any 
further investigation. D. J. KNOTT. 

I endeavored to learn from Mr. Knotts something more of 
his correspondence with the daughter of John Hanks, and 
asked him to loan me his letters from her, which he kindly 
did. I endeavored to obtain information direct from her 
and her cousin who lives near her in California, but had no 
great success; nor do I think she knows much more than she 
told in her letters to Mr. Knotts. As her letters to him were 
written before she was quite as guarded as she later appears 
to have become, I desired to examine her letters to him; 
and he kindly sent them. Excerpts from them are found in 
the appendix ; but they do not add much to what is contained 
elsewhere. Mr. Knotts relates in this letter how he lost some 
of her Correspondence: 



SWANSEA, S. C., Oct. i, 1919. 

MY DEAR SIR Your letter received today. 

The most of Mrs. Manon s letters were about the kin of 
John Hanks, her father, and Dennis Hanks, and most of them 
were about the Hanks family in Illinois, Joseph Hanks, and 
the Lincoln family in Illinois. She wrote two or more to me 
in answer to mine, about the Republican Convention of 1860, 
and what she saw. Amongst other things, she saw her father 
drive home with the two-horse load of rails selected from 
fences built of rails split by her father and Abraham Lincoln. 
She remembered well that her father walked into the Conven 
tion with three of them, which he and Governor Oglesby had 
selected, and that he sold the rest of them for $10 each as 
souvenirs to Lincoln s political friends. She gave me the 
names of several distinguished men who bought them, and 
she said she knew that there were persons in Illinois who had 
them, but she did not give their names to me. 

In corresponding with clerks with regard to records, some 
of them made themselves very intimate, and wanted to know 
more of what I was doing; and one of them wrote to me 
that he had seen an old coat once worn by Lincoln, and it 
was badly tattered and very ragged. 

I am very sorry of losing about a year ago many of Mrs. 
Manon s letters, and some also from Anderson County, and 
also those of the lady who examined the records in Spring 
field, Kentucky. I sincerely regret losing these. 

It occurred in this way : One day I was writing and had 
many of these letters by me on the floor, and I was called to 
dinner. I carelessly left the door open, and many of the 
papers were blown into the fire. After dinner I went to the 
postoffice, and the girl who cleaned up my room in my ab 
sence thought them refused letters, and swept quite an amount 
into the fire. I can regain those from offices in Anderson 
and Abbeville, but Mrs. Caruthers, of Kentucky, is dead, and 
I really regret the loss of the examinations she made for me 
in the estates of the families of the Berrys and Lincolns. She 
made an exhaustive report of the records in the clerk s office 
at Springfield, Ky., showing the fraudulent returns of about 
eighteen couples alleged to have been married by Jesse Head, 


and the failure of the clerk s office to show anything until 
these returns. Amongst these papers also was an exhaustive 
examination of the records in Amelia County, Va., of the 
Hanks family there, their sales and suits, and of William 
Hanks leaving. 

I am also in hopes and expectations a pure, genuine Re 
publican; have been so since the end of Cleveland s second 
term. Since then I have had no confidence in the capacity or 
cohesion of the Democratic party on any national issue. I 
have never had any confidence in Woodrow Wilson. He is 
so vain, silly and conceited that I have a contempt for him 
that I have never had for any public man of importance. 
He is an imaginative theorist and blatherskite, and I really 
fear is deceptive and selfish. He is a buffoon of the first de 
gree. His trip west to drive the Senate was certainly an 
idiotic and bigoted stand for a President. He feels that he 
is the government. 

[The remainder of the letter relates to present-day poli 
tics, and to religion, and does not contain further reference 
to the papers relating to Lincoln.] 

I hope you are well and continue to be useful in the world s 
betterment. Respectfully, 


Mr. Knotts is a voluminous correspondent, an ardent 
Baptist, a strong believer in the overruling Providence of 
God in the life of America, and an admirer of Abraham Lin 
coln. I am indebted to him for a number of important let 
ters which he loaned to me, as well as for information which 
enabled me to procure, after much search, Arthur s History 
of Western North Carolina. But I did not make much prog 
ress in my effort to secure a consistent report of the relations 
of Lincoln on the Hanks side, and finally abandoned it. Mr. 
Knotts continued to send me interesting items and some doc 
uments : 


SWANSEA, S. C., Nov. 12, 1919. 

DEAR SIR A few days ago I sent you some of the col 
lection of letters I had remaining and other records of value. 


Mrs. W. M. Vaught, of Elizabethtown, Tenn., had furnished 
me copies of Isaac Lincoln s will and his wife, Mary, Mrs. 
Vaught is a great-niece of Mrs. Mary Lincoln, who was Mary 
Ward before her marriage. Mr. J. D. Jenkins, some of 
whose letters I sent you, is a great nephew of Mrs. Lincoln. 
A good deal of my correspondence with Mrs. Manon was 
about the family in Illinois and how descended. I was espe 
cially anxious to fix John Hanks and Dennis Hanks kinship. 
She says she knows they were first cousins and that he was 
an illegitimate son of one of his grandfather, William Hanks 
sister, but did not know which one, nor did not even know 
how many sisters and brothers her grandfather had till I sent 
her a copy of Joseph Hanks will, naming- his children. She 
had seen one of Watterson s pieces and cut it out and sent it to 
me, in which he made the daughter of Joseph Hanks Lincoln s 
mother, but as Mrs. Manon said, without any proof of her life 
or origin. Watterson said Joseph lived in Hardin County 
and was a carpenter. To this statement Mrs. Manon and her 
cousin, Mrs. Jordan, took issue and said that William Hanks 
father was a shoemaker and so was Dennis Hanks. I spent, 
after writing to her, a good deal of time and money looking 
after the Hanks family in Illinois. 

I was really interested in the matter, for my interest is 
in the real manhood and true greatness of Abraham Lincoln, 
and not for fault-finding or blemish-hunting. After 1832 
Calhoun s life was embittered with the sadness and disap 
pointed ambition in failing to grasp the Presidency. His life 
was ambitious and selfish, and then revengeful. He was not a 
national character, was entirely Southern and sectional in 
his political life and indulged in a bad spirit. I do not be 
lieve that American history produces Lincoln s equal as a 
purely, loyal, patriotic national character, entirely unselfish, 
but purely a friend to the Union and to the best way to pre 
serve it. A plain, blunt, unpretending man, but honest and 
candid. I rode by Mr. McGee s home, who was an old man, 
about 85 years old, an intelligent man. He told me he mar 
ried in 1851 James Emerson s youngest daughter and had 
lived within three or four miles of this Hanks family ever 
since. James Emerson was a magistrate and slave-lord, who 
died in 1865, an old man. Mr. McGee told me that Mr. 
Emerson had employed Luke Hanks for years as his court 


officer and constable and that he had an abiding faith in his 
integrity and honesty and said all his children had established 
that credit and all the older Hanks folks he had any trans 
actions with appeared to be of this stamp and that the girls 
and women of the older Hanks family bore a fine name. He 
rode to the Ebenezer Graveyard and we looked around over 
the same. On Luke s tomb was this inscription, " God gave 
him an honest heart." Mr. McGee and Mrs. Drake, an older 
daughter of Squire Emerson, and a very intelligent old lady 
of 92 years, said she had known the Hanks men and women 
from her girlhood and it was for truth and honesty. I could 
give evidences of what these two intelligent old slave-holders 
told me of the Hanks character and both told me that you 
could not tell The mas Hanks from Lincoln in two good 

Keep the letters and book as long as you need them. 


The next letter deals mostly with other matters, but gives 
the name of the man who told Mr. Knotts of General Hurt s 
information concerning J. C. Calhoun. 

SWANSEA, S. C., March 12, 1920. 

General M. L. Bonham, a former Attorney General of the 
state of South Carolina, was a classmate of John P. Arthur 
at law school of Washington and Lee University of Virginia. 
He lives at Anderson and practices law. He it was who heard 
General Burt in the secrecy of his home say to him and 
certain other young law students in 1867, I believe, about 
Calhoun s paternity of Lincoln. He refused myself and Mr. 
Arthur to disclose his name, possibly on account of his inti 
macy with the Calhoun family. 


While I did not pursue the questions arising out of the 
relations of the large and widely scattered Hanks family, I 
desired, and most earnestly, to be sure of the family of Luke 
and Ann Hanks, and especially to know about the daughter 
Nancy. This I had difficulty in accomplishing, and my in 
quiries addressed to the Clerk of the Anderson County Court 


brought answer that no such lists were to be found there. 
Later, I procured them, as will be stated in a subsequent chap 
ter, and they are of very great importance. This last letter 
which I quote from Mr. Knotts bears on these records, to 
whose significance I shall later refer: 

SWANSEA, March 15, 1920. 

The long list of the Hanks heirs is on record in Anderson, 
S. C, in the Clerk of Courts office. The Hanks family tried 
to have a division and made a list of the children, and even 
sold the land under the division. The list they made out 
named only the real children or the husbands or wives. Of 
some of the dead ones they would say, " heirs of Susan 
Hanks," meaning children; and in the case of Charles Hanie 
by right of his wife, Elizabeth, making eleven in all, and the 
final showed twelve divisions. 

The whole being illegal, Jane Davis and her husband 
Valentine Davis brought suit by employing a very proficient 
lawyer, Peter Van Diver. It is said he never appeared in 
the courthouse but was a splendid office lawyer. He brought 
suit as Jane Davis and her husband against this long list of 
heirs, all of record in the courthouse in Anderson. In 1789 
when Luke Hanks died this home was in Abbeville County, 
but in 1828 Anderson was cut off into a new county. 

Mr. John P. Arthur sought information in these matters, 
and I referred him to his classmate of Washington and Lee 
University, General M. L. Bonham. Somehow Mr. Bonham 
stopped with the first illegal division, and I told Mr. Arthur 
to get Mr. Geiger who had assisted me; and he and General 
Bonham obtained what he wanted. Officers then were not so 
regular and precise as they are now and it requires a little 
caution in tracing estates. I have ascertained that the Virginia 
records are most regular, and next to these those of Illinois, 
of all the states I examined. 

I think Lincoln s early life was full of infidelity, but I 
really believe the cares and trials of his life entirely eliminated 
this and he became a full believer in God. He was a man of 
spotless moral character. 





IT will not be surprising if the reader finds himself at this 
point somewhat bewildered, and a trifle doubtful concerning 
the result of this inquiry. We have gone to great labor, and 
soiled much white paper, and what have we but a confused 
collection of scandal, expressed in some instances in labored 
argument and in others in vague surmise and indistinct 
rumor. How are we ever to emerge from a dismal swamp 
such as that in which we now find ourselves ? 

If the reader does not experience some such feeling as this, 
his emotions are quite different from those of the author, 
when he came at length to realize that in his pursuit of an 
other aspect of Lincoln s life, he had mired his feet in this 
morass, from which his first attempts to escape got him in the 
deeper, and tangled him in thorns. It was a debatable ques 
tion whether to turn back or to force his way through. 

How are we ever to learn the truth about matters of this 
character ? 

The ready answer is that we are to appeal to History. 

But what is History, and how is it born or made, and what 
is its authority? 

I trust the reader will not find wearisome a few pages of 
personal reminiscence, which may possibly have some illus 
trative value at this point. 

I have always been interested in History. It was a great 
day in the annals of my early education when to Reading, 
Writing, Arithmetic, Grammar and Geography, I was per 
mitted to add a study of Quackenbos History of the United 



States. I devoured it with avidity. I did not stop with the 
assigned lesson, but kept myself out of mischief by reading 
the book when I was not required to do so. A year or two 
later, having advanced into a higher grade in our so-called 
High School, I was introduced to Barnes School History of 
the United States. It comprised a narrative of events in 
large type, and a great wealth of footnotes containing historic 
incidents. This book I practically committed to memory, the 
text and especially the notes. 

In those days school terms closed with public oral examina 
tions. The teacher as well as the school was under examina 
tion, and the teacher took pains that pupils called upon should 
be examined in those branches in which they were supposed 
to excel. I shone in History. Asked any question in the book, 
I could start and very nearly recite the book backward or for 
ward. The proud look of my teacher on these occasions still 
serves to comfort me when I recall some experiences in which, 
for reasons which I will not here narrate, the facial expression 
was less benign. In History I was not counted a failure. I 
thought I knew History. 

In college I was introduced to Universal History. My 
record there was perhaps less brilliant but was rather better 
than moderately satisfactory to the instructors, and I never had 
any doubt about my grades in that department. 

I entered upon my post-graduate study for my degree in 
Theology with what was supposed to be advanced credit in 
History. For that reason I took up in my first year those 
courses in Church History which were regularly shown in 
the catalogue as belonging to more mature students. I found 
this study much more exacting, and I will not pretend to 
any such record as I believed myself to have made in my 
earlier years, but I still thought well of my knowledge of 
History, and often said to myself that if I should ever be 
come a college professor, that was one of the branches which 
I should feel competent to teach. 

In the middle of my Divinity course, I elected advanced 
work in Church History. Then I learned the Seminar method, 
at that time rather newly imported from European univer- 


sities. We did not learn History from books of History, treat 
ing of particular periods and countries; we went to original 
sources, and were required to write chapters of History that 
were supposed to be original. 

Then it was I discovered that I had never known History. 

If up to that time I had been asked, What is History? 
I should have answered that History is the record of past 
events, as they have been duly accredited and set forth in 
reliable books. I knew, to be sure, that books disagreed, 
and that the student must compare historian with historian 
and make allowance for national prejudice and for other 

But when I began to write histories of my own, I was 
appalled at the nature of the sources. 

Out of what material do historians make the books in 
which History is recorded? 

Largely out of other books. 

But what was the material used by the authors of the 
earlier books? 

They used, or endeavored to use, original sources. 

What are original sources? 

Original sources consist in such materials as these: 

The verbal testimony of eye-witnesses when this can be 
obtained; if not, then testimony of those to whom events are 
related by eye-witnesses; oral traditions; newspapers, or clip 
pings from newspapers giving information of current events; 
diaries; personal letters and family records. 

And this litter of uncertainty was what History was to be 
made of! We were given trunks full of this stromata and 
told to make History of it! Surely here was a demand that 
we produce a sweet-voiced whistle out of a pig s tail! This 
fragmentary and contradictory material, preserved in patches 
and often for quite other purposes, was what historians had 
to work with, knowing all the time that the really important 
material must often have perished and the unimportant and 
perhaps the misleading, preserved! 

I had long bowed down to History. It was for me an idol 
with head of gold and breast of silver and thighs of brass. 


Now I beheld it as having feet of iron mingled with mirey 
clay, and standing, not on the rock of certain established 
verity, but knee-deep in the perilous quicksand of tradition. 

Who could ever hope to know anything ? What was His 
tory, but what Voltaire called it, a lie which men agree to call 
truth? History, I said to myself, was Mystery. 

But I found the case to be not quite so hopeless. I beheld, 
and since have had abundant occasion to discover, that many 
so-called historians merely mire themselves in the swamp of 
unverified tradition, and that, when they once succeed in get 
ting their books printed, wiser people receive them as pos 
sessed of authority. But I also found that it is possible to at 
tain, not complete certainty, which never belongs to things 
human, but sufficient probability to be accepted as trustworthy. 

Some little study of law which I had pursued before 
entering the ministry, proved of value to me ; and I employed, 
when from time to time I had occasion to pursue historical in 
vestigation, some of the principles which I learned under the 
rules of evidence. 

First of all, we need to assure ourselves that we have 
secured the essential facts. I will not say all the facts, for we 
can never secure all the facts. Every fact is related to every 
other fact, and every story, if fully told, begins with the crea 
tion of the world. Out of the impossible total of facts, bearing 
directly or remotely upon our inquiry, which are really essen 
tial to our purpose? Are we sure that we have all such facts 
that can possibly be secured ? Are we sure that among those 
facts which we are unable to secure there can be none which 
would materially alter the significance of those which we al 
ready have? 

Now, it must be apparent to any one who knows books of 
History that very many of them were prepared by men and 
women who did not approach their task with any such view of 
the method which they were to pursue. They gathered a 
few facts and some traditions from apparently reliable sources, 
and built up their books almost wholly out of unverified 
material. They did no intelligent work of selection. They 
had no adequate theory of the working of cause and effect 


in History. They merely gathered so much of the shale of 
tradition and, heaping it into a book, proclaimed it to be 
solid historical rock. One who would buy the truth and sell 
it not has to pay the bookseller for the same old lies told over 
and over, often by men who do not know enough of History 
to know that they are lying. Let the most stupid of blunders 
find its way into type and it will be copied and affirmed by 
men much wiser than the original author of the blunder. 

Our task, and the task of all serious historians, is, 

First, the assembling of the whole body of fact, so far as 
that is humanly possible. 

Secondly, the sifting of these facts into those that are 
and those that are not relevant to our purpose. 

Thirdly, the subjecting of the testimony to a merciless but 
sympathetic analysis, a keen and determined critical inspection, 
that will permit no error to masquerade as truth, and no ir 
relevant detail to throw us off the scent of the really important 

Finally, there must be a constructive genius. This is not 
easy to combine with the critical spirit. But it requires both of 
these to write History. 

In the matter now before us, we have gone part way. We 
have painstakingly assembled our evidence, and so far as we 
can learn, we have in hand all the evidence that can be of 
material assistance to us. One side of that evidence has been 
presented. We are now to examine it in the true historic 
spirit, a spirit of careful analysis, a spirit of constructive 
expectation that we shall learn the truth. If we succeed, we 
may make it unnecessary for any one else to write books on 
this subject. We may actually make, what historians aspire 
to make, a contribution to the sum of human knowledge. 

I should like at this point to ask the reader to agree with 
me that thus far, at least, the inquiry has been a fair and 
impartial one. It will be difficult to seem impartial after we 
take up the cross examination of these witnesses. Inevitably 
the author will disclose what will appear to be prejudices, and 
will seem to become a prosecuting attorney rather than a 
judge. Let us now pause for a moment, and reflect that thus 


far there has been no evidence of bias. The author has en 
deavored to obtain every fact, every report, every rumor, that 
had a bearing upon this question. He has expended more 
money for postage than he is likely to get back in profits on 
the book. He has traveled far to points remote and not all of 
them easy of access. He has interviewed or corresponded 
with every person whom he had reason to believe could give 
him any information, on either side of any of the questions 
which he has now been discussing. It will now become his 
duty to sift this evidence, and bring to it such critical skill as he 
may have learned, in order that the truth shall finally be dis 
covered. Let the reader agree that thus far the evidence has 
been sought out with a considerable degree of industry, and in 
a spirit that has been at least willing to learn. 

We now have before us, as fully as it has been possible to 
secure it, the evidence in its several forms that Abraham Lin 
coln was not the son of Thomas Lincoln. The author has 
assumed the responsibility, which he does not regard as a light 
one, of producing every allegation, including some that have 
never been in print before, against the chastity of Nancy 
Hanks. It is now in order to submit each one of these in 
turn, and then the group as a whole, to a critical analysis. 
We must inquire concerning each of these, where and when 
it originated ; whether the persons who first made these state 
ments and those through whom they were transmitted, were 
truthful, unbiased and competent; whether the stories were in 
circulation at the time or whether they became current later, 
and if so how much later; whether they are supported by suffi 
cient evidence to outweigh the legal and moral presumption 
that stands in favor of the virtue of a woman who can no 
longer speak on her own behalf; and whether they corrobo 
rate or contradict each other. 

The law of libel holds not only with regard to the good 
name of the living, but also with respect to that of the dead. 
It is as serious an offense against the civil law and against 
good morals to blacken the reputation of the dead as it is to 
assail the fair fame of the living. Nancy Hanks cannot be 
heard in her own defense, but she must not be condemned on 


idle hearsay. Those who defame her must come into court 
with clean hands, and must produce their evidence, and sub 
mit to cross examination and to contrary testimony. 

The burden of proof is not upon Nancy Hanks, but upon 
those who declare that she was not virtuous. She is fully 
entitled, both in law and in good morals, to the presumption 
that she was a virtuous woman. She married at twenty-three 
and she lived with one man as his wife until her death. It is 
to be presumed that Thomas Lincoln knew what kind of 
woman he was marrying, and that she had so behaved before 
marriage that he could trust her, or believed that he could, 
and that after marriage she continued to conduct herself in 
such fashion that he continued to trust her. If that is not 
true, there must be sufficient evidence to establish her bad 
reputation, either before or after marriage. She is entitled 
to be considered innocent unless and until she is proved guilty. 

It is not necessary that Thomas Lincoln shall produce wit 
nesses to the act of procreation by which Abraham Lincoln 
came into being. That is not required of any man. If 
Thomas and Nancy Lincoln were living together as husband 
and wife at the time Abraham Lincoln was born, and sustain 
ing in the sight of their neighbors relations that had the appear 
ance of matrimony, their mutual consent and cohabitation is 
in itself satisfactory proof of the legitimacy of their offspring, 
unless there is overwhelming testimony to the contrary. If 
they had been living together for some time previous, and 
continued to live together for some years subsequent, to the 
birth of Abraham Lincoln, the presumption in favor of his 
being a legitimate child is greatly strengthened, and the evi 
dence to overthrow that presumption must be strong and con 

Fornication and adultery are seldom proved by witnesses 
to the overt act; but neither of them is to be assumed except 
on the basis of such a volume of testimony as is sufficient to 
overthrow the presumption of chastity, and establish the fact 
of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

An important question will emerge as we proceed, and will 
Several times confront us, and be fully considered at the close ; 


do these stories tend to confirm each other, or do they mutually 
weaken each other ? Is their effect cumulative, or is it such as 
to indicate a vague mass of unfounded rumor? 

We shall answer this question in its place. But one thing 
we should have in mind from the beginning; not all of these 
stories can be true. Indeed, when we look at them closely we 
discover that not more than one of them can be true. Out 
of the seven, six certainly are false. It is our clear duty to 
discover six false stories out of seven, and it is necessary that 
we find six that are false, if we establish one that is true. 

Furthermore, if we find six that are false, that does not 
in any wise create a presumption that the seventh is true. The 
seventh must in its turn produce its evidence, submit to cross 
examination, and show that it is true beyond a reasonable 
doubt. Not only will the discovery of the six certainly false 
stories create no presumption that the seventh is true, but every 
element of plausibility that we discover in the six that we 
find to be false will serve to put us on our guard against the 
possibility of similar falsehoods that may take on the aspect 
of truth in the seventh. 

Does this mean that we are determined to prove Nancy 
Hanks a virtuous woman? 

No; but it means that she is entitled to be believed a virtu 
ous woman unless clear proof can be adduced that she was not 
so. The judge upon the bench would so instruct the jury. 
She is entitled to every reasonable presumption in advance, 
and that presumption is to be strengthened by all the evidence 
which can be adduced in favor of her virtue. She does not 
have to prove it. The burden of proof is upon those who 
assail her character. They must prove their case. 

With these reminders of the rules of evidence, we are now 
to take up one by one the several charges or reports that 
affect the paternity of Abraham Lincoln and the chastity of 
Nancy Hanks. And having examined them singly, we shall 
consider them as a whole. 



THE first of these stories which we are to examine is that 
which gained currency in the immediate neighborhood of Lin 
coln s birth, and which affirms that he was the son of his 
father s neighbor, Abraham Enlow. 

There was such a man as Abraham Enlow. He lived in 
the neighborhood where Abraham Lincoln was born. His 
grandchildren and great grandchildren still are there. 

It is not my intention in subsequent chapters to repeat in 
succession the stories that are found in Part II. The reader 
can turn back to them one by one and refresh his memory if he 
desires. In the case of this first story, however, it will be 
worth while to repeat it in the form in which it is easy to 
pick up in the vicinity of Hodgenville. 

One has no need to go far into La Rue County to pick 
up gossip concerning the birth of Lincoln. Before I reached 
Hodgenville, on the occasion of my first visit, I had become 
fairly well acquainted upon the train, with a man who was 
born in Hodgenville and has lived there all his life. He fur 
nished me much valuable information as to the people whom 
I might see. When we had talked of other matters, I asked 
him what he knew or had heard of Lincoln s parentage. He 

" All I know about it is what all the old folks used to say, 
and they all said that the father of Lincoln was Abe Enlow. 
I never heard them give any reasons, or tell how they knew, 
but they all knew the story and believed it. There may have 
been some who did not, but all that I remember to have heard 
say anything about it took it for granted it was true. 

" This county was Democratic, and sent its boys mostly 
to the Southern army. There was a time when Lincoln was 



not highly thought of here. People said he brought on the war, 
and he took away their niggers. But they think well of him 
now, and are proud that he was born here. I believe that if 
he had lived he would have colonized the niggers. If he 
had done that after freeing them, he would have been the 
greatest man this country ever produced. 

" The old-time nigger was all right. He knew his place. 
But these niggers we have here now are no good. You can t 
hire one of them to make your garden. Once in a while there s 
an honest one, but most of them just steal. 

" We think more of Lincoln now than we did just after 
the war. There was a good deal then to make people bitter, 
but that is nearly all gone. The farther we get from the war, 
the more people see that Lincoln was all right, and the best 
friend the South ever had. 

" But the old people did not think much of Lincoln, and 
you can t very well blame them. They used to talk about him, 
and they did not believe that he was Tom Lincoln s son. They 
do not talk much about it now as they used to do. 

" There is a good deal of difference of opinion when they 
get to talking. Some say he was born in Elizabethtown, and 
some say that he was born somewhere else and moved here. 
But I do not believe either of those stories. I believe he was 
born here, and that Abe Enlow was his father." 

I give this story as it was given to me, without animus, by 
an intelligent man. It will stand as fairly typical of the stories 
which one may hear from the middle aged and elderly people 
of Hodgenville who believe the story. 

But when these good and honest people are cross- 
questioned, the story weakens. When did the witnesses per 
sonally hear of this? They have heard of it all their lives. 
What was the first time they distinctly remember to have 
heard it ? Who was it that told it on that occasion, and under 
what circumstances which fix the date ? 

Under questioning of this character the result is obtained 
that while certain of these people are sure that the " old 
folks " must have heard it long, long ago, no one living ap 
pears to recall having heard it until after the Civil War. Every 


attempt to fix an earlier date grows vague, and falls back on 
generalities. No one who was born, say in 1840, appears to 
be able to recall any definite event earlier than 1865 associated 
with the distinct memory of this story. 

The author, having made a somewhat diligent inquiry, on 
the ground and through correspondence, is fully convinced 
that Hodgenville never entertained a suspicion of the legiti 
macy of Abraham Lincoln until the bitter days that came near 
the end of the Rebellion, and that then the rumor came from 
the outside. 

In considering the truth or falsehood of these stones con 
cerning the birth of Abraham Lincoln, it is important to ask, 
When did these stories originate, and on whose authority 
were they first promulgated? 

This is a question to which no satisfactory answer appears 
hitherto to have been given. The author has made diligent 
inquiry in the vicinity of Hodgenville, and cannot learn that 
any hint or rumor reflecting upon the chastity of Nancy Hanks 
or the legitimate birth of Abraham Lincoln was current there 
in 1809, or during the period when the Lincolns resided there, 
nor for half a century after they had moved away. 

There is no evidence known to the author that this rumor 
in any of its forms originated in the only place where, if true, 
it should have originated. 

Critics of the meager biographical material furnished by 
Lincoln lifted their eyebrows a little in 1860, and by the time 
the Copperheads were doing their most evil work a full- 
fledged scandal was in circulation. But Hodgenville had 
never heard of it. 

Not till Lincoln was a candidate the second time did a re 
port reach Hodgenville in any way derogatory to the moral 
character of Nancy Hanks. Hodgenville did not make the dis 
covery by any search of local records; this gossip filtered in 
from the outside world. Hodgenville had little pride in Lin 
coln during the war, and there were many people there who 
were not unwilling to believe the story. 

The question about Lincoln s legitimacy was discussed at 
Elizabethtown before it made its way to La Rue County. The 


frequent convening of court in that county brought to town 
politicians who, in conversation with Samuel Haycraft, learned 
that he had been unable to locate the certificate of marriage of 
Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. This did not at first carry with 
it any necessity for the finding of another man, for it did not, 
in its first form, imply that Thomas Lincoln was not Abra 
ham s father. Thomas and Nancy Lincoln were living together 
as husband and wife when their son Abraham was born, and 
the fact was not questioned in Hardin County, and has never 
been questioned there to this day. If they were not legally 
married, theirs was a common law marriage, and Thomas was 
still the father. No one needed to go to Hodgenville to learn 
anything about this, for the records were not there, but pre 
sumably in Elizabethtown if anywhere. Whatever gossip 
there was from 1860 to 1865 was wholly on the assumption 
that Thomas was still the father of Abraham. 

Of this we have an interesting testimonial in Lamon s 
Life of Lincoln: 

" It is admitted by all the old residents of the place that 
they were honestly married, but precisely when or how no 
one can tell" (p. 10). 

This is on the basis of what Herndon learned in his visit 
to the spot in 1865; and it must not be forgotten. In 1865 
the neighbors had not begun to mention Abraham Enlow or 
any other man to any extent that Herndon could learn through 
inquiry on the ground. The certificate had not been found, 
but all the neighbors believed they were married. 

This is proof positive that no tradition had ever existed 
in the vicinity of her home and dating from the event 
that charged Nancy Hanks with being other than a virtuous 
woman. The statement of Herndon is in accord with all that 
I have later learned by the most diligent search; except that 
there began to be question whether there had been an actual 
marriage, though at this stage no question of Thomas Lin 
coln s paternity. 

Furthermore, Nancy Hanks herself left no vestige of a 
memory of her own personality upon her neighbors in Eliza 
bethtown, so far as could be discovered in 1860. She lived 


there with her husband from the summer of 1806 till the 
spring of 1808, but no one remembered her when in 1860 it 
became known that Abraham Lincoln, who was born in Har- 
din County, was nominated for the presidency. Perhaps the 
two most prominent families in Elizabethtown were the Helms 
and the Haycrafts. The Helms should have known something 
about the Lincolns, for Major General Ben Hardin Helm, 
later of the Confederate army, married a half sister of Mary 
Todd Lincoln and she is still living and has written to me ; but 
when the Helm family began the process of remembering what 
they could recall about the Lincolns, the stones which they 
furnished to Collins for his History of Kentucky went back 
not to Nancy Hanks, but to Sarah Bush Johnston, whom, at 
the beginning f they supposed to have been the mother of Lin 
coln. The story as printed by Collins is edited to make her 
his step-mother, and it is a story of no importance in itself; 
but it shows two things : first, that the memory of Nancy Hanks 
had completely faded from Elizabethtown; and secondly, that 
the little incident on which the story in Collins was based, 
never occurred. They were mistaken both as to the fact and 
the relationship. 

When Samuel Haycraft wrote to Lincoln in an endeavor 
to establish a relationship, his knowledge was not of Nancy 
Hanks but of Sarah Johnston, whom in 1860 he supposed to 
have been the mother of Abraham Lincoln. 

These facts are conclusive, and they do not stand alone, 
in their complete proof that there was in Hardin and La Rue 
Counties in 1860 no memory of any charge against the chastity 
of Nancy Hanks. 

Reference should be made, however, to the story written 
out for Herndon in August, 1865, by J. B. Helm, which Hern- 
don published in his Life of Lincoln: 

The Hanks girls were great at camp-meetings. I remem 
ber one in 1806. I will give you a scene, and if you will then 
read the books written on the subject you may find some 
apology for the superstition that was said to be in Abe Lin 
coln s character. It was at a camp-meeting, as before said, 
when a general shout was about to commence. Preparations 


were being made; a young lady invited me to stand on a bench 
by her side where we could see all over the altar. To the right a 
strong, athletic young man, about twenty five years old, was 
being put in trim for the occasion, which was done by divest 
ing him of all apparel except shirt and pants. On the left 
a young lady was being put in trim in much the same manner, 
so that her clothes would not be in the way, and so that, when 
her combs flew out, her hair would go in graceful braids. 
She, too, was young not more than twenty, perhaps. The 
performance commenced about the same time by the young 
man on the right and the young lady on the left. Slowly and 
gracefully they worked their way to the center, singing, shout 
ing, hugging, kissing, generally their own sex, until at last, 
nearer and nearer they came. The center of the altar was 
reached, and the two closed, with their arms around each 
other, the man singing and shouting at the top of his voice, 

" I have my Jesus in my arms, 
Sweet as honey, strong as bacon ham." 

Just at this moment the young lady holding to my arm 
whispered, " They are to be married next week, her name is 
Hanks." There were very few who did not believe this true 
religion, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the man who did not 
believe it did well to keep it to himself. The Hankses were 
the finest singers and shouters in our country. 

Concerning this incident Herndon adds: 

Here my informant stops, and on account of his death 
several years ago I failed to learn whether this young lady 
shouter who figured in the foregoing scene was the President s 
mother or not. The fact that Nancy Hanks did marry in 
that year gives color to the belief that it was she. As to the 
probability of the young man being Thomas Lincoln it is 
difficult to say; such a performance as the one described must 
have required a little more emotion and enthusiasm than the 
tardy and inert carpenter was in the habit of manifesting. 
Herndon s Lincoln, Vol. I, pp. 14-15. 

I was not present, but I am willing to express an opinion 
which is based on a pretty intimate knowledge of social and 
religious life of the Kentucky hills, that if the young lady 


in the above scene was Nancy Hanks, and she was to have 
been married a week later, the young man was Thomas Lin 
coln. Even in such incidents there were certain conventions 
to be observed; as Mr. Helm notes the hugging and kissing, 
though miscellaneous, was confined to persons of the same sex 
in practically all cases (and for the exceptions if listed some 
reason would appear for the exception) until these two met 
who were known to be betrothed and about to be married. 
The incident simply would not have occurred, with the ap 
proval and assistance of the large company, except on the 
basis of some such general knowledge. 

It would not be safe to assume that this couple consisted 
of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. Thomas and Nancy 
were both older than the couple described, and were probably 
both in Washington County preparing for the wedding. More 
over, if Mr. Helm is correct in his dates, it was certainly not 
this couple; for farmers did not leave their corn-plowing for 
camp-meetings the first of June. Camp-meetings were held 
in the autumn. If this occurred in 1806, Thomas and Nancy 
were married and she was pregnant with little Sarah before the 
camp-meeting season. 

Mr. Helm was an old man when he told this story. He had 
to go back sixty years for the details of it, and sixty years 
is a long time and plays havoc with details in an old man s 
memory. Perhaps he did not remember everything exactly as 
it occurred. Perhaps the young lady with whom he was pres 
ent at the camp-meeting, and to whom if he made love he 
probably did it less publicly, was mistaken as to the name of 
the girl. Besides, there were other girls by the name of Hanks, 
and others beside the Hanks girls who shouted and were 
hugged at camp-meetings. 

But even if the young lady was correct, and Helm was ac 
curate, and the girl was Nancy Hanks and the young man 
Thomas Lincoln, the incident is to be judged in the light 
of the customs of the time and the standards of propriety 
then prevalent. Assuming that the girl was Nancy, the young 
man was Tom, or there would have been murder just after 
the benediction. That noisy, ridiculous exhibition merely 


showed that a couple betrothed and on the threshold of matri 
mony, sometimes mixed their religion and their love-making 
in proportions not in good taste. But that, I beg leave to 
assure any persons who like myself were not there, and who 
unlike myself have no knowledge of camp-meetings and other 
noisy religious demonstrations among people in the back 
woods, does not even by inference or implication militate 
against the chastity of Nancy Hanks. 

Personally, I deem the incident as containing no proof that 
Nancy Hanks was a participant in it; but if she was, whatever 
happened in the description was in broad daylight, in full view 
of a congregation, and was in accord with the ethical standards 
of the time. 

A good many things occurred around the fringes of camp- 
meetings that ought not to have occurred. There was almost 
always a boot-legger with whisky. There were frequent rights. 
It was not at all infrequent for a crowd of toughs to attempt to 
break up the meeting, and for the preachers to show that 
they belonged to the church-militant. There were other evils 
which found opportunity for occurrence at various hiding 
places in the woods and which need not here be described. 
But the old-fashioned camp-meeting was an event of no little 
social and religious significance, and it did more good than 

I am not undertaking, however, to defend the old camp- 
meetings, none of which I ever organized or conducted, but 
in some of which I have participated as a preacher by invita 
tion. I am saying, and wish to say it very plainly, that while 
such meetings were the scenes of demonstrations which I 
never enjoyed and do not defend, the things that happened out 
in the open, even if in as bad taste as those described by Mr. 
Helm, were not immoral. No couple who had come to camp- 
meeting for immoral purposes would have advertised the fact 
or set the whole camp to watching them by any such an exhibi 
tion. Nor would two persons known to be immoral have been 
permitted a leading place in such a demonstration. 

If Nancy Hanks was publicly hugged at a camp-meeting 
a week before her marriage, as I think she was not, it was 


her own husband of a week later who hugged her. And that 
is a safe place to dismiss the matter. 

The next discovery which I made upon a careful survey 
of the ground, and study of roads and distances and home- 
sites, was that in all probability Nancy Hanks Lincoln had 
never seen Abraham Enlow at the time of her conception. 

Here I am greatly indebted to certain local attorneys, 
whose assistance I acknowledge. Hon. Richard W. Creal, 
County Judge, who was born on the Lincoln Farm, Mr. O. M. 
Mather, local historian, great-grandson of several pioneers of 
Hodgenville, Mr. Charles F. Creal, partner of Mr. Mather 
and a descendant of the family that owned the Lincoln Farm, 
and Mr. L. B. Handley, attorney for the Lincoln Farm Asso 
ciation, gave me the fruits of their research and assisted me in 
further investigation. 

When the Lincoln Farm Association was formed for the 
purchase of the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, and which sub 
sequently turned the birthplace and farm over to the United 
States Government, it became important to prove to the satis 
faction of those who were to pay their money in the first place 
and of the Government afterward, that Abraham Lincoln was 
actually born there. Washington County set up a claim that he 
was born in that county, in the home of Richard Berry, and 
Washington County still insists that that claim is well founded. 
It became necessary to learn just when Thomas and Nancy 
Lincoln first occupied the Lincoln Farm on Nolin Creek. The 
investigation, as Mr. Handley informs me, and the others 
agree, clearly established that Thomas and Nancy Lincoln 
moved from Elizabethtown in the late spring or early sum 
mer of 1808, not to the farm aforesaid, but to the farm of 
George Brownfield, where they lived during that summer and 
fall in a cabin no longer standing but located in the orchard 
of wild crab-apples already described. That was where the 
life of Abraham Lincoln began, unless it had begun before the 
removal of his parents from Elizabethtown, though he was 
born in the cabin above the Rock Spring, on Nolin Creek, on 
what is now known as the Lincoln Farm. 

When Abraham Lincoln was born, on the Rock Spring 


farm, on Nolin Creek, two and one half miles south of the 
present town of Hodgenville, the Enlows lived some two miles 
distant, and were among the nearest neighbors of the Lincolns. 
But the date which immediately concerns us is not the date of 
Abraham s birth, but of his conception. Where were Thomas 
and Nancy Lincoln living at that time? 

The normal period of gestation is ten lunar months, or two 
hundred eighty days. Where were Thomas and Nancy Lin 
coln living on May 8, or about that date, in the year 1808? 

They were not living on the farm where Abraham Lincoln 
was born ten lunar months later. We do not know that they 
had ever seen that farm or heard of it. Some authors have 
told us that Thomas Lincoln bought that farm in 1803, and 
had long been at work erecting a home there. The farm 
which came into his possession in 1803 was many miles from 
Rock Spring, and has no place in the life-story of Abraham 
Lincoln. We do not know that Thomas Lincoln had bought 
a farm at the time of his removal from ElizabethtOAvn. So 
far as we know, he removed because he had employment 
offered him by George Brownfield; and while working there 
learned of a farm with a poor and unoccupied cabin and a 
good spring, where he would be permitted to squat with right 
of purchase if he found himself able to purchase it. That he 
built the cabin is unproved and improbable, and, for the pur 
pose of this narrative, unimportant. He certainly was not liv 
ing there in May of 1808; we have no slightest proof that he 
or Nancy had ever set foot upon the farm in May, 1808. 

The precise date of removal from Elizabethtown must 
come up again. There are some interesting and important 
documents, hitherto unpublished, which help us to determine 
the approximate date. But for our present purpose, let it be 
made perfectly clear that Nancy Lincoln did not live in the 
Enlow neighborhood until several months after May 8, 1808. 

She did not at this time wander very far away from home 
in quest of men. She was caring for a baby daughter, Sarah, 
born February 10, 1807, and just fifteen months old when 
the unborn life of Abraham Lincoln began. In Elizabethtown, 
where she had spent the whole of her married life, the tongue 


of scandal never named her; and she was either just leaving 
Elizabethtown, or had just left it, when she became pregnant. 

He who will know the truth of this story should go to 
La Rue County, and travel the roads, and find where the 
blazed trees in 1808 marked bridle paths through the thick 
woods, and study the problem with the county map before 
him. He will find that when Thomas and Nancy Lincoln 
first came to live in that part of Hardin County which is now 
La Rue, no road to mill or meeting or to the county seat 
took Abraham Enlow past the Lincoln door. Ten months 
later, when the Lincolns were in their own home, he passed 
the house on his way to mill; but in May, 1808, there was 
nothing to call him to her door or her to his. Their homes lay 
eight miles apart, through dense forests, inhabited by bear 
and wolf and panther, and across deep streams. 

Nancy Hanks Lincoln left no scandal behind her in Eliza 
bethtown. If she was pregnant when she left, the fact was 
unknown, even to herself. If she became pregnant after her 
arrival in her new home, it was immediately after, and be 
fore she had time or opportunity to form acquaintance. 

This, then, is my first reason for not believing that Abra 
ham Lincoln was the son of Abraham Enlow, that in all 
human probability, at the time the unborn life of Abraham 
Lincoln began, Nancy Hanks Lincoln had never seen Abraham 

We meet then, the question, Why then did Thomas Lincoln 
and Abraham Enlow engage in that bitter fight in which Enlow 
lost his nose, and by reason of which, in good part, Thomas 
Lincoln decided to leave Kentucky? Lamon tells the story of 
that fight: 

As time wore on, the infelicities of (Thomas) Lincoln s 
life in this neighborhood became insupportable. He was 
gaining neither riches nor credit; and being a wanderer by 
natural inclination, began to long for a change. His decision, 
however, was hastened by certain troubles which culminated 
in a desperate combat between him and one Abraham Enlow. 
They fought like savages; but Lincoln obtained a signal and 
permanent advantage by biting off the nose of his antagonist, 


so that he went bereft all the days of his life, and published 
his audacity and its punishment wherever he showed his face. 
But the affray, and the fame of it, made Lincoln more anxious 
than ever to escape from Kentucky. He resolved, therefore, to 
leave these scenes forever, and seek a roof-tree beyond the 
Ohio. LAMON, Life of Lincoln, p. 16. 

This fight, as thus recorded, is in its implications the worst 
feature of the whole story. No one who knows the Enlow 
story and reads this account can be in doubt what was the 
" audacity " of Abraham Enlow. Even as lethargic a man as 
Thomas Lincoln could be roused to desperation over a matter 
of that character. 

So we do well to go to the bottom of the question about 
the fight in which Thomas Lincoln is alleged to have bitten 
off the nose of Abraham Enlow. 

So far as is known, Thomas Lincoln never intimated to 
any one that his leaving Kentucky was related in any fashion 
to his alleged fight with Enlow. Conjecture only, and that long 
years and decades after the alleged affray and the departure, 
invented a relation between them. But if it be admitted that 
there was a connection, it is not difficult to imagine why it 
may have occurred. Family feeling in that region ran high, 
and the Enlow family was large, and related to most of the 
old families, while Lincoln was alone. If his fight with Enlow 
left the latter smarting under a visible and unpleasant dis 
ability which he could not be permitted to forget, there was 
reason to expect that sooner or later Thomas Lincoln would 
encounter more Enlows than he desired, and no one could 
predict the character of their revenge. It was a primitive 
region in which men fought with guns and knives as well 
as with fists and teeth. No matter what the original occasion 
of the fight; the thing now to expect was revenge for Abe 
Enlow s lost nose. 

If this was the situation, Thomas Lincoln did well to 
gather his wife and his two small children and his meager 
supply of household goods, and float downstream to the Ohio 
River, and across into Indiana. 

We meet, however, with this element of improbability in 


the story. If this fight was an immediate cause of Thomas 
Lincoln s migration from Kentucky, it occurred eight years 
and more after the offense which it was supposed to avenge. 
Thomas Lincoln may have been slow to wrath, but that was a 
long time, even for him. 

Furthermore, as one will discover who visits the region, 
the removal of the Lincoln family to the Knob Creek farm 
had effectually taken them out of the Enlow country. Mul- 
draugh s Hill was a marked social barrier between the region 
that faced toward Bardstown, Lebanon and Springfield toward 
the east, and the country tributary to Elizabethtown on the 
west. No longer did Thomas Lincoln send his grist to Hod- 
gen s Mill or the Mather mill or the Kirkpatrick mill. He 
was out of the neighborhood, removed by a goodly number 
of miles, and by a very high ridge that formed a community 
barrier from the associates of his former home. He still 
went to court at Elizabethtown, and in the very last year of 
his residence on Knob Creek was appointed Road Surveyor 
in his district, but as for the rest, he had ceased to be resident 
of the neighborhood when Abraham was born. For that mat 
ter, he removed from there, as I have some reason to believe, 
much sooner than is commonly supposed. 

But before we go to fatiguing lengths in our endeavor to 
learn the occasion of the savage fight between Thomas Lincoln 
and Abraham Enlow, let us ask the innocent question, Was 
there any such fight? 

The answer is, There was no such fight. 

This discovery, I confess, surprised me. Lamon makes his 
statement so unqualifiedly that I supposed of course he was 
correct, and that Abraham Enlow went to his grave in 1861 
having spent the last forty-five years of his life without the 
nose that Thomas Lincoln had bitten off. I found that the 
men in and about Hodgenville who know most about Lincoln 
and most about Enlow had never heard of the fight. So far 
as I know, there is no copy of Lamon s book in that county; 
it is a scarce book, and La Rue County is not extravagant in its 
book purchases. I asked lawyers, judges, county officials, and 
men long resident, and not one of them had ever heard the 


faintest rumor that Thomas Lincoln ever fought with any 
one, or that Abraham Enlow ever was a fighting man. 

I inquired about his maimed nose; and men who knew 
him declare that he displayed no such deformity. I had to 
stop asking the question direct lest I start a new scandal; 
but I inquired in general terms, and what I learned was that, 
far from remembering the Lincolns with feelings of bitter 
resentment, Abraham Enlow was as proud to have been a 
neighbor of the Lincolns as so rock-ribbed a Democrat could 
possibly have been in the days of the Civil War. His reminis 
cences were few, but they were friendly. That he should have 
had any such fight as Lamon described is absurd. The best 
informed residents affirm that there is absolutely nothing on 
which such a lie can be based. The Enlows and Lincolns 
were on good terms so long as they lived in the same neighbor 
hood, and parted with no unhappy memories. 

The story has positively no local root. It cannot be 
grafted upon any event which bred a scandal at the time and 
caused the name of Nancy Lincoln to be spoken in derision 
by men and whispered innuendo by women. 

Thomas and Nancy Lincoln had all the appearance of 
living together happily. They came to La Rue County hon 
estly married, and lived in that county for several years. It 
is not known that they ever quarreled there or elsewhere. 
They had three children during those years, one of whom died, 
and the other two went with them as together they rode 
through the woods to their new home in Indiana. Shiftless as 
Thomas Lincoln was, he is not known to have left any bad 
debts behind him, nor was he suspected of carrying away 
with him any of the property or any of the children of any 
other man. 

In pursuing these inquiries in the vicinity of Hodgenville, 
the author came upon one dim and indistinct tradition which 
purported to have come down among the women of that neigh 
borhood. It was of the kindness of Thomas Lincoln to Nancy 
after her baby boy was born. When the story that Abraham 
Lincoln was the son of another man came to Hodgenville 
about the close of the Civil War, there were women living 


whose memory went back to that time, and who professed to 
recall that Thomas Lincoln was more kind to his wife at that 
time than husbands sometimes are. His first child had been 
a daughter; and it seems that he and Nancy were hoping 
that the next one would be a son. In the rude hut where she 
lay with her baby beside her, she lifted her wan face to her 
husband s with a tearful smile of satisfaction; she had given 
him a boy. And the older women of the years just after 
the war, remembered that he was proud of the boy, and very 
tender toward Nancy. 

But I found something very much more definite than 
this dim half-memory, and something fully in accord with it. 
I am able to present, on excellent authority, and with only 
one life between the statement and this record, the testimony 
of a woman who was a near neighbor of the Lincolns, a woman 
of about the age of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and who was actu 
ally present at the birth of Abraham Lincoln. 

This statement was made to me by Hon. Richard W. Creal, 
County Judge of La Rue County, in his office, and I made notes 
of it as he spoke. After he had finished, I went across to the 
hotel and wrote it out within an hour. Subsequently I had it 
typewritten, and a copy mailed to Judge Creal in advance of 
my next visit to Hodgenville. He then made one or two 
verbal emendations, and said: 

" The report which you have made is entirely accurate, 
and you place great emphasis, and properly, upon the first 
hand testimony of Margaret Walters. But I use that incident 
as in a way representative of the testimony, positive and 
negative, of all the old people who lived neighbor to the 
Lincolns and were still living in 1864. As I remember their 
conversation, the most convincing fact is their silence upon 
any aspect of the life of the Lincoln family that could have 
expressed or delicately concealed a scandal. The outspoken 
word of Margaret Walters, which you value as the testimony 
of a woman actually present at the birth of Lincoln, stands 
to me rather as the testimony of the whole neighborhood. 
Boy though I was, I heard all the neighborhood talk. Had 
there been any question about the Lincolns, it would have been 


heard by me at some time in a tone that a boy would not 
have failed to understand as at least mysterious or implying 
a question. There was no such expression. And when the 
slander came first to this neighborhood, and in its first 
form without the name of any particular man attached, my 
father and his brother and Jack McDougal and all who had 
known Thomas Lincoln or known those who knew him, were 
outspoken in their refusal to credit it. To be sure, the rumor 
made headway. Those old people were few, and they did not 
live long, and the story did not die. But the people who had 
known the Lincolns did not help it to live. The people who 
would have known it if it was true did not know it even as a 
rumor, and when they heard it, they denied it. You have 
quoted me correctly as to Aunt Peggy Walters. I remember 
her well as she hobbled on her crutch down toward the Rock 
Spring when this matter was discussed by a group assembled 
there. But I do not think of it as if it had been her sole 
testimony. She knew the women of this neighborhood. She 
was a young married woman at the time and later was a 
frequent helper as a midwife. She was getting some of her 
early experience in this art when Abraham Lincoln was born. 
She was a woman of ability and character, and her word was 
perfectly good. Her memory was clear, and she knew the 
facts which she related. But what I have given you as from 
her stands out in my own mind rather as the united judgment 
of the people who had known the Lincolns and who talked 
about them that day at the spring, in what I am confident was 
the year 1864." 

I accept this statement of Judge Creal, as confirming the 
report which I am about to quote, and of strengthening it. 
I place great value on it as the first-hand testimony of a 
woman of unquestioned veracity, who was among the near 
est neighbors of the Lincolns, and present at Abraham Lin 
coln s birth; and it gains in force in every aspect by his 
statement as given to me above, that the words of Margaret 
Walters * was virtually the word of the whole neighborhood. 

1 Margaret La Rue Walters was born December u, 1789, and was 
the youngest daughter of John La Rue for whom La Rue County was 



Judge of La Rue County Court, Hodgenville, La Rue County, Kentucky 

I was born on the Lincoln farm. Richard Creal, my 
father, purchased it between 1825 and 1830. He was born in 
1 80 1. His birth occurred near the site of the present village 
of Buffalo. Population was very sparse at that time. Robert 
Hodgen was here, and had established Hodgen s Mill. There 
was another mill, the Mather mill some miles distant, and 
there was also the Kirkpatrick mill. These mills used small 
burr stones, driven by overshot wheels of local manufacture. 

My father s brother knew Thomas Lincoln; my father 
did not, but knew his reputation. Thomas Lincoln was re 
spected by his neighbors. He was a man of good mind and 
strong character, but had no advantages, and was diffident, 
reserved, quiet. 

I grew up on the farm where Abraham Lincoln spent 
his first years, and was one of the heirs who sold it to A. W. 

I knew Margaret Walters, locally known as " Aunt Peggy," 
who assisted the midwife at the birth of Lincoln. She died at 
a great age, somewhere about 1864. She was on crutches the 
last time I saw her, shortly before her death. That interview 
occurred at the Lincoln Spring. She was an intelligent woman, 
who knew all the women of this region in the period of Lin 
coln s birth, and was in better position than most of them 
to know of their character and to hear any report affecting the 
reputation of any of them. 

I was present on an occasion when she spoke of the pater 
nity of Abraham Lincoln. It was not long before his death. I 
was born in 1853, an< ^ as tms occurred in 1864, I was eleven 
or possibly twelve years of age. 

I am not sure who introduced the subject. It may have 

named. She was related to nearly all the original pioneers by birth or 
marriage. She married Conrad Walters, and became the mother of a 
large family, who intermarried with most of the prominent families of 
the county. She was married and twenty years of age when Lincoln 
was born, and her memory was clear until her death. She died October 
26, 1864. Any one who is disposed to call her veracity in question would 
do well to keep away from La Rue County, or to go prepared to discuss 
the matter with a large number of tall and muscular men. 


been Jack McDougal, whom I remember as present, but I 
think it was some one of a group of women who were there. 
Some one spoke of the rumor that Abraham Lincoln was not 
the son of Thomas Lincoln. 

Aunt Peggy Walters denied it vigorously. She said, " Mrs. 
Lincoln was a fine woman." She affirmed that at that time she 
knew every woman who lived in this vicinity, knew their 
reputation, was on terms such that any such report concern 
ing any of them was almost certain to come to her, and that 
she never heard during the lifetime of Mrs. Thomas Lincoln 
any charge or rumor affecting her moral character. 

In my judgment this statement which I heard is entitled 
to very great weight. Mrs. Walters was an intelligent woman, 
and a woman of character and veracity. I am confident that 
if Mrs. Lincoln had borne during her lifetime any reputation 
of unfaithfulness to her marriage obligation, Mrs. Walters 
would certainly have heard of it, and would have been a good 
judge of its probable truthfulness. The fact that she not only 
did not believe it, but never heard it until nearly a half century 
after the Lincolns had removed from here, is, in my judgment, 
almost conclusive evidence that the story is untrue. 

I cannot learn that the report had any existence in this 
county at the time that the Lincolns resided here, nor until 
Abraham Lincoln had risen to fame. 

My father knew of these reports when they were cur 
rent here, and so did my brother. Both of them knew the 
reputation of Thomas Lincoln, and neither of them credited 
the rumors. 

The older people of this county knew nothing about these 
rumors until Mr. Lincoln wrote to Hardin County, of which 
La Rue was then a part, to obtain, if possible, a copy of the 
marriage record of his parents. He did not know, and no one 
here knew, that the record was not here but in Washington 

When these reports gained currency here, many years ago, 
I made some effort to investigate the truth of them. I did 
not find any of the older people who believed them, nor any 
evidence that these rumors had originated here out of any 
circumstances that might properly have given rise to suspicion, 
nor that they were known here or anywhere at the time the 
events were alleged to have occurred. At the time of Abra- 


ham Lincoln s birth, all the neighbors believed him to be the 
son of Thomas Lincoln. 

Thomas and Nancy Lincoln came here in 1806 as hus 
band and wife, having been legally married, and the marriage 
is of record in the county where it occurred. They lived here 
in apparent domestic accord, and left here together, with 
their two children, both of them and the deceased child born 
in wedlock. No report was then in circulation that they were 
not happy together, and they continued to live together as hus 
band and wife until the death of Nancy Hanks Lincoln. So 
far as any one knew then, or has any right to believe now, 
they were both faithful to each other until death separated 

I am only sorry that such rumors have ever been circulated. 
I should not like to believe, and do not believe, that they 
originated here. I know of no one who is closer to the facts 
than I, and I cannot think that these things could have 
been true without my learning some evidence of the truth from 
some of the people of whom I have spoken. 

In my judgment the rumors affecting the chastity of 
Nancy Hanks Lincoln are wholly without foundation, and are 
a cruel libel on the character of a virtuous woman. 

Judge of La Rue County Court. 

I present herewith a sketch of the life of Abraham Enlow 
of Hardin, afterward La Rue, County, Kentucky. 

Abraham Enlow was the son of Isom Enlaws, Enlows or 
Enlow, one of the pioneers of that part of Hardin County 
which is now La Rue. He was among the occupants of 
Phillips Fort, which from about 1780 or 1781 to about 1790 
gave shelter and protection from the Indians to the original 
inhabitants of the portion of Hardin County which now in 
cludes Hodgenville. Whether he was in the original group 
who built the fort, the author is not certain; but when the 
Indians had been driven away, and the occupants of the fort 
emerged and took up land, and erected homesteads outside th$ 
stockade, Isom Enlow was among them, and he located on % 
farm which has been continuously in possession of the Enlow 
family. It is one and one half miles from the present site 


of Hodgenville, and four miles, by the usual course of travel, 
from the Rock Spring Farm, where Abraham Lincoln later 
was born. 

Isom Enlow came to Hardin County unmarried. He be 
came the husband of Mary Brooks, the widow of John La 
Rue, for whom the county was later named. The marriage 
occurred in 1792. 

John La Rue was born in Virginia, January 24, 1746, the 
son of Isaac La Rue, of Frederick County, Virginia, (died 
1795) and died in January, 1792, in Hardin County, and 
in that part of the county later separated and named for him. 
His wife, Mary Brooks, was born May 3, 1766, being thus 
twenty years younger than her first husband. 

John and Mary La Rue had four children, (i) Rebecca, 
born 1784, married George Helm. Their oldest child, John L. 
Helm, was born in 1802, and was Governor of Kentucky at 
his death in 1867; (2) Squire La Rue, named for Squire 
Boone, brother of Daniel Boone, and friend of John La Rue; 
(3) Phebe; (4) Margaret (" Peggy ") was born 1789, married 
September n, 1804, Conrad Walters. Ben Hardin Helm, 
Confederate General who was killed in the Civil War, was a 
son of John L. Helm (son of Rebecca La Rue and George 
Helm). Ben Hardin Helm s wife, still living, was Emily 
Todd, a half sister of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln. 

In the conditions which prevailed in pioneer society, 
widows were not permitted to weep long at the graves of their 
deceased husbands. Mary Brooks La Rue soon married Isom 
Enlow. Although the fact has no especial significance for 
this narrative, it may be of interest to record that she survived 
her second husband, and was married for the third time, to 
Thomas W. Rathbone. She died a few months after the 
erection of the new county, named for her first husband, and 
her will is the second will on record in that county, and was 
probated May 5, 1843, tne earliest date of probate in La Rue 

The will of John La Rue, which is on record in Nelson 
County, and was probated May 6, 1792, has more than the 
ordinary amount of formal piety in its introduction, and shows 


great concern for the education of his children. He left four 
children, the eldest of whom was eight years old. He had 
much land and several negroes, one of whom, " a wench, 
Nancy," he left especially to his wife, to be her own. Mary 
La Rue came therefore to the home of Isom Enlow cumbered 
by four children, but with a generous provision for their care 
a provision which unfortunately was partially lost in the 
administration of the estate and in consequent litigation 
and with Nancy the " wench " to assist in their care, and in 
the care of such further offspring as might come to her 
through her second marriage. 

This provision was timely, for the first fruits of the sec 
ond marriage was Abraham Enlow. Mary Brooks-La Rue- 
Enlow-Rathbone continued to need all the help which the 
possession of Nancy afforded; for though she bore no children 
by her last marriage, by her first two marriages she became 
the mother of no small fraction of the population of La Rue 
County. When she died in 1843 she left 172 living descend 
ants. She lived almost to the time when persons now living 
could remember her, and her record is a good one. For the 
facts about her, and much beside, I am indebted to Hon. O. M. 
Mather of Hodgenville, whose careful preservation of historic 
data relating to his native county is of great service to me. 

Isom Enlaws, the second husband of Mary Brooks La 
Rue, and the father of Abraham Enlaws, Enlows or Enlow, 
was a man of some prominence in his day. He was Sheriff 
of Hardin County in 1810, and afterwards for some years 
a Justice of the Peace. He died in July, 1816, leaving his 
widow and six children, two of whom were sons and four 

Nancy was the only one of the slaves of John La Rue whom 
Mary Brooks La Rue continued to own after her marriage with 
Isom Enlaws. The executors appear to have sold and squan 
dered the rest, or eaten them up in law suits. And she had 
a hard time keeping Nancy and her children from being taken 
by the executors under the will of Enlaws after the death of 
her second husband. The reports of the Court of Appeals of 
Kentucky contain record of the attempt of her husband s exec- 


titors to take them away from her by legal process, and of her 
stout and successful resistance. The case of Enlaws Execu 
tors vs. Mary Enlaws is of interest. Therein it is set forth 

Mary Enlaws, in virtue of the will of her former hus 
band, John La Rue, had an estate for life in the slave named 
Nancy, and being possessed thereof in 1792, married Isom 
Enlaws. After the marriage of Isom and Mary Enlaws, 
Nancy became the mother of other slaves. In July, 1816, 
Isom Enlaws departed this life, having previously made and 
published his will, which, after payment of his debts, con 
tained the following clauses: 

Item. My will is that my property, both real and personal, 
continue undivided until my youngest daughter, Malvina En- 
laws, arrives at the age of twenty-one years, or until all my 
children are married. And upon either of those events, that 
said property be divided, share and share alike, between my 
said children, to wit, Abraham Enlaws, Thomas Brooks En- 
laws, Polly Enlaws, Lydia Enlaws, Betsy Enlaws and Malvina 
Enlaws, and their mother, my beloved wife, Mary Enlaws. 

Item. In case my son, Abraham Enlaws, should prefer 
taking one hundred acres of land, to be stricken off to him 
by a line running parallel with my upper boundary line, and 
including the house in which he lives, in lieu of the equal 
undivided share in my landed property, as mentioned in the 
next preceding item, my will is that he be permitted to do 
so; and that he retain possession of the same as he how 
holds it. 

Malvina, the youngest daughter, was eleven years old 
in May, 1819, and the executors would have to wait ten 
years, unless she died or married sooner, before they could 
obtain for the purposes of sale and division, the healthy 
and marketable children of Nancy. Malvina was living with 
her mother, and so were her older sisters, Polly and Betsy, 
but Lydia was married before her father died. Abraham, 
for a time after his father s death, came back and lived 
in his mother s home and managed the farm for her, and 
then accepted his option under his father s will, took his 


hundred acres of land, returned to his own home, which he 
had occupied before his father s death, and lived and died 

The court held that although Nancy had been left to 
Mary La Rue as a life possession under the will of John La 
Rue, she became the property of Isom Enlaws the moment 
they were married, and that thereafter Mary had no estate 
in Nancy, except as she gained it through her second husband. 

The court found, however, that while Mary had no right 
to Nancy under the will of her first husband, she had some 
right under the will of her second husband. The executors 
could not touch Nancy or her children until Malvina mar 
ried or reached the age of twenty-one, and then Mary would 
share in the division with her children. 

So Mary s troubles over the negro Nancy ceased, and so 
far as any one knows, this was the only Nancy who ever 
caused any trouble in that family. 

Isom Enlaws did not own any other slaves at the time 
of his death in 1816, and Abraham Enlows did not own 
any slaves at the time of his death in 1861. 

Whoever cares to read this decision in full will find it 
in 3, Marshall, Kentucky Court of Appeals, pages 228-230. 
It is interesting for several reasons, but its interest for us 
is in the background it affords us for the life of Abraham 
Enlaws, Enlows or Enlow. 

The village of Hodgenville is remote, but it is not wholly 
behind the times. In the Spring of 1920, when I made one 
of my visits to it, the local papers contained matter which 
showed that Hodgenville was fairly abreast of the rest of 
the world. The ministers were preaching on " The Inter- 
Church World Movement," and the boys in the Senior Class 
in the Hodgenville High School had organized an overalls 
brigade, just as they were doing in New York and Boston. 
Hodgenville has a little public library, named not for An 
drew Carnegie, but for Abraham Lincoln. 

This library contains the one known copy of a little book 
called " Ministry of Faith." Its sub-title is, " The Ardent 
Ministry, Times, Anecdotes and Pulpit Selections of Rev. 


A. W. La Rue, A.M." The author was A. C. Graves, and 
the book was published in Louisville in 1865. For our pur 
poses it is of interest because Rev. A. W. La Rue, who was 
graduated in 1842 with the first class in Georgetown College, 
was a grandson of John La Rue and Mary Brooks, who, 
after the death of her first husband, married Isom Enlaws, 
Enlows or Enlow, and became the mother of Abraham En- 
low. This little book tells something about this good woman : 

Mary Brooks, the wife of John La Rue, was of an old 
family of Virginia, and deserves from her peculiar character 
not to be overlooked in this chapter. From the marvellous 
strength of her faith and the great power of her ruling traits, 
one would not infer that her influence would be exhausted in 
a single generation. And who can measure the fearful re 
sponsibility of every mother when it is considered that her 
character is to be held up as a type for children s children, 
molding into the image of the Saviour, or forever paralyzing 
all aspirations for manliness and perfection of heart! Mrs. 
La Rue was a devoted Christian, and a prayerful reader of 
the Bible. Her judgment of the Scriptures was held in 
general respect, and knotty passages were frequently brought 
to her by preachers and others for her interpretation. She 
survived her husband many years, and lived to a ripe old 
age. At her death in 1843 ner living generation numbered 
172. Perhaps no generation in Kentucky has produced a 
larger number of worthy representatives in the pulpit, at the 
bar, in politics, medicine, and the other callings. 

Many incidents and anecdotes are related of Mrs. La 
Rue, two of which may properly come in here to illustrate 
the might of that character whose weight still hangs upon 
her numerous progeny. 

One occurred at old Nolin Church, while Rev. David 
Thurman (the father of our estimable brother, R. L. Thur- 
man) was pastor. He was a man of strong logical mind, 
great decision and force of character, which led him to deal 
extensively in doctrine and discussion. He was a terrific 
Calvinist, and as a defender of our faith, the Baptists had 
not a more successful champion. One church-meeting day 
he rose under perceptible despondency over the low spiritual 
condition of the church. He was greatly discouraged with his 


pastoral prospects, and suggested that the church call an 
other pastor. He sat down in a profound silence which 
continued some seconds. The stillness and embarrassment 
were soon broken by old Mrs. La Rue, who was the first 
to see through and solve a difficulty. She had been leaning 
forward all the while in a listening posture, never removing 
her eyes from the preacher. Straightening herself and point 
ing one finger at Elder Thurman, she said in a tone of con 
fidence and feeling : " Brother Thurman, I ll tell you what 
the matter is stop preaching John Calvin and James Armin- 
ius, and preach Jesus Christ." Alter a moment s pause, the 
preacher rose with streaming eyes, and repeated the words, 
" For I am determined not to know anything among you 
save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." 

The sermon which followed was one of the most pow 
erful and searching character. Perhaps old Nolin Creek 
never experienced a more thorough shock than was made 
among the dry bones by that discourse. A revival began 
with that day, in which there were one hundred additions 
to the church. Its influence spread from church to church 
until there were over a thousand conversions in that asso 
ciation, all following that one effort! 

Upon her dying bed, Mrs. La Rue called her daughter 
and said, among her last words: 

" From the hour of my conversion, now near sixty years 
since, I have prayed every day that God would raise up of 
my generation Baptist preachers." 

She had watched her sons entering the pursuits of life 
one by one, and as yet her prayer was unanswered. From 
the time she first heard S. L. Helm, her grandson, the first 
of her generation to preach the gospel, she took courage at 
the answer of her life-time prayer. At the time of her death, 
A. W. La Rue, another grandson, was a young preacher 
of great promise, and she passed up from this world believ 
ing that God would still raise up others of her generation in 
answer to her prayer. From her descendants have sprung 
the following Baptist preachers: Rev. S. L. Helm, Rev. A. 
W. La Rue, deceased; Rev. Robert Enlows, Rev. John H. 
Yeaman, deceased, and Rev. W. Pope Yeaman, pastor of 
the First Baptist Church, Covington, Kentucky. The last two 
were brothers. Ministry of Faith, pp. 18-21. 


In that day, as this little book truthfully sets forth, edu 
cated ministers were rare among Kentucky Baptists, and 
not in very good favor; but this man sought and obtained 
a college education. 

It is not with A. W. La Rue we are dealing, however, 
but with his half -uncle, Abraham Enlow. The long quota 
tion shows the kind of mother he had, and the kind of home 
in which he was reared; and while her prayers that he might 
be a Baptist preacher were not answered in him, they were 
answered in his son, Rev. Robert Enlows. 

Mary Brooks was born in Virginia, but she spent a part 
of her girlhood in Philadelphia, where she went to school. 
She learned, among other things, something of medicine, 
and in her mature years was widely sought as a nurse and 
midwife. Abraham Enlow had a capable mother. 

Unlike some of the Enloes of North Carolina, the En- 
lows of La Rue County, Kentucky, refuse to slander their 
ancestor for the sake of cheap notoriety. I have the follow 
ing statement from Robert Enlow, of Hodgenville, who has 
several times represented his county in the Kentucky Legis 
lature : 


Made in Writing to William E. Barton, May 20, 1920 

I do not think my grandfather, Abraham Enlow, was 
the father of Abraham Lincoln. I do not think he was 
that kind of man. From every inquiry I have made, I have 
found my grandfather to be a Christian of the highest char 
acter, a man who was a leader in Christian work, a man 
who was looked up to as an example for young men to 

I have heard of this report all my life, and since I have 
been in public life some, have heard much more. My great- 
grandmother, Mary Enlow, officiated at the birth of Lincoln. 
She was taken there by my grandfather, Abraham, on a 
horse. She usually had grandfather, who was then a boy, 
to accompany her on these trips. She gave Mrs. Lincoln 
what assistance the occasion required, and as the days passed, 


she sent many things to Mrs. Lincoln for her own and the 
child s comfort. Most of these things were sent either by 
my grandfather or a slave, all the time without a thought of 
pay, but from a heart of love. 

Then, when this baby boy wanted a name, his mother 
gave him the name of Abraham, because of gratitude, and, 
as I believe, from no other reason, in recognition of the 
many acts of kindness shown by my great-grandfather s fam 
ily. The vision of the Christ life shown by Mary Enlow 
gave Mrs. Lincoln that conception of motherhood that en 
abled her so to train her son, that in after years he was 
heard to say, That all he had and all he hoped to be in this 
life he owed to his mother. 

My father, and the whole family so far as I knew, did 
not believe the story that Abraham Enlow was the father 
of Abraham Lincoln. I think the story originated from 
malice toward slave-holders. You know there was such a 
feeling in the minds of people who did not own slaves or 
anything else. . . . 

Yours for truth, 


Not because we have need of further evidence, but be 
cause evidence is available and convincing, let us record one 
more important fact concerning Abraham Enlow. He died 
in 1861 and his grave is in the old Baptist Church-yard, 
near the church of which he was a member, and to whose 
erection he is said to have made the first subscription. There 
is a tombstone at his grave, and it gives the date of his birth 
as January 26, 1793. This would make him, at the time 
when Abraham Lincoln was begotten, not a man, but a boy 
of fifteen. 

But may there not be a mistake in this old record? The 
people of that period were notoriously inexact in such mat 
ters, and except where there are contemporary court rec 
ords, many inaccuracies occur. May not there be a mis 
take of ten or twenty years, so that the age of Abraham 
Enlow can be carried backward? For, if this record is 
correct, Abraham Enlow, at the time of the conception of 
Abraham Lincoln, was not simply at a highly improbable 


distance from the Lincoln home, but was only a lad of 

We are so accustomed to the commencement of the year 
on January i it is difficult to realize how recently that date 
has been established and definitely agreed upon. The custom 
varied in different places. In England down to the time of 
the Conquest, the year was reckoned in some places as be 
ginning at Christmas, and in others on March 25. From the 
Conquest to 1155 only it dated officially from January i, 
but that system was not popular, and from 1155 till 1751 it 
was dated according to the Dionysian system from March 25. 
In America the practice was not uniform, and we find frequent 
instances of the March 25 date of beginning down to the end 
of the 1 8th century. It is often necessary to indicate dates 
falling between January i and March 25 by a double sys 
tem, as February i, 1764-5. Down to the opening years 
of the nineteenth century, particularly in isolated and rural 
communities, there were frequent datings according to the 
Dionysian year. John La Rue died in January, 1792, as we 
reckon time. Before the end of that year his widow married 
Isom Enlaws; the true date of birth of Abraham Enlows or 
Enlow would appear to have been January 26, 1 793-4. 

Yes, it is possible there is a mistake, but if so, it does 
not make Abraham Enlow ten years older, but one year 
younger. The local tradition gives the year of his birth, 
not as 1793, but as 1794. John La Rue died in January, 
1792. His widow married Isom Enlow, and Abraham En- 
low was born, according to his tombstone, just one year 
after the death of his mother s first husband. Although in 
tervals between marriages were habitually short in frontier 
communities, this seems an improbably brief interval, and 
there is much reason to believe that the date of 1794 is cor 
rect. In that case, Abraham Enlow, at the time of the con 
ception of Abraham Lincoln, was not even fifteen, but only 

The confusion in the two accounts of the birthday of 
Abraham Enlow is thus easily accounted for. It was the 
time when " Old Style " dates were still in occasional use, 


and threw the opening weeks of a year into the calendar 
of the preceding year. Abraham Enlow s birth as given on 
his tombstone is the Old Style date; and the date given by 
the family is the New Style date. His birth, according to 
our present reckoning, was January 26, 1794. He was born, 
not one year, but two, after the death of his mother s first 

At the time when Nancy Hanks Lincoln experienced the 
promise of the birth of a son, in May of 1808, Abraham 
Enlow was a chore-boy on his father s farm. He was in 
the beginnings of adolescence. The razor had never touched 
his face. 

Abraham Enlow, whom ignorant and malicious gossip has 
made the father of Abraham Lincoln, was, at the time of 
Abraham Lincoln s birth, a beardless boy. 

There remains nothing to be added. 

I have done with the story that Abraham Lincoln was 
the illegitimate son of Abraham Enlow, of Hardin County, 
Kentucky. The other stories we shall consider one by one. 
But this one we shall have no occasion to examine further. 
We have considered every shred of evidence that I have been 
able to discover in support of it, and I am confident that I 
have discovered it all. We have given it a fair hearing, 
and have subjected it to a fair analysis. It fails at every 
possible point, and is conclusively contradicted and disproved. 
No right-minded man ought to refer to it in terms of possi 
ble credibility henceforth so long as the world shall stand. 
It is a blot on the memory of a plain, honest, religious man 
and upon the name of his descendants, and a libel upon the 
character of a woman, who, so far as this story is concerned, 
stands high above all reproach. 

Let us consign this story to its place in the bottomless 
pit, and proceed with the next. 


THIS book aspires toward completeness. Its purpose is to 
record every phase of the story, and each of the separate 
stories that affirm that Abraham Lincoln was not the sort 
of Thomas Lincoln. I am thus constrained to consider briefly 
in this analysis two or three names that are* not mentioned 
in the second part of the book. One of these is Abraham 
Enlow, a miller, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. In the first 
draft of this manuscript I assigned him a chapter in the 
earlier portion of the book; but I removed from him that 
distinction for reasons which will presently appear; while, 
for the sake of completeness, I treat of him here. Like one 
of the heads of the beast in the Apocalypse, he "is of the 
seven, and is also an eighth." We shall spend no great 
space upon him, but will afford him all he requires. 

Elizabethtown, where Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks 
established their first home, is not without its local claim 
to an Abraham Enlow, who is alleged to have been the father 
of Abraham Lincoln. This report I give in the words of a 
letter from Mr. John E. Burton: 

As to my belief regarding the birth of Abraham Lincoln, 
I believe that he was born under lawful wedlock. I was so 
interested in the Lincoln matters that when the Lincoln farm 
was sold in 1904 I went to Kentucky and spent several days 
in that vicinity. I took with me $3,500, which I judged to 
be sufficient, and I fully expected to buy the farm at the 
sheriff s sale. On this trip I left the railroad at Elizabeth- 
town, and rode to Hodgenville in a buggy. On the way 
over the driver said to me that as I was so interested in Abe 
Lincoln, he presumed I knew who his father was. I said I 
had read several books on the subject, and knew the various 
opinions. He said, pointing to the large grist mill in the 
edge of Elizabethtown: 



" Abe Lincoln s father used to own and run that very 
mill, and about everybody in Elizabethtown knows that Abe 
Enlow was Abe Lincoln s real father. Yes, sir; we all like 
Abe Lincoln down here, and it is no fault of his that Abe 
Enlow got mixed up with the hired girl and paid Tom Lin 
coln to marry her and move over to Hodgenville." 

Mr. Burton continued: 

I found that almost every one in that part of the coun 
try when questioned had the secret. I believe that Abraham 
Lincoln was the first child born to Thomas Lincoln and 
Nancy Hanks. I do not believe there was a girl named 
Nancy or Sarah born to them before Abraham was born. 
Why I so believe is that Abraham s second mother, or step 
mother, was named Sarah Bush. I formerly owned her old 
hymn-book with her name written in it, Sarah Bush. This 
woman had a daughter Sarah. She and Abraham grew up 
as brother and sister. That, in my opinion, is the occasion 
of the mix-up. 

In my opinion, this story is true. Lincoln himself knew 
the truth about it, and that was what made him habitually 
sad. The dark and oppressive shadow which ever hung 
over him made him gloomy, and at times almost drove him 
to despair. To interpret correctly the thousand and one odd 
and strange things that Lincoln did, these facts must be 
known in order to account for his doings. 

I have written more than I meant to. It is a subject 
which historians seem to fear. They think the truth would 
injure Lincoln s fame and glory. I do not. I have only to 
recall Charles Martel, who saved the civilization of Europe 
from the Moors, and William of Normany, the Conqueror 
of England, to satisfy myself that children conceived out 
of wedlock are often of superior caliber. 

Subsequent correspondence disclosed that Mr. Burton had 
made no comparison of the several Abraham Enlows, and 
was most moved by the apparent evidence in favor of the 
North Carolina Enloe. He is quoted here not as showing 
his preference for this particular form of the story, but 
because he had opportunity to secure this form of it in the 
manner stated, and has written it as he heard it. 


It interested me much to discover that this man, who 
had studied Lincoln for so many years and had invested 
large sums in books concerning him, held to the Enlow theory 
in any of its forms. He holds, as I judge, to the theory in 
general, rather than to any one form of it; but he has given 
the best record I have of the Elizabethtown version. 

This story is not entitled to any weight. It is an off 
shoot from the Hodgenville story, and has intermixed with 
it so much of the Bourbon County story as makes its hero 
a miller. The Lincolns bore a good reputation while they 
lived in Elizabethtown. Thomas Lincoln had credit at the 
stores, and paid his debts, and his wife was above suspicion. 
An eminent judge in that town said to me. 

" I regard every such story as a gross libel. Nothing 
of the sort was ever heard in Elizabethtown while Thomas 
Lincoln lived here, nor have I ever been able to trace it back 
of the Civil War. My people were Southern in their sym 
pathies, and so am I, and always have been: but this story 
did not grow up here. It found credence here among certain 
people, but it was imported. It has no basis of fact in this 

However, to go one step farther, I decided to learn 
whether there ever was an Abraham Enlow, a miller, of 
Elizabethtown. The mills of an early settlement are noted 
institutions, and those of Elizabethtown are well known. 
The large mill standing on the way to Hodgenville is noted 
in the histories of the State, and long remained in the Hay- 
craft family, one of the most prominent families of Eliza 
bethtown. At my request the County Clerk searched the rec 
ords of Hardin County with this result, that he can find no 
Abraham Enlow as having owned a mill in that part of the 
county. Furthermore, the Enlows lived where they orig 
inally settled, and, so far as he can discover, there was not an 
Enlow in that part of the county which now is Hardin prior 
to the birth of Abraham Lincoln. 

The answer to the story about Abraham Enlow, the miller 
of Elizabethtown, is that there was no such man. 


THE Brownfield story would not be entitled to a moment s 
notice but for one significant fact; it is one form of the 
local confession that the Enlow story is untenable. 

As soon as the Enlow story began to be current in La 
Rue County, the people who knew where Thomas and Nancy 
Lincoln were living at the time of the conception of Abra 
ham Lincoln, recognized the incredibility of the story. The 
unborn life of Abraham Lincoln began immediately before 
or immediately after the removal of his parents from Eliza- 
bethtown, and before Nancy had time to form acquaintances. 
Her conception occurred before their removal to their own 
home near the Enlows. As we have already seen, it is alto 
gether likely that she had never seen the face of Abraham 
Enlow. The older inhabitants knew this fact. Under those 
circumstances, some other man had to be found to whom 
the paternity of Abraham Lincoln was a physical possibility. 
That man was George Brownfield; and, of course, Abraham 
Lincoln, being a tall man, was said to have looked much like 
the son of George Brownfield, who also was tall. 

The story is the emptiest trash. But it is valuable; for 
it never would have come into existence if the local form of 
the Enlow story had not been recognized as impossible. 

One of the prominent citizens of Hodgenville, a man active 
in political circles, and otherwise widely known, made an 
extended verbal statement which I summarize as follows : 

" I have spent my life in La Rue County, and have been 
familiar from childhood with stories concerning the birth of 
Abraham Lincoln. I am a Democrat, and I had at the outset 
no natural disinclination to believe anything adverse to the 
reputation of Abraham Lincoln or the social standing of 

his family; for political interest and political hatred were very 



strong here in the days that followed the Civil War. I sup 
pose I have had as much occasion as any other man living in 
this county to investigate the truth of these rumors. It be 
came a part of my duty some years ago to look into them 
very carefully. 

" I know only of the rumors that are or have been cur 
rent in this locality. The others, more remote, I have never 
investigated; I do not think it worth while. Here, if any 
where, the irregularity occurred. Here, if anywhere, must the 
evidence be sought. I have had occasion to seek out and to 
weigh that evidence. I have no hesitation in saying that this 
story in all its local forms is unsupported by evidence, and in 
all those local forms but one is physically possible. The one 
possible exception is the Brownfield story. If Thomas and 
Nancy Lincoln came here from Elizabethtown as early as 
May, 1808, and she formed an adulterous association with the 
first man she met, then this story is barely possible, and that is 
all that can be said in its favor. 

" But we do not know that she was here as early as May, 
1808; the probabilities are that she and Thomas came about the 
first of June. And if she came as early as May, we have no 
evidence whatever that she then or ever was untrue to her 
husband. There is no vestige of a story current in the years 
of her life here that militates against her moral character. 
There is not the slightest reason to believe that any one sus 
pected Brownfield until half a century had gone by. All that 
can be alleged in its favor is that it is not known to be physi 
cally impossible; and that is no evidence upon which to assail 
the character of a woman who has a right to be presumed 
virtuous, or of a man in good standing in the community. 

" If any of these stories here locally current is true, this 
is the true one; for the others are impossible. This one is 
unsupported by any color of evidence, and is opposed to every 
inherent probability. It did not originate until the Enlow story 
had been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Then this 
grew out of the mere suggestion that it was not utterly impos 
sible. The story is unworthy of credence. 

" I began my investigation of these stories with no marked 


disinclination to believe them. I am convinced that all of them 
that ever have been in circulation in Lincoln s home county 
are false; and as for the rest, I have only to say that it is 
incredible that any one of them should have been true. How 
could an event which certainly occurred here, if it occurred at 
all, leave no evidence of the fact in the place where it occurred, 
and become known to people in Virginia or North Carolina or 
South Carolina? The stories are all false; all impossible 
except the Brownfield story, and that might possibly have been 
true, but is false as are the others." 

This makes a short chapter, but there is no reason why 
it should be longer. There is nothing more to be said 
about it. 


IN 1867 material on the life of Lincoln was still relatively 
scant. While Holland s Life of Lincoln and that of Bar 
rett were based upon some original investigation, these had 
been issued as soon after Mr. Lincoln s death as the authors 
could well prepare them, and they depended upon the cam 
paign biographies for most of their content with regard 
to Lincoln s early life. In that year the story gained cur 
rency that one reason for the departure of Thomas and 
Nancy Lincoln from Kentucky was the strong resemblance 
which existed between their son Abraham and a neighbor 
who was alleged to have been his father. It was further 
declared that between the time of their removal from Ken 
tucky and their residence in Indiana the family lived for a 
time in a village in Ohio. This village was named, and 
the name could be mentioned here, and would be so men 
tioned if it were of any importance in this statement. 

A noted Presbyterian minister in Lexington, Kentucky, 
became much interested in this matter, and learned that an 
other minister, then editing a religious newspaper, had been 
a school teacher in that town in Ohio in the years when this 
boy, Abraham Lincoln, was supposed to have been resident 
there. The editor also was interested. He had seen Mr. 
Lincoln in 1860, and thought he recalled a resemblance to his 
pupil of former years. Furthermore, his computation dis 
closed the fact that President Lincoln s age was just about 
that of his old pupil. It further appeared that the father of 
this young Ohio Lincoln was named Thomas. 

The correspondence resulting from these facts is still 
in existence, though not in possession of any of the original 
correspondents. I have communicated with the son of the 
editor, who writes to me: 



" I am afraid I can give you no information in regard 
to the controversy of 1867. I have an indistinct recollec 
tion of the discussion and have looked over the files for 
1867, but found nothing." 

I have had access, however, to the original letters, in pos 
session of another person, and have copied such portions 
as are important for this purpose. The owner of these let 
ters has preserved them for possible use in case the story 
should rise again, and they are where they could be found 
if needed; but he does not desire that the letters or the place 
of their deposit should become public property. 

These are the essential facts as brought out in these let 

The man of whom I have spoken as the editor taught 
in a village in Ohio in 1827 a lad about nineteen, whose 
name he remembered as Abraham Linkhorn or Lincoln, and 
whose father was named Thomas. The President-elect in 
1860 seemed to him to have the same figure and features. 
The story of the Ohio residence, with sufficient detail as to 
the relation of that residence to a prior one in Kentucky and 
a subsequent but very brief one in Indiana, appeared to sup 
port this impression. 

The son of the editor has looked through the files of his 
father s paper for 1867, and finds no reference to these 
matters. Very properly so, for his father was not a man 
who would have been likely to publish a story of this kind 
until he had investigated the matter fully. 

The results of his investigation lie before me in the hand 
writing of the father, the editor. His recollection of the 
name of the boy s father was correct; it was Thomas Lin 
coln. The son who went to school to him was born about 
1809, and was a tall, raw-boned lad like the future President. 
Further, the family removed from Ohio, and settled in In 
diana. Here, surely, was the basis of a plausible and scan 
dalous story, for if the Ohio Lincoln was the President there 
was a scandal about his birth. 

But at that point the stories diverge. Thomas Lincoln 
of Ohio had three sons, John, Thomas and Ananias. He 


had no son Abraham. The son whom the teacher, who later 
became the editor, taught in Ohio, and thought he recognized 
in the future President, was named John, and he died in, 
1840. There lies before me as I write a letter from the man 
for whom he was working and upon whose premises he died. 

This discovery completely disposed of the report, and 
at the same time it illustrated how a considerable body of 
fact can be gathered in support of a theory that is utterly 
untrue, and how easily an honest man can be deceived in 
his own recollections of the appearance of a person whom 
he had known many years previous to the time of his mak 
ing a statement. 

For good reason, I prefer not to name any of the persons 
who participated in this correspondence; but I have copies 
of the letters, which I made with my own hand direct from 
the originals, and I have given herewith all the essential 

Furthermore, if the statements in this chapter should be 
called in question, the original letters can easily be located, 
and the statements in this chapter fully substantiated. 


OF all the forms of the story concerning Abraham Lincoln s 
paternity, I approach this one with the least patience. The 
reasons are, first, that the story itself is highly offensive, and, 
secondly, that it comes to us through the credulity of men 
who had been trained to sift evidence, and who ought to have 
known better. The story is that Thomas Lincoln, for a 
consideration, confidently named as five hundred dollars in 
money and a pair of horses and a wagon, married a woman 
named Hornback or Hanks, and assumed the paternity of 
her illegitimate child, who, according to some versions of the 
story, was not yet born, and according to others was able 
to run around, and to sit up between Thomas and Nancy 
as they drove away toward the more western portion of the 
State to begin their married life together. It partakes of 
the story told by Mrs. Boyd, but instead of attributing his 
birth to Judge Marshall s son, or adopted son, ascribes his 
paternity to one Abraham Inlow, a miller, who is alleged 
to have lived on the border between Clar,k and Bourbon 

One of the first questions suggested by the story is, 
What did Thomas Lincoln do with the money ? That amount 
of money would have made him a rich man on his arrival in 
Hardin County. He was not a drunkard nor a gambler, 
and while he was improvident, he was not a wastrel. What 
did he do with the money? 

And what did he do with the horses and wagon? The 
tax collector was unable to find more than one horse, and 
almost every man had a horse to ride. If Thomas Lincoln 
secured any such sum we should find him with less difficulty 
on the tax returns, where I have found him in the counties 
of his residences, but not with two horses at any time while 



he resided in Kentucky, so far as tax returns have thus far 
been discovered. 

The next fact which comes to our notice is that the name 
of the young woman, thus wronged by one man and married 
by another, was manifestly not Hanks but Hornback, a name 
not infrequent in Hardin and La Rue Counties. The more 
this story is followed upon the ground, the more it becomes 
apparent that the name Hanks was a later addition. One can 
discover the very bungling and unsuccessful attempt to ac 
complish what in the film-world is called a fade-out for the 
Hornback girl and the emergence in her place of Nancy 

We find in this story, as elsewhere, the alleged proof in 
the fact that relatives of the people supposed to have been 
involved in this situation have long arms, more or less, like 
those of Abraham Lincoln. One distinguished lawyer, re 
lated to the Mows, shows his long arms as proof of his re 
lationship to Abraham Lincoln. This proves that in several 
localities in Kentucky, Tennessee and the two Carolinas, there 
are men who have long arms, and it proves no more. 

This story also affirms that an unnamed lawyer said to an 
other unnamed lawyer that a Methodist preacher, unnamed 
but evidently Jesse Head, residing at Harrodsburg, told the 
lawyer who told the other lawyer, who told some one else, 
that when he married Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, the 
boy Abraham was old enough to run around the floor. And 
that is a lie. Jesse Head died in 1842, more than two de 
cades before this story got into circulation. 

Now we come to the irrefutable proof that this story is 
false, which is, that Thomas and Nancy Lincoln were mar 
ried June 12, 1806, and that in February of the following 
year there was born to them a daughter named Sarah, who 
was their eldest child. Abraham was the second child, born 
two years and eight months after the marriage of his parents. 

Nicolay and Hay in their record of the marriage of Thomas 
and Nancy Lincoln give correctly the date of June 12, 1806, 
and say: 

" All previous accounts give the date of this marriage as 


September 23rd. This error rose from a clerical blunder in 
the county record of marriages. The minister, the Rev. Jesse 
Head, in making his report, wrote the date before the names; 
the clerk, in copying it, lost the proper sequence of the en 
tries, and gave to the Lincolns the date belonging to the next 
couple on the list." (Vol. I, p. 23.) 

Nicolay and Hay are mistaken. Herndon gave the correct 
date in his first edition, and most authors have followed him. 
Moreover, the clerk of the Washington County Court usually 
copied it correctly, and that has been the record since followed. 
Nicolay and Hay were in error in supposing themselves to be 
the first who published this date correctly. 

The date was incorrectly copied, however, in the first pub 
lished article, and the wrong date has sometimes slipped into 
books, as, in the appendix of Miss Tarbell s Life of Lin 
coln, where she followed a date given to a Kentucky min 
ister. But the correct date had been given years before by 

The Bourbon County story, though very widely current, 
is impossible. Busy as the devil is, it could hardly have orig 
inated at the time it obtained currency if the marriage return 
of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks had been found. The 
first male child of Nancy Hanks was not born before she 
married Thomas Lincoln, but was preceded by a daughter, 
born two years previously. 

This daughter s name was certainly not Nancy. That 
myth comes plainly from the tear in the family record page 
of the Lincoln Bible. Her name was Sarah, and she was 
born at Elizabethtown, February 10, 1807, two full years 
before her brother Abraham. The story that when Thomas 
and Nancy rode away to be married the boy sat between 
them is opposed not only to all probability, but to certain 

The story is not without its own internal indications of 
its origin. The unfortunate girl who found a husband and 
went away with him and her child was not a Hanks, but a 
Hornback; and the evolution of some nearly forgotten Horn- 
back girl into a Nancy Hanks is apparent on the face of the 


story. The Hornbacks still live in Hardin and La Rue Coun 
ties, and probably in adjacent counties. 

The Hanks girls were known in Hardin County before 
the marriage of Nancy, as is plainly shown in the Helm 
story, told by Herndon. Nancy Hanks before her marriage 
to Thomas Lincoln was not living the life of a prostitute 
near Thatcher s Mills, but living around among her relatives, 
and possibly sometimes attending camp-meetings, and, so far 
as anybody knows, she was behaving herself like a virtuous 
young woman. 

This story is one of the most discreditable to those who 
hold it, and it has very little to be said in its favor or in 
favor of those who so readily accepted it. It has formed 
a part of the gossip of lawyers in Kentucky for many years, 
but the evidence adduced in its favor, though with a Chief 
Justice of the Appellate Court as its sponsor, shows very 
little regard for the rules of evidence. 

I count this story the more contemptible because the men 
who pieced together the bits and fragments of court-house 
and bar-room gossip of which it is composed, and who re 
told it and enlarged it, were men who were accustomed to 
weighing evidence. Some of those who were chiefly respon 
sible were men of ability and of character. They believed 
this story until it became almost a religion. Yet the story 
is sustained by no evidence which these lawyers would have 
accepted as proof in any case in court. They talked about 
it and rehearsed the gossip, and some of them finally swore to 
their belief in the truth of it; but when their affirmations are 
analyzed and the evidence in their favor is weighed, it is alto 
gether less than vanity. 

After a very thorough investigation of these matters, I 
had occasion to make inquiry as to certain details, and wrote 
to a friend of many years, who is a Kentucky editor and 
a member of the bar, and whose home is not far from the 
storm center of this particular story. He refused to assist 
me. He said of the men who circulated these stories, " They 
are liars, and scandal-mongers!" 


Furthermore, he specified emphatically the kind of liars 
which he believed them to be. 

I omit the adjective which he employed, but I find his 
declaration recurring to memory as I ponder the evidence 
and see what these men did with it. My editorial friend is a 
man who is rather accurate in his choice of adjectives. I 
cannot find it in my heart to contradict him. 


THE story that Abraham Lincoln was the son of Martin D. 
Hardin is not physically impossible. General Hardin was born 
in 1780 and was twenty-nine years old when Abraham Lin 
coln was born. The story that he visited Nancy Hanks when 
on his way to attend the Legislature in Frankfort, is mani 
festly incorrect, as he was never a member of the Legislature, 
nor had any member of the Hardin family been in the Ken 
tucky Legislature up to that time ; but he was a frequent visitor 
to Frankfort and perhaps at that time was a resident there. 
The story would have more approach to probability if it 
said that the incident occurred on his return to his home 
county on some visit from Frankfort. 

But the story has not a shred of evidence in its favor, 
nor have I been informed of any reports concerning the life 
of Martin D. Hardin, which would make this probable. What 
makes it exceedingly improbable is: First, that in the very 
year of this supposed adventure, Martin D. Hardin was mar 
ried and happily married to a beautiful and proud young 
woman, the daughter of General Benjamin Logan; and sec 
ondly, that at that time Nancy Hanks was married to Thomas 
Lincoln and living a long ride in the direction opposite to that 
which Martin D. Hardin had occasion to travel between his 
home in Washington County, his law practice in Richmond, or 
his political affairs in Frankfort. The story is opposed by 
every element of probability in the social and geographical 
situation, and it did not originate at the time, nor until seventy 
years afterward. 

It was Ward Hill Lamon s Life of Lincoln that started 
whatever story became current in Washington County con 
cerning the illegitimacy of Lincoln. This did not occur in 
1872, when the book was published, nor until about six years 



afterward. So far as I can learn no one in Washington 
County bought or read the book then or afterward. All 
references to it that I have seen in print or manuscript indi 
cate clearly that the persons who discussed it knew of it only 
by hearsay. Even in a little pamphlet, printed in the 80 s 
by W. F. Booker, then County Clerk, and telling the story 
of the finding of the marriage certificate of Thomas and 
Nancy Lincoln, the evidence is plain that he had not seen 
the book. Knowledge of Lamon s book made its way into 
that region by way of the distillery at Athertonville. A man 
named Thompson, son of one of the then oldest inhabitants 
of Springfield, was a government officer at Athertonville, and 
there at the distillery heard discussions based upon the asser 
tion that Lamon had written a book in which he charged or 
implied that Lincoln was an illegitimate child. Thompson 
brought this report to his father, Robert Mitchell Thompson, 
a highly respected citizen, then about sixty-eight years of 
age, who had known men that were present at the marriage 
of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. He was sure that these re 
ports grew out of the futile effort that had been made to 
discover the marriage record in Hardin County. Having 
definite knowledge that the marriage had not occurred in 
that County, but in Washington County, he reported the mat 
ter to William Frederick Booker, County Clerk. Mr. Booker 
is spoken of in Washington County in terms of highest praise. 
He served as County Clerk for almost forty-four years, 
and after his first election never had opposition. 

The county records were not indexed, nor were the old 
ones filed in any fashion which made it easy to examine them. 
The search proved to be long, and Mr. Booker gave himself 
to it in such time as he could spare from his official duties. 

Meantime, the knowledge spread that Abraham Lincoln 
had been declared an illegitimate child, and there was some 
effort, amounting to nothing more than a conjecture, to deter 
mine who his father might have been. Washington County 
gave to him tentatively the best name it had. 

It should be remembered that Washington County not 
only knew that Thomas and Nancy Lincoln were married 


in that County but believed and still believes that Abraham 
Lincoln was born there. If another father than Thomas Lin 
coln had to be found, Washington County was disposed to 
find him a worthy one. 

But the Hardin tradition was short-lived. Mr. Booker s 
search was completely successful. He found not only the 
marriage return, signed by Rev. Jesse Head, but he found the 
marriage bond, signed by Thomas Lincoln and Richard Berry. 
These documents completely confirm the affirmations of Mr. 
Thompson and other old residents concerning the marriage 
of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. The Hardin tradition died 
with this discovery. I am reliably informed that it is now 
completely discredited in the county where it originated. 

I should not have considered the Hardin story worth notic 
ing, had I not been attempting a complete survey of the 
field of these reports. As I have mentioned that, I may add 
that now and then one hears a name thrown out in utter 
recklessness as that of a possible father of Abraham Lincoln. 
I will give a single, and fairly representative instance, which 
will serve as an example. 

From time to time as I made these investigations, I heard 
the confident assertion that Lincoln was the son of Patrick 
Henry. I cannot claim to have investigated this statement 
in any careful fashion. Parick Henry was born May 29, 
1736, and died June 6, 1799. As he had been dead nearly 
ten years before Abraham Lincoln was born, the story that 
he was Lincoln s father appears to me improbable. I mention 
it, however, in order that this volume may be complete. 


AMONG all the seven putative fathers of Abraham Lincoln 
there are only two who have their claims set forth in cloth- 
bound volumes. One of these, which traces Lincoln s descent 
from Chief Justice Marshall, we shall presently consider; the 
other is Abraham Enloe of North Carolina. I approach the 
discussion of his claims with some reluctance, not because they 
are strong, for the contrary is true, but because I have come 
through correspondence into somewhat close relations with the 
author of this book, and I do not find it easy to say in terms as 
courteous as his letters to me, how fallacious I deem his 

The story as Mr. Cathey gives it dates back, as he believes, 
to the early years of the nineteenth century; but he does not 
produce any date, or any fact which implies a date, earlier 
than the last quarter of the same century. The first time 
any part of this story appeared in print, appears to have been 
in the article already quoted from the Charlotte Observer, 
September 17, 1893, m tne verv * ast decade of that century. 
All Mr. Cathey s attempts to impart antiquity to the narrative 
failed signally. 

He has not been sufficiently careful in checking up his wit 
nesses. He relates this story on the authority of Colonel 
Davidson : 

" There is a lady now living who, as a girl, was visiting 
Abram Enloe. This lady says that Nancy Enloe Thompson, 
having become reconciled with her parents, had returned from 
Kentucky to North Carolina. They were to start to Ken 
tucky again in a few days, and she remembered hearing a 
neighbor say, I am glad Nancy Hanks and her boy are going 
to Kentucky with Mrs. Thompson. Mrs. Enloe will be happy 


Colonel Davidson goes on to say that he himself married 
into the Enloe family, and settled the estate of Abram Enloe, 
and has no doubt of the truth of the story. 

Colonel Davidson must have been a very credulous man. 
This lady, who was visiting Abram Enloe, and so presumably 
an adult, old enough to know and be interested in salacious 
gossip in 1808 or 1809, was still living in 1913, and was not 
then a woman of extraordinary age. 

John P. Arthur, in that year, was gathering material for 
his History of Western North Carolina, and was seeking proof 
of the illegitimacy of Lincoln, which he was very willing to 
believe. I have before me a letter of his, dated, Boone, North 
Carolina, July 28, 1913, in which he says: 

" As to the lady referred to on page 73 of Cathey s book, 
I have a full account of what it is claimed she saw and 
heard, but as she was not herself born before 1809, I have sent 
for further information as to that. I think that instead of 
seeing and hearing what it is now claimed she saw and heard, 
she only heard Mrs. Felix Walker say what she, Mrs. Walker, 
had seen or heard." 

Or quite possibly she heard some one tell what some one 
else had heard that Mrs. Felix Walker heard that some one 
had told. Arthur found that he had no direct evidence of even 
the indirect evidence to which Cathey referred. 

It is evident that when this story first appeared, the Enloes 
themselves denied any knowledge of such a tradition. In an 
article quoted, from the Charlotte Observer, Wesley Enloe 
definitely stated that he had never heard any such story. This 
was in 1893. By 1909 he had grown proud of being called 
the half-brother of Abraham Lincoln, and made the statement, 
quoted in this volume from Cathey s book, directly contra 
dicting his earlier and truthful statement. 

Moreover, it is evident from the same article that when 
the investigation, if such it can be called, began, people were 
unable to discover the alleged resemblance between the Enloes 
and Abraham Lincoln; nor do the photographs which Cathey 
reproduces resemble Mr. Lincoln more than would a group 
of portraits from almost any family in the Southern moun- 


tains. The men are habitually tall and lank ; and one need 
not ride far into the hills to find along any mountain creek a 
reasonably good model for a statue of Abraham Lincoln. 

Mr. Cathey s witnesses disagree lamentably as to where 
Abraham Lincoln was born. Some of them are sure that 
he was born in North Carolina; others that he was born in 
Tennessee, though the mischief was done in North Caro 
lina; others affirm that he was born on the way, as Thomas 
and Nancy were on their pathetic honeymoon journey; and 
still others give them time to get to Kentucky. These are not 
variants of the same story. They are, in good part, the odds 
and ends and leavings of several separate stories, of different 
births, remodeled clumsily to fit the alleged situation of Nancy 
Hanks and Thomas Lincoln. 

Mr. Cathey is hopelessly lame on dates. He declares that 
he obtained his information from people who were primitive 
but honest, dealing little in dates, but accustomed to trans 
mitting oral information correctly. I know that kind of peo 
ple, and they are good people. But they are people among 
whom rumors grow incalculably. The " grape-vine telegraph " 
of those regions transmits gossip sometimes with amazing 
speed, and not by any means is the transmission always 

In the gathering of information for this volume I en 
deavored to avoid discussion with my correspondents and the 
people whom I interviewed. I represented myself as being 
desirous of knowing the truth, and of wishing to hear all 
that was to be said in favor of any theory held by honest 
people and current in any section of our country. Mr. Cathey, 
however, asked me directly for my opinion of his theory, and 
I told him frankly what I thought. 

I wrote to Mr. Cathey that I thought he had given his 
whole case away. He had started out to prove that Abraham 
Lincoln was the son of a particular Abraham Enloe, who lived 
in North Carolina; and he had reached the point where he 
summed up his feeble argument in the very lame belief that 
Lincoln was the son of " some Abraham Enlow." I said 
to him that that admission completely nullified his argument. 


He replied in a lengthy argument, based, not on his local 
evidence, but on the alleged fact that Herndon s book had 
been bought up and suppressed by Lincoln s friends on ac 
count of the implication which it was supposed to contain that 
Lincoln was illegitimate. 

I answered that it was not certain that the book had thus 
been suppressed; that it still could be had by any one who 
really wanted to get it; that if it was suppressed there were 
other possible reasons; and that it was not certain that Hern- 
don held as a final view the theory that Lincoln was illegiti 

Mr. Cathey replied as he was about to go to the hospital. 
He reproached me for thus lightly thrusting aside " the tradi 
tions of an honest people for three quarters of a century/ but 
he brought no proof. 

Our correspondence grew less regular, as his health was 
frail, and we had about covered the ground. But I should 
like to quote the ending of one of his letters: 

" So far as my own personal intermeddling with this sacred 
incident, in the Providence of God, is concerned, I have about 
made up my mind that I should have let the matter rest where 
it was born. I am sure if I had it to do over again, I should 
not touch it. What do you think ? Answer me in your accus 
tomed freedom. 

" Cordially, 


It is not necessary for me to quote my answer to Mr. 
Cathey. His own letter is the best possible ending of this 


WE come now to one of the most distinguished of the pro 
posed fathers of Abraham Lincoln, and our inquiry involves 
a double quest. For this story tells us that Chief Justice 
Marshall was the grandfather of Abraham Lincoln, and Mar 
shall s foster son Lincoln s father. 

The story as it is told by Mrs. Lucinda Boyd, and well 
fortified with affidavits and appeals to Truth, suggests three 
questions, which we put in turn: 

The first of the three questions we must ask is as to 
the identity of Lucy Hanks, Hornback or Sparrow, with 
the maternal grandmother of Abraham Lincoln. 

The inquiry need not be a long one. Apart from the facts 
that we do not know the name of Hornback in connection 
with the ancestry of Lincoln, and that that appears to have 
been the real name of the woman whom Mr. Rogers had in 
mind, with the two names of Hanks and Sparrow added, and 
Hornback is a familiar name in the heart of Kentucky to which 
this young woman is alleged to have gone, is the simple fact 
that Lucy Hanks did not die unmarried at the foot of the 
Blue Ridge, leaving Nancy to make her way to Kentucky as 
best she could. Lucy Hanks married Henry Sparrow, bore 
him eight children, and lived in Kentucky. 

Thus readily do,es Lucy Hanks lose her place in the cast 
of Mrs. Boyd s drama. 

Our second inquiry is as to the foster or adopted son of 
Chief Justice Marshall, named Andrew, son of an English 
man, killed in border warfare with Chief Justice Marshall s 
son, after which death of his own son, Judge Marshall is al 
leged to have adopted Andrew, who removed to Winchester, 
Kentucky, where he found Nancy Hanks and became the 
father of Abraham Lincoln. 



The author has been unable to discover any such Andrew 
in the early life of Winchester as recorded in the various 
county histories of Kentucky or by inquiry of leading citizens 
in Winchester. He has been unable to find any Englishman 
of this description, perishing in this manner, and leaving his 
son to the adoption of Judge Marshall; nor did Judge Mar 
shall need to adopt any sons; he had five sons of his own. 
Nor did Judge Marshall find bereavement in any such fashion 
as to require this kind of comfort of Andrew. Judge Mar 
shall lived to the year 1835. His five sons died, respectively, 
in 1835, 1832, 1833, 1862 and 1873. He was seventy-eight 
years old when the earliest of his sons died, and was not only 
a father but the grandfather of many children, and had no 
need of any such adoption. Nor is any such name as Andrew 
to be found in the family record as very fully set forth by 
his genealogical biographer, Paxton. 

Thus are we grievously disappointed in our second in 
quiry, to say nothing about our inability to locate the battle 
in which Andrew s father died. Wherever he died and who 
ever he was, he appears in this story as a pure myth. 

In order to run no risk of losing " Afcdrew " if he existed, 
the author made diligent search in the pages first of Pax- 
ton s work on the Marshall family, and then in Senator Bev- 
eridge s two volumes on the Life of John Marshall: and as 
these yielded no result, and the Senator was known to be sit 
ting beside the press with the remaining two volumes, the 
author wrote to him. Senator Beveridge wrote in part as 
follows : 


September 17, 1919. 

Your letter of September 4 has just been forwarded to 
me here, where I have been working to complete the last two 
volumes of my Life of Chief Justice Marshall, which will be 
published by Houghton Miffiin & Co. of Boston next month. 

I have not run across any record or intimation that Chief 
Justice Marshall ever had an adopted son; and I am quite 
sure that he never did have one. 


I have been all over the ground. Not only is there no 
letter which refers directly or indirectly or gives the smallest 
intimation of any adopted son, but there is no tradition of 
any kind in Richmond supporting the idea, and none of his 
relatives has ever heard of such a thing. 

It is just possible that the legend may have taken its rise 
from the fact that when Charles Marshall, brother of the 
Chief Justice, died in 1805, he took his brother s son, Martin 
Pickett Marshall, into his family for a little time. This lad 
was born between 1794 and 1799. 

You can, I think, be fairly sure that there is nothing in 
Mrs. Boyd s book. It is as certain as anything human can 
be that if the Chief Justice had had such a young man in his 
home, there would be some reference to it. Surely Paxton 
would have referred to it, for he gathered up not only all the 
facts that he could ferret out, but many traditions and much 
gossip, some of it being far from fact. I am confident there 
is nothing in it. 

Faithfully yours, 


So far as Martin Pickett Marshall is concerned, one 
fact which makes it improbable that he was the father of 
Nancy Hanks is that she was born eleven years before he 

This, therefore, answers our second inquiry. 

In the matter of Lincoln s resemblance to Chief Justice 
Marshall, Mrs. Boyd was well within the bounds of truth. 
Any thoughtful person who looks at the statue of the Judge 
and bears in mind the form and features of Lincoln, must be 
impressed as she was impressed. The resemblance between 
the two men was so great as to be startling. Senator Beveridge 
has given two or three pages to this in his four volume Life of 
John Marshall. Not only were the two men alike in face and 
form, but their habits of life and their mental and moral char 
acteristics were alike. 

They wei-e so much alike that one wonders why Mrs. 
Boyd did not make better use of her material. The whole 
Marshall family moved to Kentucky, except Chief Justice John 
Marshall, and his brother James Marshall himself visited Ken- 


tucky twice ; and, while it is not certain that Judge Marshall s 
eldest son ever visited that new state, it is not unlikely that he 
did so, and he may have been there several times. The pos 
sibility of linking the lineage of Abraham Lincoln to that of 
Justice John Marshall is so apparent to one who knows the 
history of the Marshall family, that one hesitates to suggest 
how much better story Mrs. Boyd could have made if she had 
made a little effort to learn the facts. They are not difficult 
to obtain. Paxton, in his Genealogy of the Marshall Family, 
records not only the dry facts of lineage, but innumerable 
details and much gossip: and there are other sources of in 
formation. With a few real facts she could have made a 
better piece of fiction. 

The third inquiry is as to the son of Chief Justice John 
Marshall who is alleged to have been the father of Nancy 

This is a more detailed inquiry, for Chief Justice Marshall 
had six children, of whom five were sons. We will name 
them in order. 

John Marshall, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court 
of the United States, was born near Germantown, Va., 
September 25, 1755, an< ^ died in Philadelphia July 6, 1835. 
He was married at Yorktown, Va., to Mary Willis Ambler, 
by whom he had issue: 

1. Thomas Marshall, was born in Richmond, Va., July 
21, 1784, and died in Baltimore, June 29, 1835. He married 
Margaret W. Lewis, October 19, 1809. He was a graduate 
of Princeton, and a lawyer. His health failed, and he retired 
to his farm. He became a zealous member of the Episcopal 
Church. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention 
of Virginia, over which his father presided. He was a man 
of literary taste and culture, a lover of poetry, music and 
the fine arts. 

2. Dr. Jacquelin Ambler Marshall was born December 3, 
1787, and died July 7, 1852. He married, January i, 1812, 
Eliza E. S. Clarkson. Though a physician, he did not engage 
in active practice, but was sought in consultation. He was a 
well-read country gentleman of good reputation. 


3. Mary Marshall was born September 7, 1795, married 
General Jacquelin B. Harrie, and died April 29, 1841. 

4. John Marshall was born January 15, 1798, and died 
November 25, 1833. He married, February 3, 1822, Miss 
E. M. Alexander. He was a graduate of Harvard, a lawyer, 
ancTseveral times a member of the Virginia Legislature. 

5. James Keith Marshall was born February 13, 1800, 
and died December 2, 1862. He married Clarinda H. Bur- 
well. He was a graduate of Harvard, and led the life of a 
country gentleman. He was several times elected to the State 
Senate. He opposed the secession of Virginia, but when she 
seceded he went, as did all the Marshalls, with his State, but 
died early in the war.. He was highly esteemed as a generous 
and honorable man. 

6. Edward Carrington Marshall was born January 13, 
1805, and died February 8, 1872. He married, February 12, 
1829, Rebecca C. Peyton. He was a graduate of Harvard, 
a regular church and Sunday School attendant, fond of good 
reading. He sympathized with the South but was too old to 
fight. He had suffered from the fall of a horse which he was 
riding and whose fall nearly killed the rider, and was 
for some years an invalid. After the War, which impover 
ished him, he was offered and accepted a clerkship in the 
Pension Office, in Washington, and thus earned his daily 

These are the five men among whom we are now to look 
in order to find a father for Nancy Hanks and a grandfather 
for Abraham Lincoln. There should be no doubt of our suc 
cess with so many to choose from, and if we do not wholly 
succeed, we can leave an aroma of scandal attaching to the 
entire five. We can learn, if we try, which of these boys was 
a little wild in his youth; which of them had questionable love 
affairs before he went to college; which of them led too gay 
a life in college; which of them caused domestic distress by 
too great frivolity after marriage. 

Moreover, among the four hundred living descendants 
of John Marshall, we shall be able to find some, who, when 
the matter is suggested to them, will remember to have heard 


that th,e wife of one of the sons of John Marshall caught him 
in the act of kissing the cook; and, with a little further sug 
gestion, we shall doubtless be able to establish the name of 
the cook as Nancy Hanks. Having done this, we shall find 
that Thomas Lincoln was sufficiently migratory to admit of 
our bringing him to the rescue wherever and whenever the 
exigencies of our story require. We can quite easily evoke 
a story which no one can disprove, and which will make every 
one of the four hundred descendants of the first Chief Justice 
of the United States blush for shame. It is surprisingly 
easy to do it. 

Let us first begin by discovering which of these five sons 
was " killed in border warfare." That is a sufficiently elastic 
term to cover any kind of violent death. 

But here we meet another disappointment. All five of these 
men appear to have died at home, each in his own bed, and 
most of them on the farm, far from the madding crowd and 
from scenes of violence. We search in vain through Senator 
Beveridge s Life of John Marshall for his adjournment of 
court to stand by the coffin of a son slain in battle of any 

However, it will not do to be discouraged. That is a small 
and immaterial item. Perhaps he was not so killed, but de 
served to have been so killed. Let us find out which of the 
five sons would have been most likely to seduce Nancy. The 
whole family wer.e Episcopalians, but some of them did not 
take their religion very seriously; we can find something if 
we try hard. 

But just as a matter of caution, let us pause and consult 
that very arbitrary volume, the almanac. It is a volume which 
scandal-mongers pass by on the oth,er side. This whole body 
of tradition has in it hardly a single date that is material to 
the evidence. We will find a few. 

As a matter of chronology, which of the five sons of John 
Marshall would have been most likely to have been the father 
of Nancy Hanks? 

In a painstaking and gossipy volume of more than 400 
pages, William M. Paxton, in 1885, published the Genealogy 


of the family and descendants of John Marshall. His five 
sons were born thus : 

Thomas in 1784; Jacquelin in 1787; John in 1798; James 
in 1800, and Edward in 1805. 

Nancy Hanks was born in 1783. 

Instead of being the daughter, she might have been the 
elder sister of John Marshall s oldest son, and the mother of 
the youngest! 

Mrs. Lucinda Boyd begins her story with an appeal to 
Truth. History, she says, should be painted with Truth on 
her right hand and Memory on her left. Truth is her guide 
and inspiration, Truth with a capital T, Truth emphasized, the 
whole truth italicized. Nothing but the Truth, the Truth, 
will satisfy Mrs. Lucinda Boyd. To be sure that she has the 
Truth she obtains affidavits, certifying to what the affiants 
have heard that other people heard of what had been told 
by nobody knows who to nobody knows whom. It is perhaps 
because the Truth is so precious to her that she uses it so 
economically. Having now run down into its remotest rat- 
hole her story that would give to Abraham Lincoln as a great 
grandfather the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of 
the United States, and having shown that the story thus sup 
ported by a stack of affidavits, her own included, is absurdly 
false, and should have been known to her as false before she 
ever printed a page of her sloppy and slanderous story, I now 
renounce Lucinda and all her works. 


As compared with most of the stories concerning the paternity 
of Abraham Lincoln, the theory that he was the son of John 
C. Calhoun is entitled to thoughtful consideration. Such con 
sideration w,e have given to all of them; most do not deserve 
it. Mr. Knotts, the protagonist of this theory, has wrought it 
out with a care and in a spirit which call for recognition. 
Among all who have sought to provide Abraham Lincoln 
with a father other than Thomas Lincoln, he alone has shown 
some respect for chronology. He only has examined public 
records of wills, marriages and land transfers. Mr. Cathey 
has shown diligence in assembling traditions from members 
of the Enloe family and their neighbors, and assigning to 
them a conjectural antiquity which the evidence does not sus 
tain, but in all the large volume of his accumulated tradition, 
there is not a single fixed date. If the calendar had small 
pox, his theory would be immune. There is no point in his 
book where one may begin and reckon in terms of time and 
distance. It is otherwise with Mr. Knotts and his theory. He 
has some respect for the almanac. He has shown marked 
industry in collecting data concerning the Hanks family in 
several states. I have reproduced it in this book more largely 
than might otherwise have seemed necessary, partly that he 
might set forth in full the evidence as he judged it to be im 
portant, and partly that others, who may care to go more 
deeply into the difficult question of the Hanks family, may have 
full benefit of his material. He has sought out the relations 
between Thomas Lincoln and his uncle Isaac, thus endeavoring 
to establish for that convenient gentleman, Thomas Lincoln, 
who is certain to be needed for the assistance of some lady in 
distress, a convenient base of operation, nearer to South Caro 
lina than Kentucky is or could have been. 



It is to be noted, further, to the credit of this theory, that 
it provides for Abraham Lincoln a male parent of real ability, 
a man incontestibly superior to Thomas Lincoln, which some 
of the substitutes have not been. 

Mr. Knotts has a carefully wrought scheme of chronology, 
and has articulated his theory so well that John C. Arthur took 
it over bodily, with full credit to Mr. Knotts, in his History 
of Western North Carolina. This was a high compliment, 
especially as North Carolina had its own aspirant to the 
paternity of Abraham Lincoln in the person of Mr. Cathey s 
Abraham Enloe. That Arthur accepted this story and not the 
other is a hard blow to the Enloe story, which, indeed, is no 
longer worth considering. 

Pursuant to this chronological scheme, John C. Calhoun, 
who has been studying law at Litchfield, Connecticut, comes 
back to his native state in 1807, and hangs out his shingle 
in Abbeville, and travels the circuit to adjacent counties, and 
stays at a tavern half way between two county seats. The 
date is correct. Calhoun did all those things, including, 
probably, stopping occasionally at this particular tavern, 
which may at that time have been kept by Ann, the widow 
of Luke Hanks. And there might have been a Nancy Hanks 
helping about the tavern; and she might have been the kind 
of girl which all th,ese various Nancy Hankses are supposed 
to have been, and Calhoun may have been the kind of young 
man whom this story supposes. So far forth, the story is 
not without its elements of plausibility. 

To this is added the lodge-room gossip to the effect that 
John C. Calhoun s intimate friends whispered that he had 
sown certain wild oats in his youth ; and the story among the 
women of what Mrs. Felix Walker told. The story assumes 
some elements of possibility as it is thus viewed. And 
that is saying more for it than can be said for most of 

John Caldwell Calhoun was born in the 96th District 
South Carolina, March 18, 1782, and died in Washington, 
March 31, 1850. His grandfather, James Calhoun, emigrated 
from Donegal County, Ireland, to Pennsylvania, in 1733, 


when his son Patrick, father of John C, was six years old. 
Patrick Calhoun was an Irish Presbyterian, energetic, patriotic, 
and sided with the colonies in the War for Independence. 
In 1770 he married Martha Caldwell, daughter of an Irish 
Presbyterian minister. Patrick Calhoun was a public-spirited 
man, and a member of the Virginia Legislature. 

Of such parents John C. Calhoun was born. He was 
prepared for college by his brother-in-law, Rev. Dr. Waddell, 
a Presbyterian minister, and went to Yale in 1802. He studied 
law with local members of the bar, and then finished his course 
at Litchfield, Connecticut, where he was graduated in 1807, 
and in the same year admitted to the bar. 

His experience as a lawyer was of four years duration, 
for in November, 1811, he was elected to Congress. 

He was riding the circuit at the time required in Mr. 
Knotts theory, and, if the mother of Abraham Lincoln was 
there at that time, the story is physically possible. 

But to show that a thing is possible is not to prove that 
it is true. And before we go much farther, it will be well to 
inquire what particular Nancy Hanks, if any, was actually at 
the tavern kept by Mrs. Ann Hanks in the short period during 
which Calhoun rode the circuit. For the law did not hold 
him long; politics soon claimed him; and the period in which 
he was riding the circuit is just the period when this story 
requires his presence, and that of some Nancy Hanks, at the 
tavern at Craytonville. 

It is not very easy to follow the generations of the 
Hanks family through their intermarriages, their migrations 
and their duplication of names. Fortunately, we are not con 
cerned with the entire problem, but with only so much of it as 
is necessary to the determination of the question whether one 
particular Nancy Hanks, and she the mother of President 
Lincoln, was at the tavern at Craytonville in the spring of 
1808. This inquiry warrants a brief survey of the Hanks 

Mrs. Hitchcock traces the maternal line of Abraham Lin 
coln from the Hanks family of Plymouth, Massachusetts. 
The third son of Benjamin Hanks, William by name, is be- 


lieved by her, though without documentary evidence, to have 
gone to the Rappahannock County in Virginia, where his sons, 
Abraham, Richard, James, John and Joseph were born. All 
except John removed and settled in Amelia County about 
1740. Here documentary evidence begins. On January 12, 
1747, Joseph sold two hundred and eighty- foulr acres of 
land to his brother Abraham, and on July 12, 1754, bought 
in the same county, the land where his children were born, 
among them a daughter Nancy, whom she believes to have 
been the mother of the President. 

In the next county to Amelia, Lurenburg, an Englishman 
named Robert Shipley bought three hundred and fourteen 
acres of land on September 16, 1765. He and his wife, Sarah 
Rachel Shipley, had five daughters, Mary, who married 
Abraham Lincoln of Rockaway County, Virginia, grandfather 
of Abraham Lincoln th,e President; Lucy, who married Rich 
ard Berry; Sarah, who married Robert Mitchell; Elizabeth, 
who married Thomas Sparrow, and Nancy, who married 
Joseph Hanks. 

Joseph and Nancy Shipley Hanks had eight children, 
Thomas, Joshua, William, Charles, Joseph, Jr., Elizabeth, 
Polly and Nancy. This is the Nancy Hanks whom Mrs. Hitch 
cock believes to have been the mother of President Abraham 

Joseph Hanks migrated to Kentucky in 1789, and died four 
years later. His will, dated January 9, 1793, was probated 
May 14, 1793. He left a horse to each of his sons and a 
heifer to each of his daughters. Nancy received a yearling 
heifer named Piedy. He left to his " beloved wife Nanny " 
his whole estate during life. She and her son William w.ere 
the executors. 

Mrs. Hitchcock sets forth what is, in fact, one of the chief 
difficulties of the inquiry, the fact that the Hanks family did 
not go far afield for family names, and had a special fond 
ness for the name Nancy : 

This little Nancy Hanks had also many cousins named 
Nancy. . . . Theirs was a large and happy colony of cousins, 
and merry were the days passed in hunting, hawking and 


fishing in the great estates of nearly a thousand acres owned 
by these kind uncles and aunts " (Nancy Hanks, p. 26). 

Their hunting may have been more merry than the hunt 
of genealogists for the true Nancy Hanks, but the estate of 
a thousand acres was small compared with the area over which 
the latter chase has been extended, with no little fishing for 
possible clues of identification. The fact that the marriage 
bond of Nancy Hanks and Thomas Lincoln was signed by 
Richard Berry, is supposed to indicate him to have been her 
uncle and guardian. Mrs. Richard Berry is stated by Mrs. 
Hitchcock to have been " her mother s sister." She says 
" With this kind Uncle Richard and Aunt Lucy, Nancy 
Hanks lived until she was married." 

There is no Lucy in the list of Joseph Hanks children 
as given in his will, and any neighbor could have signed the 
marriage bond, which for a woman of twenty-three in a land 
where girls marry at sixteen was a mere formality. Almost 
any by-stander around the court house will sign a marriage 
bond in Kentucky. The name upon the bond is not conclusive, 
but it is inferential proof of the relationship, and is probably 

The short and simple annals of the Hanks family as given 
by Lamon, on tHe basis, of course, of Herndon, who had his 
information from Dennis and other members of the Hanks 
family, are these: 

Nancy Hanks was the daughter of Lucy Hanks. Her 
mother was one of four sisters, Lucy, Betsy, Polly and Nancy. 
Betsy married Thomas Sparrow; Polly married Thomas 
Friend ; Nancy married Levi Hall, but not until she had given 
birth to Dennis Hanks. Lucy became the mother of Nancy 
Hanks, and subsequently married Henry Sparrow, by whom 
she had eight children. The younger Nancy, however, did not 
live with her mother, Lucy Hanks Sparrow, but with the other 
Sparrow family, that of Thomas and Betsy Sparrow. 

This, it will be noted, brings the place of Nancy Hanks 
Lincoln one full generation later than the list given by Mrs. 
Hitchcock, with much uncertainty as to marriages in the two 
lists. The difficulty, of course, arises partly from the incom- 


pleteness of records, partly from the overlapping of genera 
tions, and partly from repetition of names. As there were 
many Hanks girls named Nancy, so there w^re duplicate 
Pollys, Betsys and Lucys. 

Nicolay and Hay give the same list of sisters and of 
their marriages as that given in Lamon: 

"Mrs. Lincoln s mother was named Lucy Hanks; her 
sisters were Betty, Polly and Nancy, who married Thcmas 
Sparrow, Jesse Friend, and Levi Hall. The childhood of 
Nancy was passed with the Sparrows, and she was oftener 
called by their name than her own. The whole family con 
nection was composed of people so little given to letters that it 
is hard to determine the proper names and relationships amid 
the tangle of traditional cousinships." NICOLAY AND HAY: 
Abraham Lincoln, A History, Vol. I, p. 24. 

Mr. Knotts begins where Mrs. Hitchcock does, with Will 
iam, in Rappahannock County, and accepts on her authority her 
attempt to connect him with the Plymouth family. He finds 
William migrating to Amelia County, just as Mrs. Hitchcock 
does, but instead of the five sons whom she gives, Abraham, 
Richard, James, John and Joseph, he declares that there were 
twelve children. Thus far there may be no conflict. Mr. 
Knotts twelve may have included the five of Mrs. Hitchcock; 
but the son through whom he traces the paternity of Nancy is 
not one of her five, but " the youngest son, Luke." Among his 
daughters were Lucy, and Nancy, the very Nancy who be 
came the mother of the President. 

Luke, James and John migrated to South Carolina. James 
and John went on to Kentucky, but Luke and his wife Ann 
lived and died in Anderson County, South Carolina. 

The children of Luke and Ann Hanks, as Mr. Knotts 
gives them, are five sons and six daughters, Thomas, Luke, 
John, Robert, George, Lucinda, Scilla, Elizabeth, Martha, 
Susan and Judith, all of whom remain in South Carolina. 

It will be noted that this places Nancy Hanks Lincoln 
one generation earlier than Herndon and the H^nks family, 
and two full generations earlier than Mrs. Hitchcock. 

In his first letter he says: 


"My own research is from Amelia County, Virginia, 
wh,ere William Hanks came from the Rappahannock country 
and raised a family of twelve children. One of the girls 
married Abraham Lincoln s father, Thomas Lincoln, and set 
tled in Kentucky." 

But the children of William Hanks appear to have been 
grown and doing business on their own account when the 
family came to Amelia County about 1740. 

Nancy Hanks, the mother of the President, was, how 
ever, by Mr. Knotts showing, three years and three or four 
months old in May, 1799. There is a wide margin and 
apparent discrepancy here. 

If Mr. Knotts really intended to locate Nancy in this 
generation, as the daughter of William Hanks, and a sister 
of Luke, she would have been, as I estimate, at the time of 
her alleged indiscretion, a giddy young thing of somewhere 
between sixty-four to seventy-two. I could not think Mr. 
Knotts intended this, particularly as he included her in the 
list of heirs of Luke Hanks. Neither could I obtain from 
the county officials a certified list of th^e heirs of Luke Hanks 
with a statement of their relationship to him, although I ex 
hausted all known possibilities in this direction. 

Here is the first weakness in the argument of Mr. Knotts; 
his articles ar,e not clear as to the precise Nancy Hanks who 
flirted with John C. Calhoun. He shows with convincing 
detail how many women of that name there were, and sets 
forth the difficulty of accepting the conclusions of Mrs. Hitch 
cock and Miss Tarbell as to her identification with the heiress 
of the pied heifer; but he does not give us a clear statement 
concerning the only Nancy in whom for the purpose of this 
investigation we are interested. 

John C. Calhoun returned to South Carolina from the 
law school about a year and a half before the birth of Abraham 
Lincoln. The family of Luke Hanks was in that neighbor 
hood. But the list of Luke Hanks children, as furnished 
by Mr. Knotts as from the first court records, contains no 
daughter of his named Nancy; 1 and if she were a sister of 

1 There was a daughter Nancy, however, as shown by these records, 
and she completely upsets Mr. Knott s theory as we shall discover. 


approximately the age of Luke, the youngest son of William, 
she was, to say the very least, old enough to have known bet 
ter. She was nearer seventy-three than twenty-three. 

I confided this difficulty to Mr. Knotts who tells me that 
this is not what he intended; that Nancy was not the sister 
but the youngest daughter of Luke Hanks. But I could not 
find Nancy in his own list of Luke Hanks children. Her name 
first appears, as he declares, in 1833: 

" Nothing more is of record until 1833 " when the suit for 
division was brought, and a list of heirs filed, evidently not 
all of them children, for there were fifty-six of them, with 
degree of relationship apparently not stated, and twenty- 
seven are beyond the State; and "Amongst them appears a 
new heir to this humble estate, Nancy Hanks/ 

I made diligent effort to secure from the court officials 
of Anderson and Abbeville something that would enable me 
to determine the relationship of this Nancy Hanks to the 
family in general and to the mother of Abraham Lincoln in 
particular, but they wrote me that they could give me no 

But in a work of this kind one must never be discouraged. 
After I had nearly given up the effort to locate this particular 
Nancy Hanks, I tried once more, and I find that Mr. Knotts is 
mistaken in a vital point. 

The long list of heirs at law of Luke and Ann Hanks as 
divergently set forth in the two suits for partition, included, 
of cours,e, grandchildren as well as children. I desired to 
learn precisely the names and if possible the relative ages of 
the children of Luke and Ann Hanks, in order to determine, 
if possible, whether there was, in 1807, a youngest and un 
married daughter Nancy, who might have been the wife of 
Thomas Lincoln. Several attempts to secure this information 
failed; but a further search, made for me by Mr. G. H. 
Geiger, attorney at law in Anderson, brings me the follow 
ing lists as they were presented and approved at the two 
suits : 

The two lists of children of Luke and Ann Hanks as 
contained in : 


Judgment Roll N. 286 in the Judge of Probate s Office 
For Anderson County, at Anderson, South Carolina. 
State of South Carolina 
County of Anderson. 

Personally appeared David Rupell and Luke Hanie and 
being in due form of law sworn say that they are well ac- 


quainted with the land belonging to the estate of Anna 
Hanks deed for which application is now made for partition by 
the Court of Ordinary & that it is not worth one thousand 
dollars. Sworn to and subscribed Jany. ist., 
1838, before me. David Rupell 

A. Evins, Not. Pub. & Luke Haynie 

Ex Off. Q.h. 

The land of Luke Hanks, deed. 
The Heirs of 

1. Elizabeth Hanie, formerly E. Hanks (out of the state) 
The Heirs of 

2. Nancy South " Nancy " (out Of) 

3. Stephen Hanie by right of his wife Martha H. (in) 

4. Thomas Hanks (out) 

5. Luke Hanks , (in) 

6. Polly Hanks, Wife of George Hanks (in) 

7. Charles Hanie by right of his wife Susan (in) 

8. Louie Pruitt formerly Louie Hanks (out) 

9. Robert Hanks (out) 

10. Judith Hanie Alias Judith Hall for, Hanks (in) 

11. John Hanks (out) 


Land of Anna Hanks Dtecd. 210 acres lying on waters of 
Rockey River bounded by lands of Luke Hanks John Martin, 
Wm. Prichard and others 

1. Thomas Hanks 

2. Luke Hanks (in the State) 

3. Robert Hanks 

4. (in) Polly Hanks, wife of George Hanks, deceased. 

5. John Hanks 
The Heirs 


6. Elizabeth Hanie, formerly E. Hanks 

7. Martha Hanie, wife of Stephen Hanie 

8. (in) Scilla South, wife of Wm. South 

9. Th.e heirs of Nancy South, formerly Hanks 

10. Judith Hanie, wife of Anthony Hanie 

11. Lucretia Pruit 

Sold on a credit of twelve months. 

This is the complete record of the judgment roll. 

Attorney at Law. 

Anderson, South Carolina. 

It is evident that these two lists were prepared independ 
ently, and that the latter was not copied from the earlier 
list. This is shown in the different order in which the 
names appear, the fact that at least one of the heirs appears 
to have died between the first and second suits, and that there 
is a discrepancy as to one of the daughters. As that dis 
crepancy does not concern our inquiry, I have made no effort 
to reconcile it. I may suggest, however, that Susan and 
Scylla may have been the same daughter and that she was 
twice married. That is for our purpose immaterial; and 
the two lists may be thus compared as to the number and 
position of the names: 


1. Elizabeth Hanie (out) 6. Elizabeth Hanie, former 

ly Hanks 

2. Nancy South, formerly 9. Heirs of Nancy South, 
Hanks (out) formerly Hanks 

3. Martha, wife of Stephen 7. Martha Hanie 
Hanie (in) 

4. Thomas Hanks (out) i. Thomas Hanks 

5. Luke Hanks (in) 2. Luke Hanks 

6. Polly, wife of George 4. Polly, wife of George, 
Hanks (in) deceased 

7. Susan, wife of Charles 
Hanie (in) 

8. Lucretia or Louie Pruitt n. Lucretia Pruitt 


9. Robert Hanks (out) 3. Robert Hanks 

10. Judith Hanie, alias Hall 10. Judith, wife of Anthony 
(in) Hanie 

11. John Hanks (out) 5. John Hanks 

8. Scilla South, wife of 
Wm. South. 

These two lists are valuable for our purposes. They show 

1. There was a Nancy Hanks, daughter of Luke and 
Ann Hanks. 

2. She probably was not the youngest daughter, since her 
name occurs early in the first list ; and it is not likely that she 
was unmarried and serving in the tavern as late as 1807. 

3. She is not unaccounted for. Though living beyond the 
State, her name is known. 

4. She never married Thomas Lincoln. She was mar 
ried, and h,er name was South. 

Not only was there no missing Nancy, but Nancy had 
been married to one South, and was dead before the final 
settlement, but not in 1833. 

This completely settles the report that the young woman 
whom Thomas Lincoln married was a daughter of Luke and 
Ann Hanks, who had previously been seduced by John C. Cal- 

We may dismiss with brief scrutiny the lodge-room gossip. 

John C. Calhoun died March 31, 1850. He and Lincoln 
probably met during Lincoln s one term in Congress in 1848-9. 
General Armistead Burt, who is said to have married a niece 
of Calhoun, is said to have told in confidence to a few com 
panions in a lodge-room that Calhoun in his young manhood 
became intimate with a poor girl, whom the tradition, as it came 
to Mr. Knotts many years afterward, named as Nancy Hanks. 
This confidential conversation is supposed to have occurred 
in the seventies, sixty or more years after the event, and an 
other forty years went by before Mr. Knotts learned and 
published it. In these two periods of oral transmission there 
was abundant opportunity for such a story to grow out of 


nothing to any conceivable proportions. As a leak from the 
confidential gossip of a lodge-room it stands on no basis which 
entitles it to any more than passing attention. 

Mr. Knotts thinks he has established a connection between 
thes,e stories of Calhoun and the paternity of Lincoln, in the 
alleged interview of James L. Orr, a young man from South 
Carolina, who visited Washington in 1849, where he met 
Abraham Lincoln, and found him uncommunicative on the 
subject of his Hanks ancestry. If such an interview occurred, 
there is no reason to dispute that Mr. Lincoln showed reti 
cence; but that is no proof that he admitted by implication 
any such story as has now grown up in South Carolina. 

The other line of gossip, which is based on what Mrs. Felix 
Walker is alleged to have said about the young girl whom 
her husband had arranged to send over the mountains, is of 
just as little evidential value, excepting for this, that it shows 
this to be an outgrowth of the North Carolina Enloe story. 
Even with John C. Calhoun as the principal actor, it is nec 
essary to bring in Abraham Enloe as an accessory. The Cal 
houn story ought to have been created with sufficient strength 
of its own to stand upon its own feet, and not limp on th,e 
Enloe crutch. 

We move rapidly over these details, for they are not worth 
discussing. They bring us to the real issue, and to a certain 
result. John C. Calhoun may have stopped at the Crayton- 
ville tavern in 1808, but if he did the girl who passed him 
the corn-bread and long-sweetening was not Nancy Hanks 
Lincoln. She was not there. She was living temporarily on 
the Brownfield farm, in Hardin County, Kentucky, and had 
a baby girl toddling about the cabin where she baked hoe- 
cake for Thomas Lincoln, and dreamed of the day when she 
should be living in her own home over by the Rock Spring, 
and the mother of a son. 

Abraham Lincoln was born not quite three miles south 
from where the village of Hodgenville now stands, in Hardin, 
then La Rue County, Kentucky, on Sunday, February 12, 
1809. Let us fix that date in our mind as one that we shall 
not need to move. Any credible theory of the paternity of 


Lincoln must face the fact that he was born there and on 
that date. 

What Mr. Knotts has proved is this: 

That John C. Calhoun rode the circuit after his return 
from law school in 1807, and may have stopped once or more 
at the tavern at Craytonville, which for a time, and perhaps 
at that time, was kept by Ann, the widow of Luke Hanks. 

That there were more Hanks girls named Nancy than one, 
and that there is a reasonable doubt whether Mrs. Hitchcock s 
conjectural identification is correct. 

That there were certain rumors afloat some twenty years 
after the death of Mr. Calhoun, and sixty or more years after 
the events narrated, to the effect that Mr. Calhoun, while gen 
erally a moral man, looked back on his youth with regret for 
one mistake, involving a girl whom this belated rumor named 
after the mother of President Lincoln, Nancy Hanks. 

That certain features of the Enloe story of North Carolina, 
and certain facts concerning the residence of Thomas Lincoln s 
uncle Isaac, can be wrought into the story. 

But this is a house of cards, which a very mild breeze might 
blow over, and it falls utterly before the tempestuous fact that 
Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were married at Beech- 
land, Washington County, Kentucky, by Jesse Head, on June 
12, 1806, and that they lived together continuously in Hardin 
County, Kentucky, until the birth of their second child, Abra 
ham, on February 12, 1809, and that they continued thereafter 
to live together as husband and wife in that county and in 
Indiana until the death of Nancy Hanks Lincoln. 

In the face of that indubitable fact, there is no use wast 
ing any more time over the charge that Abraham Lincoln was 
the son of John C. Calhoun. 


IT is important to ask whether these stories support each other, 
or whether they contradict each other. 

A wholly unwarranted inference has been drawn by some 
writers from the number of forms in which the Enlow story 
is found. 

" Behold," they say, " how widespread is this rumor. 
Where there is so much smoke, there must be some fire. Each 
of these stories, though having a different man for its hero, 
adds its element of cumulative proof that some Abraham En- 
low was the father of Abraham Lincoln." 

Precisely the opposite is the logical inference. 

Ally proof adduced to show that Abraham Lincoln was 
the son of Abraham Enloe of North Carolina is adverse proof 
of his having been the son of any and every other Abraham 
Enlow. These stories devour each other like the Kilkenny 

If we adduce sufficient evidence that Abraham Lincoln was 
sired by a man in North Carolina, whether his name was 
Abraham Enloe or John C. Calhoun, or John Doe or Richard 
Roe, we weaken to that same extent any claim or rumor or 
suspicion that he was the son of Abraham Inlow, the miller 
of Thatcher s Mills, or Abraham Enlow, the farmer of Har- 
din County. 

What is more, we are compelled to see that the process of 
creating these rumors is very simple. Once let it fe said that 
Abraham Lincoln s father was Abraham Enlow, any com 
munity that had an Abraham Enlow in 1808 can easily start 
a story that Lincoln was begotten there. Whether Abraham 
Enlow was fourteen or eighty makes little difference; some 
even of his descendants will abet the rumor that links their 
name to that of Lincoln. 



It is not necessary that the Enlow selected shall ever have 
seen Kentucky. It is always possible to create a Nancy Hanks, 
a servant girl, who in the space of nine months could have 
made her journey thither; and if nine months is not long 
enough, as in some instances it is not, then an extension can 
be arranged for her journey, though with a baby in her arms. 

Not only are innumerable Abraham Enlows produced 
by the laudable desire to produce a worthy male parent for 
Abraham Lincoln, but nearly if not quite as many Nancy 
Hankses have been discovered also, and each of them in dan 
gerous propinquity to an Abraham Enlow. Mary and her 
little lamb are not more invariably together than the Abra 
ham Enlows and the Nancy Hankses. Everywhere that Abra 
ham went, Nancy was sure to go. Without exception, all the 
Abraham Enlows were men ready to betray a poor girl, and 
invariably each and every several Nancy fell a prompt victim 
to his seductive snare. 

And each Nancy ultimately married Thomas Lincoln, the 
same Thomas Lincoln. Solomon in all his glory had hardly 
more wives than Thomas Lincoln, if all these stories are true; 
but Solomon did not have to call them all by the same name. 
It is impossible to supply a sufficient number of Thomas Lin- 
coins to meet the demand of the numberless Nancys in dis 
tress; and it is sad to contemplate his embarrassment who 
never could adequately support one wife in having thrust upon 
him a harem of young women who had loved not wisely, but 
too well, and who depended upon his sole chivalry to save 
them from disgrace. 

It will be noted that whenever the holder of any one of 
these several theories of the illegitimacy of Lincoln is con 
fronted by an argument which he cannot answer, he replies, 
in substance, as Cathey does, 

" The very fact that Herndon s and Lamon s lives of Lin 
coln were suppressed by men of high standing and influence 
some years ago, and that expurgated parts of those " lives " 
were the paragraphs which related to Lincoln s Enloe origin, 
is sufficient proof of the foundation on fact of these state 
ments. Neither Col. Lamon nor Mr. Herndon would have 


recorded a lie about Lincoln s paternity, and these suppres 
sors knew it." Gathers letter to Burton, May 16, 1919. 

This statement is not conclusive. 

First, while it is generally believed that influential friends 
of Lincoln, some of whom are named in the story of the al 
leged suppression, bought up a considerable portion of the edi 
tion of each of these two books and destroyed it, that state 
ment is also denied. Mr. Weik informs me that he personally 
has been unable to find any proof of it. 

In the second place, the portions which suggest that Lin 
coln was illegitimate are not wholly removed from Herndon s 
second edition. There was no second edition of Lamon s 
"Life" His "Recollections" is a wholly different book, 
and does not relate at all to Lincoln s birth, but only to some 
personal reminiscences of Lamon himself. 

In the third place, there were other and valid reasons why 
the relatives of Lincoln should not have enjoyed the books 
of either Lamon or Herndon. Lamon first published the 
Browning letter, and his tone throughout is unpleasant, while 
his representation of Lincoln as cold, unsympathetic, ungrate 
ful and barely honest, as well as utterly destitute of religious 
faith and willing to deceive people or let them deceive them 
selves concerning him, was reason enough why it might have 
been suppressed if suppression had been possible. As for the 
expurgated portions of Herndon, the principal one is the 
"First Chronicles of Reuben" and it is a question whether 
that piece of backwoods vulgarity having once been printed, 
it would not have been better to let it stand to prevent people 
who knew that it had been cut out from supposing it to have 
been worse than it really was. It certainly was nothing for 
the friends of Lincoln to be proud of; but the worst that can 
be said about it is that it records a rude practical joke alleged 
to have been played upon two newly married couples in show 
ing each bridegroom to the bed where the other s bride was. 
No very serious consequences appear to have resulted before 
the speedy discovery of the joke; but Lincoln, who is alleged 
to have had a hand in planning it, wrote it up in his rough 
boyhood, and the community laughed over the joke and his 


account of it. It was not a pretty incident, but it has been 
taken too seriously. It was this, chiefly, which was eliminated 
in Herndon s second edition. 

These stories lend each other no support. On the con 
trary, each one of them contradicts all the others at some 
vital point. The more nearly any one of them appears to be 
true, the more does it become apparent that truth has been 
outraged in that and in the others. These stories have no 
cumulative value. They effectually disprove each other, and 
each is disproved also by independent evidence. 


THE avowed purpose of those who disseminate these various 
stories is to provide for Abraham Lincoln a worthy and ade 
quate father. God did not make Lincoln out of nothing, as 
one of them remarks, and to believe that Thomas Lincoln was 
his father is to hold that view. Some one must have been 
his father who was capable of transmitting qualities great 
enough to have developed into Abraham Lincoln. 

The question naturally rises, If this necessity exists, why 
stop with Abraham Enlow? In what respect of body, mind 
or estate were the Enlows superior to the Lincolns? Sarah 
Bush and the Johnstons looked down upon them both : what 
evidence is there that any one of the numerous Abraham En- 
lows who are credited with the paternity of Lincoln could have 
transmitted to him anything superior to what was inherent 
in Thomas Lincoln? The Enlows bred mightily in several 
Appalachian States: where is their list of additional Lin 
colns ? They are, indeed, a reputable family : the worst thing 
that is known against them is the readiness of some of them, 
but not all, to smirch the reputation of their own grandfathers 
for the sake of establishing a fictitious relationship with Abra 
ham Lincoln. 1 Why have none of them afforded to the world 
more convincing proof by begetting other Lincolns? They 
still live, the Enlows, in homes not greatly superior to that 
in which Abraham Lincoln was born : why did they not trans 
mit thefr genius and enterprise to some other of their sons? 

A family that has so much genius to spare that it can de 
posit its cuckoo eggs in other nests and hatch eagles should 
rear brave birds at home, and have no need to claim what does 
not belong to it in other families. 

1 The Kentucky Enlows I have found free from any complicity in this 
libel of their ancestor. 



One is impressed with the poverty of the imagination of 
those who exploit these opinions. If a worthy father must be 
had for Abraham Lincoln, why stop with Enlow? Why not 
select a character really great enough for the purpose? 

For instance, there is Benjamin Franklin: why not stir 
up one of the stories which are not few, of his gallantries 
while he was in France, and obtain an illegitimate son of 
high birth, who, returning to Philadelphia, made his way into 
what was then the western part of Pennsylvania, there to 
quarter his arms with the Lincolns? That would account 
for Abraham Lincoln s rare common sense, his native 
shrewdness, his sound judgment, his wise and benevolent 

Or, why not take Thomas Jefferson, whose reputation 
would not be greatly damaged by the story, and let the man 
who wrote the Declaration of Independence be the father of 
the man who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, each as 
serting, and the latter in terms of universal application, that 
all men are created free and equal, and endowed by their Crea 
tor with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, lib 
erty and the pursuit of happiness? 

Either of these could be done, and in a very plausible way, 
and one that would have much to commend it. Moreover, 
there would be even greater opportunity to appeal to Provi 
dence, and show how thus God designed through Abraham 
Lincoln to accomplish what was inherent in the purpose of the 
founders of the Republic, and wrought it through the son of 
the one deemed most appropriate. 

And there is always George Washington. When he was 
a young man he went to the far West through Western Vir 
ginia and Pennsylvania, where the Lincolns foregathered. 
He was about twenty-two, and being detained by high water, 
he may have spent a few days in the home of, let us say the 
Herring family. We do not know that he did so, but no 
matter about that. Why should not George Washington be 
the father of Bathsheba Herring, the mother of Thomas Lin 
coln? To be sure, Bathsheba may have been rather young: 
her future husband being only about thirteen: but she may 


have been three or six years older than her Abraham Lincoln, 
the grandfather of President Lincoln, whom she subsequently 

And, to make the story complete, why shall not the son 
of Martha Curtis, who married George Washington, have a 
more or less innocent flirtation with Lucy Hanks, and so 
become the father of Nancy? 

This would provide for Lincoln a really adequate parent 
age. It would explain his height he and Washington were 
about the same stature, and each with very large hands and 
feet and relatively small head. And it would show us, too, 
why Providence left George and Martha Washington without 
children, that he might become the father and she the mother, 
by descent, of the greatest of the children of the land that 
calls him the Father of his Country. 

I am trying to make this whole thing as ridiculous as I 
can, to reduce the whole affair to an absurdity : but like the 
hero of Holmes poem, who did not dare to be as funny as 
he could, I dare not work out in detail an absurd imagina 
tion like this, because I could make it so plausible that some 
foolish reader would surely believe it. 

It is not possible even to suggest a line of reasoning in 
such matters that shall be sufficiently absurd to be of use as 
a reductio ad absurdum. Nothing is too absurd for scandal 
mongers in matters of this character. Wherefore I will not 
show how plausible this and any of the following suggestions 
could be made. 

But, to show how easily this sort of thing can be done, 
let me remind the reader that if we were really to decide to 
propound George and Martha Washington as progenitors of 
Lincoln, it would not be necessary to stop there. We could 
embellish Lincoln s ancestry through innumerable collateral 
lines, and make each one plausible. The farther back we go 
the easier it becomes. 

Every man has two parents, and in the second genera 
tion his ancestors number four. In the next there are eight, 
then sixteen, then thirty-two, and so on. In 1700 Abraham 
had approximately thirty-two living ancestors, and in 1620 


he had 256. The Lincoln line has been traced by Lea and 
Hutchinson; the Hanks line by Mrs. Hitchcock. There is 
opportunity, with the assistance of their books, to embellish 
the record through almost any of its maternal lines. 

For instance, take Samuel Lincoln, Abraham s first Ameri 
can ancestor, who was baptized in Hingham, England, August 
24, 1622, and, coming to America in 1637, married there a girl 
named Martha, whose last name is unknown. Why not let 
Martha be a Plymouth girl, of any of the best families who 
came over in the Mayflower? 

Then, with a little work in the collateral lines of the Hanks 
family, why not prove that Nancy Hanks was a descendant 
of John Rolfe and Pocohontas? It could very easily be done. 
At least, it would be easy to find a plausible possibility, and that 
without scandal, to fortify it with wills and marriage regis 
ters and other old records, and leave a story that could not 
easily be disproved, and one much more to the point than any 
of the Enlow stories. 

Every female line that breaks off abruptly, as in the old 
records a majority of them do, is an invitation to the imagi 
nation. A few weeks spent in the library of the New England 
Historic-Genealogical Society would give to any person who 
liked this sort of thing material to keep the admirers of Lin 
coln busy for a generation, and it might be so ingeniously 
done that it could never be disproved. 

It might be objected by some lover of scandal that while 
this would be a very pleasant diversion, it would hardly be 
nice to dip one s pen in slime and write all over the fair name 
of Martha Washington and other noble women. 

But Truth, it must be remembered, is too sacred to be sat 
isfied with anything less. To those who deal in these scandals, 
Truth, naked and shameless Truth, is so holy that we must 
not hesitate to strip the fig-leaf from the reputation of any 

He who slanders the mother of Abraham Lincoln need 
have no qualms concerning George Washington or his wife 
or mother. This high and holy quest for Truth, TRUTH, 
must be pursued though the heavens fall. 


Very well, let us note a few of these collateral lines, and 
see what more we can do for Abraham Lincoln. 

We can find among his parental ancestors, Oliver Crom 
well, and among his maternal forbears a daughter of Charles 
II. and naughty Nell Gwyne. That should be easy. While 
we are about it, we might as well find him another paternal 
ancestor in Charles VII. of France, and that gay flirt, Agnes 
Sorrel; and we might wed one of their sons with a daughter 
of the Huguenots. We might also find among the Quaker 
friends of the Lincolns in Pennsylvania a descendant of Wil 
liam Penn, and there is no reason why his wife should not 
be a descendant of stern John Endecott, who did not love 
Quakers. It would be well, also, to obtain, still in Pennsyl 
vania, one of the Pennsylvania Dutch, descended from Wil 
liam, Prince of Orange: and we could wed him to a Scan 
dinavian daughter some degrees removed from Gustavus Adol- 

Having done this, we might find what other body of immi 
grants to America were most in need of representation in the 
ancestry of Lincoln, and with a suitable infusion of Mennonite 
and Scotch-Irish and other blood, we could make him the 
incarnate spirit of cosmopolitan America. 

Let no one suppose this sort of thing to be difficult. If 
those who have invented the various stories about Lincoln had 
possessed a little more imagination, and access to a good gen 
ealogical library, they could have wrought wonders. 

But when this mountain of scandal labors, it brings forth 
this mouse Abraham Enlow. 

That, positively, is not worth doing. We might as well 
accept Thomas Lincoln and be done with it. 

If I were interested in smirching the name of Abraham 
Lincoln, and had a few hundred dollars to spare, I could put 
a good genealogist at work to create for me an ancestral tree 
for him that would cast its shade over all the feeble and well- 
watered but rootless saplings that have been industriously set 
out and named for the various sons of the tribe of Enlow. 
But I could not make one sufficiently absurd to prevent its 
being believed. It is an easy thing for Aaron to cast down 


his rod and produce a serpent that will swallow the serpents 
of the magicians : I will not do so, for it would be sure to raise 
up a new serpent cult that would burn incense to my snake. 

There is still another and yet more interesting possibility 
for the makers of Genealogy to order. Abraham Lincoln was 
born in La Rue County, Kentucky, February 12, 1809. Jef 
ferson Davis is alleged to have been born in Christian County, 
Kentucky, June 3, 1808. Seven months is the time and sixty 
miles the distance which is alleged to have separated these two 
men at birth. It is preposterous that so brief an interval of 
time and so short a distance should stand in the way of the 
devotee of Truth. What is more easy than to prove that these 
two men were twins ? As to Jefferson Davis birth there are 
as many stories as about that of Lincoln. Both were tall men : 
both were by nature kind-hearted men. There are resem 
blances enough for the purposes of the story, and a few more 
can be invented. Contrasts, also, are abundant. 

Now, that would be a story worth while. With these 
two men born as twins and separated in infancy, meeting 
in the Black Hawk War, and parting to command opposing 
armies and governments in the Civil War what a story that 
would make ! 

For two things we cannot bring ourselves to forgive the 
men and women who have disseminated these stories about 
Lincoln s birth. The first is that they have ruthlessly de 
famed the virtuous mother of America s noblest and best 
loved American. The second is that they are possessed of 
such poverty-stricken imaginations as to be incapable of in 
venting a story worth telling. There are, to be sure, the ex 
ceptions of Mrs. Boyd with her Marshall story, and Mr. 
Knotts, who really has put some labor and research into his 
John C. Calhoun story and believes it. But those who seek 
to relieve Abraham Lincoln from the disgrace of being a son 
of Thomas Lincoln and can get no further than Abe Enlow, 
have weak imaginations. 

If we want to unite the name of Abraham Lincoln more 
closely to Kentucky, let us remember that Henry Clay, who 
was born in Virginia on April 12, 1777, and came to Lex- 


ington, Kentucky, when he was twenty years old, and died 
in Washington on June 29, 1852, was a member of the Legis 
lature in 1808, and stumped the State in the interests of his 
campaign for home-made clothes, maintaining that we should 
always be subject to Europe until we had our own manu 
factures, and calling upon America to clothe as well as feed 
itself. In this campaign he may well have visited Hardin 
County; why should not the great Compromiser have been 
the father of the great Emancipator? Why shall we not 
bring compromise to an end in the son of the man who for 
years invented the compromises? 

And, shall we not find in Lincoln s early enthusiasm for 
Clay, and his cooled ardor later, a discovery on Lincoln s 
part that Clay had not treated Lincoln s mother honorably ? 

Henry Clay was tall, raw-boned, awkward, friendly, pa 
tient, an orator who appealed to common sense and fair play ; 
what more do we want to prove that he was the father of 
Abraham Lincoln ? And where might Abraham Lincoln have 
looked for a better father? Why need we go to Bourbon 
County for Abraham Enlow when Lexington and Henry Clay 
were nearer? 

With a very little cutting and fitting, the events of Henry 
Clay s life could be shaped to the need; and there must still 
be old people in Kentucky who, if sufficiently prompted, could 
remember that he once loved a girl named Nancy Hanks. 

If we decide upon Henry Clay as a suitable father for 
Abraham Lincoln, we shall have no serious difficulty in 
strengthening our hypothesis by documentary material. It is 
not necessary to be so shy of the calendar as are most of those 
who advocate these theories, and to say that things happened 
in the year 18 ; we can do better than that without damage 
to the theory. 

For instance, in 1808, when Henry Clay may have visited 
Hardin County, we remember that he had recently returned 
from his first experience in Washington, where he had served 
a fractional term as United States Senator. He had a gay 
time in the Nation s Capital. Besides his salary, he had three 
thousand dollars which his friends made up in a purse to retain 


him on certain suits that might rise in the Supreme Court, 
and he got his money s worth in Washington. William Plum- 
mer, a Senator from New Hampshire, wrote in his diary : 

" December 29, 1806. This day Henry Clay, the successor 
of John Adair, was qualified, and took his place in the Sen 
ate. He is a young lawyer. His stature is tall and slender. 
I had much conversation with him, and it afforded me much 
pleasure. He is intelligent and appears frank and candid. His 
address is good, and his manners easy." 

On February 13, 1907, he wrote: 

" Henry Clay is a man of pleasure; fond of amusements. 
He is a great favorite with the ladies; is in all parties of pleas 
ure; out almost every evening; reads very little; indeed, he 
said he meant this session should be a tour of pleasure." 

It is not necessary to make him a grossly immoral man. 
He was fond of ladies and they were fond of him, and he did 
not leave all of that fondness in Washington. He returned 
to Kentucky, happy to be back in his own State, saying, 
" After all that I have seen, Kentucky is still my favorite 

John G. Holland tells in his Life of Lincoln that subse 
quently to Mr. Clay s defeat for the Presidency, which was a 
disappointment to Lincoln, " Mr. Lincoln paid a personal visit 
to Mr. Clay. . . . On returning home from this visit, he did 
not attempt to disguise his disappointment." (p. 95.) Lamon 
denies that Lincoln ever made such a visit; but comments at 
length on the fact that, on July i, 1852, Mr. Lincoln was 
chosen by a public meeting of his fellow-citizens in Springfield 
to deliver in their hearing an eulogy on Clay, who had recently 
died ; and that Lincoln did so on the i6th of that month, but 
his address was cold and tame. (p. 339.) Surely, here is 
material such as we want ! Lincoln, an enthusiastic supporter 
of Clay, making a secret visit to him at Ashland, and his biog 
raphers trying to hush it up, and Lincoln, with the honor 
thrust upon him of delivering an eulogy upon the man whom 
he was known to have admired, doing it with such constraint 
that it was noticeable! What material have we not here for 
scandal! Let us desist from this sort of thing, lest we find 


ourselves believing the lies we are inventing, and get our minds 
tangled in the web we spin out of our own bowels! 

But if we really were to undertake the task of rinding a 
father for Lincoln, could we not make a story that would cause 
all the rest to turn green with envy ? 

But it is all nonsense; and is here introduced to show how 
easy it is to make better stories than those that very credulous 
people have so willingly believed. 

This school for scandal is about to close its doors, and 
they will not reopen. But before this is done, let me suggest 
one more interesting possibility for those who would find 
another parent than Thomas Lincoln for Abraham, and who 
are not content with anything so contemptibly weak as the 
Enloe story. 

" In the year 18 ," meaning thereby in a very early year 
of the nineteenth century, a prosperous man in Pennsylvania 
addressed his son who had completed his legal studies in lan 
guage something like this : 

" I have purchased a large tract of land in Kentucky. It is 
a land of promise. There will be opportunities there for a ris 
ing young lawyer, and in time the land will make him rich. If 
you are disposed to go there and establish yourself in your pro 
fession and grow up with the country, the land shall be yours." 

In due course the young man, whose name was James, 
arrived at Elizabethtown, the county seat of Hardin County. 
The county then contained all of what is now Hardin and 
La Rue and much beside. It was a hundred and forty miles 
in length and had an average width of nearly fifty miles. He 
rode his good horse to the tavern, and there took up his abode. 

On the first court day he met Ben Hardin, attorney at 
law, for whose family the county had been named, and was 
shocked to see him enter court in an ill-fitting suit of un 
bleached tow-linen which hung in unshapely folds about him; 
but a little later was surprised when this and other lawyers 
addressed the court in the rough log court house to discover 
with what rude dignity and forensic skill they did their legal 
business. This, surely, was the place for an educated lawyer 
from Pennsylvania. 


At the carpenter shop, where he went to see about a table 
and some shelves for his small office, he met not only the car 
penter, Joseph Hanks, but he met also a very attractive girl 
named Nancy Hanks. Incidentally he met a big, illiterate, 
but good-natured, apprentice, Tom Lincoln, by name. 

The business of procuring the table and book shelves called 
James to the carpenter shop a number of times, and each time 
he was more deeply smitten with the charm of Nancy. She, 
poor girl, was flattered by the attentions of the best dressed 
man in town, the rising young lawyer and owner of a great 

After matters had gone much too far, James considered 
the social gap between him and this young woman, and thought 
of the more cultured beauties of his early life. 

He had a secret interview with the young apprentice, and 
said : 

" You love Nancy and so do I ; but I will not be selfish. 
You loved her first, and while she seems to like me, I know 
that her heart is yours. Tomorrow I go to court at Lexington, 
and I shall not come back. Marry her, and may you both be 

He rode away, and soon Nancy received word that he was 
never to return. Appalled by the situation in which she found 
herself, she accepted the offer of Tom Lincoln, who then 
learned why James had been so generous, but determined to 
make the best of it. 

James returned to Pennsylvania and established a lucra 
tive practice. In time he entered politics and became noted. 
But he never married. Famous beauties attempted to ensnare 
his heart, but he never was able to love any of them. All 
that he ever told was that he had loved once and found that 
he could never love again. 

Years went by. The nation was on the brink of civil war. 
The man in the White House was unable to command the sit 
uation. During the last months of his administration his ex 
hibition of weakness was pitiable. The nation and the world 
awaited the coming of the man whose mastery of the situa 
tion was to save the country. 


On the fourth day of March, 1861, the retiring President 
and the President-elect stood together in front of the Capitol, 
and the new President took the oath of office and delivered 
his brief inaugural. Why was the retiring President so pale? 
Why did he tremble as he stood beside the powerful giant who 
had risen from Kentucky s woods to the White House ? Was 
it because he saw, underneath all the mighty contrasts between 
himself and this man, a resemblance that could mean but one 
thing? Had Providence denied him wife and child that he 
might see his own son come now to honor while he, the father, 
slunk away into merited oblivion? 

The reader will see what an attractive theme the scandal 
mongers have missed. It would be very easy to make it so 
plausible that a goodly number of people would believe it. 

Yes, it is true that the father of James Buchanan bought 
land in Hardin County, and that James went thither and began 
a law practice, and left suddenly and did not return. And 
enough more details could easily be discovered or created to 
make as good or bad a story as any one might desire. It is 
true that he never married. 

But before the reader becomes too greatly fascinated with 
this interesting story, let him consider the bearing of one or 
two inconvenient dates. Abraham Lincoln was born February 
12, 1809. James Buchanan first came to Elizabethtown in the 
spring of 1813, four years after Abraham Lincoln was born. 

It is a pity to wreck so good a story on so small a fact. 
But the fact is that Abraham Lincoln was not the son of James 
Buchanan any more than he was the grandson of Washington 
or Jefferson or Franklin. But he was as much their son as 
he was the son of Abraham Enlow. 

It is a poor rule that will not work both ways. It is not 
fair that Thomas Lincoln should be the invariable cuckold, 
or that every woman named Nancy Hanks and no others 
should be frail. The worm will turn. Let Thomas Lincoln 
have his innings. If we are to invent stories of this character 
as freely as stories have been invented, let at least half of them 
deal with the notable children of Thomas Lincoln. 

Let us send Thomas Lincoln in 1808 on a visit to his uncle, 


Isaac Lincoln, in East Tennessee, and on into North Caro 
lina. Was there not born in that period a lad who rose so 
far above his own supposed heredity and his early environ 
ment as to give rise to serious question of his paternity? We 
can explain it very easily if we suppose Thomas Lincoln to 
have been the father of Andrew Johnson, who was born De 
cember 29, 1808, and who became Vice-President with Lin 
coln, and succeeded him as President. A great many hitherto 
unexplained events will now become clear. 

But there is no need to stop here. May not Thomas Lin 
coln in the spring before his marriage to Nancy Hanks have 
made a journey back to his old State, Virginia? Robert E. 
Lee was born January 19, 1807. What a dramatic story 
could we make out of the half-brotherhood of Lincoln and 
Lee! Moreover, the story can be worked out in elaborate 
detail, and with much of plausibility, which I forbear to com 
mit to print. 

A good many distinguished men were born in Indiana be 
tween 1816 and 1830, some of them unaccountably greater 
than their fathers. Why may not Thomas Lincoln have been 
considering in that period his nation s need of more men like 
his son Abraham? 

There have lived and still live in Illinois a considerable 
number of statesmen born within the period of Thomas Lin 
coln s residence in that State who are proud of their resem 
blance to Abraham Lincoln. They wear their beards like him. 
They affect a style of dress that suggests him. They fall into 
poses that remind people more or less vividly of Lincoln. Some 
of these men are now dead, but a few still are living, and 
the author can bear testimony to their pride in their supposed 
resemblance to Lincoln. Shall we account for this wholly in 
terms of inches of height or of the work of the barber? Why 
not accept the conclusion that they are all half-brothers of 
Abraham Lincoln, and that Thomas was the father of innu 
merable sons? 

If one begins in this way there is no ending. But a series 
of stories of this character would have one marked advantage 
over the stories that impugn the virtue of President Lincoln s 


mother. There is a limit to the number of Nancy Hankses 
who could by any possibility have been the mother of Abra 
ham Lincoln; but there is no corresponding limit to the 
number of sons who might have been born to Thomas Lin 
coln. That which is sauce for the goose is sauce for the 
gander. If we are to lend a credulous ear to every foolish 
story that challenges the paternity of Lincoln, let us remem 
ber that if all we have to do is to discover physical possibili 
ties, then for every possible illegitimate son borne by Nancy 
Hanks, we can produce ten such sons, illustrious and widely 
distributed, who might possibly have been sired by Thomas 

And these stories about Abraham Lincoln s parentage are 
all lies, and proceed from the father of lies. 

This chapter is not as original as I supposed when I wrote 
it. Mr. Hugh McLellan informs me that his father, a Con 
federate officer, often heard in the army that Abraham Lincoln 
and Jefferson Davis had a common father; and I have found 
traces of the Henry Clay story also. 

This school for scandal is now closed. 

But it will have done good educational work if it reminds 
the students therein that if one cares for stories of this kind 
he can invent them, a dozen in a day, and support them with 
dates and details far more plausible than attend any of the 
stories about the paternity of Abraham Lincoln. 


IN the process of this inquiry we have fixed a few dates be 
yond question. There are a few more that should be recorded. 
For he who undertakes to challenge the record of the parent 
age of Abraham Lincoln must deal with definite places and 
times. Indictments are frequently quashed because the crimes 
alleged are not shown to have occurred within a definite county 
or on any particular date. 

Quaint old Thomas Fuller wrote: 

" Chronology is a surly, churlish cur, and hath bit many 
a man s fingers. Blame me not, therefore, if willing to keep 
my hands whole." 

That little sentiment might well have been adopted by all 
who have circulated these stories about Abraham Lincoln. 
At the first whistle for that surly dog, Chronology, they flee 
in terror; and all of them emerge with bleeding fingers and 
clothing torn to shreds. 

The importance of the date of Abraham Lincoln s birth 
is so great that we may be justified in assuming that some 
one will ask on what authority we receive the date of Feb 
ruary 12, 1809, as the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. 

First of all, we have it on the testimony of the Lincoln 
family Bible, in which the record was written by Abraham 
Lincoln himself, while his father was yet living, and long 
before any of these questions came into controversy, and when 
there was not the slightest reason on the part of either to 
deceive. That is in itself ample evidence, and all that in any 
ordinary case can be produced to establish the date of a man s 

Let the reader pause a moment and ask what proof he has 
of the date of his own birth; and he may find that he has 
little more than this. 



But it happens that we have still another proof. As Abra 
ham Lincoln approached his twenty-first year he grew very 
restless, and wished for his freedom. On this point Mr. Hern- 
don had first-hand evidence from William Wood, the " Uncle 
Wood " of the Lincoln household in Indiana. On the basis 
of this and such other information as Herndon had assem 
bled, Lamon says: 

In 1828 Abe had become very tired of his home. He was 
now nineteen years of age, and becoming daily more restive 
under the restraints of servitude which bound him. He was 
anxious to try the world for himself, and make his way ac 
cording to his own notions. " Abe came to my house one day," 
says Mr. Wood, " and stood round about, timid and shy. I 
knew he wanted something, and said to him, Abe, what s 
your case ? He replied, Uncle, I want you to go to the 
river, and give me some recommendation to some boat/ I 
remarked, * Abe, your age is against you. You are not twenty 
yet. I know that, but I want a start/ said Abe. I con 
cluded not to go for the boy s good." Poor Abe ! Tom still 
had a claim on him, which even Uncle Wood would not help 
him evade. He must wait a few weary months before he 
would be of age, and could say that he was his own man, 
and go his own way. Old Tom was a hard taskmaster to him, 
and no doubt consumed the greater part, if not all, of his 
wages. " Life of Lincoln" pp. 7071. 

" Uncle Wood/ who subscribed for two newspapers, which 
Abraham regularly read, had influence with the boy. Abra 
ham remained with his father until he was of age. He re 
moved to Illinois with the family, assisted his father in erecting 
his new home, and then hired himself out to other fanners in 
the vicinity, and did not return to his home to live. Abraham 
Lincoln knew when his twenty-first birthday occurred, and did 
not hesitate to take advantage of his freedom when it was 
legally his. 

But beside all this, Abraham s memories of Kentucky as 
he recalled them in after life were those of a child under ten; 
and his growth in body and mind in Indiana was the normal 


growth of such a boy of the age which he should have been 
and was, reckoning his birth from February 12, 1809. 

The birthday of Abraham Lincoln is a fixed date. 

The marriage of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln is a fixed 
date. No one knows this better than Mr. Knotts, or realizes 
better than he that the marriage record at Springfield, Ken 
tucky, is absolutely fatal to his theory. He, therefore, has 
recourse to the desperate and futile expedient of attacking 
the record. According to his theory, the discovery of the 
marriage bond and record was a fraud. There was no Jesse 
Head; there was no marriage of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln 
at Beechland, Washington County, Kentucky, on June 12, 
1806. To prove this, he submits the fact that he has writ 
ten to the authorities of the Southern Methodist Church in 
Nashville and Louisville, a denomination which had no exist 
ence in 1806, or until the Civil War, and that that denomina 
tion has no official record of Rev. Jesse Head! 

There is record, however, of Rev. Jesse Head. 

Jesse Head was a resident of Springfield before 1800, 
and in that year was a Justice of the Peace in and for Wash 
ington County. At that time there was a bounty for wolves 
scalps, and there are several certificates by Justices authoriz 
ing the bounty for those scalps. One of these reads thus: 

" This day came Leroy Smith before me, a Justice lor 
Washington County, and produced a wolf head above six 
months old, and took the oath prescribed by law in that case. 
Given under my hand this 8th July, 1800. Jesse Head." 


A remarkably interesting record has been found for me 
by Mr. L. S. Pence, attorney, of Lebanon, Kentucky. It is 
contained in an aged book entitled " Record of Court Martials 
in Washington County." The records begin tinder date of 
July 15, 1791, and come down to the year 1812. The record 
concerning Jesse Head is as follows : 

" May 25, 1793. Jesse Head, returned as a delinquent is 
cleared of [off?] muster roll, he having a license to preach 
according to the rules of the sect to which he belongs." 


Here is a clear official record of Jesse Head absolved from 
militia duty in 1793, because he was a licensed preacher; and 
we have records of him from that date until 1842. 

In 1802 he was a trustee of the town of Springfield. 
Among the persons voting for him was Felix Grundy, a jurist 
of considerable distinction, whose biography can be found in 
the annals of the Kentucky bar. On March 6 of that 
year, Felix Grundy was made President of the Board, and on 
A pril 3 of the same year Jesse Head was appointed Commis 
sioner "to contract with some proper person to erect posts 
and rails around the well and public spring of this town and 
all necessary repairs to same." 

In the following year, 1803, Jesse Head was again elected 
a Trustee of the incorporated town of Springfield, and suc 
ceeded Felix Grundy as President of the Board. 

Although he was a Justice of the Peace, his marriages in 
Washington County appear all to have been performed by 
him as a Deacon in the Methodist Church. 

Between February 19, 1803, and December 25 of the same 
year, he married thirteen couples, making a single return for 
them on January 2, 1804, thus : " Witness my hand, January 
2, 1804. Jesse Head." 

Some of the old records are lost, or at least have not been 

The list immediately preceding that which contains the 
names of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks was returned by 
him April 28, 1806, and contains the names of sixteen couples 
married by him in the months preceding that date. 

Hon. Joseph Polin, County Attorney of Washington 
County, who made for me a more exhaustive search of records 
than has ever been made before in that county with respect 
to the Lincoln family, writes: 

" All these records are signed, Jesse Head, D.M.E.C. 
It is to be observed that he uses the old style letter s , making 
the name appear as though it were Jefse. His signature 
to the orders as Justice is identical in form with that on the 
Lincoln marriage certificate, and demonstrates to a certainty 
that it was the same man." 


He who would prove Jesse Head a myth and his signed 
return of the marriage of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln a for 
gery confronts the cheerful task of attacking a series of con 
tinuous records in Washington County from 1793 until some 
years after the marriage of Thomas Lincoln, these records 
being official and of varied character, and relating, in the mat 
ter of marriages, to some scores of families known to have 
been resident in Washington County; and after that another 
series of records in Harrodsburg and vicinity down to the 
probation of his estate in 1842. Mr. Kriotts would never have 
suggested the forgery theory if he had known what body of 
evidence he must confront. 

This is the place to mention also the affidavit of Dr. Chris 
topher Columbus Graham and the affidavit of William Hard- 
esty, both of them unimpeached witnesses, who declare that 
they were actually present at the wedding, and the declaration 
of Judge Richard J. Browne of Louisville, who was born in 
Springfield : 

" Old Mr. James Thompson and William Hardesty told 
me many years ago that they were at the marriage of Thomas 
Lincoln and Nancy Hanks at old Dick Berry s, the grand 
father of Nancy Hanks, on the banks of the Beech Fork." 

The occasion for the search for the documents in Wash 
ington County, where it had not been supposed worth while 
to look for them, was the fact that people were still living 
whose parents had told them that they were present at the 
wedding and that it occurred in Washington County and not 
in Hardin. The man who made this discovery, Mr. W. F. 
Booker, is described by all who knew him as a man of the 
highest integrity. 

The forgery theory is squarely contradicted by the whole 
appearance of the documents, which I have handled and ex 
amined, and which bear on their face the marks of their gen 
uineness, which is attested also by every detail in the circum 
stances of their discovery. Only the most desperate necessity 
would have driven Mr. Knotts to the hypothesis of forgery, 
and it will not avail to save his theory from utter wreck. 

It now becomes our duty to account for Thomas Lincoln, 


so far as this may be done from records available and in 
disputable, during the period when according to these various 
stories he was ranging the country from South Carolina 
through North Carolina, East Tennessee and Clark and Bour 
bon Counties, Kentucky, helping various rascals out of the 
troubles into which they had gotten themselves and divers 
young women. These several stories present him to us as 
a fugitive and a vagabond, wandering from State to State, 
going about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he might marry 
who should have married some one else. 

The early records of the several counties in Kentucky are 
incomplete. The tax lists were made out on sheets of paper 
ruled by hand, sewn together with covers of the same, and 
made into very insubstantial and easily mislaid books. 

In 1796 Thomas Lincoln was listed as resident in Wash 
ington County as a male over sixteen years of age and under 
twenty-one. His age then was just sixteen and this is doubt 
less his first record on the public documents. 

His name does not appear in the list for 1797, an( ^ the 
lists for the next two years have not been found, but his name 
appears in the lists for 1800 and 1801. 

In 1802 and 1803 m " s name is n t found there. The rea 
son appears to be that he was at that time in Hardin County, 
for there we find him in the latter year purchasing land, and 
there is where he was living at the time of his marriage. Har 
din County does not lie eastward from Washington toward 
the old States of Virginia and Carolinas. 

Abraham Lincoln, in the sketch which he prepared for 
John Locke Scripps, stated that his father, Thomas Lincoln, 
passed one year, before reaching his majority, in the farm of 
his uncle, Isaac Lincoln, in East Tennessee. He said: 

Thomas, the youngest son, and father of the present sub 
ject, by the early death of his father, and very narrow cir 
cumstances of his mother, even in childhood was a wander 
ing laboring-boy and grew up literally without education. He 
never did more in the way of writing than to bunglingly 
write his own name. Before he was grown he passed one 
year as a hired hand with his uncle Isaac on Watauga, a 


branch of the Holston River. Getting back into Kentucky, 
and having reached his twenty-eighth year, he married Nancy 
Hanks, mother of the present subject, in 1806. She also was 
born in Virginia." 

In what year did Thomas Lincoln work for his uncle Isaac? 
In one of the years, certainly, when he was not listed on the 
tax book of Washington County, Kentucky. And also it was 
" before he was grown." It was, therefore, in some year be 
tween 1795 and 1800. Possibly his residence there covered 
parts of two years, and was longer than twelve actual months; 
which might account for two missing years. 

It was probably in 1797, when he was seventeen years old, 
that he went to the farm of his uncle Isaac in East Tennes 
see. He returned to Washington County presumably in 1798 
or 1799, for which years the tax lists have not been found, 
and was there, as we have seen, in 1800 and 1801, then mov 
ing farther west to Hardin County, with which thereafter 
he is chiefly identified. 

It is unlikely that Thomas Lincoln made any journeys back 
to the Eastern States from his home in Hardin County. That 
county lies farther west. It was more remote, not less so, 
from the temptation to go back along the Wilderness Road 
through Cumberland Gap to assist young women in the East 
ern States. The farther we go into the records the less likely 
does it become that Thomas Lincoln ever made any such jour 
ney as would have been necessary for him to participate in any 
of these adventures. 

At any rate, he was in Washington County in 1796 and 
1800 and 1 80 1. He was there in one other year, which can 
not certainly be identified at present, because the cover of the 
book is worn away and the year cannot be positively deter 
mined until some other books are found which may identify 
it by the number of taxpayers and of negroes in the 

He was not living there in 1802 and 1803, but was then 
purchasing a farm of 230 acres in Hardin County, and was 
probably there continuously after that time. 

He was in Hardin Counfy in June, 1806, and went to 


Washington County to marry Nancy Hanks, which he did 
on June 12, 1806. 

He was not wandering abroad in the next few months, 
but living in Elizabethtown, where, on February 10, 1807, his 
eldest child, Sarah, was born. 

We may pause just a moment to consider the baseless 
declaration that there was no such child ; that the Sarah whom 
Abraham Lincoln called sister was his step-sister, Sarah, a 
daughter of Sarah Bush Lincoln. There was such a step 
sister, but she did not die in Indiana, as did Lincoln s 
sister Sarah, but lived and married Dennis Hanks, her sister 
Matilda marrying Squire Hall. Furthermore, William H. 
Herndon interviewed Dennis Hanks and his family, and they 
told him much about this sister Sarah, who in 1826 married 
Aaron Grigsby, and died in childbirth while yet a very young 
woman. And, if it were necessary to make the testimony 
stronger, we have it in Abraham Lincoln s own letters, as in one 
written to his friend Johnson on April 18, 1846, inclosing some 
verses which he had written after his visit to his old home in 
Indiana : 

" In the fall of 1844, thinking I might aid some to carry 
the State of Indiana for Mr. Clay, I went into the neighbor 
hood in that State in which I was raised, where my mother 
and only sister were buried, and from which I had been absent 
about fifteen years." 

He could not have written thus of a step-sister, for Sarah 
Johnston was not his only step-sister, and she was not buried 
in Indiana in 1844, but living in Illinois with her husband 
Dennis Hanks. 

Let us then dismiss all this nonsense about Thomas Lin 
coln s daughter Sarah having been a step-daughter. Sarah 
was born to Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln on February 
10, 1807, and Thomas Lincoln had little time to roam abroad. 
He had to work for a living for his wife and baby. That gives 
us another fixed date. 

We are very fortunate in knowing one important piece of 
work in which he was engaged in the latter part of that year. 

Denton Geoghegan, a prominent man in that part of the 


county which still is Hardin, engaged Thomas Lincoln to hew 
timbers for a mill. The job was a long one, and a dispute 
arose concerning the settlement of it. Geoghegan is a well- 
known character and was in his day a man of standing in 
the county. 

Denton Geoghegan was in later years a Justice of the 
Peace. He and his family lived in that part of Hardin which is 
still Hardin, and never in that part which is now La Rue. He 
sued Thomas Lincoln in 1808, when Lincoln was living in 

Mr. O. M. Mather, of Hodgenville, to whom I am indebted 
for many kindnesses, was searching for me the records of 
Hardin County, when he discovered the record of this suit, 
hitherto unpublished. The suit was not finished until March, 
1809, when Thomas Lincoln had removed to that part of the 
county which is now La Rue, and had become the father of 
Abraham. In the months preceding the birth of Abraham 
Lincoln, Thomas Lincoln was not moving around the country 
assisting young women in distress. He was attending to busi 
ness at home, a part of which was defending himself in this 
law-suit. Mr. Mather was unable to find the whole record, 
but the remainder of it was discovered for me by Mr. George 
Holbert of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. 

Thomas Lincoln was not wandering about the country in 
the latter part of 1807 and the early part of 1808; he was 
hewing timbers for Geoghegan s mill, and assisting in the 
erection of that structure. It was no small task. It involved 
the manufacture of a great overshot wheel; the construction of 
a wooden aqueduct raised to the level of the top of the wheel 
and carried back sufficiently far to meet the water at its higher 
level. It occupied several months. The dispute lasted no one 
knows how long before it came into court, but we know, what 
no previous volume about Lincoln has known, the fact and 
the date and character of this suit. 

This suit of Geoghegan vs. Lincoln was filed June i, 1808. 
The petition alleged that Denton Geoghegan, the plaintiff, had 
employed Thomas Lincoln, the defendant, to hew certain 
timbers for a saw-mill, and to do the work " in good workman- 


like manner " at i l / 2 penny per square foot; that the work 
was not done in workmanlike manner, the timbers not being of 
such workmanship as to answer the purpose; that they were 
not square and not true and some were too short; that Geog- 
hegan had paid Lincoln $10 more than the work actually 
came to at the agreed price ; and by the alleged bad workman 
ship had been damaged in the sum of $100.00. 

Mr. Holbert writes, " From the judgment in this case it 
would appear that Lincoln was vindicated. Geoghegan was 
my wife s great-grandfather, and I am interested in the case." 

Thomas Lincoln s contract with Geoghegan was the last 
important piece of work he did before removal from Eliza- 
bethtown, and fixes the approximate date of the removal. In 
the spring of 1808 he was working for Geoghegan near Eliza- 
bethtown; in the summer he was working for Brownfield near 
Hodgen s Mill. It is not necessary to suppose that he did not 
move until after the suit was brought; I am inclined to believe 
that he moved in May. 

The suit continued for several months, and in the end 
Thomas Lincoln won it, and recovered the costs of his defense. 
The significance of this lawsuit for us is in the dates which it 
fixes, and which never before have been published. 

Just as I was reading the first proofs of this book, Mr. 
Holbert, on July 27, 1920, discovered another record in the 
judgments, not of the Circuit, but of the County Court, of 
Hardin County. It is of a judgment rendered May 9, 1808. 
It shows that Thomas Lincoln, at some earlier date not 
recorded, had sued Denton Geoghegan in a magistrate s court, 
for the unpaid balance due him on account of his work upon 
the mill aforementioned, and had recovered judgment against 
him in the sum of four pounds and nine shillings. Geoghegan 
took an appeal to the County Court, which at its next monthly 
sitting rendered the following judgment, recorded in Order 
Book C, page 230, Hardin County Court: 

" At a court begun and held for Hardin County at the 
Courthouse in Elizabeth Town on Monday, the 9th day of 
May, 1808: Present Adin Coombs and Dudley Rountree, 
Esquires : 


" Denton Geoghegan against Thomas Lincoln on an appeal 
from a Magistrate s judgment. The Court being fully ad 
vised of and concerning the premises, do consider and order 
that the said appeal be dismissed, and the Magistrate s judg 
ment be and hereby is confirmed; and that the defendant re 
cover against the said plaintiff the sum of four pounds and 
nine shillings & 4/6 costs and also the costs of this appeal." 

Twice beaten, Geoghegan came back at Lincoln in the 
Circuit Court with a complaint that the work had not been 
properly done and that Lincoln had been overpaid. This suit, 
as we have seen, continued until the following March, when 
Lincoln again, and for the third and last time, was successful. 

The following court order is in Record Book C, Hardin 
Circuit Court Records, under date of March 17, 1809: 
" Denton Geoghegan, Plaintiff, 

Thomas Lincoln, Defendant. 

" This case being agreed and settled by and between the 
parties herein, it is therefore considered by the Court that it 
be and the same is hereby Dismissed, and that the Defendant 
recover against the Plaintiff his cost by him about his defense 

These tax and court records are of great interest and im 
portance. Fragmentary as they are, they do not permit of 
the wandering of Thomas Lincoln to fill the role assigned to 
him in any of the stories that are told to the discredit of his 
wife. The carefully arranged scheme of dates which Mr. 
Knotts has presented to us, the only one worth a moment s 
attention so far as chronology is concerned, falls utterly before 
this list of certain records concerning Thomas Lincoln. 

From the time he was sixteen until he was twenty-five we 
find him in public records, and where there are gaps, we are 
able to fill them with reasonable probability. 

From the time of his marriage until the birth of his daugh 
ter, and from then until the birth of his son, he is well ac 
counted for. The suit of Denton Geoghegan, and the con 
tract out of which it grew, cover the period from the autumn 
of 1807 until after the birth of Abraham Lincoln on February 


12, 1809. Thomas Lincoln left Nancy with the baby in her 
arms, and went to Elizabethtown to court on March 17, 1809. 
He returned that evening with the good news that the suit was 
settled out of court, and that the court in entering the record 
adjudged that the man who had prosecuted him should not 
only pay the costs of the suit, but make payment also to 
Thomas Lincoln for the damage he had suffered in defending 
the suit. So he came home that night either with money in 
his pocket, or with something which he had purchased with 
money at Helm s store for Nancy and the baby and little 

Researches made for this volume give us another fixed 
date, September 2, 1803. On that date John Tom Slater, or 
as it is recorded in another place, Stator, conveyed to Thomas 
Lincoln " of Hardin County " 238 acres of land on Mill 
Creek. This locates Thomas Lincoln in the period in which 
his name disappears from the Washington County tax lists. 
He had left Washington County to work for his uncle Isaac 
Lincoln on Watauga River in the hill country of Tennessee; 
had returned to Kentucky and taken up his residence in Hardin 
County. The deed definitely states Hardin County as his 
residence. Hardin County tax lists for the period have not 
been discovered at this writing; but no entry is found con 
cerning him in any other county until June 12, 1806, when he 
was married to Nancy Hanks in Washington County, and 
returned to Hardin County to live. 

The period between his marriage and his removal to that 
part of Hardin County which is now La Rue is fairly well 
covered by his large contract to furnish timbers for Geog- 
hegan s mill, and by the resulting lawsuit. 

These dates appear to indicate that after his return from 
Tennessee, Thomas Lincoln lived in Washington County for 
two or three years, paying taxes there in 1800 and 1801 ; that 
he then removed to Hardin County, where he purchased a 
farm in 1803, the deed mentioning Hardin County as his place 
of residence; that he remained upon this farm on Mill Creek 
in Hardin County until perhaps 1805, when he gave up farm 
ing and moved to Elizabethtown, working as an apprentice 


in the shop of Joseph Hanks, where he met and wooed Nancy; 
that he was married to Nancy Hanks on June 12, 1806, and im 
mediately set up his home in Elizabethtown ; that he thence 
forth worked for himself at the carpenter s trade, having at 
least one contract of importance, which occupied a considerable 
part of the year 1807; that this contract resulted in a law 
suit which began in a magistrate s court, presumably in April, 
1808, where he won his case, and again on appeal in the 
County Court, Monday, May 9, 1808, where he was again 
successful, and still again in the Circuit Court, beginning June 
i, 1808, and continuing until March 17, 1809. 

This record covers all the years in which Thomas Lincoln 
might have been wandering in other States in adventures such 
as the stories we have been considering imply, and they are 
remarkably interesting in all their implications, wholly credit 
able to him, and in themselves a sufficient alibi against the 
charges that locate him in any other State or in any other por 
tion of the State of Kentucky in any of the years between 
1800 and 1809. 

And that is all we have to say about the whereabouts of 
Thomas Lincoln in the period concerning which he has been 
falsely accused. 


THE first Atnerican ancestor of Abraham Lincoln was Samuel 
Lincoln, who came to Salem, Mass., in 1637, and died at 
Hingham, May 26, 1690, aged 71. He was a son of Edward 
Lincoln of Hingham, Norfolk County, England, and had an 
honorable lineage which has been traced for several genera 
tions. Samuel married in America, before 1650, Martha, 
whose surname is unknown, and who died April 10, 1693. 

The fourth son of Samuel and Martha Lincoln was Mor- 
decai, who was born at Hingham, Mass., June 14, 1657 and re 
moved to Scituate. He was an iron founder. He died Novem 
ber 8, 1727, aged 70. He married Sarah Jones, daughter of 
Abraham Jones of Hull, through whom the name Abraham 
may have come into the Lincoln family. She died before 

The eldest child of Mordecai and Sarah was Mordecai 
Lincoln, who was born April 24, 1686, removed before 1710 
to Monmouth County, New Jersey, where he followed his 
father s vocation of iron founder. He died May 12, 1736. 
He married before 1711, Hannah, daughter of Richard and 
Sarah Salter of Freehold, N. J. She died about 1720. 

The eldest child of Mordecai and Sarah was John Lin 
coln, born May 3, 1711. He was a weaver, and lived in Caer 
narvon, Uniontown and other places in Pennsylvania; removed 
to Virginia about 1768, and died probably about 1790. He 
married Rebecca, whose surname is believed to have been 

The third son of John and Rebecca was Abraham Lincoln, 
grandfather of the President, who was born July 16, 1739. 
He was Captain of Virginia Militia in 1776; removed to Ken 
tucky in 1781-2, and was killed by Indians about 1785. His 
first wife was Mary Shipley, daughter of Robert Shipley of 



Lunenburg County, Virginia, who bore him two sons and two 
daughters and died before 1779. 

The children of Abraham and Mary (Shipley) Lincoln 

(1) Mordecai Lincoln, born 1764; Sheriff of Washington 
County, Kentucky; removed to Illinois, and died in 1830. His 
three sons were Abraham, James and Mordecai. 

(2) Josiah Lincoln, born July 10, 1766; removed to In 
diana and died in 1836, leaving one son, Thomas Lincoln of 
Corydon, Indiana. 

(3) Mary Lincoln, married Ralph Krume or Crume of 

(4) Nancy Lincoln, married William Brumfield of Ken 

The second wife of Abraham Lincoln was Bathsheba Her 
ring, daughter of Leonard Herring, of Heronford, Rocking- 
ham County, Virginia. 

The only child of Abraham and Bathsheba Lincoln was 
Thomas Lincoln, father of the President. 

In this volume I have followed the data given by Lea and 
Hutchinson as to the date of the birth of Thomas Lincoln. 
That book is so imposing in its appearance and in many re 
spects so valuable that I adopted it in the beginning, and have 
here and there departed from it with reluctance. But the date 
given on the tombstone of Thomas Lincoln at Farmington, 
Coles County, Illinois, " Thomas Lincoln, Born January 6, 
1778; died January 15, 1851," is in several respects the more 
probably correct. The date of his birth was given by Lea 
and Hutchinson as January 20, 1780. The place of his birth 
was Rockingham County, Virginia. He was little more than 
an infant when his parents, Abraham Lincoln, and Bathsheba, 
his second wife and the mother of Thomas, removed to 
Kentucky. Abraham, father of Thomas, and grandfather 
of the President, was killed by Indians when Thomas was a 
child of five. 

Thomas Lincoln married at the age of twenty-eight, at 
Beechland, Washington County, Kentucky, Nancy Hanks, 


June 12, 1806. They had three children, all born in Hardin 
County, Kentucky, as follows : 

(1) Sarah Lincoln, often incorrectly called Nancy, born 
February 10, 1807, married, August, 1826, Aaron Grigsby, 
and died in childbed, May 20, 1828. 

(2) Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809, six 
teenth President of the United States, died April 15, 1865, 
He married, November 4, 1862, Mary Todd, by whom he had 
four sons. 

(3) Thomas Lincoln, born in 1811, and died in infancy 
before the family left Kentucky. 

Nancy Hanks Lincoln, mother of the President, died in 
Indiana, October 5, 1818. Her husband married as his second 
wife, Sarah Bush Johnston. She had three children by her 
first husband, John D. Johnston; Sarah, who married Dennis 
Hanks; and Matilda, who married Squire Hall. 

Thomas Lincoln spent the greater part of his youth in 
Washington County, Kentucky. One year of his late boyhood 
was spent with his uncle Isaac Lincoln on the Watauga 
River in East Tennessee. He was then a day laborer on other 
people s farms, and became a carpenter of no great skill. 

In 1803 he purchased an improved farm with buildings 
on Mill Creek in Hardin County, paying for the same in 
cash, and presumably worked his own farm until an unknown 
date which may have been 1805. 

After his marriage on June 12, 1806, he settled in Eliza- 
bethtown, county seat of Hardin County, Kentucky, where he 
resided about two years, and where his first child, a daughter, 
Sarah, was born February 10, 1807. 

He then removed, probably in May or early June, 1806, 
to that part of Hardin County which is now La Rue, living 
for the first few months on the farm of George Brownfield, 
whence, in the following autumn, he removed to the farm 
which he occupied as his own, though without recorded title, 
and which is known as the Lincoln Farm. It is located on 
Nolin Creek, two and one half miles south from the present 
site of Hodgenville, and about as far in the other direction 


from a settlement called Buffalo. Here his son Abraham 
was born. 

A few years later he lived upon the Knob Creek Farm, 
about fifteen miles distant, and across Muldraugh s Hill, and, 
though living in the same county, he was in quite another 

There is some reason to believe that between his residence 
on the Lincoln Farm and that on the Knob Creek Farm 
he spent at least one year among his wife s relations in Wash 
ington County, the chief documentary evidence of this being a 
tax book in Washington County bearing his name, and ap 
parently of the year 1811. This year, however, is not quite 

I had earnestly hoped that the uncertainty concerning the 
date of this book would have been cleared up by the time 
the present volume went to press. The early tax records of 
Washington County were prepared by the clerk upon sheets of 
paper 15% inches long and i2 l / 2 inches wide, written on both 
sides and afterwards bound together by stitching at the end. 
The cover was a sheet of the same kind of paper, with the 
date and clerk s certificate on the outside. In the case of the 
book whose date is uncertain, the cover is worn away, but 
a cover accompanies it, and is supposed to belong to it, giving 
the year 1811, which I still incline to think is the year. Un 
fortunately, that is the only place in the book where the year 
appears. The dates in the book are those of the month and 
day on which the assessment is made. The last leaf, also, is 
missing, which would have contained the total number of 
white male inhabitants and the number of white males above 
1 6 and the number of blacks above 16. These are totaled 
at the foot of each page, and are complete to about the mid 
dle of the list of names beginning with W. If the books 
could be found for years showing a few more or a few less 
of each of these classes, it would be easy to fix the year to 
which this book belonged. But unfortunately, the books for 
these years are not found. Mr, Joseph Polin, County At 
torney, who at first was sure that this book belonged to 1811, 
now thinks he was mistaken, and that it belongs either to 1809 


or 1810. In my judgment his previous opinion is the cor 
rect one; and if that is not correct, it certainly does not belong 
to the year 1809, but either to 1810 or 1812. In either case, 
it confirms what on other grounds I have come to believe, that 
the residence of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln in the Nolin 
Creek home, where Abraham Lincoln was born, was a very 
brief one, and that between that residence and the one on Knob 
Creek, from which in 1816 the family of Thomas Lincoln 
migrated to Indiana, he lived for a year in Washington 
County, among the relatives of his wife. 

This is an unrecorded migration of the Lincoln family, 
and one concerning which no assistance is to be gained from 
other books. Even so good a book as Lea and Hutchinson s 
Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln is hopelessly at sea on these 
migrations. Its chapter on " Thomas Lincoln the Man," con 
tains many errors. Other and less painstaking works are 
wholly unreliable on these and related matters. 

Thomas Lincoln was assessed in Washington County, 
May u, 1796, as a white male above sixteen. He was as 
sessed as Thomas Linchorn, in the same county, on February 
14, 1800, as a white male above twenty-one; and he owned one 
horse. He was assessed again in the same county on August 
5, 1 80 1, and owned a horse. Between the first assessment 
in 1796 and the second in 1800 occurs, as I have shown else 
where, his year or more of residence with his uncle, Isaac 
Lincoln, in East Tennessee; for the list for 1797 is found 
and his name is not in it. Also the lists for 1802 and 1803 
are found, and his name is not in them ; but that was the time 
he was acquiring his Mill Creek farm, in Hardin County, where 
he continued to live until some year, which I still think to 
have been 1811, when he returned and lived for a year in 
Washington County; whence he went back part way, but 
stopped east of Muldraugh s Hill, and lived for a few years on 
the Knob Creek farm. This was the first home Abraham 
remembered, and the place where he first went to school. 

The cover of the tax book for 1811 gave a total of 1,827 
white males above 21, and 974 negroes above the age of 16. 
The list of white males down to the middle of the initial 


letter W seemed to me to give totals both of whites and 
negroes just about in proper proportion to have made up those 
totals if the lists had been complete. Mr. Polin, however, is of 
opinion that they would not reach quite to the necessary ag 
gregates, and thus he is inclined to think that the date may 
have been one or possibly two years earlier. Possibly he is 
correct and the date should be 1810; but the cover appears to 
me to belong with the book. It certainly is not of 1809; and 
if it be 1810, it only proves that the migration of Thomas and 
Nancy from the birthplace of Abraham occurred a few months 
earlier than I have supposed. 

While Thomas Lincoln was living on the Knob Creek 
farm he attained his one political appointment. The records 
for Hardin County contain this entry: 

" Monday, i8th May, 1816. 

" Ordered that Thomas Lincoln be and he is hereby ap 
pointed Surveyor of that part of the road leading from Nolin 
to Bardstown which lies between the Bigg Hill and the rolling 
fork, in place of George Rodman and that all the hands that 
assisted Rodman do assist said Lincoln in keeping said road 
in repair." 

I have ridden over this road, all the way from the Bigg 
Hill to Rolling Fork, and my sympathies are with Thomas 
Lincoln. Muldraugh s Hill is a Bigg Hill with at least two 
g s in Bigg; and the wash of the spring rains is heavy. This 
was afterward a section of the Louisville and Nashville 
turnpike, and has always been an important strip of road. 
The emoluments of Thomas Lincoln s one office cannot have 
been large; but the work of keeping that road in any kind of 
repair was no sinecure. 

In the brief sketch of his own life prepared in 1860 by 
Abraham Lincoln he intimates that some trouble concerning 
a land title had a shade in the reasons for his father s leaving 
Kentucky in 1816, and establishing his home in Indiana. An 
intimation of the nature of this trouble would appear to be 
furnished in the record of a suit for whose discovery I am 
indebted to Mr. George Holbert, attorney, of Elizabethtown, 


This was a suit in ejectment, instituted on January i, 1815, 
in the Hardin Circuit Court, by " John Doe on demise of Han 
nah Rhoades, Thomas Stout and Abraham Sheridan, plaintiffs, 
vs Richard Roe, defendant." The old English form of bring 
ing suit in the name of John Doe against Richard Roe was 
extensively used in Kentucky courts in the early days, espe 
cially in ejectment suits. During the progress of the suits all 
persons in possession of portions of the premises were ascer 
tained, and their names substituted as defendants. However, 
in this case Thomas Lincoln did not wait to be substituted, but 
on June 13, 1816, on Thomas Lincoln s own motion by at 
torney, his name was substituted as defendant. One George 
Lindsey also had his name substituted. This suit was over 
the Knob Creek farm. Evidently Thomas Lincoln believed that 
he was right, and was ready to have the court determine the 

Had the case come promptly to trial, it is possible that 
Thomas Lincoln would not have removed from Kentucky, in 
which event a large volume of history would have been written 
otherwise than as it subsequently occurred. The trial was, 
however, postponed for two years and occurred on June 9, 
1818. The trial was before a jury whose verdict is of record. 
The jury " sworn the truth to speak upon the issue joined, upon 
their oaths do say that the defendants are not guilty of the 
trespass, ejectment and detention of the premises in the declara 
tion mentioned." Judgment follows " that the defendants re 
cover of the plaintiff their costs." The records of this suit are 
found in Civil Order Books E and F, Hardin Circuit Court. 

This suit for ejectment shows that the Knob Creek farm 
was part of a tract of ten thousand acres surveyed in 1784, and 
patented in 1786 by Thomas Middleton, father of the Hannah 
Rhoades who was one of the parties to the suit. She lived in 
Philadelphia, as did Abraham Sheridan, Inn Keeper, another 

The jury found for the defendants; and the order of the 
Court was " that the plaintiff take nothing for his bill, but 
for his false claimour be in mercy, &c., and that the defendants 
go hence without a day, and recover against the lessors of the 


plaintiff their costs by them about their defense herein ex 
pended, and may have executors, etc." 

In this, as in his earlier lawsuit, Thomas Lincoln was 

In 1816 Thomas Lincoln and his family migrated to In 
diana, where his wife, Nancy Hanks, died, October 5, 1818. 
A year later he returned to Hardin County, Kentucky, and 
married Sarah Bush Johnston, who proved an excellent wife 
and a remarkably good step-mother to his children. She had 
previously married, March 13, 1806, Daniel Johnston, who 
died April, 1814. She died April 10, 1869. 

A further record of Thomas Lincoln is found in Hardin 
County, Kentucky, in the marriage register, Book A, folio 96. 
There his marriage is entered in due form to Sarah Johnson. 
This is the spelling of her name as it is found in the Kentucky 
records, but her son John D. signed his name Johnston, and 
was so addressed by his step-brother Abraham Lincoln. 

Sarah Johnson, or Johnston, was a Miss Bush, and came 
of an excellent family. She was a great-aunt of W. P. D. 
Bush, reporter of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky from 
1866 to 1879. There are fourteen volumes of the Kentucky 
reports edited by him, and familiarly known to Kentucky 
lawyers as the Bush Reports. Another great-nephew, F. H. 
Bush, still lives in Elizabethtown, an honored and venerable 
member of the local bar, and an old Confederate soldier. By 
her first marriage Sarah Bush was united to Daniel Johnson, 
jailer of Hardin County. The marriage occurred March 13, 
1806, three months before Thomas Lincoln s marriage to 
Nancy Hanks. The marriage is recorded in Marriage Register 
A, folio 23. An undisputed tradition and one entirely credible, 
is that Thomas Lincoln made love to Sarah Bush before he sued 
for the hand of Nancy Hanks. It is wholly creditable to 
Thomas Lincoln that he returned for his second wife to where 
he was so well known as at Elizabethtown. His suit is said to 
have been favored by Sarah s male relatives who had accom 
panied Thomas Lincoln on a voyage down the river to New 
Orleans. Thomas Lincoln s marriage to Sarah Bush Johnson, 
or Johnston, occurred, December 2, 1819. 


In March, 1830, Thomas Lincoln and his family, accom 
panied by John D. Johnston and his two sisters and their hus 
bands, Dennis Hanks and Squire Hall, migrated to Macon 
County, Illinois, and settled on land near to that owned by 
John Hanks. Later, and after one or two experiments in 
location, he removed to Goosenest Prairie, near Farmington, 
Illinois, where he died, January 17, 1851. 

Thomas Lincoln was about five feet nine or ten inches 
tall, and weighed about a hundred and eighty to a hundred 
and ninety-five pounds. He had a well-rounded face, dark 
hazel eyes, coarse black hair, and was somewhat round- 
shouldered. He was compactly built, so that Dennis Hanks 
said that he had never been able to find the point of separation 
between his ribs, though he often felt for it. He was slow 
of movement, slow of thought. Herndon describes him as 
careless, inert and dull. He was sinewy and of great strength. 
He was disinclined to constant hard labor, but was capable 
of performing it when he chose. He was inoffensive, quiet 
and peaceable, but capable of strong anger and of fierce fight 
ing. He was fond of jokes and stories, as was his illustrious 
son. While not a total abstainer, he was temperate in his use 
of liquor. He was neither a drunkard nor a gambler, nor is 
he known to have possessed any vicious habit. He was natu 
rally indolent, and was lacking in ambition. He did not care 
for great physical comfort, and preferred to get on with few 
conveniences rather than exert himself unduly to obtain things 
which he did not greatly need. When John Hanks said of 
him that " pleasure was the end of life for him," he did not 
mean that Thomas Lincoln had any inclination toward sen 
suality, but that with sufficient hoe-cake and bacon he was 
reasonably content. 

Thomas Lincoln was a religious man. In another book * 
I have shown the error of Herndon in his declaration that 
Thomas Lincoln was a Free Baptist in Kentucky, a Presby 
terian in Indiana and a Disciple in Illinois. He was a Baptist, 
and not a Free Baptist, in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. 
Near the end of his life he became a New Light. But that was, 

1 The Soul of Abraham Lincoln, by William E. Barton, pp. 36-45. 


from his point of view, no great change. He joined the Little 
Pigeon Baptist Church in 1823, and was a consistent member 
of it. 

In the tax lists of Washington County, Thomas Lincoln 
first appears on May n, 1796, as a white male above sixteen. 
His name is not in the list for 1797, in which year he was 
probably in East Tennessee. He appears in the list of 1800, 
the date when listed being February 14. His name in this one 
list is spelled " Thomas Lincorn," but in the others it is Lin 
coln. He owned one horse, and no other taxable property. 
Again he appears, and with his name correctly spelled, 
in 1800 and 1801, and was listed on August 5. He still owned 
one horse. 

It is interesting to note that in only one of these lists 
is his name spelled other than " Lincoln." The report that 
the name was uniformly known as Linkhorn, and that Abra 
ham Lincoln changed it, is incorrect. Thomas was called Lin 
coln when a lad, he was married as Lincoln, and he signed his 
name, as early as 1806, the date of the first known signature 
and uniformly thereafter, as Lincoln. 

It cannot fail to surprise us when we learn that Thomas 
Lincoln at the age of twenty-three had ready cash to the 
amount of 118 pounds with which to purchase a farm, which 
appears to have been improved, but that thereafter he lived 
upon farms in Kentucky to which he had no recorded title, 
and that whatever land he occupied in other states in sub 
sequent years he held precariously and lost it by abandonment, 
mortgage or other such misfortune as came commonly to 
the shiftless and improvident. It cannot fail to suggest the 
question where he obtained the money for these initial pur 
chases before his marriage. 

I am not able to answer this question. The hypothesis 
which I suggest is, that, on his return from East Tennessee, 
when he was twenty-one or twenty-two, he secured a settle 
ment of his father s estate which his eldest brother, Mordecai, 
had held in trust until Thomas should reach his majority, and 
that Thomas took his share of the estate in cash. 

I have read in several books how his hard-hearted eldest 


brother, Mordecai, taking full advantage of his legal rights 
under the old English law of primogeniture, defrauded this lit 
tle lad out of his honest share in his father s estate, and how 
Thomas, by sheer force of character and resolute industry, 
earned money with which to buy the farm which he owned at 
twenty-three. That pretty tale may be true, but I doubt it. A 
man so industrious at twenty-three would not have been likely 
to part with so much of his industry thereafter, nor abandon 
a farm which he had earned by his own toil. It is much 
more probable that he bought the Mill Creek farm when he 
was twenty-three, with money paid him by his older brothers 
on the settlement of his father s estate, a few months after 
Thomas attained his majority; and that he had more money 
then than he ever possessed at one time afterward so long as 
he lived. 

John D. Johnston doubtless lied in the letter which he sent 
to Abraham Lincoln in the name of Thomas, when Abraham 
was in Congress, pleading for a gift of twenty dollars to 
save the Illinois farm from being sold under judgment : but he 
would not have told a lie of that character if he had not 
known that Abraham knew that only Abraham s generosity 
could be relied upon to keep a roof over the head of his father, 
or to prevent his incurring debts that would have robbed him 
of his home, except for the timely and repeated assistance of 

It is affirmed in many books that Thomas Lincoln and 
Nancy Hanks were first cousins. This statement is made on 
the assumption that Thomas Lincoln was the son of the first 
wife, Mary Shipley, of his father Abraham Lincoln. Thomas 
Lincoln was the son and only child of Abraham Lincoln s 
second wife, Bathsheba Herring. The statement also assumes 
that Nancy Hanks was the daughter of Joseph Hanks and 
his wife Nancy Shipley. Mrs. Richard Berry, at whose home 
Nancy Hanks was married to Thomas Lincoln, was also a 
Lucy Shipley. 

Lawyers in Hardin County assure me that the name of 
Thomas Lincoln is found on the records of the several courts 
in Hardin County as doing jury duty; but, as the jury lists 


are not indexed, such search as they have been able to make for 
me has not yet yielded results, and I must leave this to others 
or to my own future investigation. The tax-lists of Hardin 
County for the years of Thomas Lincoln s residence are lost; 
but there is in the Sheriff s office a book of Tax Delinquents 
which covers the years from 1798 to 1824, and the name of 
Thomas Lincoln is not contained in it. Even if he had owned 
no property his name would have been there had he not paid 
taxes; for there are hundreds of names of men delinquent on 
poll-tax who had no taxable property. But Thomas Lincoln 
had real estate in 1803, and always, so far as we know, a horse. 

Thomas Lincoln s name, so far as official records go, is an 
honorable one. He paid his taxes ; he had four lawsuits and 
won them all. The records contain nothing, so far as my re 
searches have shown, that is not to his credit. 

To the credit of Thomas Lincoln, let it be remembered 
that he did not restrain Abraham from his securing of an 
education. Sarah Bush doubtless told Herndon truthfully of 
her part in the process : 

" I induced my husband to permit Abe to read and study 
at home as well as at school. At first he was not easily recon 
ciled to it, but finally he too seemed willing to encourage him to 
a certain extent." Mrs. Thomas Lincoln, September 8, 1865 ; 
in Herndon, I, p. 33. 

But it should be remembered that before the migration 
to Indiana Abe had had three brief terms of school in Ken 
tucky, before Sarah Bush appeared on the scene. For this, 
doubtless, we have to thank Nancy Hanks, in good part. But 
Thomas Lincoln, who, after he had reached manhood, cared 
enough for education to learn " bunglingly to write his name," 
must have had some little interest in his son s progress in book- 
learning. It need not be assumed that he cared as much for 
it as either Nancy Hanks or Sarah Bush ; but it is due him to 
remember that he did not oppose Abe s learning more than his 
father knew. 

The interior wall of the Memorial erected over the Lincoln 
cabin contains an interesting inscription in honor of Thomas 
Lincoln. It is incorrect in some of its dates; Thomas Lincoln 


was not born in 1770, and he was twenty-nine and not twenty- 
five when he became " possessor of this cabin home and its 
neighboring acres." It is not known that he built any one of 
the houses which he occupied in Kentucky. The inscription 
reads : 


January 20, 1770 January 17, 1851 

Fifth in descent from Samuel Lincoln, weaver, who landed at 
Hingham, Massachusetts, May 26, 1637. Orphaned at six 
years of age by an Indian bullet, he grew up homeless in the 
wild woods of Kentucky. At twenty-five he was the possessor 
of this cabin and its neighboring acres. In 1818 he moved to 
Indiana, then a territory. Five years later he followed the tide 
of emigration to Illinois, where he lived a peaceable, indus 
trious, respected citizen, a genial, honest and contented pioneer. 
With courage and energy he built with his hands five homes, 
each better than the preceding one. He won and held the 
love and confidence of two noble women, and he was the father 
of Abraham Lincoln. 

" My father insisted that none of his children should suffer 
for the want of education as he had." Abraham Lincoln. 

" He was a good carpenter for the times. He had the best 
set of tools in Washington County. The Lincolns had a cow 
and a calf, milk and butter, a good feather bed, for I have slept 
on it. They had a home-woven and single kilerlid big and 
little pots, a loom and wheel. Tom Lincoln was a man, and 
took care of his wife. Reverend Jesse Head, the minister who 
married Tom Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, talked boldly against 
slavery, and Tom and Nancy Lincoln and Sarah Bush were 
just steeped full of Jesse Head s notions about the wrong of 
slavery and the rights of man as explained by Thomas Jeffer 
son and Thomas Payne." Professor T. C. Graham 2 of 
Louisville, Kentucky. 

1 am sure that the foregoing was written by Jenkin Lloyd 
Jones. Its language is very similar to that which he used in his 
address at the Lincoln Home. In that address I find another 
reference to the five houses, or possibly six, which Thomas Lin- 

2 Dr. Graham s name was Christopher Columbus Graham, not " T. C." 


coin is supposed to have built with his own hands. In that 
he speaks of Thomas Lincoln as, " A man who built, with his 
own hands, three homes as I figure it, in Kentucky, and one in 
Indiana and perhaps two in Illinois, each one better than the 
last." It must not detract from our high appreciation of the 
excellence of this inscription if we remind ourselves that while 
Thomas Lincoln built for himself a home in Indiana, beside the 
" half-faced " camp whch sheltered him and his family during 
their first few months in that state, we have no reason to be 
lieve that he built any home for himself in Kentucky. 

A distinguished authority has said, 

" Abraham Lincoln came of the most unpromising stock 
on the continent, * the poor white trash of the South. His 
shiftless father moved from place to place in the western 
country, failing where everybody else was successful in mak 
ing a living; and the boy had spent the most susceptible years 
of his life under no discipline but that of degrading poverty." 
WOODROW WILSON, Division and Reunion, p. 216. 

There is some truth in this, but it is not unqualifiedly true. 
Lincoln s parents were poor and they were white ; but it does 
not follow that they were of the " poor white trash." Thomas 
Lincoln did, indeed, fail repeatedly, and fail where other men 
were succeeding; and none of the apologists for him have suc 
ceeded in proving him an industrious or thrifty man. But it 
is not certain that the poverty upon which Abraham Lincoln 
looked back with such morbid sorrow was really degrading. 

The author of this volume was born in the North; but he 
lived for seven years among people like the Lincolns and 
Hankses in Kentucky and Tennessee, and he does not like to 
hear them called " poor whites " or " mountain whites." He 
has eaten and slept on many a night in a cabin of one room, 
much like the cabin in which the Lincolns lived, and both as 
schoolmaster and as preacher he has shared the life of the kin 
of the Lincolns and the Hankses. The Lincoln blood was good 
blood; and the Hanks blood had in it no vicious or criminal 

Nicolay and Hay say of Thomas Lincoln: 


" Thomas, to whom were reserved the honors of an illus 
trious paternity, learned the trade of a carpenter. He was an 
easy-going man, entirely without ambition, but not without 
self-respect. Though the friendliest and most jovial of gos 
sips, he was not insensible to affronts: and when his slow 
anger was roused, he was a formidable adversary. Several 
border bullies, at different times, crowded him indiscreetly, 
and were promptly and thoroughly whipped. He was strong, 
well-knit, and sinewy; but little over the medium height, 
though in other respects he seems to have resembled his son 
in appearance. . . . 

" Thomas Lincoln joined the Baptist Church of Little 
Pigeon in 1823; his oldest child, Sarah, followed his example 
three years later. They were known as active and consistent 
members of that communion. Lincoln was himself a good 
carpenter when he chose to work at his trade : a walnut table 
made by him is still preserved as part of the furniture of the 
church to which he belonged." NICOLAY AND HAY: Abraham 
Lincoln; A History, I, pp. 23, 32-33. 

Perhaps the best tribute we have to the character of 
Thomas Lincoln is that of the minister of whose church he 
was a member in his last years, and who preached his funeral 
sermon on his death in 1851. Of him, in 1887, R CV - Thomas 
Goodwin of Charleston, Illinois, wrote: 

" In his case I could not say aught but good. ... He 
was a consistent member through life of the Church of my 
choice the Christian Church or Church of Christ and was, 
as far as I know and I was a very intimate friend illiterate, 
yet always truthful, conscientious and religious." Quoted by 
HON. JOSEPH H. BARRETT, in The New England Historical 
and Genealogical Register for July, 1894; volume 48, p. 328. 


THE log cabin in which Abraham Lincoln was born stands 
now very near to its original site. It has been carted over the 
country to one exposition after another, and shown to the 
curious at twenty-five cents a head. While it was away, its 
supposed original site was marked by a post, which still is 
visible in the middle of the cabin floor, attesting that it stands 
where it stood immediately before its migrations began. 
Older persons, however, who remember the cabin before its 
occupant became President, inform me that it was built lower 
down and nearer the spring; and this I think probable. But 
it stands in a very fit and sightly place, a long line of polished 
stone steps leading up to it from the level of the spring, and 
reminding us that the way to such eminence involves a long 
climb. Inside the marble temple that enshrines the log cabin 
where Abraham Lincoln was born, are tablets to his parents. 
I copy that to Nancy Hanks, which I think must be from 
the facile pen of my friend, now dead, Jenkin Lloyd Jones. 

FEBRUARY 4, 1784 OCTOBER 5, 1818 
Born in Virginia. When three years old, her parents, 
Joseph and Nancy (Shipley) Hanks, crossed the mountains 
into Kentucky. Orphaned at nine, she was adopted and reared 
by Richard and Lucy Shipley Berry, at whose home in Beech- 
land, Washington County, Kentucky, she was married to 
Thomas Lincoln, June 12, I8O6. 1 Of this union were born 
Sarah, Abraham and Thomas. The first married Aaron 
Grigsby and died in Indiana in 1828. The last died in in 
fancy. The second lived to write the Emancipation Proclama 
tion. The days of the distaff, the skillet, the Dutch oven, the 
open fireplace, with its iron crane, are no longer, but home- 
tablet erroneously says "June 17, 1806." 


making is still the finest of the fine arts. Nancy Hanks was 
touched with the divine aptitudes of the fireside. Loved and 
honored for her wit, geniality and intelligence, she justified 
an ancestry reaching beyond seas, represented by the notable 
names of Hanks, Shipley, Boone, Evans and Morris. To her 
was entrusted the task of training a giant, in whose childhood s 
memories she was hallowed. Of her he said, " My earliest 
recollection of my mother is sitting at her feet with my sister, 
drinking in the tales and legends that were read and related to 
us." To him on her deathbed she said, " I am going away 
from you Abraham, and I shall not return. I know you will be 
a good boy, that you will be kind to Sarah and your father. I 
want you to live as I have taught you, and love your heavenly 

" All tliat I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother." 

Of Nancy Hanks William H. Herndon wrote: 

Nancy Hanks, the mother of the President, at a very 
early age, was taken from her mother Lucy afterward mar 
ried to Henry Sparrow and sent to live with her aunt and 
uncle, Thomas and Betsy Sparrow. Under this same roof the 
irrepressible and cheerful waif, Dennis Hanks, whose name 
will be frequently seen in these pages, also found a shelter. 
Dennis Hanks, still [1889] living at the age of ninety years 
in Illinois, was the son of another Nancy Hanks, the aunt of 
the President s mother. I have his written statement that he 
came into the world through nature s back door. He never 
stated, if he knew it, who his father was. At the time of 
her marriage to Thomas Lincoln, Nancy was in her twenty- 
third year. She was above the ordinary height in stature, 
weighed about 130 pounds, was slenderly built, and had much 
the appearance of one inclined to consumption. Her skin 
was dark; hair dark brown; eyes gray and small; forehead 
prominent; face sharp and angular, with a marked expression 
for melancholy which fixed itself in the memory of all who 
ever saw or knew her. Though her life was clouded by 
a spirit of sadness, she was in disposition amiable and generally 
cheerful. Mr. Lincoln himself said to me in 1851, on receiv 
ing news of his father s death, that whatever might be said of 
his parents, and however unpromising the early surroundings 


of his mother may have been, she was highly intellectual by 
nature, had a strong memory, acute judgment, and was cool 
and heroic. From a mental standpoint she no doubt rose above 
her surroundings, and had she lived, the stimulus of her nature 
would have accelerated her son s success, and she would have 
been a much more ambitious prompter than his father ever 
was. Life of Lincoln, Vol. I, pp. 13-14. 

Lamon describes her as: 

A slender, symmetrical woman, of medium stature, a 
brunette, with dark hair, regular features, and soft, sparkling 
hazel eyes. Tenderly bred, she might have been beautiful; 
but hard labor and hard usage bent her handsome form, and 
imparted an unusual coarseness to her features long before the 
period of her death. Toward the close, her life and her face 
were equally sad ; and the latter habitually wore the woeful 
expression which afterwards distinguished the countenance 
of her son in repose. By her family, her understanding was 
considered something wonderful. John Hanks spoke rever 
ently of her " high intellectual forehead, * which he con 
sidered but the proper seat of faculties like hers. Compared 
with the mental poverty of her husband and relatives, her 
accomplishments were certainly very great; for it is related by 
them with pride and delight that she could actually read and 
write. The possession of these arts placed her far above her 
associates, and after a little while even Tom began to meditate 
upon the importance of acquiring them. He set to work, ac 
cordingly, in real earnest, having a competent instructor so 
near at hand; and with much effort she taught him what let 
ters composed his name, and how to put them together in a 
stiff and clumsy fashion. Henceforth he signed no more by 
making his mark; but it is nowhere stated that he ever learned 
to write anything else, or to read either written or printed 
letters. LAMON: Life of Lincoln, p. n. 

Mrs. Hitchcock gives this picture of her appearance: 

" Traditions of Nancy Hanks* appearance at this time 

(the time of her marriage) all agree in calling her a beautiful 

girl. She is said to have been of a medium height, weighing 

about 130 pounds, light hair, beautiful eyes, a sensitive mouth, 


and a kindly gentle manner" (p. 51). " Bright, scintillating, 
noted for her keen wit and repartee, she had withal a loving 
heart" (p. 51). When she went to live with the Berrys, 
" Her cheerful disposition and active habits were a dower to 
those pioneers." HITCHCOCK: Nancy Hanks, p. 73. 

These two traditions agree as to her weight. Herndon is 
more likely to be accurate than Mrs. Hitchcock where the ac 
counts vary. He talked earlier with people who had known 
her personally. His authorities were John and Dennis Hanks 
and Sarah Bush Lincoln. But we do not have a very clear 
picture of her personality, though what we know commends 
her to our interest and regard. 

The earlier descriptions agree that Nancy Hanks was dark, 
but recent sentimental literature tends to make her a blonde, 
and not to be content with her possession of all the womanly 
arts, enabling her to " spin the longest threads " as members 
of the Hanks family affirmed, but also, as in one recent book, 
The Matrix, by Maria Thompson Daviess, endowing her with 
masculine strength, so that she was famous as a champion at 
corn huskings, a breaker of colts, a driver of wild horses, and 
a woman of wonderful wit, vivacity and intellectual power. 

The Atlantic Monthly for February, 1920, contained an 
article by Mr. Arthur E. Morgan, of Dayton, Ohio, who, in 
travels through the Ozark mountains came upon a branch of 
the Hanks family descended from Polly Hanks, the sister of 
Nancy, through her daughter Sophie. Sophie Hanks was 
just a month younger than President Lincoln. She is the sister 
who, according to Lamon, married Thomas Friend, and ac 
cording to others married Jesse Friend. According to " The 
Doctor " a son of this Sophie Hanks, from whom Mr. Morgan 
obtained most of his information, 

" Sophie Hanks s mother, Sarah or Polly Hanks, was a 
sister of Lincoln s mother. Though she never married, she 
had six children, all of whom lived to maturity, bearing their 
mother s name. Sophie Hanks died in November, 1895, but 
her three children, living in different parts of the Ozarks, re 
tained a part of the information they received from her." 

The name of " The Doctor" is not given; and the article 


is reticent on a number of important points. It leaves upon 
the mind of the reader the question whether illegitimacy 
stopped with Polly Hanks. It is evident from the article that 
the children of Sophie Hanks were the children of more than 
one father; and whether she was married to these two or more 
men in turn is not stated. The Doctor, however, gives this 
very interesting information: 

" Those stories about Abraham Linkhorn being an illegiti 
mate child are untrue. Aunt Nancy and Uncle Tom were 
married regular. But his mother was an illegitimate child. 
I have always understood this from what my mother said 
about it. But my cousin said that our grandmother Hanks 
and Linkhorn s mother were half-sisters and also cousins. 
My mother never told me that, but I have often heard her 
say that we were badly mixed." 

I was, of course, eager to know if Mr. Morgan had addi 
tional information, and I have troubled him with many let 
ters. He has searched his notes for me, and he has given me 
all the additional information which he can obtain. I have 
incorporated it in the Appendix. Let me here call attention 
to the fact that while " The Doctor," whose name Mr. Morgan 
gives me as James Legrand, 2 states positively that Nancy 
Hanks was the illegitimate daughter of Lucy Hanks, John 
T. Hanks, son of Dennis Hanks and Elizabeth Johnston, and 
daughter of Abraham Lincoln s step-mother, affirms that she 
was a daughter of Joseph and Nancy Hanks. 

Although the plan of this book does not contemplate in 
vestigation of the maternal line of Abraham Lincoln s ancestry, 
I desired to inform myself as accurately as possible on all 
questions of the family of Nancy Hanks which had or might 
have relation to the special field of this present inquiry. Mrs. 
Hitchcock announced in 1909 that her Nancy Hanks would 
be followed soon by the publication of a complete Hanks 
genealogy. This would have been of considerable service, and 
I sought for it, but could not find that it had been published. 
I therefore wrote to the New England Historic Genealogical 

1 As this book goes to press, a letter informs me of the probably fatal 
illness of Dr. Legrand. 


Society, as Mrs. Hitchcock was a New England woman and 
traced the Hanks family from a New England line, and I 
received this reply: 

BOSTON, MASS., April 23, 1920. 

In reply to your letter of April 21 seeking information 
about a Mrs. Hitchcock who published a book on " Nancy 
Hanks" in 1909, I beg to say that we are unable to tell you 
whether Mrs. Hitchcock is still living or not; nor do we know 
where her manuscript relating to the Hanks family is at the 
present time. 

Very truly yours, 


Corresponding Secretary. 

This ends my hope of securing in time for this volume any 
added light on the Hanks family from Mrs. Hitchcock or her 
manuscript. For my purpose it does not greatly matter ; but I 
think that authors who are hereafter to go into that side of 
the question should go more thoroughly into the inquiry than 
does her little book. I am not expressing the opinion that 
in this particular her book is inaccurate ; I simply have not been 
able to confirm all of her affirmations, and I do not know 
where the data may be obtained. 

Lea and Hutchinson, in their invaluable work on The 
Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln, have placed all students of 
this subject under permanent obligations to them, especially 
for their researches into the English ancestry. They have not 
always been discriminating in their research in American 
records, and I have discovered not a few errors in their book. 
In the matter of the Hanks genealogy, they accept almost 
without question the results of Mrs. Hitchcock s investigations; 
but this has not carried them out of the region of perplexity. 
They say : 

While the indefatigable researches of a member of the 
Hanks family, Mrs. Caroline Hanks Hitchcock, have forever 
silenced by overwhelming and cumulative proofs the vicious 


and unclean fabrications and slanders which cast doubt on the 
parentage of the mother of the President, it is greatly to be 
deplored that the ascending line of her ancestry, beyond her 
parents, still remains without positive proof. Two theories 
have been propounded of which both will be given here as 
worthy of respectful attention, but of which neither can be 
accepted by the writers as demonstrated beyond the reasonable 
doubt caused by lack of complete proof. In other words, we 
still lack legal demonstration of the paternity of Joseph Hanks, 
husband of Nancy Shipley and father of Nancy Hanks, the 
mother of the President. The Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln, 
p. 112. 

The question of the identity of Joseph Hanks is, indeed, 
one of difficulty, and Lea and Hutchinson are not the only 
ones who have encountered it. It is the same difficulty which 
confronts us at every turn in the annals of this family, with 
its meager records, its conflicting traditions, its overlapping 
generations and its reduplication of names. 

The case of Joseph Hanks will serve to illustrate what 
meets us in other inquiries. We need one Joseph Hanks, and 
we have three. One of them appears as the father and two 
of them as the uncles of the mother of the President. Surely 
there were not in the family three sons named Joseph. Yet 
we have Joseph Hanks of Nelson County, dying in 1793, 
leaving to each of his five sons a horse and to each of his three 
daughters a heifer, of which the spotted one named " Piedy " 
was inherited by Nancy, the youngest daughter, and the rest 
of the estate to his wife, Nancy. We also have Joseph Hanks, 
uncle of Nancy, living in Elizabeth town in 1808, in whose 
shop Thomas Lincoln was an apprentice. And we have 
Joseph Hanks, uncle of Nancy, who was a shoemaker, and 
not a carpenter, and who married Sarah Freeman. These are 
not all the Josephs, but they are more than enough to bewilder 
the genealogist. 

I venture a suggestion which, if it should be found correct, 
would remove from this tangle one of the Josephs. It is that 
Joseph Hanks, the carpenter, of Elizabethtown, was not the 
uncle, but the brother, of Nancy Hanks, the mother of the 


President. Lamon, on information derived from Herndon, 
said, in 1872, 

" It was in the shop of her uncle, Joseph Hanks, of Eliza- 
bethtown, that he [Thomas Lincoln] essayed to learn the trade. 
We have no record of the courtship, but any one can readily 
imagine the numberless occasions that would bring together 
the niece and the apprentice." Life of Lincoln, p. 10. 

Later authorities have followed this without question, and 
so has the present author. But in one record in Elizabethtown 
I find a suggestion that this Joseph was not her uncle but her 
older brother. I have not investigated ; but record the sugges 
tion for what it may be worth. 

Joseph owned rather large traots of land in Hardin County, 
and did jury-duty there, as shown by the court records. 

In the case of Nancy Hanks the situation is far more per 
plexing. I did not at any time intend to explore it, for at the 
outset I relied with entire confidence on Mrs. Hitchcock. 

She tells us of Nancy Hanks as born in Virginia, Febru 
ary 4, 1784, the daughter of Joseph and Nancy (Shipley) 
Hanks, the same Joseph who died in 1793, and left to his 
youngest daughter, Nancy, the spotted heifer calf. This Nancy 
was adopted and reared by Richard Berry and his wife, Lucy 
Shipley Berry, the latter being the sister of Nancy Shipley 
Hanks, and so the aunt of Nancy. From this home she was 
married, her uncle and guardian, Richard Berry, signing her 
marriage bond with the bridegroom, Thomas Lincoln. The 
will and the marriage bond are incontestable records, and the 
place of the marriage is as certain as human testimony can fix 
it at a date so remote, yet within the memory of living and 
credible witnesses who have left their signed and sworn and 
indisputable testimony. Although in other matters I have 
found Mrs. Hitchcock s judgment subject to revision, she has 
in this particular too much of irrefutable fact to be disputed 
except on evidence much stronger than any that I have found. 
The age of this Nancy is essentially correct for her require 
ments as the wife of Thomas Lincoln, and if she did not marry 
him, we do not know what became of her. The will, the mar 
riage bond, the place and date of marriage, all agree. More- 


over, I have found in Washington County large groups of rela 
tives and descendants of the Berrys and Shipley s and related 
families, who all accept this theory, and who find that it fits 
into their local traditions. Mrs. Hitchcock is not, therefore, 
to be lightly flouted when she identifies the mother of the 
President with the little nine-year-old heiress of the Peid heifer. 
In spite of all the inherent difficulties in the theory, I find 
myself unable to escape from the logic of it. I still hold it 
as on the whole the best theory of the paternity of Nancy 
Hanks. I had hoped that in the course of this inquiry into 
a closely related question, I should have been able to clear up 
the difficulties in a manner that would satisfy myself com 
pletely; I regret that I have not been able to do so. 

What we encounter on the opposite side is the almost unani 
mous tradition of the Hanks family. To be sure, they kept 
few records, and their memories do not wholly agree. But 
this is what they tell us about the mother of the President, 
and it is what he himself apparently believed : 

There were four Hanks sisters, Betsy, Polly, Nancy and 
Lucy. Betsy married Thomas Sparrow; Polly married Jesse 
Friend; Nancy married Levi Hall and Lucy married Henry 
Sparrow. Before her marriage to Levi Hall, Nancy became 
the mother of Dennis Hanks. Before her marriage to Henry 
Sparrow, Lucy became, in 1783, the mother of Nancy Hanks. 
The two bridegrooms accepted their respective brides as they 
were, but did not accept their illegitimate children, both of 
whom were brought up by their maternal aunt, Betsy Hanks, 
wife of Thomas Sparrow. Nancy Hanks was called by the 
name of Sparrow, not from the man who subsequent to her 
birth married her mother, Lucy, but from her aunt Betsy and 
her husband, Thomas Sparrow. These were the only parents 
she ever knew. She called them father and mother. They 
journeyed to Indiana after her, lived and died with her, and 
all their Indiana neighbors understood that they were her 
parents. All her Hanks cousins called Nancy, not Nancy 
Hanks, but Nancy Sparrow. They knew nothing about her 
relation to the Shipley s, or of her being the daughter of Joseph 


They may have been mistaken. The President may have 
been mistaken, as he was mistaken about certain other matters 
concerning his relations. He was too sensitive about it to make 
many inquiries, and those which he made did not reassure 
him. We cannot accept his immature opinions on a matter 
where he may so easily have been misled. But we may not 
throw out of court this whole body of Hanks tradition, tangled 
and difficult as it is. 

There are certain facts on each side. The truth must be 
inclusive of all these facts and of such others as will explain 
their relation to each other. The unifying and clarifying truth 
has not yet been produced, and it will be very difficult to 
obtain it, for the reasons indicated. 

I am writing thus concerning the question of the parentage 
of Nancy Hanks, partly because I wish to record all that is 
certainly known about her, and partly lest my silence, if I 
were to be silent, should be construed to mean that I have 
formed an adverse judgment. Such judgment I have not 
formed. The materials for a final judgment are not avail 
able. Moreover, this is not the question which I set out to 
answer; though I would gladly answer this in passing if I 
could do so. 

The two dates given for the birth of Nancy Hanks, one 
an undesignated^day in 1783, and the other, February 4, 1784, 
present no serious discrepancy; and both traditions place her 
birth as in Virginia. It is possible that some one will take 
the materials gathered by Mrs. Hitchcock, and those assembled 
by Mr. Knotts, which largely for this reason I am printing 
in this volume, and those that had previously been collected 
by Mr. Herndon, and after further, and I fear extended, in 
vestigation, present to us the true story of the parentage of 
Nancy Hanks. Until then, we have as our best documentary 
proof the will of Joseph Hanks, the marriage bond with his 
signature, a significant even if not a certain piece of evidence 
of guardianship, and in addition to these the clearly estab 
lished fact that she was married under his roof, and that her 
relatives resident in that vicinity believe her to have been the 
legitimate daughter of Joseph Hanks, an honorable man, who 


died in 1793. There, until conclusive evidence is presented, 
my own mind is constrained to rest. 

Miss Tarbell gives account of the parents, particularly of 
the mother, of Abraham Lincoln as follows : 

The father, Thomas Lincoln, far from being a " poor 
white," was the son of a prosperous Kentucky pioneer, a man 
of honorable and well established lineage, who had come from 
Virginia as a friend of Daniel Boone, and had there bought 
large tracts of land and begun to grow up with the country, 
where he was killed by the Indians. He left a large family. 
By the law of Kentucky the estate went mainly to the oldest 
son, and the youngest, Thomas Lincoln, was left to shift for 
himself. This youngest son grew to manhood, and on June 
10, 1806, was married, at Beechland, Kentucky, to a young 
woman of a family well known in the vicinity, Nancy Hanks. 
There is no doubt whatever about the time and the place of 
this marriage. All the legal documents required in Kentucky 
at that period for a marriage are in existence. Not only 
have we the bond and the certificate, but the marriage is duly 
entered in a list of marriage returns made by Jesse Head, one 
of the best-known early Methodist ministers of Kentucky. It 
is now to be seen in the records of Washington County, Ken 
tucky. There is even in existence a very full and amusing 
account of the wedding and the fan-fare which followed by a 
guest who was present, and who for years after was accus 
tomed to visit Thomas and Nancy. This guest, Christopher 
Columbus Graham, a unique and perfectly trustworthy man, 
a prominent citizen of Louisville, died only a few years ago. 

But while these documents dispose effectually of the ques 
tion of the parentage of Lincoln, they do not, of course, clear 
up the shadow which hangs over the parentage of his mother. 
Is there anything to show that Nancy Hanks herself was of 
clear and clean lineage as her husband? There had been 
nothing whatever until, a few years ago, through the efforts 
of Mrs. Caroline Hanks Hitchcock of Cambridge, Mass., who 
had in preparation the genealogy of the Hanks family in 
America, a little volume was published, showing what she had 
established in regard to Nancy Hanks. Mrs. Hitchcock had 
begun at the far end of the line the arrival of one Benjamin 
Hanks in Massachusetts in 1699. 


She discovered that one of his sons, William, moved to 
Virginia, and that in the latter part of the eighteenth century 
his children formed, in Amelia County of that State, a large 
settlement. All the records of these families she found in the 
Hall of Records in Richmond. When the migration into 
Kentucky began, late in the century, it was joined by many 
members of the Hanks settlement in Amelia County. Among 
others to go was Joseph Hanks with his wife, Nancy Shipley 
Hanks, and their children. Mrs. Hitchcock traced this Joseph 
Hanks, by means of land records, to Nelson County, Kentucky, 
where she found that he died in 1793, leaving behind a will, 
which she discovered in the records of Bardstown, Kentucky. 
This will shows that at the time of his death Joseph Hanks had 
eight living children, to whom he bequeathed property. The 
youngest of these was " My daughter Nancy," as the will 
puts it. 

Mrs. Hitchcock s first query, on reading this will, was: 
" Can it be that this little girl she was but nine years old 
when her father died is the Nancy Hanks who sixteen years 
later became the mother of Abraham Lincoln?" She deter 
mined to find out. She learned from relations and friends 
of the family of Joseph Hanks still living that, soon after 
her father s death, Nancy went to live with an uncle, Richard 
Berry, who, the records showed, had come from Virginia to 
Kentucky at the same time that Joseph Hanks came. A little 
further research, and Mrs. Hitchcock found that there had 
been brought to light through the efforts of friends of Abraham 
Lincoln all the documents to show that in 1806 Nancy Hanks 
and Thomas Lincoln were married at Beechland, Kentucky. 
Now, one of these documents was a marriage bond. It was 
signed by Richard Berry, the uncle of the little girl recog 
nized in the will of Joseph Hanks. Here, then, was the chain 
complete. The marriage bond and marriage returns not only 
showed that Nancy Hanks and Thomas Lincoln were married 
regularly three years before the birth of Abraham Lincoln, 
thus forever settling any question as to the parentage of Lin 
coln, but they showed that this Nancy Hanks was the one 
named in the will. The suspicion in regard to the origin of 
Lincoln s mother was removed by this discovery of the will, 
for the recognition of any one as his child by a man in his 
will is considered by the law as sufficient proof of paternity. 


Now what sort of people were Thomas Lincoln and Nancy 
Hanks ? It has been inferred by those who have made no in 
vestigation of Thomas Lincoln s life that Nancy Hanks 
made a very poor choice of a husband. The facts do not 
entirely warrant this theory. Thomas Lincoln had been 
forced from his boyhood to shift for himself in a young and 
undeveloped country. He is known to have been a man who 
in spite of this wandering life contracted no bad habits. He 
was temperate and honest, and his name is recorded in more 
than one place in the records of Kentucky. He was a church 
goer, and, if tradition may be believed, a stout defender of his 
peculiar religious views. He held advanced ideas of what was 
already an important public question in Kentucky, the right 
to hold negroes as slaves. One of his old friends has said 
of him and his wife, Nancy Hanks, that they were " just 
steeped full of notions about the wrongs of slavery and the 
rights of men, as explained by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas 
Paine. " These facts show that he must have been a man of 
some natural intelligence. He had a trade and owned a farm. 

As for Nancy Hanks, less that is definite is known of her. 
In nature, in education, and in ambition she was, if tradition 
is to be believed, far above her husband. She was famous 
for her spinning and her household accomplishments, it is said. 

It was to these two people, then, that Abraham Lincoln 
was born on February 12, 1809. His birthplace was a farm 
Thomas Lincoln owned, and near Elizabethtown, Kentucky. 
The home into which the little chap came was the ordinary one 
of the poorer Western pioneer a one-roomed cabin with a 
huge outside chimney. Although in many ways it was no 
doubt uncomfortable, there is no reason to believe it was an 
unhappy or a squalid one. The log house, with its great fire 
place and heavy walls, is not such a bad place to live in 
some of us are thankful to get away into the country to one 
now and then even in winter. Its furniture was simple, and 
no doubt much of it home-made. The very utensils were of 
home manufacture. The feathers in the beds were plucked 
from the geese Nancy Lincoln raised. She patched her own 
quilts, spun her own linsey-woolsey. No doubt Thomas Lin 
coln made Abraham s cradle and Nancy Lincoln spun the 
cloth for his first garments. They raised their own corn, 
dried their own fruit, hunted their own game, raised their own 


pork and beef. It was the hard life of the pioneer where every 
man provides for his own needs. It had discomforts, but it 
had, too, that splendid independence and resourcefulness which 
comes only from being sufficient to your own needs. 

That the two people who endured its hardships and made 
in spite of them a home where a boy could conceive and 
nourish such ideals and enthusiasms as inspired Abraham Lin 
coln from his early years should have their names darkened 
by unfounded suspicions is a cruel injustice against which 
every honest and patriotic American ought to set his face. 

In all the twenty-eight years of her life Nancy Hanks never 
was permitted to spend a year or even a day under a roof that 
she could legally have called her own. In her first tweruty- 
two years she lived among her relatives. The humble cabin 
to which Thomas Lincoln took her on her marriage, and where 
she lived until her first child Sarah was a little more than a 
year old, was not his own; the lot in Elizabethtown which 
many years afterward he sold, came to him from his second 
wife. On the Brownfield farm he lived for a few months as 
a tenant. The Rock Spring farm on Nolin Creek where Lin 
coln was born was occupied by Thomas and Nancy Lincoln 
without any deed of record, and the title, or at least the 
equitable title, rested during his occupancy in a man with whom 
Thomas Lincoln is not known to have had any dealings. If 
after this he lived for a year in Washington County, as appears 
to have been the case, his home was presumably among his 
wife s relations, or possibly his own relations; he paid no taxes 
there on real estate. The Knob Creek farm, by far the most 
picturesque and fertile of his Kentucky holdings, he occupied 
without title so far as known, and removed from it without 
making a deed. He settled on government land in Indiana, and 
in the course of years entered it and received a patent from the 
government for half of that which he originally entered; but 
before he received his patent Nancy had died. She could have 
sung with some of the old time camp-meeting preachers: 

No foot of land do I possess, 
No cabin in this wilderness, 
Till I my Canaan gain. 


Like her husband, Nancy Hanks was a Baptist. So far 
as we know, their association with Rev. Jesse Head, who was 
a local Methodist deacon at Springfield, was casual; but Dr. 
Christopher Columbus Graham affirms that Mr. Head was a 
strong abolitionist, and that Thomas and Nancy were well 
saturated with abolition principles which they learned from 
him. This may be true, but we have no other witness to this. 
Dr. Graham was a truthful man, but was a very old man when 
he made this statement. The minds of old men tend to elabo 
rate such themes. The statement that Jesse Head was an 
abolitionist is not at all improbable. But I have not found 
other evidence than this that Thomas Lincoln was an aboli 
tionist. However, his son, Abraham, could say that he could 
not remember a time when he did not believe slavery to be 
wrong; and it is easily possible that Thomas Lincoln held to 
this same opinion, and that he may have learned it, or been 
strengthened in it, by Jesse Head. It is easy to believe that 
Nancy would have shared this opinion; and there is no good 
reason to contradict Dr. Graham ; though we could wish we had 
confirmatory proof. 

The name Nancy became such a general favorite in the 
Hanks family, it would be interesting to discover, if possible, 
who was the original Nancy Hanks. Apparently that name 
came into the Hanks list of family names with the marriage 
of James Hanks of Virginia, son of William. The name of 
his wife was Nancy. James, it will be remembered, removed 
to South Carolina with his brothers John, Joseph and Luke. 
We know nothing about the personality of Mrs. James Hanks, 
but it is not going far into the realm of imagination to con 
jecture that this daughter-in-law of the family must have 
been attractive and good, since all branches of the family ap 
pear to have begun at once the practice of naming their 
daughters after her; and thus the name came into immediate 
and permanent prominence in that family. 


THOMAS and Abraham Lincoln had some traits in common, 
such as their coarse black hair, their deep-set gray eyes, their 
ability to tell, and their enjoyment in the telling of, a good 
story, and their disinclination to perform needless manual 
labor. Neither of them ever demanded too much in the way 
of physical comfort; Abraham to the end of his life never was 
fastidious about his bed or his food, or knew or seemed to 
care whether the sheets were clean or the food was well 
cooked. Thomas, as Lamon says, "was satisfied with indif 
ferent shelter, and a diet of corn-bread and milk was all he 
asked. John Hanks naively observes that happiness was the 
end of life with him (Life of Lincoln, p. 15). Abraham 
was much like Thomas in this, preferring meager physical 
comfort to too great physical exertion, and being quite indif 
ferent to the refinements of living. 

Beyond this, they were not very congenial. If Thomas 
Lincoln did not like to work, he wanted Abe to work; and 
Abe was given to joking, to mounting a stump and orating, 
not only to the total interruption of his own labor in the field, 
but the labor also of Dennis Hanks and John Johnston, who 
were very willing to stop work and sit down while Abe de 
livered stump speeches or sermons. There is good reason to 
believe that this more than once vexed the righteous soul of 
Thomas Lincoln, who was vicariously industrious, and that 
some incidents of reproof and perhaps physical castigation 
lie behind Colonel Chapman s statement, derived doubtless 
from his wife, and by her from her father Dennis Hanks, and 
so with abundant opportunity for exaggeration, that " Abe s 
father treated him with habitual cruelty." LAMON, Life of 
Lincoln, p. 40. 

The only specific instance, however, that has come down 



to us, of the cruelty of Thomas Lincoln, is that he is alleged 
by Dennis to have knocked Abe off the fence for answering a 
traveler s questions about the road. (LAMON, Life of Lincoln, 
pp. 40 and 77.) But it is evident, first, that this incident was 
exceptional, and secondly, that we do not have the whole story. 
If we knew all the facts, we probably should learn that Abe 
sat on the fence for a good while and chatted with the passing 
stranger while Thomas waited for him to return and hoe out 
his row. If all that Abe did was to answer a civil question, 
it was not necessary for him to climb the fence and sit upon 
the top rail. He could have answered from the field. Thomas 
may have been unduly harsh, but he probably had provoca 
tion. The top of a rail fence was an attractive place for Abra 
ham Lincoln, who had more than one reason to think highly 
of fence rails. 

We are justified in moderating somewhat Colonel Chap 
man s statement which is to be taken with some abatement. 
The most that we need believe is Dennis Hanks direct answer 
to Herndon s question, " Did Thomas Lincoln treat Abe 

" He (Tom) loved him. I never could tell whether Abe 
loved his father very well or not. I don t think he did, for 
he was one of those forward boys. I have seen his father 
knock him down off the fence when a stranger would ask the 
way to a neighbor s house. Abe always would have the first 
word. The old man loved his children." LAMON: Life of 
Lincoln, p. 77. 

This is definite as to Thomas Lincoln s love for Abe, 
spite of his rough discipline; and it is about what we might 
expect as to Abe s love for his father. Abe was " forward," 
always wanted the first word with a passing stranger, and in 
no haste to say the last word, and how much he loved the man 
whom he rather quickly outgrew in intellectual attainment and 
in ambition, we are not sure. He does not appear to have had 
an affection rooted in mutual interests and common sym 
pathies, but he loved him as much, apparently, as such a son 
would have been likely to love such a father; and to say that 
is not to speak very ill of either of them, 


Sarah Bush Lincoln told Herndon that she was interested 
in Abe s love of books, and obtained for him leisure to read 
and study. Thomas Lincoln appears to have acceded to her 
request as cheerfully as, under all the conditions, might have 
been expected. But it is not to be supposed that he entered 
into all the hopes and vague longings of this lazy, moody, 

If half the marriages can be said to be of persons per 
fectly adapted to be each other s life companions, there remain 
the other half more or less imperfectly matched. Of these, 
it may be presumed, the wife is the husband s superior in at 
least half the cases. Certainly Sarah Bush was, in education 
and social standing and ambition, the superior of Thomas Lin 
coln, and there are cases of this sort, not a few. 

Every one who will look around him can discover with 
out difficulty families in which a mother cherishes higher am 
bitions for her son than that he shall follow in the footsteps of 
his father. In many cases the father shares the ambition of 
his wife and son, feeling painfully his own lack of youthful 
advantages and making large sacrifice that his son may rise 
higher in the world than he has been able to rise. But it is 
not always so. Sometimes such a father, even though willing 
to do all that seems to him necessary for his son s welfare, 
sees no necessity for educating him above his father s station 
and his own probable station in life. 

In such a home there is no question of legitimacy; but the 
mother, and not the father, becomes the interpreter of the 
boy s best impulses. Father is good, but he does not under 
stand. The boy shares his hopes with his mother, and she keeps 
all these things in her heart, as mothers do, and ponders them. 

It is the ambition of the average American man to create 
for his wife a leisure which he does not share, and for his son 
an opportunity greater than his own. American fathers are 
not ungenerous as a rule. Nevertheless, cases are not few 
in which the wife has received the better education, has kept 
up her reading, and encourages her son in ambitions to which 
the father is almost a stranger. 

It is easy to understand that in the home of Thomas Lin- 


coin, situated as it was declared by Lincoln to have been, in a 
region in which " There was absolutely nothing to excite am 
bition for education," as he wrote to Jesse W. Fell, it was 
hardly to have been expected that Thomas and Abraham Lin 
coln would have lived together for twenty-one years in com 
plete sympathy. 

On the other hand, it is not known that they quarreled, 
and Abraham does not appear to have cherished toward his 
father any deep resentment or personal hatred. On the con 
trary, what evidence we have of his feeling toward his father, 
indicates that he cared for him as much as could reasonably 
have been expected under all conditions. 

After Abraham Lincoln was of age, and might have claimed 
his own time, and was eager for his freedom, he remained 
with his father long enough to see him established in his new 
home in Illinois, and thereafter he sent him money as long as 
he lived. Lamon, who does his best to make his readers think 
that Abe cared little for his father, says that the remittances 
were sent to his step-mother. This probably is true. She was 
the more literary of the two, and money sent to her should 
have been safer than if sent to Thomas, for she was likely to 
spend it for necessities; but it is doubtful whether her son 
John did not coax the most of it away from her. Lamon 

" As soon as Abraham got up a little in the world, he began 
to send his step-mother money, and continued to do so until 
his own death ; but it is said to have done her no good/ for 
it only served to tempt certain persons about her, and with 
whom she shared it, to continue in a life of idleness." 
LAMON : Life of Lincoln, p. 76. 

Abraham did, however, give and send money direct 
to his father. When Lincoln was on his circuit he repeatedly 
visited his father s home, and left money, and he was im 
portuned by his father from time to time to send him more. 
So far as is known, he invariably did so. 

The most damaging answer to the question whether Abra 
ham Lincoln honored his father, has been given by Lamon in 
his Life of Lincoln, in a letter of Abraham Lincoln, dated 


Washington, December 24, 1848, in which he appears to ques 
tion his father s veracity; and Lamon does not hesitate to 
call attention to the fact. The letter is as follows: 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 24th, 1848. 

Your letter of the 7th was received night before last. I 
very cheerfully send you the twenty dollars, which sum you 
say is necessary to save your land from sale. It is singular 
that you should have forgotten a judgment against you; and 
it is more singular that the plaintiff should have let you forget 
it so long, particularly as I suppose you have always had 
property enough to satisfy a judgment of that amount. Be 
fore you pay it, it would be well to be sure that you have not 
paid it; or, at least, that you cannot prove you have paid it. 
Give my love to Mother, and all the connections. 
Affectionately your son, 


The implication appears a fair one. Abraham Lincoln, in 
receipt of a piteous appeal from his father to send him twenty 
dollars to save his land from being sold under judgment, sent 
the money, but did not believe that the land was in danger of 
being sold under judgment. Did Abraham Lincoln believe 
Thomas Lincoln a liar? 

I did not know the answer to this question until Mr. W. K. 
Bixby of St. Louis who had owned the original letter presented 
me a photographic fac-simile of it. 

This letter occupies the first fifteen lines on the first page 
of a four-page letter sheet, and below it and on the following 
pages is Abraham Lincoln s letter to his step-brother, John D. 
Johnston. Lamon had both these letters, or copies of them, 
and printed them both, but not together. Their significance 
is in the fact that they were written on the same sheet. The 
letter to Johnston as Lamon says, makes Johnston an inti 
mate acquaintance of the reader; but the acquaintance is made 
more intimate by the knowledge, which Lamon withheld, if 
indeed he knew it, that the two letters are virtually one. The 
second letter, without separate date or post-office, begins on the 
line below the first signature of Abraham Lincoln: 



Your request for eighty dollars I do not think it best to 
comply with now. At the various times when I have helped 
you a little you have said to me, " We can get along very 
well now," but in a very short time I find you in the same 
difficulty again. Now this can only happen by some defect in 
your conduct. What that defect is, I think I know. You 
are not lazy, but you are an idler. I doubt whether since I 
saw you you have done a good whole day s work in any one 
day. You do not very much like to work, and still you do 
not work much, merely because it does not seem to you that 
you could get very much for it. This habit of uselessly wasting 
time, is the whole difficulty; and it is vastly important to you, 
and still more so to your children, that you should break this 
habit. It is more important to them, because they have longer 
to live, and can keep out of an idle habit before they are in 
it easier than they can get out after they are in. 

You are now in need of some ready money; and what I 
propose is, that you shall go to work " tooth and nail " for 
somebody who will give you money for it. Let father and 
your boys take charge of things at home prepare for a crop 
and make the crop; and you go to work for the best money 
wages, or in discharge of any debt you owe, that you can get. 
And to secure you a fair reward for your labor, I now promise 
you that for every dollar you will, between this and the first of 
next May, get for your own labor either in money or in your 
own indebtedness, I will then give you one other dollar. By 
this, if you hire yourself at ten dollars a month, from me 
you will get ten more, making twenty dollars a month for 
your work. In this I do not mean that you shall go off to St. 
Louis or the lead mines, or to the gold mines, in California, but 
I mean for you to go at it for the best wages you can get close 
at home, in Coles County. Now if you will do this, you will 
soon be out of debt, and what is better, you will have a habit 
that will keep you from getting in debt again. But if I should 
now clear you out, next year you will be just as deep as ever. 
You say you would almost give your place in Heaven for $70 
or $80. Then you value your place in Heaven very cheaply, 
for I am sure you can with the offer I make you get the 
seventy or eighty dollars for four or five months work. You 
say if I furnish you the money you will deed me the land, and 


if you don t pay the money back, you will deliver possession 
Nonsense! If you can t now live with the land how will you 
then live without it? You have always been kind to me, and I 
do not mean to be unkind to you. On the contrary, if you will 
but follow my advice, you will find it worth more than eight 
times eighty dollars to you. 

Affectionately your brother, 


Now we know the whole story. Abraham Lincoln knew 
that Johnston was the author of both requests, the eighty 
dollars for himself and the twenty dollars for Thomas Lin 
coln. Abraham sent the latter sum, though showing plainly 
that he was not deceived by the hard-luck story which accom 
panied the request, a story doubtless written by Johnston, to 
which Thomas Lincoln may have " bunglingly signed his 

I am not aware that any writer has discovered the fact, 
or in any event the significance of the fact, that Abraham Lin 
coln s letter of December 24, 1848, to his father, was on the 
same sheet with a letter to Johnston, and was virtually a part 
of the same letter. Certainly Nicolay and Hay had no sense 
of this relation. They printed the two letters separated by a 
considerable space in time and in book pagination, and as this 
leaves the Johnston letter without a date, they supplied the 
conjectural date, January 2, 1851, which is a very bad guess, 
as will be seen by their Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works, 
two volume edition; volume I, pages 147, 164-5; an ^ the 
Gettysburg edition, twelve volumes, volume II, pages 96, 144- 
146. This date, which Nicolay and Hay supplied as con 
jectural, other compilations took over from them without ques 
tion, as in the Putnam Edition, volume II, and also in the 
Current Literature edition of the Life and Works of Abra 
ham Lincoln; Letters, volume II. 

So far as the letter to Johnston is concerned, the date is not 
very important; but as affording the basis of an interpretation 
of the spirit of Lincoln s letter to his father, and his alleged 
belief that his father was not telling him the truth, the date is 
of very great importance ; and the fact that the two letters were 


written on one sheet shows that Lincoln knew who was lying, 
and that he wanted Johnston to know that he knew. 

Lincoln s letter to his father was all that under the cir 
cumstances it ought to be, and he was generous in sending the 
money, which, as we know from other sources, Abraham more 
than suspected Johnston would be likely to share. His offer 
to Johnston was more than generous, and his letter was in 
every way admirable. 

We must remember that at this period Lincoln himself 
was under a heavy strain. He was just paying the last of his 
" national debt " that had been a millstone about his neck ever 
since the days of his disastrous merchandizing at New Salem. 
He already knew that he was not to return to Congress, and 
he needed all his money, but he was generous with it. 

My impression is that at this time members of Congress 
were paid a per diem, and that it then was, or later was in 
creased to be, eight dollars a day. In my boyhood, which 
was long after the time of this correspondence, I heard a 
song like this: 

" In Washington full once a year 

Do politicians throng, 
Contriving there by various arts 

To make their session long; 
And many a reason do they give 

Why there obliged to stay, 
But the clearest reason yet adduced 

Is eight dollars a day." 

To John D. Johnston eight dollars a day seemed the 
zenith of affluence, and its possessor a plutocrat to be plucked 
and plundered, and he was more skilled in devising ways of 
making Abraham divide his wealth than he was in producing 
an honest living fo;r himself and his children. These letters 
appear to have been both wise and generous. They afford no 
reason for the conclusion that Abraham Lincoln did not honor 
his father, but they show that he was magnanimous and at the 
same time discriminating toward his indolent step-brother. 

A family that has always lived upon a farm in conditions 
far from market, where very nearly everything eaten and 
worn is produced upon the land, handles very little money, and 


has a distorted notion of the value of money. Thomas Lincoln 
probably seldom handled two hundred dollars of actual cash in 
a year. When Abraham moved to Springfield, and received 
fees of twenty dollars for a day s work in court, and sometimes 
took in as much as an hundred dollars in a single month, his 
relatives could have no real measure of his prosperity. How 
could they understand that that very year, 1848, in which this 
twenty dollars was requested, was that to whose close Abra 
ham was looking forward with hope long deferred, of paying 
the last of his " national debt " incurred while he sold goods 
at New Salem? 

It appears to be true that Lincoln neglected the graves of 
both his father and his mother; that the grave of Nancy Hanks 
was not marked until 1879, when Mr. P. E. Studebaker of 
South Bend, Indiana, erected a suitable marble slab above it; 
and that the grave of his father was visited by him in Febru 
ary of 1 86 1, at which time he made, and promptly forgot, a 
promise to erect a stone above it. 

With reference to this it must be said that the grave of 
Nancy Hanks shared the fate of all graves in that part of the 
wilderness at that time. There probably was no marble slab 
within many miles of Gentryville. As to his father s grave, 
it must be admitted that Lincoln lacked appreciation of situa 
tions which were out of sight, and when he was away from his 
father s grave it was easy for him to forget it. On the other 
hand, it must be remembered that while Mr. Lincoln had ac 
cumulated some money prior to the campaign of 1860, he had 
to borrow money to go to Washington for his inauguration, 
and that the extravagance of Mrs. Lincoln and other causes 
kept him constantly in debt, so that he died in arrears. He 
may have hoped from month to month that next month he 
would have a little spare money, and so have neglected it till 
it passed from mind as a duty requiring immediate attention. 
He ought not to have forgotten; but the fact that he did so 
does not of necessity imply that he did not honor his father. 

It is true that Abraham Lincoln, did not go to see his 
father when the latter was dying. There was sickness in his 
own home, and he also said frankly that it was doubtful 


whether if he could go it would be more pleasant than painful. 
But it is also true that he wrote insisting that his father should 
have every attention, and that no medical or other care should 
be lacking; and the tone in which he wrote concerning faith 
and the life to come implies not only that he had a sincere 
religious faith of his own, but that he honored his father s 
religion. This is not the kind of letter Abraham Lincoln 
would have written to a man whom he believed to be a hypo 
crite. The letter is addressed to John D. Johnston: 

SPRINGFIELD, Jan. 12, 1851. 

DEAR BROTHER: On the day before yesterday I received a 
letter from Harriet, written at Greenup. She says she has just 
returned from your house, and that father is very low and will 
hardly recover. She also says that you have written me two 
letters, and that, although you do not expect me to come now, 
you wonder that I do not write. I received both your letters; 
and although I have not answered them, it is not because I have 
forgotten them, or not been interested about them, but be 
cause it appeared to me that I could write nothing which could 
do any good. You already know I desire that neither father 
nor mother shall be in want of any comfort, either in health or 
sickness, while they live; and I feel sure you have not failed to 
use my name, if necessary, to procure a doctor or anything else 
for father in his present sickness. My business is such that 
I could hardly leave home now, if it were not, as it is, that my 
wife is sick abed. (It is a case of baby-sickness, and I suppose 
is not dangerous.) I sincerely hope father may yet recover his 
health; but, at all events, tell him to remember and call upon 
and confide in our great and good and merciful Maker, who 
will not turn from him in any extremity. He notes the fall 
of a sparrow, and numbers the hairs of our heads; and He will 
not forget the dying man who puts his trust in Him. Say to 
him, that if we could meet now, it is doubtful whether it would 
not be more painful than pleasant; but that, if it be his lot to 
go now, he will soon have a joyous meeting with loved ones 
gone before, and where the rest of us, through the help of God, 
hope ere long to join him. 

Write me again when you receive this. 




Such evidence as is before us justifies the conclusion that, 
while Abraham in his youth smarted under the restraints of 
a lazy and spasmodically exacting and more or less unsym 
pathetic father, he did not fail either then or afterward to 
yield to him a large measure of sincere respect. There is no 
evidence of hostility or hatred or contempt, but on the con 
trary, a large degree of thoughtful consideration which con 
tinued to the end of his father s life. A more ardent love 
could be imagined, but filial duty and honor were not lacking. 

We have no reason to suppose that Thomas Lincoln was 
ever despised in any community in which he lived. Far back 
in Kentucky, when he was very poor, Miss Tarbell found, and 
recorded in her Early Life of Lincoln book accounts which 
showed that he had local credit, and that he paid his debts. 
His reputation there cannot have been bad, for he went directly 
back in quest of his second wife, who knew all about him. 
Lamon records, on the authority of Dennis Hanks, that her 
own judgment and heart were assisted by the advice of her 
male relatives, with some of whom Thomas Lincoln had made 
journeys to New Orleans. If Sarah Bush who knew what the 
women said about him. and her male friends who " all liked 
Lincoln " were in accord, the fact speaks well for Thomas 

In a word, there is no reason to credit an otherwise un 
proved story of bastardy to account for whatever we know 
of lack of sympathy between Thomas and Abraham Lincoln. 
We understand the situation well enough to be rather well 
satisfied with what we learn of the relations between them. 
If they were not those of ardent affection, they were those of 
mutual regard; on the side of Thomas it is to be remembered 
that, though at the instance of Sarah, his wife, he did not 
forbid Abraham to study; on the side of Abraham it is to be 
remembered that he did a son s duty to the end. 


SOME of Lincoln s references to his mother appear to have 
been intended for Sarah Bush. Between him and her existed 
a strong bond of sympathy which lasted on his side during his 
life and on her part after he had gone. Herndon did valu 
able service in giving to posterity his interview with her in 
1866. It showed an affection on her part for Abraham 
and on Abraham s for her which is worthy of all admira 

But some of Lincoln s references to his mother cannot 
refer to Sarah Bush. When Lincoln said to Herndon, " God 
bless my mother; all that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to 
her," he certainly did not refer to Sarah Bush; for that was 
the conversation in which he confided to Herndon his belief 
that his mother was the illegitimate daughter of a Virginia 
planter of good family, and that he had inherited through 
this unnamed grandfather the qualities that distinguished 

So far forth, therefore, we know that Lincoln held the 
memory of his mother in honor. And there are other refer 
ences to his mother which may, at least, refer to her. All his 
allusions to his " mother," whether intended for Nancy Hanks 
or Sarah Bush, are affectionate. He remembered both mothers 
with tender regard. 

The story has been told that the boy Abraham, sad to 
think that his mother should have been buried without re 
ligious service, procured the attendance of Rev. David Elkin 
to preach her funeral sermon some months after the burial. 
In another book the author has dealt with this story. 1 The 
truth is that it was not the custom among the people to whom 

1 See The Soul of Abraham Lincoln, by William E. Barton. George 
H. Doran Company, New York. 



the Lincolns belonged to have the funeral at the time of 
burial. There was nothing unusual about the funeral of 
Nancy Hanks Lincoln. 

In the state of society in which Lincoln was born and spent 
his youth, there was little pride of family. In the backwoods 
of Kentucky and Indiana " kin and kin in law did not count a 
cuss." If there was a stain on the family escutcheon, it did 
not carry the disgrace which attached to the bar sinister in 
some conditions of life. It was recognized that " Accidents 
will happen, in the best regulated families; " and when they 
happened, the best possible was made of them. If one or more 
of the Hanks sisters gave birth to a baby before she was mar 
ried, that was recognized as an undesirable situation. But 
there was no hiding of it. She had no opportunity to go away 
to a hospital, under pretense of visiting relations in the city, 
and having her child cared for by a foundlings* home. In 
the backwoods, the babies which the family " sorter fell heir 
to " were taken in and kept and brought up with the other 
children. They knew and felt a difference between them and 
other children, but they were not disinherited. The mother 
felt the disgrace, but it was not always a hopeless disgrace. 
Dennis Hanks was born before his mother was married; but 
she married, and behaved herself, and had other children, and 
Dennis grew up happy and by no means crushed by the mis 
fortune of his birth. He married, and his children married 
well, and are not ashamed of their name. 

Whether there is more or less immorality in primitive set 
tlements than in more refined society, the author does not 
care to discuss; he has seen and knows both sorts. But that 
in primitive society is the more frank and honest. It is often 
unmoral rather than deliberately immoral. 

We know more or less about the relatives of Nancy 
Hanks, her half-sisters and her cousins and her aunts. They 
were women of a primitive type, nor lacking in fine qualities; 
and if they were any of them weak and primitive in their pas 
sion, they were not degenerate. 

The Lincolns and Hankses were not abnormal people. 
They were fair specimens of a large part of the population 


flowing in the early part of the nineteenth century from Ken 
tucky into Indiana and Southern Illinois. 

But if Gentry ville had little place or occasion for pride 
of family, the same was not true of New Salem, where the 
Rutledges felt themselves to be representatives of the finest 
families of South Carolina. Lincoln could not contemplate 
marrying Ann Rutledge without considering the relative stand 
ing of the Rutledges with their record stretching back to 
colonial days, and always with honor, and the Lincolns and 
Hankses. When he arrived in Springfield the situation was 
worse. There he met men whose ancestors came over on the 
Mayflower, and others who claimed descent from the First 
Families of Virginia. When he wrote his little biography for 
campaign purposes, and told how he came of Virginia s " sec 
ond families," he knew the difference between the patricians 
of Virginia and the poor whites. 

When he began to think of marrying Mary Todd, he met 
the same contrast. He had occasion to remember, as he had 
not had occasion in his earlier years, about the privations of his 
boyhood, and the low estate of his family. He grew morbid 
about it. He felt more sensitive than an entirely normal 
man should have felt. The memories of his childhood, which 
had not been intolerable at the time, grew painful in the 

But there is no occasion to believe that he ever despised 
his mother or thought of her otherwise than with affection. 

What would Lincoln have said or thought if he had be 
lieved himself to have been the son of another and a better 
man than Thomas Lincoln? How greatly would he have 
blamed his mother for giving to the world a greater man than 
Thomas Lincoln could have begotten ? He read Shakespeare, 
not entire, but with interest, and he probably at one time or 
another read King John. Would he have said to Nancy Hanks 
what Bastard said to his mother, Lady Falconbridge ? 

Bastard. Madam, I was not old Sir Robert s son; 

Sir Robert could not do it; we know his handiwork: 
Therefore, good mother, to whom am I beholden for these 

Sir Robert never holp to make this leg. 


Lady Falconbridge. King Richard Coeur de Lion was thy father. 

Bastard. With all my heart I thank thee for my father; 
Who lives and dares to say thou did st not well, 
When I was got, I ll send his soul to hell. 

It would neither be safe nor fair to accept the judgment of 
Dennis Hanks at its face value on the attitude of Abraham Lin 
coln toward his relatives. It is evident in the material which 
he furnished Herndon that Dennis was no violet blushing to a 
mossy stone. He charged Herndon to remember that his book 
would not be a success unless it had much in it about Dennis : 

" I will say this much to you : if you don t have my name 
very frequently in your book, it will not go." LAMON: Life 
of Lincoln, p. 41. 

John Hanks has more that commends him to our high 
regard than Dennis, but even he had quite a sufficiently exalted 
idea of his own importance. Many years ago, an American 
actor then in Great Britain, endeavored to write a play about 
him. It does not appear to have been a great success, though 
the same thing has been done of late by John Drinkwater, and 
the public has received the play with enthusiasm. In this 
earlier attempt, the playwright obtained his material from John 
Hanks. It is interesting for many reasons, one of which is 
that it is difficult to tell who is the real hero, John or Abraham. 2 

We need not be surprised that Dennis was somewhat dis 
appointed that Abraham did not distribute offices more freely 
among the Hankses, and that Johnston thought he did not do 
enough for his parents. On the whole, even these witnesses 
give Abraham a very good record. 

In recalling the attitude of Abraham Lincoln toward his 
relations, one thing is to be remembered, and that is that we 
know of these relations almost wholly through people who were 
disappointed that Lincoln did not give them office. Abraham 
Lincoln, himself a persistent office-seeker, did not like to be 
bothered by office-seekers, especially by those who pleaded 

2 The Tragedy of Abraham Lincoln, in five acts. By an American 
artist. Glasgow: Published by James Brown & Son. There is no date 
on the title page, but the copyright is of 1876. The author, unnamed, 
was Hiram D. Torrie. It is said that only twenty-six copies of this 
pamphlet are in existence, most of them with scorched edges. 


favors they had done him, or kinship with him, and whom he 
knew to be incompetent. Lamon was made Marshal of the 
District of Columbia by Lincoln, and was kept in that position 
by him in spite of protest in high places, but there is reason 
to believe that Lamon was none too grateful. Herndon is 
alleged to have wanted an office, and would not take the one 
which Lincoln offered him. John D. Johnston, Lincoln s 
worthless half-brother, was ready for anything, and finally got 
a concession to make daguerreotypes in the army, but was not 
satisfied with that. Old John Hanks, who could not read, was 
an eager applicant for office. Dennis was ready for anything 
from the postoffice at Farmington to a place in the Cabinet. 

These people could not very well discuss Lincoln s rela 
tions to his family without some prejudice. Yet they agree 
in such statements as are here recorded, and they are, on the 
whole, highly creditable to Lincoln. 

When Dennis was asked about this matter, he said that 
in his judgment Lincoln " done more for John Johnston than 
he deserved." He also recorded that John did not think Abe 
did enough for the old people, which is not surprising, con 
sidering who got the money that Abe sent to them. 


WILLIAM H. HERNDON was born in Greensburg, Kentucky, on 
December 28, 1816. Two years later, his father, Archer G. 
Herndon, moved to Troy, Madison County, Illinois; and 
thence, in 1821, to Sangamon County, to a farm five miles 
northeast from Springfield. This was nine years before the 
Lincolns came to Illinois, and while Chicago was a micro 
scopic village. Archer Herndon was active in efforts to make 
Illinois a slave-state; but his son, William, imbibed anti- 
slavery views at Illinois College, for which reason his father 
removed him from that school before the completion of his 
course. In 1825 Archer Herndon moved to Springfield, and 
erected a tavern, which was not good for his son. 

Young Herndon first saw Lincoln in 1832, when Lincoln 
was engaged as assistant to Rowan Herndon, a cousin of 
William, as pilot of the Talisman, the famous little steamer on 
the Sangamon River. Many years later he became Lincoln s 
partner, and continued in that relation until Lincoln s election; 
the partnership was never formally dissolved, and the sign 
" Lincoln and Herndon " continued to adorn their office in 
Springfield until the death of Lincoln. 

Herndon served as Mayor of Springfield, a position in 
which Lincoln had no interest; for local politics never troubled 
him. Herndon, though a victim of alcohol, was an advocate 
of temperance, the earliest directory of Springfield showing 
his name as an officer in a temperance lodge; one of his 
early publications, like one of the earliest of Lincoln, being a 
temperance address. Herndon was counted an infidel, and 
sometimes accepted the term; but his three daughters, sepa 
rately, have testified to me that their father constantly 
taught them reverence for God. He wrote to Theodore 
Parker : 



" I love and reverence religion with all my whole soul ; it 
is as deep in me as my being." 

Herndon s study of Lincoln may be said to have begun with 
his acquaintance with the future President, and it continued 
until the death of Herndon. A few days before he died he 
wrote to Horace White : 

I am still diligently gathering well-authenticated facts about 
Lincoln. Many I reject, because they are not in harmony with 
the fundamental elements in his nature, and because they came 
to me in unauthentic shape. I expect to continue gathering 
facts about Lincoln as long as I live, and when I go hence, the 
reading world shall have the manuscripts, unchanged and un 
altered, just as I took them down. I think they will be of 
value to mankind some time. I have been at this business since 
1865. Every day I think of some fact, and it suggests other 
facts. The human mind is a curious thing. I have been sick 
all winter. 

On March 14, 1891, he died on his farm five miles from 
Springfield, his invalid son dying earlier on the same day. 
His last words were : 

" I have received my summons. I am an over-ripe sheaf; 
but I will take the weaker one with me." 

His life possessed many contradictions. He was an ardent 
temperance man, and a drunkard. He was an early and sin 
cere Republican, but in his later years affiliated with the Demo 
crats. He believed in God, and had a reverent regard for much 
that was high and noble in religion, but was called and called 
himself an infidel. He loved Lincoln with passionate admira 
tion, and is remembered as the chief of sinners among Lin 
coln s detractors. 

Among all the charges against him, none is more bitterly 
alleged, nor with more color of justice, than this, that he caused 
the world to doubt the honorable birth of Abraham Lincoln. 

In an earlier chapter I have given the views of William 
H. Herndon on the paternity of Lincoln, including not only 
what he published, but also a short tract hitherto unpublished, 
which appears clearly to indicate that at the time it was written 


Herndon believed Mr. Lincoln to have been an illegitimate 
child. That Herndon held this view is the opinion of his 
biographer, Dr. Joseph Fort Newton, who says : 

After a diligent search at Elizabethtown, the county seat of 
Hardin County, no record of the marriage [of Thomas Lincoln 
and Nancy Hanks] was found; and no one need be told that 
such a discrepancy would occasion all sorts of campaign gos 
sip, especially at a time when the swarm of lies was blacker 
than usual. When, in 1865, Mr. Herndon went to look into 
the matter for himself he found no record, and was assured 
that there had been no marriage at all; so he concluded that 
Lincoln, like Alexander Hamilton, had been born out of wed 
lock. Nor is it easy to see, with such a state of facts before 
him, how he was much at fault; though, upon the advice of 
Horace White, he removed all hint of it from the second edi 
tion of his biography. That is the sum of the matter so far 
as Mr. Herndon had anything to do with it. Lincoln and 
Herndon, pp. 320, 321. 

I am convinced that there were times when Herndon was 
inclined to this view of Lincoln s parentage. Mr. Jesse W. 
Weik assured me that such was not the final opinion of Hern 
don; and I was not sure for a time that Mr. Weik was correct 
in this affirmation, though he had better opportunity to know 
than any other man. 

I have, however, complete assurance that Mr. Weik is cor 
rect in this declaration; and that on quite independent au 
thority. There exists an important collection of Herndon 
manuscripts which, so far as I am aware, Mr. Weik has never 
seen, and which, as I have reason to believe, no biographer of 
Lincoln except myself has ever examined, which goes into this 
matter in detail much more minute and particular than Hern 
don ever went into it in print. I am not at liberty to disclose 
the ownership of those documents, nor will I answer inquiries 
by mail concerning them ; but to any serious student who for a 
worthy purpose desires to know their content I will show 
copies which I made with my own hand, and will inform him 
where the originals are and give him satisfactory proof of their 
genuineness. They are where they are not likely to be lost or 


burned, and where they cannot be seen by the prurient or the 
curious, but where they are available for the verification of the 
statements in this chapter, and for such serious use as this 
volume makes of them. 

Let me now be as specific as I deem it right to be, in order 
that I may make a clear and incontestable statement. Mr. 
Herndon at one time had, or believed he had, one more reason 
than he ever published for believing that Abraham Lincoln was 
not the son of Thomas Lincoln. This reason was based upon 
what he believed to be a fact, and which, in the very con 
fidential letters and manuscript notes alluded to, he affirms 
with the greatest confidence. He does not give the source of 
his information, and I infer that it was Dennis Hanks. For 
myself, I should not count this conclusive evidence, and I do 
not think that Dennis gave it to Herndon with any supposition 
that it would be used as the basis of Herndon s inference, as I 
do not know that Dennis Hanks was the source of Herndon s 
information : I am of that opinion because I do not think that 
Herndon could have learned of this particular fact, if it was a 
fact, from any other source. Certainly he did not learn it 
from Abraham Lincoln. 

I learn from Herndon s manuscript -that when Dennis be 
gan to suspect, from the nature of Herndon s questions, the 
inference which Herndon was drawing, he became uncom 
municative. This interview with Dennis occurred in Chicago 
in 1866, and Herndon at intervals afterwards endeavored to- 
get Dennis to add to what he there said. His reticence in 
creased Herndon s suspicion. In his notes covering these inter 
views, and the other rumors and suspicions which he had 
gathered up to that time, Herndon wrote : " From all this evi 
dence, Abraham s legitimacy may be doubted." This was 
Herndon s state of mind in 1866 and subsequent years. He 
later revised this judgment, as the quotations in this chapter 
clearly show. 

This fact, if it was a fact, was circumscribed by certain 
limitations; if it occurred outside of certain geographical or 
time limits, it weighed heavily against the legitimacy of Abra 
ham Lincoln; if, on the other hand, it occurred within certain 


other limits, its implication was the exact opposite. This fact 
in itself was not derogatory to the moral character of either 
Thomas or Nancy. 

I trust I am making clear the logical implications of this al 
leged fact, without betraying any indication of its nature. Its 
nature was somewhat remote, but its implication, in the one 
event or the other, was important, provided Herndon was cor 
rectly informed. 

I do not wish to tell what this fact was, because it has never 
been printed, and I have no desire to be the first to print it; 
indeed, I know of no good reason why it should ever be 
printed. But if Dennis told it to Herndon, I am confident 
that Dennis did it without himself drawing any such inference 
from it as Herndon drew or supposing such an inference from 
it to have been possible ; and I am not convinced that Dennis, 
if it was Dennis who told it, was correct. For these suffi 
ciently good reasons I do not state, nor mean to suggest, the 
nature of this fact, or alleged fact. 

There was a time when this alleged fact, in addition to such 
other facts as Herndon knew or thought he knew, inclined 
him to the belief that Abraham Lincoln was a bastard. / am 
able to state unqualifiedly that this was not Ms final view. 
By a process of reasoning which I cannot here reproduce, but 
which lies before me in the copy which I made from his own 
handwriting, he came to believe that the preponderance of 
evidence was in favor of that interpretation of this alleged 
fact which supported the legitimacy of Abraham Lincoln in 
stead of disproving it. He wrote thus as his deliberate opinion, 
and I have reason to believe that he never .altered it : 

" It was it is still charged that Abm. Lincoln was the son 
of one Enlow. My own opinion after a searching examina 
tion is that Mrs. Lincoln (Nancy Hanks) was not a bad 
woman, was by nature a noble woman. My own opinion is 
that Abraham Lincoln is the son and heir of Thomas Lincoln 
and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. I admit all things are not per 
fectly clear to me, and yet I think that the weight of the testi 
mony is in my favor on both these grounds." 

By " both these grounds " he meant the grounds of the 


argument on which, by two converging lines of investigation, 
he had arrived at this conclusion. 

This conclusion was written subsequent to the little tract 
which is quoted in the earlier chapter. 

Those persons, therefore, who have been disposed to be 
lieve that Lincoln was illegitimate because they believed his 
partner Herndon to have believed it, are at liberty to revise 
their judgment as Herndon did. During the last seven or eight 
years of his life, whatever he may have thought before, Hern 
don believed Abraham Lincoln to have been the legitimate child 
of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. There is no possible 
escape from this view unless there be in existence somewhere 
documentary proof that Herndon again revised his opinion, 
and this I do not only not believe, but am confident that I 
have proof that there was no such change of opinion by Hern 
don. The discovery of the marriage return was an important 
element in the changed view of Herndon, and there was at 
least one other reason. The mature and final opinion of 
William H. Herndon, " after a searching investigation," was 
that Abraham Lincoln was the child of Thomas Lincoln and 
Nancy Hanks Lincoln, born in lawful wedlock; and that 
all previous opinions to the contrary, either his own or Mr. 
Lincoln s, were erroneous. I am in position to substantiate 
this affirmation concerning the opinion of Mr. Herndon. He 
is henceforth not to be quoted among those who denied, but 
among those who believed, in the legitimacy of Abraham 

I am able to state also that Herndon s literary associate, 
Mr. Jesse W. Weik, is unqualified in his affirmation that he 
believes Abraham Lincoln to have been the legitimate son of 
Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. 

Incidentally I may mention that I have found evidence in 
Mr. Herndon s unpublished manuscripts that he encountered 
the report that some man or men living at the time of his 
investigations declared that he or they had had intercourse 
with Nancy Hanks. So far as I am able to judge he did not 
personally meet this man or these men, for he does not name 
the man or men or give such details as he was accustomed to 


record in such instances. He did not credit the report. He 
remembered that there was another Nancy Hanks, mother of 
Dennis, and thought if there was any truth in these statements, 
it was more likely to have been true of the other Nancy than 
of the mother of the President. The report as a whole did not 
appear to him to be worthy of credence. It deserves only such 
attention as belongs to the allegation of a senile and unclean 
imagination. The unnamed old blackguard who recalled from 
his misspent youth the alleged memory of such an incident 
may without any great risk be assumed to have been a liar 
as well as the doer of other ill deeds. 

One story which Herndon heard in Kentucky from men 
whom he thought he could believe, and whom he did believe, 
was that, " Old Abe Enlow always claimed that Abe Lincoln 
was his child." This was stated with complete confidence, 
and Herndon felt that he must accept it as true that Enlow 
made that claim. That did not in itself prove that the claim 
was true, but it was a thing that Herndon recorded in his 
private notes, and it had weight with him. 

I am able to state with confidence that Herndon was mis 
informed. Abraham Enlow never claimed that Abraham Lin 
coln was his child. He claimed that the boy was named for 
him on account of his going for the midwife or granny-woman, 
and because of the kindness of his family to the Lincolns at the 
time of the boy s birth. The rest of the story is a lie. 

Further, I have learned definitely that it was Herndon who 
heard, and told Lamon, about the fight between Abe Enlow 
and Thomas Lincoln. As Herndon did not print this in his 
own book, I thought that Lamon obtained his information 
from another source. I now know that this was a mistake. 
Herndon heard the story and told it to Lamon ; and Herndon 
was misinformed. There was no such fight between those two 

In my own investigations I have not discovered any such 
testimony that seemed worthy of a moment s attention; and 
Herndon held much the same opinion. 

I have talked this matter over in full with Hon. Hardin 
W. Masters of Springfield, who knew Herndon intimately, 


who talked with him innumerable times about Lincoln, and 
who was chosen by the Herndon family to deliver the oration 
at the dedication of the monument to Herndon. I have talked 
with Hon. G. W. Murray, who was Herndon s law-partner 
in Herndon s last years. These men assure me most positively 
that Herndon never receded from this opinion. He died be 
lieving that Abraham Lincoln was the legitimate son of 
Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. 

I greatly desire that the full significance of this disclosure 
of the final opinion of Herndon shall have its full force in 
the mind of the reader. The first man to suggest in print that 
Lincoln was illegitimate was Lamon, and his authority was 
Herndon. I am confident that I am correct in my opinion 
that what Herndon furnished to Lamon was virtually, 
and probably exactly, a copy of the four-paged tract which I 
have quoted. I have found to a certainty that it was Lamon s 
book that started the discussion at the Atherton distillery that 
led to the discovery of the marriage record of Thomas and 
Nancy Lincoln. Lamon s book, and Herndon s, are the basis 
of the Coleman pamphlet, and, except for its North Carolina 
local color, of Cathey s book. 

Here, then, is the deliberate and final opinion of the man 
on the basis of whose mistaken and immature judgment, these 
reports got into print, and grew to such volume : 





Did Herndon ever change this opinion? I have shown 
that his friends did not believe that he changed it. I have 
further evidence in the unpublished manuscripts, which I have 
copied, and which continue until a few days before his death, 
some of them written while he was sick and making mention 
of his illness. These manuscripts in places show that he did 
not forget the evidence, or apparent evidence, on the basis 


of which he had at one time doubted whether Lincoln was 
legitimate. In several places I find him writing in language 
that shows how serious he had at one time considered these 
charges, and by what a careful weighing of the evidence he had 
come to his conclusion, in which still he encountered some diffi 
culties. But I find him re-affirming his conviction in unmis 
takable terms, and in an assurance which, after he had ar 
rived at his conviction, never left him. In another place I 
find this unqualified declaration, which expresses the faith in 
which he died : 



I HAD little hope when I began this study that I should reach 
a settled conviction as to the precise origin of these stories; all 
that I thought to discover was their truth or falsehood; but 
I have succeeded beyond my expectation. How easy it is for a 
lie to begin in a question, a shrug of the shoulder, a circum 
flex accent, a suggestion that some one has suggested that it 
may be so! And how nearly impossible it is thereafter to 
keep up with the lie itself in its many transformations, its 
protean changes, its adaptation to circumstances! How un 
likely that any one, even if he could assure himself of the 
falsity of rumors that had their origin a half century ago, and 
traveled long underground before they appeared in print, could 
reach their actual beginning ! And yet, I think that I have ac 
complished this, which at the outset I did not anticipate. I 
have followed the sluggish estuary of these rumors with their 
seven clogged and befouled mouths back to where they begin 
in a single muddy stream, and I am confident that I have 
reached its fountain head. 

Let us remember first that the earliest biographers of Lin 
coln did not make swift journeys to Hodgenville to learn all 
they could about Lincoln on the ground. They were correct 
in their opinion that there was not very much to be learned 
there that would meet their requirements. The number of 
men living there who had known Abraham Lincoln as a small 
child was very few, and their testimony had in it nothing of 
value for a campaign biography. None of them were pre 
pared to write such a biography. D. W. Bartlett had just 
published a book of 360 pages on the Presidential Candidates 
of 1860, containing twenty-one biographies, beginning with 
William H. Seward and ending with John C. Fremont, and 
the name of Abraham Lincoln was not included in his list of 



presidential possibilities. Bartlett had to hurry around and 
pick up what material he could for a campaign Life of Lincoln 
and Hamlin, and get his material where he could, which was 
from the sketch which Lincoln furnished Scripps; this he was 
able to work up into a cloth-bound book of 354 pages, which 
was doing well with his material, but it involved no journey to 
Kentucky. Nor did any of the 1860 biographers go there for 
material: they rushed to the press as quickly as they 

The campaign of 1864 produced no necessity for local 
investigation; people then were chiefly interested in the events 
of the War. Moreover, La Rue County was not then a 
friendly place in its attitude toward Lincoln. Hodgenville 
was difficult of access and there was little to be learned by 
going there. So there was little to stimulate the people on the 
ground to invent stories of this character. 

The rumor began with the knowledge that Samuel Hay- 
craft, clerk of the County Court at Elizabethtown, had written 
to Abraham Lincoln, just after his nomination by the Chicago 
convention in 1860, asking whether he was not born in Eliza 
bethtown, and whether he was not the son of Thomas Lincoln 
and Sarah Bush. Lincoln wrote to him under date of May 28, 

In the main you are right about my history. My father was 
Thomas Lincoln, and Mrs. Sally Johnston was his second wife. 
You are mistaken about my mother. Her maiden name was 
Nancy Hanks. I was not born at Elizabethtown, but my 
mother s first child, a daughter, two years older than myself, 
and now long since deceased, was. I was born February 12, 
1809, near where Hodginsville [Lincoln misspelled the name] 
now is, then in Hardin County. I do not think I ever saw 
you, though I know very well who you are so well that I 
recognized your handwriting, on opening your letter, before I 
saw the signature. My recollection is that Ben Helm was 
first clerk, that you succeeded him, that Jack Thomas and 
William Farleigh graduated in the same office. Am I right? 
My father has been dead near ten years; but my step-mother 
(Mrs. Johnston) is still living. 


Mr. Haycraft had already found what he first supposed 
was the record of the marriage of the parents of Abraham 
Lincoln, Thomas Lincoln and Sarah Bush Johnston, and he 
thought that Abraham was born in Elizabethtown. On receipt 
of Lincoln s letter he made diligent search for the record of 
the marriage of Lincoln s own parents, and was unable to find 
it. This failure gradually became known; and as the search 
was pursued in the counties immediately adjacent and did not 
yield results, the suspicion gradually took shape, at first in 
political circles, that Lincoln s parents were not married, a 
suspicion that found some approach to confirmation in Lin 
coln s own reticence and the reserve of his biographers. But 
this at first was not construed to mean that any other man 
than Thomas Lincoln was Abraham s father. 

Only gradually did Hodgenville awake to the fact that 
Lincoln was born in the county of which by division it had be 
come the shire town. Elizabethtown had claimed that honor, 
and for that matter is still disposed to claim it, and Hodgen 
ville displayed no great alacrity in setting up claim to the 
birth of Lincoln. Yet there were a very few old people who 
knew that while Tom Lincoln had a daughter when he came 
to the Rock Spring Farm, on Nolin Creek, a son was born 
to him there. 

One of those very few men, in all not more than a half 
dozen living in 1860 and named as remembering him, was 
Abraham Enlow. He had a personal recollection which he 
told in 1860 and until his death in 1861. Not yet, however, 
did Hodgenville know of the rumor that Lincoln was illegit 
imate; Mr. Haycraft was still pursuing his search. It was 
some months before he gave it up, anG the news of his failure 
spread slowly, and at first was quietly discussed by politicians. 
There was no immediate attempt to learn anything by gather 
ing local gossip; the quest was for the records. When that 
stopped, the gossip began. Gradually it reached Hodgenville. 
By that time Abraham Enlow was dead. He died in 1861. 

As this rumor spread, it took on an uglier form. It was 
not enough to say that Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, being poor 
white trash, lived together without the formality of marriage. 


It was easy to go a step farther, and that step was taken, in 
the inquiry, which soon grew to a rumor and the rumor into 
an affirmation, as to the responsibility of some other man than 
Thomas Lincoln for the birth of the boy. At first this story 
was told without any attempt to name the man, but by the 
time it got fairly well noised abroad in La Rue County, a 
name became almost necessary. 

When La Rue County fully woke to the realization that 
Lincoln was born within its bounds, it took its honor without 
due elation. Lincoln was no favorite there, as shown by the 
three votes which the county gave him in 1860. But by 1864 
the political pot was boiling, and the ugly rumor was current in 
the country, and finally its backwater came seeping through 
the sluggish soil of La Rue County that Abraham Lincoln who 
was born there was of illegitimate birth. 

To its honor, let it be recorded that La Rue County s 
first response was an emphatic denial. Men who are still liv 
ing, and are of the highest character, remember the effect of 
the rumor upon the old people, the few then living, who had 
known the Lincolns. They denied it. They declared that no 
such rumor had been current there at the time of the birth 
of Lincoln, and that Mrs. Lincoln bore a good reputation dur 
ing the short period of her sojourn in that community. 

But these people were few in number, and their voices did 
not reach the outer world. One by one these old people died ; 
and the lie lived on. 

But if Abraham Lincoln was conceived and born in La 
Rue County, and was not the son of Thomas Lincoln, a father 
must be found for him ; who could he be ? 

We can trace the actual process by which the myth was 
built up, and almost the hour of its birth. 

Abraham Enlow was one of the nearest neighbors of the 
Lincolns, living only a matter of two miles away, and one of 
the few living in 1860 who had even the faintest memory of 
him. He had this one recollection: 

On a day which must have been Saturday, February n, 
1809, he was on his way to the Kirkpatrick mill. He was rid 
ing his horse, having on his saddle under him a sack of corn 


which the dull stones of the mill would reduce to meal. As 
he passed the house of Thomas Lincoln, he was hailed by 
that gentleman with a request that he return home and bring 
his mother, who was locally famous as a " granny-woman." 
He and Thomas lifted the sack down, and he rode back home, 
and soon returned with his mother, Mary La Rue Enlow, 
seated on the horse behind him. His half-sister, Peggy La 
Rue, who was twenty years old, and married to Conrad Wal 
ters, was there, also ; and there were other women. 

Abraham let his mother down at the cabin, replaced the 
sack of corn with the help of Thomas Lincoln, and rode on 
to the mill, returning late in the afternoon. The granny- 
woman and her assistants were still occupied, and he went 
home with his sack of meal. Some time after midnight, on 
the morning of Sunday, February 12, 1809, a little boy was 

Either then or later Abraham Enlow got the idea that the 
child was named for him in recognition of his kindness in 
going after the granny -woman. He did not know that the 
boy s name was already chosen, being that of Thomas Lincoln s 
own father. 

It pleased his fancy when he was an old man, in 1860, to 
tell, and he did tell, that he had the impression that Tom Lin 
coln named little Abe for him as a reward for assisting in the 
bringing of the granny-woman. If that innocent illusion 
did Abraham Enlow any good, no one should begrudge him 
that measure of satisfaction. But we know for whom 
Abraham Lincoln was named ; and Abraham Enlow had small 
consideration in the choice of the name. 

Abraham Enlow died in 1861, and the rumor that Abraham 
Lincoln was an illegitimate child reached Hodgenville during 
the campaign of 1864. Not before that time is there one 
vestige of record of any such rumor in La Rue County. 

When that rumor got afloat, and began to find willing and 
credulous listeners, it became the manifest duty of La Rue 
County to furnish a father for Abraham Lincoln. The choice 
was limited. There were no living candidates for the honor. 
There were few dead men who were known to have known 


Abraham Lincoln. Knowledge of the family as having ever 
lived on the Rock Spring farm had almost totally vanished. 
There was not a shred of record of the birth in the county 
offices. Everything depended upon the declaration of Abra 
ham Lincoln that he was born there, and on the dim recollec 
tions of a very few elderly people who could recall hardly 
any incidents. 

But people began to remember that Abraham Enlow, who 
had died three or four years before, had boasted that Abe 
Lincoln was named for him, and that he was hanging around 
the cabin when Abe was born. Why should he have been there 
unless he had reason to be interested ? Why should the child 
have been named for him unless it was his? 

Necessity is the mother of invention. La Rue County, 
faced with the necessity of finding a father for Abraham Lin 
coln, did the best it knew with the very scanty materials at its 
disposal, and about 1865 the story was in full tide of cur 
rency, that Abe Lincoln was named Abraham for his real 
and Lincoln for his putative father. 

And this is the way it began. I have traced it from this 
beginning, through all its multitudinous forms, and they all 
come back to this. 

By 1872, when Lamon s book was published, these stories 
were at high tide. One had no need to go to Hodgenville to 
learn them. Indeed, by keeping away from there one could 
learn more than any one in Hodgenville knew, as for instance, 
the story about the fight between Tom Lincoln and Abe Enlow, 
which was the story of another fight, in another county, that 
came to embellish the Lincoln story as lawyers retold it and 
amplified in the telling. 

Did not Hodgenville know the age of Abraham Enlow, 
and that he was only a boy when Lincoln was born ? For the 
most part, no. Abraham Enlow died an old man, and in that 
region an old man is an old man, and that without overmuch 
concern about his precise age. But that part of Hodgenville 
that gave much real thought to the matter knew at once that 
the story was untrue; less because of any computation of 
Abraham Enlow s age than because the Lincolns were not yet 


resident of his neighborhood until several months after Abra 
ham Lincoln was on the way. That was why the Brownfield 
story was invented. People who said that the Enlow story 
was impossible would sometimes add that if such a story were 
true at all, there was only one man of whom it could well be 
true, and that was George Brownfield; Tom Lincoln worked 
for him that summer and fall, and George Brownfield s sons 
were tall men; and there might possibly be something in that 
suggestion. But the Brownfield story, though it had at least 
the fact of physical possibility in its favor, never found any 
favor outside the immediate neighborhood, and not very much 
there. And the Abe Enlow story spread. 

It is not necessary to show in detail how the story took 
on a new form wherever there was or had been a man named 
Abraham Enlow. There had been a man in Bourbon County, 
near the border of Clark, named Abe Inlow, a miller; and 
there once was a young woman named Nancy Hornback, who, 
though the mother of an illegitimate child, found a husband 
and went with him and her child to one of the western counties 
of Kentucky. There was a girl in North Carolina who had 
worked as a servant and was sent over the mountains into 
Kentucky or Tennessee, and there was an Abraham Enlow 
there, of whom, a half century afterward, it was possible to 
relate the story with suitable local adaptations. And so the 
story grew. 

The discovery of the marriage record of Thomas and 
Nancy Lincoln in Washington County had no effect upon the 
story as it was told in La Rue County; for there it had always 
been assumed that Thomas and Nancy were married; and if 
theirs was only a common law marriage, that did not greatly 
alter the situation as it related to Enlow. No one there cared 
whether the certificate was found or not. The discovery of the 
certificate was indeed a nightly important event as establishing 
the conjugal relations of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, but 
if Nancy was untrue to Thomas, as the La Rue County 
story assumed, the certificate was not of any considerable im 
portance. And the story, once rooted, persisted. But it never 
would have started if the marriage return had been found be- 


fore Abraham Lincoln became a candidate for the Presidency, 
and if he could have told Jesse Fell and John Locke Scripps 
the date of his parents marriage. It would not have started 
if Abraham Lincoln had not displayed that " significant re 
serve " of which so many of his biographers speak, and which 
he would not have displayed had he been sure of that fact 
and date. As it was, the failure of Samuel Haycraft to find 
the record started a story that locally had little to do with the 
record, and which proved the root of all the other stories. 

Now this is the way it began, and the conditions were ripe 
for its dissemination. But it was false from beginning to end, 
and the time has come to say so with an emphasis that shall 
forever forbid its repetition even as a conjecture or a per- 

Thus far we deal with the story as oral tradition. When 
and how did it get into print? How did it evolve from local 
gossip into general publicity? 

The story that Lincoln had reason to be ashamed of his 
birth began in a vague rumor to the effect that Thomas and 
Nancy Lincoln were " white trash " who lived together with 
out the formality of marriage; but when this rumor began, 
about 1861, it was without the slightest intimation that any 
other man than Thomas Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln s 
father. When, about 1864, the rumor reached Hodgenville, 
it had enlarged into the report that another man than Thomas 
Lincoln was Abraham s father, but no other man was named. 
Hodgenville itself supplied the name, choosing from among 
the few neighbors of Thomas Lincoln one who was remem 
bered to have told that he was interested in the birth of 
Abraham Lincoln to the extent of loaning a horse to bring the 
midwife, and that Abraham Lincoln was named after him. 
The name of Abraham Enlow having once been spoken, it 
gave occasion for a new form of the story wherever there was 
a branch of the Enlow family. 

But not in 1861 nor yet in 1864 was there a word in print 
that hinted that Abraham Lincoln was not born in lawful 

I have been very desirous of learning where the first sug- 


gestion appeared in print, and to this end I wrote to several 
authorities. The first of these was Jesse W. Weik, Hern- 
don s associate in the preparation of his Life of Lincoln. 
Mr. Weik, who has studied this question for many years, 
replied at once that the first appearance of this story in print 
was in Lamon s Life of Lincoln, issued in 1872. 

Hon. Daniel Fish is the foremost authority on Lincoln 
literature, and the compiler of the standard Bibliography of 
Lincolniana. He replied : 

" Lamon s biography, so far as I know, was the first 
publication in book or pamphlet form to suggest a query about 
the legitimacy of Lincoln; and that, as you know, is very in 

Judd Stewart, besides being the owner of the largest Lin 
coln collection in existence, is a discriminating student of 
Lincoln literature. He wrote: 

" I think Lamon s Life of Lincoln, published in 1872 
(preface dated May, 1872) is the earliest publication that in 
any way suggests the illegitimacy of Abraham Lincoln." 

Mr. Appleton P. C. Griffin, Chief Assistant Librarian of 
the Library of Congress, made search for me, and gave the 
same answer. 

I could think of only one other way of learning. The 
Senators of the United States are permitted to ask for assist 
ance in the Library of Congress to an almost unlimited extent 
in the gathering of literary material that may be of value to 
them for their speeches. I have found occasion to avail myself 
of the courtesy of Senators in this and other matters, and I 
wrote to Senator Medill McCormick, asking him to have thor 
ough search of periodical literature in the Library of Congress 
to find whether in any newspaper or magazine this rumor 
appeared prior to the publication of Lamon s book. The an 
swer is : 

" With reference to the attached letter of Dr. Barton, we 
have made a careful search and have been unable to find any 
reference to Lincoln s alleged illegitimacy before 1872." 

Some men are said to be born great, others to achieve 
greatness, and others to have greatness thrust upon them. To 


the last class belonged Abraham Enlow; and he died before he 
knew it. 

He was a life-long Democrat, and with all his family he 
sympathized with the South when the! Civil War broke out. 
La Rue County cast three votes for Abraham Lincoln, and 
Abraham Enlow s was not one of them. He had been sick in 
1859, and knew, as he said in his will, that his years at most 
could not be many; and he had no mind to imperil his immortal 
soul by voting for a Republican on the chance that posterity 
might assign him a paternal interest in the candidate. He 
voted in the autumn of 1860, casting a good old-fashioned 
Democratic ticket as was his wont, and died a year later with 
the> consciousness that he had done his duty. But when he 
knew that Abraham Lincoln was elected, he was as little dis 
pleased as he could well have been with a candidate whose 
political views he did not approve; and he told his friends, as 
he stood in front of the Hodgenville drug-store, that when 
Abe Lincoln was born, he loaned his horse to fetch the granny- 
woman, and he rather thought they named the boy Abe in his 
honor. With this pleased reminiscence, he spent his last few 
months, and died, never suspecting what use would be made 
of his boyish act of generosity. 

It was meager material for the manufacture of so great 
a lie, and for the propagation of so large a family of lies; but 
it sufficed. 

It no longer suffices. It is weighed in the balance and 
found wanting. Let Abraham Enlow have full credit for hav 
ing lived an upright and honest life, and for a name which he 
did nothing to dishonor; but among the good or bad deeds that 
he did there is one that is not to be included. Neither he nor 
any other man than Thomas Lincoln was the father of Abra 
ham Lincoln. 

The hills of Kentucky have their own stolid type of mirth, 
and their sententious sayings are sometimes informed with a 
quizzical humor. There is a saying current there, and Abra 
ham Lincoln would have heard it had he lived there longer, 
when a story or a political issue or candidate is completely 
and effectually disposed of. They say, as I have heard them 


say in stump speeches, that that story or issue or candidate is 
now buried so deeply that if he or it ever scratches out, it will 
be less laborious " to keep on a-scratchin* downwards, and 
come out face to the fire/ 

That is the depth at which I have now buried the story 
that Abraham Lincoln was an illegitimate child. Let any 
man who proposes to exhume that putrid reminiscence go 
prepared to dig deep and stay long, for he will not find it on 
this side of the place prepared for every one that loveth and 
maketh a lie. 




After the publication of the discovery of the marriage rec 
ord of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, Rev. Dr. J. M. Buckley, of 
the New York Christian Advocate, conducted a correspondence 
to secure information about Rev. Jesse Head, who solemnized 
the marriage. A number of letters were received from men 
who had known him, the most important being from Jesse 
Head s grandson, Rev. E. B. Head, Presiding Elder of the 
Lawrenceburg Conference in Kentucky: 

ANDERSON COUNTY, May 3, 1882. 

Dear Sir and Brother: Your favor reached me on the eve 
of my leaving Harrodsburg for this place, hence the delay in 
responding to your request. The Rev. Jesse Head referred to 
was my grandfather. He was born in Maryland, near Baltimore ; 
was married to Miss Jane Ramsey, of (what is now) Bedford 
County, Pennsylvania. He removed to Kentucky, and settled 
at Springfield, Washington County. He was an ordained min 
ister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, but was never con 
nected with the itinerancy in Kentucky, on account of feeble 
health. He held several prominent civil offices while living in 
Springfield, and was actively engaged preaching the gospel of 
God s grace. He celebrated the rites of matrimony between 
Thomas Lincoln and Miss Nancy Hanks, father and mother of 
President Lincoln, in 1806, near Springfield. He afterwards 
moved to Harrodsburg, Mercer County, where he lived until 
his death, which occurred in March, 1842. At Harrodsburg he 
engaged in merchandizing, also owned and edited the county 
paper for a term of years. He was largely instrumental, if not 
wholly, in building the first church ever erected in Harrodsburg ; 
also organized and conducted the first prayer-meeting. In gospel 
labors he was always abundant. His house was the home for 
several years of Rev. H. B. Bascom, afterwards Bishop; also 



of Bishop McKendree especially, as they were bosom friends. 
Some time before his death he left the Methodist Episcopal 
Church, and connected himself with the Radical Methodists, on 
account of slavery, and also some dissatisfaction with the Epis 
copacy. He then had charge of and preached for a church for 
years at Lexington, Kentucky. His name at Harrodsburg and 
through the surrounding country is as ointment poured forth. 
He was a man of decided and positive character, bold and aggres 
sive, and died loved and honored by all. He died as he lived, 
in the triumph of the faith of the Gospel of God s Son. 
Fraternally yours, 

E. B. HEAD, P.E., 
Lawrenceburg Circuit, Kentucky Conference. 


Copied from the Original in the Office of the County Clerk 
in Springfield, Washington County, Kentucky, by William E. 

I do hereby certify that the following is a true list of the 
Marriages Solemnized by me the subscriber from the 28th of 
April 1806 untill the date hereof. 

June 26th 1806 Joined together in the Holy Estate of Mat 
rimony agreeable to the rules of the M.E.C. Morris Berry & 
Peggy Simms 

Nov 27th 1806 David Mige(?) & Hannah Xten(?) 
March 5th 1807 Charles Ridge & Anna Davis 
March 24th 1807 John Head & Sally Clark 
March 27th Benjamin Clark & Dolly Head 
Jany I4th Edward Pyle & Rosanah McMahon 
Deer 22nd 1806 Silas Chamberlin & Betsey West 
June 1 7th 1806 John Springer & Elizabeth Ingram 
June I2th 1806 Thomas Lincoln & Nancy Hanks 
September 23rd 1806. John Cambion & Hanah White 
October 2nd 1806 Anthony Lykey & Keziah Putte 
October 23rd Aaron Harding & Hannah Rottet 
April 5th 1807 Daniel Payne & Christiana Pierre 
July 26th 1806 Benjamin Clark & Polly Clark 
May 1806 Hugh Haskin & Betsy Dyer 
September 25th 1806 John Graham & Catherine Jones 
Given under my hand this 22nd day of April 1807 





Copied from the Original by William E. Barton. 

Know all men by these presents that we Thomas Lincoln and 
Richard Berry are held and firmly bound unto his Excellency 
the governor of Kentucky for the Just and full sum of fifty 
pounds current money to the payment of which well and truly 
to be made to the said governor and his successors we bind our 
selves and our heirs &c Jointly and severally firmly by these 
presents sealed with our seals and dated this loth day of June, 
1806. The Condition of the above Obligation is such that whereas 
there is a marriage shortly intended between the above bound 
Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks for which a license has issued 
now if there be no lawful cause to obstruct the said marriage 
then this obligation to be Void or else to remain in full force & 
virtue in law. 

Witness, John H. Parrott. 

John H. Parrott, the witness, was also the clerk of court. 

The writing shows that it was the custom of the clerk to 
write out the text of marriage bonds in blank, filling in the names 
as occasion demanded. The names and dates show spaces larger 
than required, and give evidence that the clerk found it conveni 
ent to keep one or two bonds in readiness. 

Miss Tarbell credits the discovery of the marriage return 
correctly as by W. F. Booker, Clerk of the Court of Washington 
County, Kentucky, but sets the date of discovery as 1885. Un 
fortunately the exact date is not known; but it was discovered 
at least as early as 1878. 



From tracing by Henry Whitney Cleveland, of Louisville, 
in Miss Tarbell s " Early Life of Lincoln." 

I do hereby Certify that by authority of License Issued by 
the Clerks Office of Washington Co. I have solemnized the rites 


of Matrimony between Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, June 
1 2th 1806 A.D. agreeable to the rites and ceremonies of the 
Methodist Episcopal Church witness my hand 


I do not know from what source this document emanated, 
and I propound no theory as to who, if any one, forged it. But 
in my judgment Miss Tarbell was imposed upon. This does not 
appear to me, as shown in the tracing, to be a genuine document. 


So many and such contradictory accounts have been published 
concerning the discovery of the marriage bond, and the minister s 
return for the marriage of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks I 
was very desirous of learning not only how but if possible exactly 
when the discovery was made. I have interviewed Mr. Booker s 
successor, who has made for me a signed statement, with the seal 
of the court affixed. I have also been able to procure a very small 
pamphlet which Mr. Booker issued, and which is now prac 
tically impossible to obtain, relating how these documents were 
found. The essential facts of the story are given in this volume, 
and are based upon first-hand testimony. They do not, however, 
give the date of the discovery. The county officers of Washing 
ton County are agreed that it was in the early eighties, 1881 or 
1882. I had found definitely that it was earlier than 1882, and 
had accepted 1881 as the probable date, when by rare good for 
tune, I found, in the Massachusetts Historic Genealogical Society 
in Boston, an editorial clipping from the Boston Journal of Mon 
day, January 27, 1879, referring to an article in the New York 
Tribune of the preceding Saturday, and containing the following 
statements : 

It has long been a disputed point whether the parents of 
Abraham Lincoln were ever married ; and in a Life of Lincoln, 
published by Ward H. Lamon in 1872, it was intended to show 
that, owing to their extreme poverty, the parents of Lincoln 
never were legally married, as, according to the laws of the 
State of Kentucky, it would have been necessary to file a bond 
to guard the State against an over-supply of paupers. Much 
other matter bearing on the same part was also intended to be 
included in the book, and the Lincoln family desired to have 
it suppressed. The family and its most intimate friends were 


positive that there was not the least ground for a charge of 
illegitimacy against Lincoln. Accordingly, Judge David Davis 
and Leonard Swett, a prominent lawyer living in Illinois, who 
had been a firm friend of Lincoln, exerted themselves success 
fully to have much of this matter suppressed. Lamon, however, 
stated in the book that no record of the marriage could be found, 
and represented Lincoln as very reluctant to talk about his 
parents and their early life. The New York Tribune of Satur 
day says, however, that while in Kentucky last fall ex-Secretary 
Bristow met a lawyer of high reputation, R. J. Browne. Mr. 
Browne lives in Springfield, Washington County, Kentucky, is 
a man of wealth, a Republican, and one who takes great pride 
in guarding the memory of the dead President. He heard of 
the reports referred to above, and caused a diligent search to 
be made for the record of the marriage of Lincoln s parents. 
The search was successful, and Mr. Browne mentioned the fact 
to Mr. Bristow, who urged him to make the result public in 
order to remove the doubt in the minds of many on the subject. 
Mr. Browne promised to send copies of the bond and certificate 
to General Bristow, and recently he did so. 

The letter of Mr. Browne to General Bristow follows under 
date of December 16, 1878. With it is an accurate copy of the 
marriage bond, certified by W. F. Booker, clerk; and also a 
condensed copy of the return of Jesse Head, abbreviated so by 
the omission of the names of all the couples except Thomas 
Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. In making the copy, Mr. Booker 
inadvertently copied the date belonging to the next couple, and 
that is why some of the Lives of Lincoln give the marriage date 
as September 23, 1806, instead of June 12, 1806. 

This form, also, as I suspect, suggested to some one clever 
with the pen that he could create a certificate that would have 
commercial value. But this I suspect only: I do not know the 
origin of the so-called certificate. 

The reference to the marriage bond is incorrect. The pur 
pose of the bond is not to guarantee the State against the birth 
of paupers; nor is it certain that a bond that makes marriage 
difficult would have that result. The bond is issued to protect 
the officer who issues the license against the possibility that the 
persons may be under age or already married. The bond is 
usually a mere formality. In the case of a man of 28 and a 
woman of 23, there would have been no difficulty in securing 


Nicolay and Hay derive the interest of the Berrys in the 
marriage of Thomas and Nancy, not from their supposed re 
lation to the bride, but through their relation to the Lincoln fam 
ily, through the first wife of the father of Thomas: 

Richard Berry was a connection of Lincoln; his wife was a 
Shipley. Abraham Lincoln: A History, I, p. 24. 

I think General Bristow was mistaken in his impression that 
Mr. Browne caused the record to be discovered. Mr. Browne 
had probably learned of the recent discovery of the document 
by Mr. Booker, and his conversation with General Bristow led 
to its publication, first of all, as I suppose, in the New York 
Tribune, January 25, 1878. 

This seemed to me so important that I went at once to New 
York, and found the original article. I am able now definitely 
to fix, not the date of discovery but the date of publication of the 
discovery ; and it is several years earlier than is usually claimed 
for it. I give this article in full: 

(From the New York Daily Tribune, Saturday, January 25, 1879) 


Letters and documents now first published, which prove the 
legal marriage of Lincoln s father and mother. Flat contradiction 
of the story told in Lamon s " Life of Lincoln! 

Recent developments promise to settle the long disputed ques 
tion whether the father and mother of Abraham Lincoln ever 
were legally married. Shortly before Ward H. Lamon published 
his Life of Lincoln in 1872, it became known to some of those who 
had been the warmest friends of the dead President that Lamon 
intended to publish the statement that on account of their extreme 
poverty the parents of Lincoln never were legally married, as, 
according to the laws of the State of Kentucky, it would have been 
necessary to file a bond to guard the State against an over-supply 
of paupers. Much other matter bearing on the same point was 
also intended to be included in the book, and the Lincoln family 
desired to have it suppressed. The family and its most intimate 
friends were positive that there was not the least ground for a 
charge of illegitimacy against Lincoln. Accordingly, Judge David 
Davis and Leonard Sweet, a prominent lawyer, living in Illinois, 


exerted themselves successfully to have much of this matter 

It appears, however, from Lamon s book, that in his own 
mind the author had grave doubts as to whether Lincoln s parents 
ever were married, and he seems to wish to render the home of 
Lincoln s parents as unattractive as possible in order to make the 
contrast between Lincoln s early and later surroundings as strong 
as possible. Lamon speaks of Thomas, Abraham s father, as 
* wanting in character " and says that this was one of the reasons 
why " Sally " Bush, " a modest and pious girl and all things pure 
and decent" refused to marry him. Lamon refers to the marriage 
of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks as follows: 

" Sometime in the year 1806 he married Nancy Hanks. It 
was in the shop of her uncle, Joseph Hanks of Elizabethtown, 
Hardin County, that he had essayed to learn his trade. ... It 
is admitted by all the old residents of the place that they were 
honestly married, but precisely when and how, no one can tell. 
Diligent and thorough searches by the most competent persons 
have failed to disclose any trace of the fact in the public records 
of Hardin and the adjoining counties. The license and the minis 
ter s return in the case of Thomas Lincoln and Sarah Johnston 
his second wife, were easily found in the place where the law 
required them to be; but in the Nancy Hanks marriage there 
exists no evidence but that a mutual acknowledgment and co 
habitation. At the time of their union Thomas was twenty-eight 
years of age and Nancy about twenty-three." 

Again, on page 17 is found the following: 

" The lives of his (Abraham s) father and mother, and their 
history and character of the family before their settlement in 
Indiana, were topics upon which Mr. Lincoln never spoke but 
with great reluctance and significant reserve. In his family Bible 
he kept the register of births, marriages and deaths, every entry 
being carefully made in his own handwriting. ... It has not a 
word about the Hankses or Sparrows. It shows the marriage of 
Sarah Bush first with Daniel Johnston and then with Thomas Lin 
coln, but it is entirely silent as to the marriage of his own mother. 
It does not even give the date of her birth but barely recognizes 
her existence and demise to make the vacancy which was speedily 
filled by Sarah Johnston." 

To show Mr. Lincoln s reticence about his parentage, Lamon 
gives several extremely brief replies which were sent to appli 
cants for biographical sketches. " Mr. Lincoln," writes one of 
these applicants, " communicated some facts to me about his an 
cestry which he did not wish published, and which I have never 
spoken of or alluded to before." 

While in Kentucky last fall, ex-Secretary Bristow met a law- 


yer of high reputation, R. J. Browne. Mr. Browne lives in Spring 
field, Washington County, is a man of wealth, a Republican, and 
one who takes great pride in guarding the memory of the dead 
President. He heard of the reports referred to above and caused 
a diligent search to be made for the record of the marriage of 
Lincoln s parents. The search was successful, and Mr. Browne 
mentioned the fact to General Bristow who urged him to make 
the result public, in order to remove the doubt in the minds of 
many upon the subject. Mr. Browne promised to send copies 
of the bond and certificate to General Bristow, and recently he 
did so. Mr. Browne s letter and the accompanying copies of 
documents were as follows : 

" Springfield, Ky., Dec. 16, 1878. 
Dear Sir : 

When I saw you last in Louisville I promised to send you a 
copy of the record of President Lincoln s father s marriage. I 
now send it to you. The record ought forever to silence the 
charge of the President s illegitimacy. I have talked with men of 
the highest veracity who have told me that they attended the 
wedding. With a sincere wish, etc., I am, 

" Truly yours, 

" R. J. Browne." 

" To Genl. B. H. Bristow, 

New York City. 

The following is a copy of the bond : 

Know all men by these presents that we Thomas Lincoln and 
Richard Berry are held and firmly bound unto his Excellency the 
Governor of Kentucky for the Just and full sum of fifty pounds 
Current money to the payment of which well and truly to be made 
to the said governor and his successors we bind ourselves our 
heirs &c., Jointly and Severally firmly by these presents sealed 
with our seals and dated this loth day of June 1806. The Condi 
tion of the above obligation is such that whereas there is a mar 
riage shortly intended between the above bound Thomas Lincoln 
and Nancy Hanks for which a license has issued now if there be 
no lawful cause to obstruct the said marriage then this obligation 
to be Void or else to remain in full force & Virtue in Law. 


The certificate is as follows: 
Washington County ss. 

I do certify that on the 22nd day of September 1806 I 
solemnized the rites of matrimony between Thomas Lincoln and 


Nancy Hanks according to the rites of the Methodist Episcopal 


The above are sworn to be true copies as follows: 

I, W. F. Booker, Clerk of the Washington County Court, do 
certify that the within is a true copy of the marriage bond, as well 
as of the marriage certificate of the minister of the marriage of 
Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, as shown from the records on 
file in my office. 

Given under my hand and seal of office as Springfield, Ky., 
this I7th day of December, 1878. 

W. F. BOOKER, Clerk. 

By this certificate which is now published for the first time, 
it appears that the marriage of Lincoln s parents occurred on 
September 23, 1806. Lamon, however, states that the first child 
of the family was born February 10, 1807 a girl at first called 
Nancy, and subsequently, on the death of her mother, Sarah. 
Search for this certificate was made in La Rue County some time 
ago by a man named Samuel Haycraft, but without success, for 
the obvious reason that when the certificate was issued Washing 
ton County included La Rue County. 


The article above is of remarkable interest and appears to 
have escaped notice of all previous authors. We are not yet in 
formed concerning the precise date of the discovery of this 
record. It is safe to assume a slight error in the article and to 
be reasonably certain that Mr. Browne knew of the discovery of 
the bond and return of the minister at the time of his conference 
with General Bristow in Louisville in the autumn of 1878. He 
could hardly have been so confident of his ability to furnish a 
copy of these documents if he had not known that the documents 
had been found. Knowledge of their existence must have been 
common property in Springfield at that time, but neither Mr. 
Browne nor Mr. Booker had thought of giving this information 
to the press. 

The publication must certainly be credited to General Bristow. 

Benjamin Helm Bristow was born in Elkton, Todd County, 
Kentucky, June 20, 1832, and was graduated from Jefferson Col 
lege, Pennsylvania, in 1851. He was admitted to the bar in 1853 


and practiced law in Kentucky. On the outbreak of the Civil 
War he entered the Union Army as Lieutenant-Colonel of the 
25th Kentucky Infantry, and distinguished himself on the battle 
field, where he won the rank of Brigadier-General. At the close 
of the war he removed to Louisville, where in 1870 he became 
law partner of General John M. Harlan. In 1871 President Grant 
appointed him Solicitor-General, and in 1874 Secretary of the 
Treasury. At the Republican National Convention in 1876 he 
received on the first ballot 123 votes, the largest number cast for 
any candidate on that ballot for President of the United States. 
He removed to New York City where he practiced law until his 
death June 22, 1896. 

Attention must certainly be called to the fact that in attempt 
ing to issue a certificate which would include the record of the 
Lincoln-Hanks marriage without the necessity of copying all the 
others in Jesse Head s return, Mr. Booker made the very serious 
mistake of taking the date September 22, 1806 from the marriage 
next recorded, instead of June 12, 1806, which belonged to this 

It may also be added that if Samuel Haycraft s failure to 
find the certificate could have been attributed to so obvious a 
reason as that " when the certificate was issued, Washington 
County included La Rue County," Samuel Haycraft, County 
Clerk of Hardin County, would have been of all men on earth 
most likely to remember it. Washington County at that time did 
not include La Rue ; Hardin County included La Rue, and it was 
in Hardin County he looked for the record of the marriage. 
Thomas Lincoln was listed as a tax-payer in Hardin County 
before his marriage, and Nancy Hanks was supposed to have 
lived in the home of her uncle, Joseph Hanks, of Elizabethtown 
where Thomas Lincoln learned his trade. The explanation of the 
failure to find the record is entirely intelligible; but if it had 
been quite so " obvious " the effort would not have failed. 

This article affirms that Lamon intended to have told more 
than he did, but was restrained by the Lincoln family, and by 
David Davis and Leonard Swett. This raises the question what 
Lamon would have told had he not been restrained? He might 
have elaborated more than he did, and said a little more plainly 
what he evidently thought; but I am confident he told all he 
knew, and somewhat more. In this my opinion is fully sustained 
by Mr. Weik, who answers my inquiry on this point: 


Greencastle, Ind., July 16, 1920. 

Your letter is just received. Yes, I have heard the story that 
David Davis and Leonard Swett kept Ward Lamon from reflect 
ing on Lincoln s legitimacy. Horace White and Henry C. Whit 
ney both told me something about it; but the truth is (and I 
joined them in the belief) neither thought Lamon knew very 
much beyond what Herndon had told him. He never visited Ken 
tucky or Indiana in pursuit of information in fact, never dug 
into the subject. When he conceived the project of a Life of 
Lincoln, he simply bought and copied what Herndon had so 
carefully gathered, and he essayed to write the book; and even 
then he did not write the book, but turned the material over to 
Chauncey F. Black of Pennsylvania, who did the required work. 

I have never seen the article alluded to by you and published 
in the N. Y. Tribune, January 25, 1879, but would be delighted if 
you could furnish me a copy. 

My understanding has been that inasmuch as, at the time 
Lamon entered upon the preparation of his book, he was unable 
to locate the record of the marriage of Thomas Lincoln and 
Nancy Hanks, and fell into the error of concluding that they were 
not married at all. He drank a good deal, and his reckless talk 
doubtless stirred David Davis and Leonard Swett into believing 
that he was in possession of some vital and possibly damaging 
evidence. Hence their so-called attempt to bottle him up. 



My own opinion is in complete agreement with that of Mr. 
Weik, that Lamon had no evidence on the basis of which he could 
have added anything of importance to what he actually wrote. I 
am confident I have seen all that Herndon gave to Lamon touch 
ing this matter, and much that he wrote subsequently which 
Lamon never saw; and Mr. Weik has wider experience with 
regard to the Herndon manuscripts than any one else. 





The following affidavit by Dr. Graham was procured by Cap 
tain J. W. Wartman, Deputy Clerk of the United States Circuit 
Court at Evansville, Indiana, in whose home Dr. Graham was 
visiting at the time: 

I, Christopher C. Graham, now of Louisville, Kentucky, aged 
ninety-eight years, on my oath say: That I was present at the 
marriage of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, in Washington 
County, near the town of Springfield, Kentucky; that one Jesse 
Head, a Methodist preacher of Springfield, Kentucky, performed 
the ceremony. I knew the said Thomas Lincoln and Nancy 
Hanks well, and know the said Nancy Hanks to have been 
virtuous and respectable, and of good parentage. I do not remem 
ber the exact date of the marriage, but was present at the mar 
riage aforesaid; and I make this affidavit freely, and at the re 
quest of J. W. Wartmann, to whom, for the first time, Lhave 
this day incidentally stated the fact of my presence at the said 
wedding of President Lincoln s father and mother. I make this 
affidavit to vindicate the character of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy 
Hanks, and to put to rest forever the legitimacy of Abraham 
Lincoln s birth. I was formerly proprietor of Harrodsburgh 
Springs; I am a retired physician, and am now a resident of 
Louisville, Kentucky. I think Felix Grundy was also present 
at the marriage of said Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, the 
father and mother of Abraham Lincoln. The said Jesse Head, 
the officiating minister at the marriage aforesaid, afterward re 
moved to Harrodsburgh, Kentucky, and edited a paper there, 
and died at that place. 


Subscribed and sworn to before me, this March 20, A.D. 1882. 
N. C. Butler, Clerk United States Circuit Court, First District, 
Indiana. By J. W. Wartmann, Deputy Clerk. 




The foregoing was published, and led to a further statement 
which Dr. Graham made two years later to Mr. Henry Whitney 
Cleveland by Dr. Graham, written by Mr. Cleveland, and signed 
by Dr. Graham. It was published in the Louisville Courier- 
Journal and in other papers, and has appeared in Miss TarbelPs 
Life of Lincoln and in other books: 


I, Christopher Columbus Graham, now in my hundredth year, 
and visiting the Southern Exposition in Louisville, where I live, 
tell this to please my young friend Henry Cleveland, who is nearly 
half my age. He was often at the Springs Hotel in Harrodsburg, 
Kentucky, then owned and kept by me for invalids and pleasure- 
seekers. I am one of the two living men who can prove that 
Abraham Lincoln, or Linkhorn, as the family was miscalled, was 
born in lawful wedlock, for I saw Thomas Lincoln marry Nancy 
Hanks on the twelfth day of June, 1806. He was born at what 
was then known as the Rock Spring Farm it is now called the 
Creal Place three miles south of Hodgensville, in Larue County, 

Kentucky was first a county of Virginia after its settlement, 
and then was divided into three counties ; and these, again divided, 
are pretty much the present State. The first historian was Filson, 
who made and published the first map of the separate territory, 
with the names of streams and stations as given by Daniel Boone 
and Squire Boone, James Harrod, and others. I knew all of 
these, as well as President Lincoln s parents. 

I think they lived on the farm four years after he was born. 
Another boy was born in Hodgensville, or, I should say, buried 
there. The sister, Sally, was older than Abe, I think. I think 
the paper now owned by Henry Cleveland is the " marriage 
lines " written by Rev. Jesse Head, a well-known Methodist 
preacher. I do not think the old Bible it was found in was that 
of Tom Lincoln. It would cost too much for him. All of the 
records in it were those of the father s family the John M. 
Hewetts of the wife of Dr. Theodore S. Bell. Dr. Bell was 
only about twenty years younger than I am, and probably got 
the certificate in 1858 or 1860, when assertions were made that 
Tom Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were not married when Abe 
was born. 


He was reputed to have been born February 12, 1809, and I 
see no good reason to dispute it. Sally, I am sure, was the first 
child, and Nancy was a fresh and good-looking girl I should 
say past twenty. Nancy lived with the Sparrow family a good 
bit. It was likely Tom had the family Bible from Virginia, 
through his father, called Abraham Linkhorn. His brothers, 
however, were older if they were brothers, and not uncles, as 
some say. I was hunting roots for my medicines, and just went 
to the wedding to get a good supper, and got it. 

Bibles cost as much as the spinning-wheel, or loom, or rifle, 
and were imported in the main. A favorite with the Methodists 
was Fletcher s, or one he wrote a preface for. Preachers used it, 
and had no commentaries. A book dedicated to King James or 
any other king did not take well in Revolutionary times. The 
Bibles I used to see had no printed records or blanks, but a lot 
of fine linen hand-made paper would be bound in front or back. 
On this, family history and land matters were written out fully 
like a book. Some had fifty pages. The court-houses even were 
made of logs, and the meeting-houses too, if they had any. No 
registers were kept as in English parish churches, and are not 
yet. Before a license could be had, a bond and security was 
taken of the bridegroom, and the preacher had to return to the 
court all marriages of the year. This was often a long list, and 
at times papers were lost or forgotten, but not often. The 
" marriage lines " given by the preacher to the parties were very 
important in case the records were burned up by accident. Such 
is the paper that Henry Cleveland has shown to me. The ring 
was not often used, as so few had one to use. The Methodist 
Church discipline forbid " the putting on of gold or costly 
apparel," and I think a preacher with a gold watch if not an 
inherited one would have been dismissed. A preacher that 
married was " located," and that ended his itinerancy in the 
Methodist Church. The Presbyterians were educated and mar 
ried ; Baptists not educated. 

Tom Lincoln was a carpenter, and a good one for those days, 
when a cabin was built mainly with the ax, and not a nail or 
bolt or hinge in it, only leathers and pins to the door, and no 
glass, except in watches and spectacles and bottles. Tom had 
the best set of tools in what was then and now Washington 
County. LaRue County, where the farm was settled, was then 

Jesse Head, the good Methodist preacher that married them, 
was also a carpenter or cabinet-maker by trade, and as he was 
then a neighbor, they were good friends. He had a quarrel with 
the bishops, and was not an itinerant for several years, but an 


editor, and county judge afterwards, in Harrodsburg. Mr. 
Henry Cleveland has his commission from Governor Isaac 

Many great men of the South and North were then opposed 
to slavery, mainly because the new negroes were as wild as the 
Indians, and might prove as dangerous. Few of the whites could 
read, and yet Pope and Dryden and Shakespeare were as well 
known as Bunyan s Pilgrim s Progress and Baxter s Saints Rest. 
Some were educated in Virginia and North Carolina before they 
came, and these, when they became teachers, wrote out their 
school-books entirely by hand. 

Thomas Lincoln, like his son after him, had a notion that 
fortunes could be made by trips to New Orleans by flatboat. This 
was dangerous, from snags and whirlpools in the rivers, from 
Indians, and even worse pirates of the French, Canadians, and 
half-breeds. Steam was unknown, and the flats had to be sold 
in New Orleans, as they could not be rowed back against the 
currents. The neighbors joked Tom for building his boat too 
high and narrow, from an idea he had about speed, that has since 
been adopted by ocean steamships. But he lacked in ballast. 
He loaded her up with deer and bear hams and buffalo, which 
last was then not so plenty for meat or hides as when the Boone 
brothers came in. Besides, he had wax, for bees seemed to follow 
the white people, and he had wolf and coon and mink and beaver 
skins, gentian root (that folks then called " gensang " or 
:< sang"), nuts, honey, peach-brandy and whisky, and jeans 
woven by his wife and Sally Bush, that he married after Nancy 
died. Some said she died of heart trouble, from slanders about 
her and old Abe Enloe, called Innlow, while her Abe, named 
for the pioneer Abraham Linkhorn, was still little. But I am 
ahead of my story, for Nancy had just got married where I was 
telling it, and the flatboat and Sally Bush Lincoln come in before 
he goes over to what people called " Indiany." I will finish that, 
and then go back. 

He started down Knob Creek when it was flush with rains; 
but the leaves held water like a sponge, and the ground was 
shaded with big trees and papaw and sassafras thickets and 
" cain," as Bible-read folks spelt the cane, and streams didn t 
dry up in summer like they do now. When he got to the Ohio 
it was flush, too, and full of whirlpools and snags. He had his 
tool-chest along, intending to stop and work in Indiana and take 
down another boat. But he never got to the Mississippi with 
that, for it upset, and he only saved his chest and part of his load 
because he was near to the Indiana shore. He stored what he 
saved under bark, and came home a-f oot, and in debt to neighbors 


who had helped him. But people never pressed a man that lost 
by Indians or water. 

Now I go back for a spell. Thomas and Nancy both could 
read and write, and little Abe went to school about a year. He 
was eight years old at the time of the accident to Tom Lincoln s 
down-the-river venture. Thomas and Nancy were good common 
people, not above nor below their neighbors, and I did not take 
much notice of them, because there was no likelihood that their 
wedding would mean more than other people s did. 

The preacher Jesse Head often talked to me on religion and 
politics, for I always liked the Methodists. I have thought it 
might have been as much from his free-spoken opinions as from 
Henry Clay s American-African colonization scheme in 1817, that 
I lost a likely negro man, who was leader of my musicians. It 
is said that Tom Corwin met him in Ohio on his way to Canada, 
and asked if I was along. The boy said no, he was going for 
his freedom. Governor Corwin said he was a fool ; he had never 
been whipped or abused, but dressed like a white man, with the 
best to eat, and that hundreds of white people would be glad of 
such a good place, with no care, but cared for. 

The boy drew himself up and said : " Marse Tom, that 
situation with all its advantages is open to you, if you want ter 
go an fill it." 

But Judge Head never encouraged any runaway, nor had any 
" underground railroad." He only talked freely and boldly, and 
had plenty of true Southern men with him, such as Clay. The 
Eli Whitney cotton-gin had now made slavery so valuable that 
preachers looked in Hebrew and Greek Testaments for scripture 
for it. 

Tom Lincoln and Nancy, and Sally Bush were just steeped 
full of Jesse Head s notions about the wrong of slavery and the 
rights of man as explained by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas 
Paine. Abe Lincoln the Liberator was made in his mother s 
womb and father s brain and in the prayers of Sally Bush ; by 
the talks and sermons of Jesse Head, the Methodist circuit rider, 
assistant county judge, printer-editor, and cabinet-maker. Little 
Abe grew up to serve as a cabinet-maker himself two Presidential 

It was in my trip to Canada after my negro that I met the 
younger brother of the great chief Tecumseh. A mob wanted 
to kill me because I was after my property that had legs and 
a level head. The Indian was one of the finest-looking men I 
ever saw, and in the full uniform of a British officer. He pro 
tected me, and we had a talk after the danger was over. He 
said that history was right about the death of his great brother 


Tecumseh at the battle of the Thames in 1813. But the story 
of his skin being taken off by soldiers to make razor-straps was 
all a lie, as they never had the chance. He was not even slain 
at the point in the battle indicated by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, 
whose accession to the Vice-Presidency in 1836 was largely due 
to the credit which he gained for this supposed exploit. My 
Indian protector said he was a lad at the time, but [was] there; 
and that the red men never abandoned their chiefs, dead nor alive. 

I come back again to the Lincoln-Hanks wedding of 1806. 
Rev. or Judge Jesse Head was one of the most prominent men 
there, as he was able to own slaves, but did not on principle. 
Next, I reckon, came Mordecai Lincoln, at one time member of 
the Kentucky legislature. He was a good Indian fighter; and 
although some say he was the elder brother of Tom Lincoln, I 
understood he was his uncle, or father s brother. The story of 
his killing the Indian who killed old Abraham Linkhorn is all 
"my eye and Betty Martin." 

My acceptance of this whole pedigree is on hearsay, and none 
of it from the locality of Tom Lincoln s home. There is a Vir 
ginia land warrant, No. 3,334, of March 4, 1780, for four hun 
dred acres of land, cost one hundred and sixty pounds, located 
in Jefferson County, Kentucky, on Long Run; and signed by 
William Shanon, D. S. J. C., and William May, S. J. C, witnessed 
by Ananiah Lincoln and Josiah Lincoln, C. C. (chain-carriers), 
and Abraham Linkhorn, Marker, dated May 7, 1785, five years 
later. " Mordecai Lincoln, Gentleman," is the title given one 
who died in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 1735, and his will 
is recorded in the Register s office in Philadelphia. New Jersey, 
Virginia, and Tennessee also have the name correctly, in the 
last century. The fame of General Benjamin Lincoln of the 
Revolution was on every tongue at that time. In the field-book 
of Daniel Boone, owned by Lyman C. Draper, five hundred 
acres of land was entered for Abraham Lincoln on treasury war 
rant No. 5,994, December u, 1782. The officers of the land- 
office of Virginia could spell, and so could the surveyor and 
deputy surveyor (Record " B," p. 60 of Jefferson County in 
1785). The two chain-carriers spelled the name correctly. Why 
not also think that the third man spelled his correctly? A very 
illiterate man could pronounce what he could not spell, and 
Abraham Linkhorn, who had money and could write, knew his 
own name. President Lincoln told James Speed : " I don t know 
who my grandfather was, and am more concerned to know what 
his grandson will be." I am not sure that we know, either, per 
fectly yet. 

While you pin me down to facts I will say that I saw Nancy 


Hanks Lincoln at her wedding, a fresh-looking girl, I should 
say over twenty. Tom was a respectable mechanic and could 
choose, and she was treated with respect. . . . 

I was at the infare, too, given by John H. Parrott, her 
guardian, and only girls with money had guardians appointed by 
the court. We had bear-meat (that you can eat the grease of, 
and it not rise like other fats) ; venison; wild turkey and ducks; 
eggs, wild and tame (so common that you could buy them at 
two bits a bushel) ; maple sugar, swung on a string, to bite off 
for coffee or whisky; syrup in big gourds; peach-and-honey ; 
a sheep that the two families barbecued whole over coals of 
wood burned in a pit, and covered with green boughs to keep 
the juices in; and a race for the whisky bottle. The sheep cost 
the most, and corn was early raised in what is now Boyle County, 
at the Isaac Shelby place. I don t know who stamped in the first 
peach-seed, but they grew before the apples. Our table was of 
the puncheons cut from solid logs, and on the next day they 
were the floor of the new cabin. 

It is all stuff about Tom Lincoln keeping his wife in an open 
shed in a winter when the wild animals left the woods and stood 
in the corners next the stick-and-clay chimneys, so as not to 
freeze to death; or, if climbers, got on the roof. The Lincolns 
had a cow and calf, milk and butter, a good feather bed, for I 
have slept in it (while they took the buffalo robes on the floor, 
because I was a doctor). They had home-woven " kiverlids," 
big and little pots, a loom and wheel; and William Hardesty, 
who was there too, can say with me that Tom Lincoln was a man 
and took care of his wife. 

I have been in bark camps with Daniel and Squire Boone and 
James Harrod. We have had to wade in the " crick," as Daniel 
spelt it, to get our scent lost in the water, and the Indian dogs 
off our trail. When trailed and there was no water handy, I 
have seen Daniel cut a big grapevine loose at the bottom, with his 
tomahawk, from the ground. Then, with a run and swing from 
the tree it hung to, swing and jump forty feet clear, to break 
the scent on the ground. I have done it too, but not so far. 
He could beat any man on the run and jump, but it took more 
than two Indians or one bear to make him do it. If no dog 
barked in the silent woods, we could run backward very fast, 
and make Mr. Indian think we had gone the way we came. They 
went that way, and we the other for deer scalps and hair, 
Squirrels barking or chattering at Indians, or dogs, often told 
us of our danger. I wanted to have a pioneer exhibit at the great 
Louisville Southern Expositions of 1883 and 1884. I wanted 
the dense laurel and the pawpaw thickets planted in rich soil ; the 


bear climbing the bee-tree, and beaten by the swinging log hung 
by the hunter in his way ; the creeping Indian with his tomahawk, 
and the hunter with the old flint-and-steel rifle, just as I had 
seen them. Then I wanted to have women from the mountains 
and the counties that railroads and turnpikes have not opened, 
and have them in real life, to spin and weave, or bead and 
fringe the moccasin and hunting-shirt and leggings as they did 
when I was a boy. This, by the side of the industries and arts 
of the new era, and the wool and cotton machinery in its present 
perfection, would indeed tell to the eyes of the changes seen 
by an old man who has lived a hundred years. As they did not 
listen to me, I have asked Henry Cleveland, who was a boy 
and played with my little children at the Harrodsburg Springs 
in the forties, to write it as I talked to him. I am very deaf, 
but can see and talk, and will now write my autograph to what 
he has written and copied off, and will take up James Harrod 
at another time. 


in my loodrth year. 


An important independent witness to the marriage of Thomas 
and Nancy Lincoln is revealed in the testimony of Mrs. C. S. H. 
Vawter, who published a communication in the Louisville Courier 
of April 18, 1874, saying: 

In the year 1859 I went to Springfield, Ky., to teach, and 
was in the same neighborhood when Lincoln received the nomi 
nation for President. On the announcement of the news of 
the candidate all were on the qui inve to know who the stranger 
was, so unexpectedly launched on a perilous sea. A farmer 
remarked that he should not be surprised if this was the son 
of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, who were married at 
the home of Uncle Frank Berry. In a short time this suppo 
sition of the farmer was confirmed by the announcement of the 
father s name. 

She then gives details of the wedding as she gathered them 
from neighbors. 

It will be noted that this publication, as early as 1874, defi 
nitely located the marriage in Washington County. Mrs. Hitch 
cock attributes the discovery of the marriage bond to the publi- 


cation. Miss Tarbell rather credits it to the discussion that 
followed the publication of the affidavit of Dr. Graham. 

In this Miss Tarbell is mistaken. The affidavit of Dr. Graham 
did not lead to the discovery of the marriage record ; for the 
discovery was made not later than 1878, and published January 
25, 1879, and Dr. Graham s affidavit is dated March 20, 1882, 
more than three years after the record was in print. 

The testimony of Dr. Graham is not without value; but it 
would have been worth ten times as much if it had been pub 
lished, as Miss Tarbell supposed that it had been published, prior 
to the publication of the discovery of the record. We cannot help 
asking why, if Dr. Graham knew all this, he did not tell it sooner. 
The fact that he waited does not discredit his evidence, but it 
makes it impossible for us to recognize him as a wholly inde 
pendent witness. 

Mrs. Vawter, however, brings to us testimony which possesses 
that distinct value. Her letter was published April 18, 1874, more 
than four years before the publication of the finding of the mar 
riage bond and return. It bears irrefutable witness that there 
existed, in Washington County, a tradition, supported by the 
testimony of truthful people who claimed to have been eye 
witnesses, that Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were legally 
married, and that in Washington County. These old people made 
that statement before any one knew that there was any record of 
the fact ; and they agreed that the marriage occurred in the house 
of Richard Berry, the very man whose name subsequently ap 
peared with that of Thomas Lincoln on the bond. Mrs. Vawter 
is a much more important witness than Dr. Graham. But his 
testimony is in full accord with hers, and, while it is evidently 
inaccurate in certain minor details, it is in its essential content in 
accord with truth. 



The grandfather of President Abraham Lincoln, whose name 
also was Abraham, was killed by an Indian, at a date which Lea 
and Hutchinson fix conjecturally as in the early summer of 1785. 
Lincoln, from family tradition, gave it as 1784. He appears to 
have been alive and to have acted as a marker in the survey 
of his tract of 400 acres in Jefferson County, May 7, 1785. 

Thomas Lincoln was five years old when his father, Abraham, 
was murdered. 

Concerning his inheritance in his father s estate, Lea and 
Hutchinson, who do not appear to have given much original 
investigation to that part of their otherwise excellent book, say: 

Taking advantage of the old English law of primogeniture 
then in force in Kentucky, the two elder brothers ousted their 
infant half-brother from all his rights of inheritance in his 
father s estate, his own mother, Bathsheba, being then almost 
certainly dead, or we may be sure that she would have protected 
him at least to the limit of her own dower rights, and the 
unhappy child was left to the tender mercies of strangers in a 
wilderness swarming with savage beasts and still more savage 
men. (pp. 83-4.) 

The three sons of Abraham Lincoln were: 

1. Mordecai Lincoln, born probably in 1764; a prosperous 
farmer and large landed proprietor; sometime sheriff of Wash 
ington County; removed to Howard County, Indiana, and about 
1828 to Hancock County, Illinois, where he died in 1830. He 
was married, and had three sons, Abraham, James and Mordecai. 

2. Josiah Lincoln, born July 10, 1766; removed to Harrison 
County, Indiana, where he died in 1836. He was married and 
left one son, Thomas Lincoln, late of Corydon, Harrison County, 

3. Thomas Lincoln, born in Rockingham County, Virginia, 



January 28, 1780; married, June 12, 1806, Nancy Hanks ; and died 
near Charleston, Illinois, December 2, 1849. His first wife 
died October 5, 1818, and he married Sarah Bush Johnston 
(December 2, 1819), who survived him and died April 10, 1869. 

The Field Book of Daniel Boone shows an entry of 500 acres 
of land by Abraham Lincoln, on Treasury Warrant Number 
5994, on December n, 1782. The land was located on Licking 
River, A facsimile of the entry is in Abraham Lincoln: A His 
tory, by Nicolay and Hay, I, p.12. 

On May 7, 1785, a survey was made of 400 acres of land 
for Abraham Lincoln, located in Jefferson County, on Treasury 
Warrant Number 3334. He himself served as marker at this 
survey, which fixes a possible limit on the date of his death. 
A facsimile of the surveyor s certificate is given in Nicolay and 
Hay, supra, I, p. 14. 

As yet I have been unable to determine what disposition 
Mordecai Lincoln made of all his large landed estate, a portion 
of which was in Hardin County, or whether he inherited it all 
from his father, and whether he took it all under the right of 
primogeniture, or whether he acted as guardian of his minor 
brother Thomas and as custodian of his interests. One naturally 
conjectures that the land which Thomas Lincoln appears to have 
owned in Hardin County in 1803 may have been some part of 
his father s domain; but his deed to Milton, given eleven years 
later, gives the name of John Tom Stator as the man from 
whom he acquired it. No record appears to show why Thomas 
Lincoln lived around on other men s farms when he had one 
of his own. The old records in these Kentucky counties were 
not filed systematically and many of them are hopelessly lost. 
I suppose myself to have made a much more diligent search than 
has ever been made before, and have, of course, the advantage 
of all that has previously been discovered ; but questions remain 
unanswered. The men who have kindly assisted me in these re 
searches in several Kentucky counties hold out little hope of the 
discovery of more papers. It is possible, however, that growing 
interest and some fortunate accident may later lead to the dis 
covery of some document which thus far has eluded me. I give 
what I have been able to find. 



Mrs. Hitchcock says: 

Considering the disadvantages under which he labored, he 
had a very good start in life when he became engaged to Nancy 
Hanks. He had a trade and owned a farm which he had bought 
in 1803 in Buffalo, and also land in Elizabethtown. If all the 
conditions of his life be taken into consideration, it is not true, 
as has been said, that Thomas Lincoln was at this time a shiftless 
or purposeless man. Nancy Hanks, pp. 57-8. 

The farm which Thomas Lincoln is supposed to have bought 
in 1803 was not the farm at Buffalo, which is the farm on 
Nolin Creek, where Abraham was born. Nor did he own any 
land in Elizabethtown. We did not know how he obtained money 
to buy his land on Mill Creek in 1803, but he abandoned it long 
before he occupied the land near Buffalo in 1808. 

The tax lists of Washington County contain the names of 
the three Lincoln brothers, Mordecai, Josiah and Thomas. Both 
Mordecai and Josiah owned land. Josiah had 100 acres, Mor 
decai had 275 acres in Washington, 940 in Madison and 1130 
acres in Hardin Counties. Mordecai continued to acquire land. 
Deed Book A, of Washington County, shows the transfer from 
Terah Templin to Mordecai " Linkhorn " of 600 acres of land 
on " Beech Fork River." Terah Templin was brother of Rev. 
Moses Templin, an early Presbyterian minister, who appears to 
have written the deed. It is a deed quite unusual in its language. 

But while the two older brothers had land in abundance and 
added to their acreage, Thomas Lincoln is known to have owned 
the only land which appears to have been the farm on Mill Creek 
which he acquired five years before his marriage, and abandoned. 

He may have been wronged out of his inheritance by his 
older and designing brothers, but any one who really wanted 
land in that day could obtain it. 


The ownership of the farm where Abraham Lincoln was 
born from the time of its original patent to the present is given 
me by Mr. Charles F. Creal of Hodgenville, Kentucky, as follows : 

The chain of title from the Commonwealth to the present 
owner, so far as I have been able to trace it, is as follows : 


1. The Commonwealth of Virginia to William Greenough. 
At a date unknown to me, but prior to July 29, 1786, William 
Greenough patented 30,000 acres, that is to say he was granted 
a patent or land grant, from the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

2. William Greenough to Joseph James. By deed of July 29, 
1786, Greenough conveyed one half of said grant, or 15,000 acres, 
to Joseph James of New York City. 

3. Joseph James to Richard Mather. On June n, 1798, 
Joseph James by endorsement on the deed of Greenough trans 
ferred his right and title to Richard Mather. In a legal pro 
ceeding of some character Charles Helm and Samuel Haycraft, 
Commissioners, by deed of date February, 1817, and of record 
in the office of the County Court of Hardin County, Kentucky, 
in Deed Book F, page 172, conveyed the 15,000 acres to Richard 

4. Richard Mather to William Duckworth. By a title bond 
dated March 19, 1814, Richard Mather conveyed 100 acres of 
land to William Duckworth. 

5. E. Duckworth to Micajah Middleton. By a bond still 
preserved, E. Duckworth conveyed to Micapah Middleton 300 
acres " on which William Duckworth, deceased, formerly lived." 

6. Micajah Middleton to Richard Creal. By endorsement 
on the above bond, dated July 21, 1828, Micajah Middleton trans 
ferred the 300 acres to my grandfather, Richard Creal, who held 
that portion of the land now known as the Lincoln farm down 
to the time of his death, when it passed by inheritance to his 

7. Creal Heirs to r A. W. Dennett. My father, J. C. Creal, 
and the other heirs of Richard Creal, conveyed the Lincoln Farm 
to Alfred W. Dennett of New York on February 12, 1895. 

8. Decretal Sale to Robert Collier and the Lincoln Farm 
Association. Mr. Dennett attempted to convey the farm to the 
Christian Missionary Alliance, but his trustee in bankruptcy at 
tacked the conveyance as fraudulent; and in a proceeding in 
the Circuit Court of this County the conveyance was set aside 
and a decree entered for the sale of the farm. At the decretal 
sale, in 1904, Robert J. Collier was the purchaser. He conveyed 
it to the Lincoln Farm Association, which was organized to take 
over the property; and it has since been transferred to the 

It will be seen from the foregoing that Thomas Lincoln had 


no title to the farm, unless it may have been a verbal contract 
or written land bond which he forfeited by non-payment. It is 
evident from the above that Richard Mather had at least the 
equitable title to the Lincoln Farm when Thomas Lincoln lived 


The only land which Thomas Lincoln is known to have 
owned in Kentucky was located on Mill Creek in Hardin County, 
and title was obtained from John Tom Stator, September 2, 1803. 
This farm so far as known was not identified until the researches 
made for this book. Previous writers have made errors with 
reference to it. Lamon and Herndon supposed it to have been 
the Knob Creek farm. Others have thought it the farm where 
Abraham was born. Others have suggested that it might have 
been land adjacent to Elizabethtown, and that Thomas Lincoln s 
home in that town was on a corner of it. All are wrong. Mill 
Creek is well known, and the farm was none of those above 

This land was deeded by Thomas and Nancy Lincoln to 
Charles Milton, October 27, 1814. The family continued to live 
upon the farm for one or two generations, and was known as 
" Melton." 

The County Court Clerk of Hardin County, Mr. J. L. Irwin, 
was copying for me the deed of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, 
when a well-known surveyor of the county came in, and by 
comparison of the boundaries with others which he had run, 
identified the Lincoln farm. I am informed that Mr. Morgan 
is a thoroughly reliable surveyor. Mr. Irwin writes : 

While I was copying this deed, Mr. William Morgan, who 
was sitting in here and who has done a great deal of surveying 
over the county, said that this description just fits the boundaries 
of the Melton land on Mill Creek. He knew the land and the 
family, but the family are now all dead or have moved away. 


This Indenture made this twenty seventh day of October in 
the year of our Lord One Thousand eight hundred and fourteen, 
between Thos. Lincoln and Nancy his wife of the County of 
Hardin and State of Kentucky, of the one part and Charles 


Milton of the county and state aforesaid of the other part, Wit- 
nesseth : 

That the said Thomas Lincoln and Nancy his wife, hath this 
day granted, bargained, sold and by these presents doth grant, 
bargain, sell, alien and confirm unto the said Charles Milton a 
certain tract or parcel of land containing two hundred acres, for 
and in consideration of One hundred pounds to the said 
Lincoln and Nancy, his wife, in hand paid by the said Milton, 
the receipt whereof is acknowledged, which land was patented 
in the name of William May and is conveyed from John Tom 
Stator to said Lincoln by deed bearing date the 2nd day of 
September 1803, lying and being in the said County of Hardin 
on Mill Creek and bounded as follows, to wit: 

Beginning at a hickory corner to Robert Huston s survey, part 
of a sixteen hundred acre survey, thence south thirty degrees 
west one hundred and eighty three poles to a stake, corner to 
Huston, thence north forty five degrees west one hundred and 
fifty five poles to a black oak, corner to the original survey, north 
twenty four degrees west one hundred and forty poles to a white 
oak in Shepherd s line, corner to the original, thence north thirty 
one degrees west sixty poles to a dogwood, white oak and gum 
corner to Thomas Williams in the original line, thence with 
Williams line south sixty seven east two hundred and fifty poles 
to a white oak and hickory, south thirty one degrees west twenty 
two poles to the beginning which courses contains two hundred 
and thirty eight acres, and the said Milton is at liberty to take 
two hundred acres out of the said two hundred and thirty eight 
acres where he thinks proper and the said Lincoln and Nancy 
his wife does forever warrant and defend the said two hundred 
acres- of land from themselves and their heirs executors, admin 
istrators or assigns forever, to the said Milton, but not from the 
claim or claims of any other person. But if the said land should 
be lost by any better or prior claim, then the said Lincoln is to 
pay to the said Milton the sum of one hundred pounds. In 
witness whereof the Said Thomas Lincoln and Nancy, his wife, 
hath hereunto set their hands and affixed their seal the day and 
date before written. Interlined before signing. 




I Samuel Haycraft, Jr., Deputy Clerk of the county court 
for the county aforesaid, do hereby certify that on the day of 
the date hereof, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy his wife, personally 


appeared before me and acknowledged the within indenture or 
deed of bargain and sale to Charles Milton as and for their 
voluntary act and deed, she the said Nancy being at the same 
time examined by me separate and voluntarily relinquished her 
right of dower which she has or may have in and to the land 
hereby conveyed, and that she was willing the same should be 
recorded and that I have truly recorded the same this 27th day 
of October 1814. 


Recorded Deed Book E, page 193. 

A copy attest, 

J. L. IRWIN, Clerk H.C.C. 

It will be noted in the above deed that the thirty-eight acres 
was apparently abandoned. Probably Milton had another deed 
with the same boundaries calling for two hundred acres, and 
Thomas Lincoln s was virtually a quit claim. No attempt was 
made to draw any boundary line between the two hundred acres 
conveyed and the thirty-eight acres supposed to have been left 


The deed of John Tom Slater, or Stator, to Thomas Lincoln 
shows a transfer of 238 acres of land to Thomas Lincoln of 
Hardin County, Kentucky, in consideration of 118 pounds, paid 
in cash. The deed was signed and sealed, and left with the 
Clerk of the court to be delivered, and it remained with him for 
nearly eleven years. Apparently Lincoln abandoned the farm, 
and did not trouble to take the deed until he was approached 
by Milton with an offer for his equity in the farm. The record 
shows in the margin the following entry: 

1814 Apr. 23rd. Delivered to Thomas Lincoln. 

This was shortly before his sale to Milton, who paid two 
hundred pounds, or made some payment which was acknowl 
edged as the equivalent of that amount, and took title October 
27, 1812, to a tract of land with the same general boundaries, 
but whose acreage was stated as two hundred. The deed of 
Lincoln to Milton stated that the courses called for two hundred 
and thirty-eight acres, and he was at liberty to take the two 
hundred where he chose; which meant that Thomas Lincoln 


sold to Milton the whole tract, but did not guarantee that it 
contained more than two hundred acres. The original deed is 
in Deed Book B, page 253, Hardin County Deeds. 

This indenture made this 2nd day of September one thousand 
eight hundred and three, between Dr. John F. Slator of Green 
County and state of Kentucky, of the one part and Thomas Lin 
coln of Hardin County, state aforesaid of the other part WIT- 
NESSETH : That for and in consideration of the sum of one 
hundred and eighteen pounds in hand paid, the receipt of which 
before the signing and sealing of these presents, he the said Dr. 
John F. Slator doth hereby acknowledge have bargained and sold 
and by these presents doth grant, bargain and sell unto the said 
Thomas Lincoln a certain tract or parcel of land containing two 
hundred and thirty-eight acres, part of the 1600 acre survey 
patented to William May, bought by said Slator of Joseph Fen- 
wick and bounded as follows, to wit: Beginning at a hickory 
corner to Robert Huston survey, part of said 1600 acre survey, 
thence South thirty degrees west one hundred and eighty three 
poles to a stake corner to Huston, thence North forty five degrees 
West one hundred and fifty five poles to a black oak corner to 
the original survey North twenty four degrees West one hundred 
and forty poles to a white oak in Shepherds line corner to the 
original, thence North thirty one degrees West fifty poles to a 
dogwood white oak and gum corner to Thomas Williams in the 
original line, thence with Williams line South sixty seven East 
two hundred and fifty poles to a white oak and hickory South 31 
degrees West twenty two poles to the beginning. 

_ To have and to hold the above mentioned two hundred and 
thirty eight acres of land with all its appurtenances barns, stable, 
ways, houses, water and conveniences, to the above mentioned 
Thomas Lincoln his heirs executors and administrators forever 
against him, the said Dr. John T. Slator, his heirs executors or 
administrators forever, and he the said Dr. John F. Slator as well 
for his heirs as for himself doth further covenant and agree to 
and with the said Thomas Lincoln and his heirs that he will war 
rant and forever defend the above mentioned two hundred and 
thirty eight acres of land with all its appurtenances to the said 
Thomas Lincoln his heirs executors and administrators forever 
to their only proper use and behoof, against him the said Dr. John 
T. Slator and his heirs executors, etc. forever, but not against 
the claim or claims of any other person or persons whatever, but 
be it plainly understood should said land be taken by any prior 
or legal claim, then the above bound Dr. John T. Slator his heirs 
executors &c., to pay to the said Thomas Lincoln his heirs, ex- 


ecutors etc., the above mentioned sum of one hundred and 
eighteen pounds. In witness of the above bound Dr. John T. 
Slator doth hereunto set his hand and affix his seal the day and 
date above written. 

Hardin County: 

Set. s.s. 

I hereby certify that on the second day of September last this 
indenture. . from John Tom Slator to Thomas Lincoln was ac 
knowledged by the said Slator to be his act and deed and the 
same was admitted to record on this 26th day of November 1803. 

A copy attest: 


Clerk H.C.C. 
Recorded in Deed Book " B," page 253. 


Of this farm, Lamon, relying upon Herndon s researches, 

The land he now lived upon (two hundred and thirty eight 
acres) he had pretended to buy from a Mr. Slater. 1 The deed 
mentions a consideration of one hundred and eighteen pounds. 
The purchase must have been a mere speculation, with all pay 
ments deferred, for the title remained in Lincoln but a single 
year. The deed was made to him, September 2, 1813 ; and 
October 27, 1814, he conveyed two hundred acres to Charles 
Milton for two hundred pounds, leaving thirty eight acres of 
the tract unsold. No public record discloses what he did with 
the remainder. If he retained any interest in it for the time, 
it Was probably permitted to be sold for taxes. The last of 
his voluntary transactions, in regard to this land, took place two 
years before his removal to Indiana; after which, he seems to 
have continued in possession as the tenant of Milton. LAMON, 
Life of Lincoln, p. 15. 

Lamon is completely mistaken about this farm. Thomas 
Lincoln had no title to the Knob Creek farm, so far as records 

1 The name is given in the deed of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln as 
Stator. But the earlier deed to Lincoln gives the name as Slater, which I 
judge to be correct. But the deed was not to the Knob Creek Farm. 


show. The farm which he " pretended to buy " from Slater, 
was bought in 1803, and that was the farm which he and Nancy 
sold on October 27, 1814. It was located on Mill Creek, in 
that part of Hardin which is still Hardin County. There is no 
evidence that Thomas Lincoln ever lived upon it after his mar 
riage. He may have lived there alone or with some fellow pio 
neer when he first secured title in 1803, when he was twenty- 
three years old. 

The record of ejectment suit on the Knob Creek Farm is 
cited in the chapter on Thomas Lincoln. 


On September 8, 1829, in consideration of $123, Thomas 
Lincoln and his wife, of Spencer County, Indiana, conveyed to 
T. J. Wathen a lot in Elizabethtown, sometimes alleged to have 
been the lot on which stood the log cabin to which Thomas 
Lincoln took his bride after their marriage, June 12, 1806. 

Perhaps the money, $123, received by Thomas and Sarah 
Lincoln from the sale of this lot, assisted in paying the balance 
due on the eighty acres that remained of his Indiana farm 
before he sold it to Charles Grigsby ; or he may have invested it in 
oxen for the removal into Illinois. The date of the sale would 
indicate that the money came most opportunely. 

This deed is recorded at Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in Deed 
Book L, page 219. 

When the author discovered that Thomas Lincoln on Sep 
tember 8, 1829, sold to Thomas J. Wathen of Hardin County, 
Kentucky, at lot in Elizabethtown, the county seat of Hardin 
County, he was happy in what he hoped might prove an indica 
tion that Thomas Lincoln took Nancy Hanks to spend her honey 
moon with him in a house which though primitive, was certainly 
his own. That hope was doomed to disappointment. So far as 
any records thus far discovered show Thomas Lincoln never 
had or gave title to any land in Elizabethtown. The lot which 
he and Sarah sold for $123.00 in 1829, was one-half of a lot 
containing one and a quarter acres, and had never belonged to 
Thomas Lincoln. It was the property of Sarah Johnston after 
the death of her first husband. The lot was well located, and 
adjoined the Haycraft residence. It was sold to her at an un 
known date by Samuel Haycraft, Sr. Her first husband had been 


the jailer, and during his lifetime they probably lived either 
in a residence adjacent to the jail and owned by the county, 
or as sometimes happens in Kentucky county seats, in a hotel. 
Some early Kentucky jailers found it profitable to operate a 
hotel as well as a jail. To this deed both Thomas and Sarah 
Lincoln made their mark. 

Samuel Haycraft, Sr., was one of the oldest and most 
reputable citizens of Elizabethtown. The deed was acknowledged 
before Samuel Haycraft, Jr., for many years clerk of the County 
and Circuit courts. He was the man with whom Abraham Lin 
coln corresponded in 1860 with reference to the record of his 
parents marriage. Mr. Haycraft lived to a ripe old age. He 
wrote a history of early times in Hardin County which was pub 
lished in the Elizabethtown News but the articles have never been 
issued in book form. 

This indenture made this 8th day of September in the year of 
our Lord one thousand eight hundred twenty nine, between 
Thomas Lincoln and Sarah, his wife, of the county of Spencer, 
and state of Indiana, of the one part and Thomas J. Wathen of 
the county of Hardin and state of Kentucky, of the other part, 
witnesseth; That the said Thomas Lincoln and Sarah his wife 
for and in consideration of the sum of one hundred and twenty 
three dollars to them in hand paid before the signing and sealing 
and delivery of these presents the receipt whereof in hereby 
acknowledged, have this day granted, bargained and sold, and 
by these presents do grant, bargain and sell to the said Thomas 
T. Wathen his heirs and assigns forever one undivided moiety or 
half part of a certain lot or piece of ground containing one acre 
and one-quarter lying near Elizabethtown, adjoining Samuel Hay- 
craft, or the lot on which said Haycraft now lives, which lot is 
bounded as follows, to wit : Beginning about four feet northeast 
of the southeast corner of said Haycraft lot running thence 
South seventy degrees East twenty poles to a stake thence North 
thirty one degrees West twenty two poles to a stake in a line of said 
Haycraf ts lot, thence west the same to the beginning. The moiety 
hereby conveyed to be taken off the end adjoining said Haycraft. 

To have and to hold the said undivided moiety or half part 
of the aforesaid lot together with all and singular the appur 
tenances thereunto belonging or in any wise appertaining thereto 
to the said Thomas J. Wathen his heirs and assigns forever. And 
the said Thomas Lincoln and Sarah his wife, do further covenant 
and agree to and with the said Thomas J. Wathen that they will 
forever warrant and defend the aforesaid undivided half part of 


the said lot with its appurtenances from the claim of themselves 
their heirs and every other person or persons whomsoever claims 
the same. The said lot above described being the same conveyed 
by Samuel Haycraft, Sr., and wife to said Sarah Lincoln late 
Sarah Johnson. In testimony whereof, the said Thomas Lincoln 
and Sarah his wife have hereunto set their hands and seals the 
day and year above written. 


Attest : mark 

G. A. F. GEORGE her 


Commonwealth of Kentucky 

Hardin County s.s. 

I, Samuel Haycraft, clerk of the county court, for the county 
court for the county aforesaid, do hereby certify that the fore 
going deed from Thomas Lincoln and Sarah his wife, to Thomas 
J. Wathen, was on the 8th day of September 1829 produced to 
me in my office and acknowledged by the said Thomas Lincoln as 
and for his act and deed. 

And the said Sarah being at the same time examined by me 
privately and apart from her said husband, declared that she 
did freely and willingly seal and deliver said writing and wishes 
not to retract it, and acknowledged said writing again shown 
and explained to her to be her act and deed and consented that 
the same may be recorded. 

Whereupon the same is duly admitted to record in my office. 
Given under my hand this i8th day of November 1829. 

A copy attent: 


Clerk H.C.C 
Recorded in Deed Book " L," page 219. 


William H. Herndon made inquiry concerning Thomas Lin 
coln s title to land in Indiana and obtained from the Commis 
sioner of the General Land Office information concerning the 
patent that was issued " Thomas Lincoln, alias Linckhern." The 
letter contained the following information: 

In reply to the letter of Mr. W. H. Herndon, who is writing 
the biography of the late President, dated June 19, 1865, herewith 


returned, I have the honor to state, pursuant to the Secretary s 
reference, that on the fifteenth of October, 1817, Mr. Thomas 
Lincoln, then of Perry County, Indiana, entered under the old 
credit system, 

1. The South-west Quarter of Section 32, in Township 4, 
South of Range 5 West, lying in Spencer County, Indiana. 

2. Afterwards the said Thomas Lincoln relinquished to the 
United States the east half of the said South-west Quarter; and 
the amount paid thereon was passed to his credit to complete 
payment of the West half of the South-west Quarter of Section 
32, in Township 4, South of Range 5 West; and accordingly 
a patent was issued to Thomas Lincoln for the latter tract. The 
patent was dated June 6, 1827, and was signed by John Quincy 
Adams, then President of the United States, and countersigned 
by George Graham, then Commissioner of the General Land 

Commenting on the transaction, Lamon says: 

It will be observed, that, although Lincoln squatted upon the 
land in the fall of 1816, he did not enter it until October of the 
next year. And that the patent was not issued to him until 
June, 1827, but a little more than a year before he left it alto 
gether. Beginning by entering a full quarter section, he was 
afterwards content with 80 acres, and took eleven years to make 
the necessary payments upon that. It is very probable that the 
money which finally secured the patent was furnished by Gentry 
or Aaron Grigsby, and the title passed out of Lincoln in the 
course of the transaction. Dennis Hanks says: 

" He settled on a piece of government land, eighty acres. 
This land he afterwards bought under the two dollar act; was 
to pay for it in installments; one-half he paid, the other half 
he never paid, and finally lost the whole of the land." LAMON : 
Life of Lincoln, pp. 25-26. 

Lamon says : 

On the first day of March, 1830, after fifteen days tedious 
and heavy travel, they arrived at John Hanks house, four miles 
north-west of Decatur. Here John Hanks had cut some logs 
in 1829, which he now gave to Lincoln to build a house with. 
With the aid of John, Dennis, Abe, and Hall, a house was 
erected on a small bluff, on the north bank of the north fork of 


the Sangamon. Abe and John took the four yoke of oxen and 
" broke up " fifteen hundred acres of land, and then split rails 
enough to fence it in. LAMON : Life of Lincoln, p. 75. 

Concerning the land near Decatur the Circuit Clerk says : 

We have made a pretty thorough search of the records of 
this office from 1829, the beginning of the County, down to 1840, 
during which time we do not find anywhere the title of any 
property vested in Thomas Lincoln or Dennis Hanks. We do, 
however, find numerous conveyances made to John Hanks, and 
to various other people by the name of Hanks. For instance 
we find upon September 2, 1834, John Hanks received a deed 
from John Tuttle for the West T / 2 of the N.W. % of Section 33, 
Township 17 North, Range 2, East of the Third Principal 
Meridian. I also find where the heirs of Joseph Hanks received 
a deed from William Hanks, Senior, for the East % of the 
West l /2 of the N.E. *4 of Section 22, Township 16 North, 
Range I East of the Third Principal Meridian. This is a small 
tract of land very close to the place where Thomas Lincoln 
erected a log house and lived during his stay in Macon County. 

Thomas Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln occupied a piece of 
land in the S.W. *4 of Section 28, Township 16 North, Range I 
East of the Third Principal Meridian, which is about two and a 
half miles south of the site of the present village of Harristown; 
but neither Thomas nor Abraham Lincoln ever held title to 
the land. At that time it belonged to the government. 

JOHN ALLEN, Clerk Circuit Court, Decatur, 111. 

Lamon says: 

It is with great pleasure that we dismiss Tom Lincoln, with 
his family and fortunes, from further consideration in these 
pages. After Abraham left him, he moved at least three times 
in search of a " healthy " location, and finally got himself fixed 
near Goose Nest Prairie, in Coles County, where he died of a 
disease of the kidneys, at the ripe old age of seventy-three. The 
little farm (forty acres) upon which his days were ended, he 
had, with his usual improvidence, mortgaged to the School Com 
missioners for two hundred dollars, its full value. Induced by 
love for his step-mother, Abraham had paid the debt and taken 
a deed for the land, " with a reservation of a life-estate therein, 
to them, or the survivor of them." At the same time (1841) 
he gave a helping hand to John Johnston, binding himself to 


convey the land to him, or his heirs, " after the death of Thomas 
Lincoln and his wife," upon payment of the two hundred dollars, 
which was really advanced to save John s mother from utter 
penury. No matter how much the land might appreciate in value, 
John was to have it upon these terms, and no interest was to be 
paid by him, " except after the death of the survivor as afore 
said." This, to be sure, was a great bargain for John, but he 
made haste to assign his bond to another person for " fifty 
dollars paid in hand." LAMON : Life of Lincoln, pp. 76-7. 


I have asked every one known to me in Springfield who knew 
William H. Herndon such questions as these: 

Beyond the sale to Lamon of copies of his manuscripts, and 
his public defense of Lamon after the publication of his book, 
how far was Herndon responsible for what Lamon published? 
How do you account for some things which Herndon published 
about Lincoln, particularly after he had witnessed the reception 
of Lamon s book? Was Herndon jealous of Lincoln? Did he 
wish to bring Lincoln down to his own level? Was it a case in 
which no man is a hero to his valet? Was Herndon resentful 
because Lincoln did not give him office? 

To these questions I obtained a very wide variety of answer. 
One of the best examples of the reply unfavorable to Herndon 
was furnished me in a recently discovered letter of Hon. Milton 
Hay, who knew both men well, and who wrote while the Hern 
don book was undergoing active discussion in Springfield. 

Hon. Logan Hay, former State Senator of Springfield, gives 
me this information about his father: 

My father, Milton Hay, was born in Kentucky in 1817, and 
died in 1893. He came to Springfield in 1832. He was the 
uncle of John Hay, the secretary of President Lincoln; my 
father s brother, Dr. Charles Hay, was John Hay s father. My 
father was in Lincoln s office as a student and young lawyer. 
His contact with Lincoln was at the beginning the contact of a 
boy with a man, but he came to know Lincoln intimately. There 
was a break of some years in their close association. My father 
practiced law in Pittsfield from 1843 to 1857, but his father s 
family lived here, and he met Lincoln frequently. From 1857 to 
1861 he was very close to Lincoln. 


SPRINGFIELD, ILL., Jan. 26, 1892. 

Your letter of the 24th instant in regard to that queer produc- 



tion, Herndon s Life of Lincoln, came duly to hand, and but for 
a spell of the grip would have been answered sooner. 

Herndon was a peculiar kind of crank, and his work is re 
garded as deserving of but little credit by those who were ac 
quainted with both Lincoln and Herndon. Although professing 
to have been gotten up with friendly intentions toward Lincoln, 
such professed good intentions are not credited. Herndon had 
a sort of loose connection with Lincoln as a partner in local 
business of this county, and after Lincoln s election, as the under 
standing is here, he went to Washington, as an applicant for 
some place and was disappointed. He returned home soured 
and sore-headed, and thereafter was active with the Democrats. 

Immediately upon Lincoln s death, he proclaimed himself as 
the only living man who knew all about Lincoln, assumed that 
he had been Lincoln s conscience-keeper, that he was the man 
who had made Lincoln what he was, and particularly that Lincoln 
confided to him secrets known to nobody else. 

It is not believed here that any such confidence had existed. 
Much of the narrative contained in the book is known to be 
erroneous here. Herndon states the matter as though he was 
personally acquainted with the facts, and it has impaired credence 
in whatever he has stated as being only within his own knowl 

The general opinion of the book seems to have been to 
magnify disproportionately those acts of Mr. Lincoln s life which 
Mr. Lincoln himself outgrew and would have wished his friends 
to forget. As illustration of this, we may take the undue promi 
nence given to his rather ridiculous love scrapes as told by 
Herndon, but of which much is known to be misstated and ex 
aggerated ; also the Shields dual affair. About this latter affair, 
Mr. Lincoln in after life was rather sore. I was present on 
one occasion when one of the participants in the affair was in 
Mr. Lincoln s office, trying to rehearse the particulars of that 
affair, to which Mr. Lincoln seemed much disinclined. After 
that person left Mr. Lincoln remarked to me, " That man is try 
ing to revive his memory of a matter that I am trying to 

The story of Lincoln s having told Herndon that his mother 
was a bastard is wholly discredited by everybody who knew 
Lincoln, as well as much other matter in the book alleged to 
have been derived from conversations with Lincoln. 

I think I have fairly given you the criticism made here by 
those best acquainted with both Lincoln and Herndon. 

Yours truly, 

M. HAY. 


The above letter by Hon. Milton Hay, uncle of John Hay, 
and a close friend of Lincoln, at one time in the office with him, 
was found in the papers of the law firm of McAnulty, Allen & 
Humphrey, who were successors to the firm of Green & Hum 
phrey, who were in turn successors to the firm of Hay, Green & 
Littler. It was furnished and certified, April 4, 1919, by the 
senior member of the firm, Mr. R. H. McAnulty. 


On the other hand, Hon. Hardin W. Masters, who knew 
Herndon intimately, assured me that in innumerable conversa 
tions with Herndon, hg never detected any indication of resent 
ment, but that Herndon always spoke of Lincoln with deepest 
reverence. I went with Mr. Masters to Petersburg, where he 
spent many years of his life, and where for a time he was 
district attorney. During the period of Masters* activity there, 
Herndon habitually attended court at Petersburg. His brother- 
in-law lived there, and Herndon, reduced in circumstances, could 
obtain free board during the term of court, and pick up a few 
dollars in fees as associate or senior counsel with younger lawyers. 
When Herndon was not thus employed, he would sit on one of 
the settees on the court-house lawn, glad to have any one sit 
down beside him, and listen to him while he talked about Lincoln. 
Mr. Masters tells me that he saw Herndon in all moods, and 
under varying conditions, for I regret to say that Herndon was 
not always a sober man, and Mr. Masters tells me that Herndon 
never spoke the name of Lincoln without reverence. His feeling 
reached the level, as he declares, of adoration; and he is con 
fident that gross injustice is done Herndon in attributing to him 
spite or resentment. 

I called on Hon. G. W. Murray, who for one year was 
Herndon s law-partner. He tells a pathetic story of the close 
of Herndon s public career. Herndon struggled on against pov 
erty, against his temptation, against failing sight and hearing. 
One day he slammed his book shut, lifted his hand, and, rising, 
cried out in agony of spirit : " My God ! I can t see ; I can t hear ! 
I m going to quit." He put on his hat, left the office, and did 
not return. Judge Murray gave to me a formal statement and 
signed it. It deserves to be printed, and I give it herewith : 


By HONORABLE G. W. MURRAY of Springfield 

The following statement was made by Hon. G. W. Murray, 
of Springfield, Illinois, to Rev. William E. Barton, D.D., April 
21, 1920: 

I was partner of William H. Herndon in this city in the year 
1878. I had come in 1876 from Ohio, my native State, in 1876. 
I was born near Troy, Ohio, in July, 1839, and shall be 81 on 
my next birthday. I was elected Judge in 1890, and served 
continuously, excepting between 1894 and 1898, when I was not 
on the bench. My whole term of service as judge was sixteen 

I came to Illinois with great admiration for Abraham Lincoln, 
and was glad to be associated with a man who had known him 
intimately as Mr. Herndon had known him. Mr. Herndon was 
as willing to talk about Lincoln as I was to listen. 

Continuously, when we were not busy, and perhaps at some 
times when we should have been at work, he talked to me of 
Lincoln. There was hardly any period of Lincoln s life or 
phase of his character that we did not discuss. 

It has been charged that Mr. Herndon was embittered against 
Mr. Lincoln, and a reason has been assigned in Mr. Lincoln s 
alleged refusal to give Mr. Herndon an office which Herndon is 
alleged to have coveted. I believe this to be untrue, both as to 
the fact and the motive. 

So far from Mr. Herndon s cherishing resentment against 
Mr. Lincoln, the whole character of his conversations, which 
were many, discredits that statement. I can remember no single 
word spoken by him concerning Mr. Lincoln in which there ap 
peared to be any such animus. He held Lincoln in the highest 
admiration. He had no regrets for anything that had ever 
occurred between them. 

Mr. Herndon told me that Mr. Lincoln offered him office. 
My impression is that there was more than one such offer. One 
that I remember was of a judicial character, a position in what 
I think was called the Court of Claims, a court established to 
consider claims of Southern people against the Government for 
damages alleged to have been suffered by them during the war. 
He spoke of other positions which he believed he might have had. 
He said that he did not desire office. 


There is absolutely nothing in the charge that Mr. Herndon 
cherished any spirit of unfriendliness toward Mr. Lincoln, or 
any feeling of disappointment because of his failure to secure 
through Mr. Lincoln political appointment. 

Toward Mrs. Lincoln, Herndon had no kindly feelings. He 
did not denounce her, nor refer to her in terms which a gentle 
man might not with propriety use toward a lady, but he did 
not like her and she did not like him ; and he believed that she 
made Mr. Lincoln s home life unhappy. He believed that Mr. 
Lincoln had loved Ann Rutledge, and that her memory was very 
dear to Lincoln. 

Mr. Herndon continually spoke of Mr. Lincoln s greatness 
and goodness. He told me of traveling over the State from 
one county seat to another with the meager law-library in saddle 
bags. Often Lincoln went to a session of court without any 
client, but he almost always secured clients on the ground, 
through his association with local attorneys. Herndon spoke 
of Lincoln s ability as a lawyer and statesman. He also admired 
greatly Lincoln s kindness of heart, his forgiving disposition. 
He was greatly impressed by Mr. Lincoln s attitude of kindness 
toward young men in the army who were found guilty of trans 
gression of military regulations. 

His habitual attitude toward the memory of Lincoln was 
one of admiration. 

In short, I cannot remember a single instance in which he 
spoke unkindly of Lincoln, but invariably the reverse. 

I was a warm admirer of Abraham Lincoln before I became 
Herndon s partner; but under the influence of Herndon that 
admiration grew to a sincere affection and devotion. 

Largely through what Mr. Herndon related to me, I have 
spoken from time to time about Mr. Lincoln, in public addresses, 
one of which I delivered at the Lincoln monument in this city 
in 1903, and another before the Authors Club in 1913. The 
sincere admiration which in these and other addresses I have 
invariably expressed for Abraham Lincoln is in full accord with 
the spirit in which Mr. Herndon always spoke of him. 

It has been charged that Mr. Herndon believed and charged 
that Abraham Lincoln was an illegitimate child. I know what 
Herndon wrote which has been thus construed, and in my 
judgment Mr. Herndon did not intend to convey that impression. 
I believe that Herndon believed that Lincoln was of legitimate 
birth, and would have resented a charge to the contrary. 

I knew Mr. Herndon too intimately and talked with him 
too freely to be mistaken about his real feeling toward Mr. 
Lincoln. He honored Lincoln, and I learned in association with 


Herndon, to honor more and more the character of Abraham 
Lincoln. G. W. MURRAY. 

April 2ist, 1920. 


Mrs. Fleury, Mr. Herndon s eldest daughter, said to me: 

" It is a serious wrong to the memory of my father to speak 
of him as an infidel. He was not orthodox in his belief, and 
he was driven into controveries which caused him to emphasize 
what he did not believe rather than what he did believe. But 
the inscription on his monument, copied from his own signed 
statement, refutes completely the claim that he was an infidel. 
I know that people called him so, and he did not always take 
the trouble to deny it; but he was a reverent man. 

" His reverence, however, was not so much for the God of 
the Bible, whom he identified with the God of certain creeds 
that he could not accept, as for the God of nature. He did not 
believe in miracles, nor in supernatural revelation. He held that 
nature and the human mind are the vehicles of God s revelation. 
He loved nature, and he studied it constantly. In this respect 
he was very unlike Mr. Lincoln, who did not care for such 

" It was his custom on Sunday to send to the livery stable 
for a slow horse and carriage, and take his children out into 
the country. He studied botany and geology and the habits of 
birds. Nothing escaped his attention, and he did not permit it 
to escape us. He pointed out to us the beauty of the earth and 
sky, and said, Remember, a great Power made all this/ He 
plucked flowers and showed them to us, and pointed out their 
parts and their functions, and the wonder of them, and spoke 
reverently of the God who made them, and the birds and our 

" He was an habitual teaser. He joked with his children. 
He was always teasing his daughters. When he came home 
from the office, he would ask me, * Who was that dirty-faced 
little boy I saw kissing you through the fence ? He was de 
lighted with my indignant denials, and would catch me up and 
laugh heartily at my loudly proclaimed innocence. When he 
was through with his teasing, he would romp with us, and 
instruct us. He was a loving father. He was not orthodox, 


and was much opposed to the theology of his time. I think if 
he were living now he would not be thought of as an infidel. 
He had his faults and his weaknesses; and his children have 
some memories that are not happy ones. But he was an honest 
man, an intelligent man, a man who loved freedom and God 
and his children and Mr. Lincoln." 

Similar testimony comes to me from his other daughters, both 
those by his first wife and one by his second wife, and I am 
confident they are essentially correct. 


The first publication that suggested the illegitimacy of Abra 
ham Lincoln was the Life of Abraham Lincoln by Ward Hill 
Lamon, published in 1872. It was based upon manuscripts sold 
to Lamon by William H. Herndon, who had been for many 
years the law-partner of Lincoln. It would be difficult to ex 
aggerate the indignation which the publication of this book roused 
against Lamon, Herndon, and Chauncey F. Black, who was 
known to have some share in the authorship and whom Herndon 
afterward declared to have " written quite every word of it." 
The Rev. James A. Reed, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church 
in Springfield, prepared and delivered, there and elsewhere, a 
lecture which was published in Scribner s Monthly in 1873 and 
is now difficult to obtain. 2 Mr. H. E. Barker, bookseller and 
collector in Springfield, obtained the original manuscript of cer 
tain portions of this address which were eliminated before pub 
lication. They appear, however, to have been used in the de 
livery of the lecture. They contain very hot shot for those who 
were understood to have been responsible for this slander against 
Lincoln and his mother. These sentiments, as expressed by Dr. 
Reed, met the hearty approval of the major part of his audi 
ences, while some thought them needlessly severe in their casti- 
gation of Herndon, who was still living in the city where this 
vehement denunciation was uttered. These suppressed pages 
may now be published without any harm to any one, and will 
serve to show what Lincoln s Springfield neighbors heard with 
approval when this address was given by the minister of the 
church which he attended. The largest section of this manu 
script begins without a heading, at page i of the lecture, and 
contains twelve consecutive pages. There are three other pages, 
detached and less important: 

2 The text of this lecture, as published in Scribners Magazine, is 
reprinted in the appendix to The Soul of Abraham Lincoln. 




THAT INJUSTICE has been done the life and sentiments 
of Mr. Lincoln, is not simply the judgment of my own mind. 
Judge Advocate General Holt, has expressed sentiment that no 
pains have been spared, to collect materials with which to de 
fame the character of Mr. Lincoln. And while he is now so 
loved as to render what has been published in a measure harm 
less, yet he fears it is calculated to do him great injury in another 

A prominent and influential Journal of the country also 
makes an appeal to the old friends and neighbors of Mr. Lincoln 
at Springfield to defend his good name against the attacks of 
those who, while claiming to be his friends, seek to blacken and 
defame his character. " We arraign them all," says this journal, 
" in the name of the dead, who cannot be heard again ; in the 
name of the Nation; in the name of religion and morality, for 
the crime of remaining silent while one of their own citizens, 
pretending to speak for them, persists in blackening the reputa 
tion of him they love. 

" By common consent of this country the body of Abraham 
Lincoln was borne from the scene of his martyrdom to his home 
in the city of Springfield, and by loving hands laid to rest at 
Oak Ridge. Shall it be said that those who of old knew him 
and loved him, and take to themselves something of the honor 
that clings to his name, and who are to keep watch and ward 
by his grave, shall sit in dumb self-complacency while birds of 
evil ornen croak and mousing owls peck at his laurels ? " 

Whether the public is generally aware of it or not, it is very 
evident from this appeal that Mr. Lincoln s character has been 
unfairly dealt with from some quarter. And the first question 
that is asked is, Who are the persons and what are their mo 
tives ? 

This is the question I am first of all compelled to answer. 
And these gentlemen cannot complain of me if I am as frank as 
they have been in telling who Mr. Lincoln was. 

The first man who attempted to blacken the reputation of 
Mr. Lincoln after his death was a low, drunken, infidel by the 
name of William H. Herndon ; a man of such disreputable char 
acter and sentiments that nobody about Springfield cared to give 
the notoriety even of a passing kick. This man, soon after Mr. 
Lincoln s death, collected what he considered sufficient materials 
with which to immortalize himself as the historian of Mr. Lin 
coln. But not having the means to publish it, as it seems, he 


deposited the manuscript for safe-keeping in the First National 
Bank of Springfield, where it remained in durance vile as a sort 
of collateral security for a small claim which the distinguished 
author was not able to discharge, and where it would most likely 
have remained in its merited obscurity but for the assistance 
of his distinguished friend and associate, Colonel Ward H. 
Lamon, who brought the precious document to light by purchas 
ing it, paying $2,000 for it, as I am reliably informed, and in 
corporating it in a book of his own. These gatherings of Mr. 
Herndon, thus coming before the public, endorsed by Mr. 
Lamon, and published in a large and expensive volume, and 
circulated all over the country, claiming to be the only real and 
fair and reliable history of Mr. Lincoln and his sentiments, it 
does seem fitting that some notice should be taken of these gen 
tlemen and their infamous publication. 

In all that has been written and published of the life and 
services of Abraham Lincoln, these two men are the only ones 
who have had the complacency like Joab of old to come forward 
and take their hero by the beard with the right hand, and to 
kiss him and then gallantly stab him under the fifth rib. 

While the voice of calumny was silent, speaking no evil of 
the dead, these two men, professing to be his familiar friends, 
and who did eat at his table, and whom like the little ewe lamb 
that did sleep in the poor man s bosom, and brought up; Mr. 
Herndon as an indifferent and second-rate lawyer, enjoying for 
a time the advantages of a connection with him, the vanity of 
which caused him to force himself upon the notice of the public; 
and Mr. Lamon, reaping the emoluments of an office, as martial 
of the District of Columbia, worth from $10,000 to $15,000 a 
year ; these two worthy friends of the President, with the assist 
ance of a third, whose name does not appear in the book, but 
who is known to be the son of Jeremiah S. Black of this state, 
by a singular combination of their wits and meager talents, 
form a tri-partite mountain of authorship, and this mountain 
labors, and there comes forth this ridiculus mus Lamon s 
Life of Lincoln a volume that will disgrace its author as long 
as it will disgrace the character and do injustice to the memory 
of Abraham Lincoln. 

The motives of these men, in contributing to this work, vary 
with their individuality. No one can read this book without 
making the discovery that it is written only in the pretense of 
friendship. The chagrin of an unrecognized and disappointed 
aspirant for political favors appears on all that Mr. Herndon 
writes. And Mr. Lamon writes as one who has heard the voice 
of his master saying, " Give an account of thy stewardship, for 


thou mayest no longer be steward." Mr. Lincoln had evidently 
read the character of both these men, and had given them to 
understand that he did not need their services. They were 
weights he cared no longer to carry. And for this they under 
take the grateful task of writing his biography, and make him 
out a bastard and an infidel. The patriarch Job once exclaimed 
in the midst of a persistent attempt of his distinguished friends 
to defame his integrity, " Oh, that mine enemy had written a 
book ! " Mr. Lincoln has been spared that wish. His distin 
guished friends have written a book, and a book that proclaims 
them and justifies him as clearly as it did Job in calling them 
his enemies. For never was there cooler or meaner detraction 
if not malignancy, concealed beneath the mask of apparent friend 
ship than we have in this book. 

It has been said that the celebrated Dr. Johnson once made 
the remark that he thought a man might be justified in taking 
the life of another to estop the biographical taking of his own. 
It is not to be supposed that Dr. Johnson seriously meant to 
justify the killing of a man short of self-defense. But if there 
was a clear case in which a man could be justified, for biographi 
cal reasons, in killing off a few of his anticipated and ambitious 
historians before he died, I don t know a clearer case than that 
of Mr. Lincoln. 

Mr. Herndon s earnest and zealous effort to prove that Mr. 
Lincoln was an infidel to the day of his death is simply the last 
service to which he can put his hero to his own advantage. It 
is well known that the infidelity which he attributes to Mr. Lin 
coln is simply the reflection of his own infidel sentiments. He 
would fain give them character by palming them off as the dying 
sentiments of a man whose shoe latchets he is not worthy to 
stoop down and unloose. He so shapes his detraction of the 
President as that he may have the prestige of his name to bolster 
up and give currency to his own miserable infidelity. 

It is easy to detect the underlying motive in this bold and 
unscrupulous effort to fasten this charge of final scepticism upon 
Mr. Lincoln. The very pains and persistency of the effort of 
these men to make the allegation good, bears on its face the 
confession that the public impression of a change in Mr. Lincoln s 
sentiments previous to his death was well founded, and betrays 
the fear that unless the evidence which sustains this impression 
be annihilated, Mr. Lincoln s name will go down to posterity 
bearing its testimony to the truth of Christianity rather than 
to the lie of infidelity. There would have been no necessity for 
such a labored effort of friendship to keep Mr. Lincoln s name 
in the rank and file of infidelity had there not been a strong 


and general impression that Mr. Lincoln had changed his senti 
ments and was not an infidel when he died. 

I wonder not that a distinguished gentleman writing me 
from Washington expresses his indignation by saying, " I am 
amazed at Lamon s book. It is the compound fruit of a serpent 
and a jackal." 


It is firmly believed in Washington County, Kentucky, that 
Abraham Lincoln was born there and not in Hardin. These 
affidavits, excepting that of County Attorney Polin, which was 
made for this book, were procured for the purpose of estab 
lishing that claim. In another place that opinion is discussed. 
These depositions are here recorded because, apart from the 
question of the birth of Lincoln, they show a body of consistent 
recollection concerning the marriage of his parents. 


The deposition of William Thomas Hardesty, taken before 
me at the Law Office of Polin & Polin, in Springfield, Kentucky, 
and in the presence of the County Judge, W. A. Waters, and the 
County Attorney, Joseph Polin, for the purpose of preserving 
his testimony as a historical record for Washington County. 
Witness after being duly sworn and examined by Joseph Polin, 
testified as follows: 

Q State your name, age, residence and occupation? 

A William Thomas Hardesty, born April 3Oth, 1837, reside 
near Walton s Lick, in Washington County and am a farmer. 

Q Please state your father s name and your mother s maiden 

A William Hardesty, who married Annie Moody. William 
Hardesty was born on the .... day of 17 ... 

Q Please give us a short sketch of your father. 

A My father came from Maryland about the year . . . . , in 
company with his father, Charles Hardesty, and settled near 
Walton s Lick, where Edward Smothers now lives. This Walton s 
Lick is named for General Matthew Walton, who manufactured 
salt at this place in the days of the early settlement of the county 
and the old salt well is on the north bank of Lick Creek just 
east of the ford. I still have in my possession one of the old 
kettles which were used by Walton in the manufacture of salt. 
It is rather peculiar looking, the vessel having no legs and only 
one ear, and holding 40 gallons. People came to this place for 
miles and carried away salt on horseback. My father died 



about the day of 18. . . There lived in the same 

neighborhood the Moodys, the Berrys, the Reddings, the Haydens, 
and the Lincolns and quite a number of others. 

Q Please state what you know about the history of the 
Lincoln family in Washington County from having heard your 
father talk about them. 

A I have often heard my father say that he knew Thomas 
Lincoln and Nancy Hanks: that he remembered distinctly when 
as a small boy he slipped away from home and went to their 
wedding in the year 1806 when they were married by Jesse 
Head in the small log cabin which formerly stood on the east 
side of the Litsey and Valley Hill pike at a point just north of 
the Mill Race near Poortown. They afterwards lived in this 
cabin and it was there that Abraham Lincoln, the President of 
the United States, was born. The spring near the roadside 
has been called the Lincoln Spring since my earliest recollection. 
I have heard my father talk of Abraham Lincoln, the grand 
father of the President, being killed by the Indians a short dis 
tance from his home in this county. This older Abraham Lincoln 
lived on the farm now owned by James L. Moran and at a point 
near the forks of the Litsey and Valley Hill pike with the pike 
leading to Springfield and on the stream known as Lincoln s 
Run. At this place there is a small branch emptying into Lin 
coln s Run and the house was located on the north side of the 
Litsey and Valley Hill pike and on a point between this branch 
and Lincoln s Run. I recollect that there is a small mound and 
formerly there were some rocks where the house stood. I re 
member of seeing many times and of having used many times 
in hunting the old powder horn which was taken from around 
the neck of Abraham Lincoln after he was killed by the Indians. 
This horn had on it the Masonic emblem of a compass and a 
square. There was also carved on it the image of an eagle 
beneath which were the words, " Liberty or Death," and the 
name, " A. Lincoln." This horn remained in our family for 
quite a number of years. I don t know how my father came 
into possession of it but have often heard him say in speaking 
of it what I have related above. He finally gave this horn to 
the late attorney, Richard J. Brown, and that is the last trace 
I have of it. I have frequently heard my father say that he 
knew Abraham Lincoln, the President, when he was a small 
boy living with his parents in this county. My father was 
always quite positive of the fact that the President was born 
in this county, being born a few years before the family moved 
to that portion of Hardin County which is now Larue. 




I, Olive Walker, Examiner for and within the county and 
state aforesaid, certify that the foregoing deposition of William 
Thomas Hardesty, was taken before me at the time and place 
and for the purpose stated in the captain ; that said witness was 
duly sworn before giving it ; that it was written by me in short 
hand and afterwards transcribed by me on the typewriter and 
that it was signed by the witness : that there were present County 
Judge, W. A. Waters, and County Attorney, Joseph Polin. 

Given under my hand, this 7th day of November, 1919. 

Examiner for Washington Co. Ky. 


This affiant, R. M. Thompson, says that he is native of 
Washington County, Ky., 79 years of age. He was raised in 
said county, and has lived therein all of his life except eight 
years, when he resided at Indianapolis, State of Indiana. His 
present address is Springfield, County and State aforesaid. The 
mother of Nancy (Hanks) Lincoln, who was the mother of 
Abraham Lincoln, was an own cousin of affiant s mother. Affiant 
knew well Richard Berry, Jr., who was a grandson of Richard 
Berry, Sr., who was the guardian of said Nancy (Hanks) Lin 
coln, wife of Thomas Lincoln. Said Richard Berry, Jr., lived 
with his father, Frank Berry, a son of Richard Berry, Sr. The 
marriage of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, parents of Pres 
ident Abraham Lincoln, occurred in the same house or premises 
recently sold and conveyed by Mrs. Sallie Reed, wife of Henry 
F. Reed, to Maj. D. W. Sanders, of Louisville, Ky. Said Richard 
Berry, Jr., told affiant as he now recollects, and his memory 
serves him well, about the close of the late Civil War, that 
President Abraham Lincoln was born in said house in Washing 
ton County, Ky., the same in which his parents were married. 
Affiant was well acquainted with William Hardesty, who lived 
to an extreme old age, and whose residence was always in the 
neighborhood of said premises. 

Said William Hardesty was an honorable, reputable and 
creditable citizen, and every way worthy of belief. He has 
made affidavit (that is said William Hardesty) and sworn that 
he was present, and witnessed the marriage of Thomas Lincoln 
and Nancy Hanks in said house, by the Rev. Jesse Head, deacon 
of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Said William Hardesty 


has frequently told affiant that there was born to Thomas Lincoln 
and his said wife a daughter older than President Abraham 
Lincoln, said daughter being the first child and born in said 
house. She died at an early age. Said Richard Berry, Jr., was 
a good citizen, reputable and worthy to be believed. 



I, James L. Wharton, Clerk of the Circuit Court for the 
State and county written above, certify that R. M. Thompson, 
who is a most reputable citizen, subscribed and made oath and 
was sworn to the foregoing affidavit this day. He is entitled 
to be believed, and reputable, upright, moral, and creditable in 
every way. Before he executed said affidavit, I read it over to 
him and explained its contents to him and he understood the 
same, and did, in my presence freely and voluntarily execute 
said affidavit. Said affidavit was dictated for said R. M. 

Witness my hand and seal of office this I3th day of April, 

J. L. WHARTON (Seal) 
Clerk of Washington Circuit Court. 


Affiant, Joseph Polin, states that he was born in Washington 
County, Kentucky, April 28th, 1883; that he has made diligent 
search for record evidence and evidence traditional concerning 
all matters relating to Abraham Lincoln and his antecedents, so 
far as they belong to the history of this county. He is familiar 
with the rumors that gained currency at one time in Larue 
County, concerning the alleged illegitimacy of Abraham Lincoln. 
The affiant states that to the best of his knowledge and belief 
these rumors were never credited in this county among the 
people who had known the Lincoln family. The record of the 
Lincoln family in this county, as shown by records both published 
and unpublished, is an honorable one. The Berrys and the col 
lateral families also were reputable people and their descendants 
are still living in this county and are highly esteemed. Before 
the discovery of the marriage return for Thomas and Nancy 
Lincoln, the reliable people of this county, indignantly denied, as 
I have been reliably informed, the charges which they deemed 
slanderous, affecting the character of the mother of Abraham 


Lincoln. The discovery of that document is a complete confirma 
tion of their confidence in the chastity of Nancy Hanks Lincoln. 


Subscribed and sworn to before me by Joseph Polin, this 
i6th day of March, 1920. 


Notary Public. 
My commission expires May 22, 1923. 




The affiant, Richard W. Creal, states as follows, after being 
duly sworn 

My name is Richard W. Creal. I was born in Larue County 
Kentucky 1853 an< ^ I am a son f Richard Creal who formerly 
owned the farm in Larue County upon which Abraham Lincoln 
was born, the same now owned by the Lincoln Farm Association. 
Upon one occasion when with my father, " Aunt " Peggy Walters, 
who was an old woman, pointed out to us the place where 
Abraham Lincoln was born. The cabin which she said Abraham 
Lincoln was born in was situated a short distance from the Cave 
Spring (now known as the Lincoln Spring). I was about twelve 
years old at the time I heard Mrs. Walters make this statement. 
She stated further that she knew the Lincoln family well, both 
before and after the date of the birth of Abraham Lincoln ; that 
she was living hardly a mile away from the Lincolns at the 
time of the birth of Abraham. 

Affiant further states that shortly after this conversation he 
and his father were passing the home of one of the early settlers 
Jack McDougal who lived on the Bardstown and Green River 
Turnpike, about four miles from the Lincoln farm. That he 
heard a conversation between his father and McDougal in which 
McDougal stated that he knew the Lincoln family, that they 
were living in this county at the time Abraham Lincoln was 
born; that they lived in a cabin about two and one half miles 
south of Hodgenville, on the Hodgen s Mill and Aetna Furnace 


Subscribed and sworn to before me by Richard W. Creal this 
July 6th 1906, CHARLES WILLIAMS 





The affiant, W. D. Kieth, after being duly sworn deposes 
and says 

My name is W. D. Kieth, and I live at Buffalo, Larue County, 
Ky., and I am 62 years of age. I was born in the state of Indiana. 
I am a son of Nehemiah Kieth who was born in Hardin County, 
Ky. (now Larue County) the I4th day of February 1807, on a 
farm about three fourths of a mile from the farm now owned 
by the Lincoln Farm Association, the birthplace of Abraham 

When Lincoln was making his first race for the presidency, 
and while we were living in Indiana, I heard my father say that 
he remembered Lincoln when they were boys together down 
in Larue County, and that they had played together many a 
day. My father told me further that his mother, my grand 
mother, was present at the birth of Abraham Lincoln, in Feby 
1809; that he was born near the Cave Spring about two and 
one half miles south of the Hodgen s Mill and Aetna Furnace 
road, on the farm now owned by said Lincoln Farm Association 
in Larue County, Ky. My grandmother was a Larue, a daughter 
of one of the early pioneers in this section of the country. 

And further the affiant sayest not. 


Subscribed and sworn to before me by W. D. Kieth this 
July 6, 1906. CHARLES WILLIAMS, 

Notary Public Larue Co. Ky. 



The affiant, Robert Enlow, after being duly sworn, upon his 
oath states that he is 45 years old, was born and reared in 
LaRue County, Kentucky, on the North Fork of Nolin, about 
2^2 miles east of the town of Hodgenville. Affiant further says, 
I am a farmer, have resided on a farm all my life. I taught in 
the public schools of LaRue County fourteen years, and have for 
the last two sessions represented LaRue County in the legis 

My Grandmother Kirkpatrick stated in my presence that at 
the time of Abraham Lincoln s birth she was living on the South 
Fork of Nolin, about two miles west of Hodgenville; that she 


knew of her own personal knowledge that he was born on the 
farm ever since known as the Lincoln Farm, and now owned 
by the Lincoln Memorial Association. She further stated that 
the affiant s great-grandmother, and the mother of Abraham 
Enlow, was sent for and taken to the Lincoln home on this event 
and attended on Mr. Lincoln s mother, she being a practicing 
physician at the time. 

At the time my grandmother made this statement there was 
a conversation going on as to the exact spot of Lincoln s birth 
place and my grandmother detailed these facts as facts that she 
knew of her own personal knowledge. 


Subscribed and sworn to before me by Robert Enlow, this the 
loth day of July 1906. 

Notary Public LaRue County Ky. 



The affiant, John Brownfield, after being duly sworn upon 
his oath states that he was born in Hardin County Ky. (now 
Larue Co.) and is now 86 years old. He says " I have heard 
my father George Brownfield, who came to what is now Larue 
County and located at Buffalo, about 2,^/2 miles from the Lincoln 
farm, in 1790, say that Abraham Lincoln was born in this county 
on the farm known as the Lincoln Farm. 

I have also heard Wm. Cessna, another very old citizen and 
father of Judge Jonathan Cessna of Larue Co., say that he knew 
it to be a fact that Lincoln was born on said farm in Larue 
County. I have lived all my life in the vicinity of this farm. 


Subscribed and sworn to before me by John Brownfield this 
the 6 day of July 1906. I further certify that this affiant s 
memory was clear at the giving of this statement and he read 
this affidavit and signed it without the aid of his eye glasses, 
which he had forgotten and left at home. 

Notary Public Larue Co. Ky. 



The affiant, Thomas C. Walters, after being duly sworn 
deposes and says: 


I was born in Larue County, Ky., in 1855, and I now live 
in said county, and my post office address is Sonora, Ky. I am 
a grandson of " Peggy " Walters, one of the early pioneers in 
this section of the country. Upon an occasion I heard her speak 
ing to one Mr. Helm in which she said that she knew the Lincoln 
family well; knew them while they were living about two and 
one half miles from Hodgenville, Ky., on the farm now owned 
by the Lincoln Memorial Association; that she knew this family 
well both before and after the birth of Mr. Lincoln (Abraham) ; 
that Abraham Lincoln was born at this place; that she frequently 
went to see the Lincoln family, who were in poor circumstances, 
and that she assisted the mother with the infant child (Abraham 
Lincoln). Affiant further says that the mind and memory of 
grandmother was perfectly clear at the time of this conversation. 

Affiant further says that he knew Abraham Enlow, another 
old settler; that he heard Enlow say that Abraham Lincoln was 
born out at the Lincoln farm in Larue County. That he ren 
dered the Lincoln family many little acts of kindness and that 
he believed they named their infant son for him " Abraham " 
because of the kind treatment he had given the family. 


Subscribed and sworn to before me by Thomas C. Walters 
this July 4th, 1906. 


Notary Public. 


My name is Amos Walters. I live in Larue County about 
two miles from the town of Hodgenville and am a fanner. I 
was born in this county (Larue) in 1841 and I have made this 
my home all my life. I had an aunt by the name of " Peggy " 
Walters who was present at the Lincoln home the night Abraham 
Lincoln was born. She, together with my uncle, Conrad Walters, 
lived in that vicinity about one mile from the Lincoln place. 

Some time before the death of my aunt, and about the time 
Mr. Lincoln was coming into prominence, I heard my old aunt 
make this statement: That she recollected very well the birth 
of Mr. Lincoln; that she was present at the time of his birth; 
that she knew the father and mother of Mr. Lincoln ; that he 
was born in the cabin near the old spring on the farm now 
owned and controlled by the Lincoln Memorial Association in 
Larue County, Ky. 

Affiant states further that his aunt at the time of this con- 


versation was quite an old woman, but her mind was bright and 
her memory was clear on this. 


Subscribed and sworn to before me by Amos Walters this 
the 3<Dth day of June, 1906. 


Notary Public. 



The affiant, David T. Brownfield, after being duly sworn de 
poses and says: 

My name is David T. Brownfield. I was born in Larue 
County, Kentucky, in 1837. I was born about two miles from 
the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. My father, George Brown- 
field, came to this county in about 1790 and moved to the site 
of my birthplace. He knew the Lincoln family and I have 
heard him speak of them. He knew they were living in Larue 
County at the time of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. I have 
heard him say that Abraham Lincoln was born in this county. 
Affiant further says that he knew Abe Enlow and Charles Friend, 
two early pioneers of this section of the country; that they 
were each living in this county at the time Abraham Lincoln 
was born here and they each said that the old Creal farm, about 
two and one half miles south of Hodgenville, was the place 
where Abraham Lincoln was born. 

The affiant further says : " I was in Washington City July 
1861 and visited the president. I asked Mr. Lincoln the direct 
question where he was born as I wanted to hear this from his 
own lips. He told me that he was born at the Cave Spring about 
2,y 2 miles south of the town of Hodgenville, that this farm was 
situate on the road known in the early days as the Hodgen s 
Mill and Aetna Furnace road. In this conversation Mr. Lincoln 
asked me about his boyhood friend and playmate Austin Gol- 
laher, and appeared to be very much interested in the old settlers 
of Larue County. 

The affiant further states that he lives in Louisville, Ky., 
and that his street address is 620 West Chestnut. 


Subscribed and sworn to before me by David T. Brownfield 
this the 5th day of July 1906. 

Notary Public for Larue Co. 




My name is John C. Friend and I live in Hodgenville, Ky., 
and I have been in the active practice of law for over fifteen 
years. Many years ago I heard a conversation in front of the 
old drug store building on the site of which now stands the 
business house of G. O. Kirkpatrick in Hodgenville, Ky., in 
which Mr. Abraham Enlow, who at the time was a very old man 
and who has been dead for a number of years, made the follow 
ing statement: 

That he was on the way to the old Kirkpatrick mill with a 
" turn " of corn, and Thomas Lincoln, the father of Abraham 
Lincoln, halted him and asked that he loan him the horse that 
he (Enlow) was riding, explaining that he wanted to go after 
a midwife or " granny-woman " as he denominated her. Mr. 
Enlow said that Mr. Lincoln assisted him in removing the sack 
of corn from the horse and that he (Enlow) remained by the 
roadside until Mr. Lincoln returned with the old woman riding 
behind him. In a few days thereafter, Mr. Enlow continued, 
he heard that a boy baby was born into the Lincoln family and 
that it had been given the name of Abraham. Mr. Enlow 
thought that possibly this little act of kindness on his part had 
something to do with the new baby being named Abraham, not 
knowing quite likely that the name was a family name. Mr. 
Enlow in this conversation explained that Thomas Lincoln lived 
at the time the child " Abe " was born on what has since been 
known as the Richard Creal farm, and that it was necessary 
for him to pass by it in going from where he (Enlow) lived to 
the old Kirkpatrick mill aforesaid. 


Subscribed and sworn to before me by John C. Friend this 
June 30th 1906. 

Notary Public for Larue Co. 



I, Charles Williams, Notary Public in and for the County 
of Larue and State of Kentucky, hereby certify that I am per 
sonally acquainted with each and every witness who has testified 


to the several foregoing affidavits, as to the birthplace of Abra 
ham Lincoln; that I know the families of all save one, Jack 
McDougal, and considerable of the family history of all, and cer 
tify to the fact that each of these affiants is personally known to 
me to be worthy of credit on oath, that their families, to wit : the 
Walters, Brownfields, Friends, Enlows, Kieths, McDougals and 
Creals are now and have been since the early days of Hardin 
and Lame counties among the best and leading families of this 
section. A short time ago I, in company with my law partner, 
Mr. L. B. Handley, visited the old graveyard near South Fork 
Church, on the south bank of Nolynn, and being shown the grave 
stone of " Aunt Peggy Walters " referred to in the accompanying 
affidavits, by her grandson, we found that she was born on 
December nth 1789 and died on the 26th day of Oct. 1864, 
which becomes an important fact in connection with the statement 
of her oldest son, the date of her marriage, and her statement 
that she was present at the birth of Abraham Lincoln. 
Given under my hand the loth day of July 1906. 

Notary Public for Larue Co. 


These appendices contain affidavits and other documents from 
Washington County, Kentucky, tending to show that Abraham 
Lincoln was not born in what is now La Rue County, but in 
Washington County, and in the home of Richard Berry, where 
his parents were married. It is commonly, if not universally, 
held in that county that Thomas and Nancy Lincoln lived for 
three or more years with the Berrys, and later removed to 
Hardin County. This affirmation is based on the testimony of 
old men after the Civil War that they had seen Abraham Lincoln 
as a little child, playing at the Berry home, and also on a tax 
return, believed to be of the year 1811, and which contains the 
name of Thomas Lincoln as a resident of Washington County. 

I am rather sorry that Hon. Joseph Polin, County Attorney 
of Washington County, to whom I am much indebted for assist 
ance, has come to question whether the tax list referred to, and 
which I have examined carefully, is really of the year 1811, and 
he has not yet determined in what year it belongs. I am still 
hoping that it will be found to belong to 1811, as it will then 
confirm an opinion which I hold tentatively that Thomas and 
Nancy Lincoln lived only two winters in the cabin on Nolin 
Creek, where Abraham Lincoln was born, and that before they 
made their new home on the Knob Creek farm, from which, in 
1816, they removed to Indiana, they returned for at least a year to 
Washington County, and lived with Nancy Hanks relatives. 

The claim of Washington County to have furnished the birth 
place of Abraham Lincoln is inadmissible. It is honor enough 
that his parents should have been married there, and that that 
county should have preserved the record of the marriage. The 
house, too, was preserved, and now, much remodeled, it is stand 
ing at Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and is used as a sort of historical 

Some of the early biographers of Lincoln, apparently learn 
ing that he was not born in the Elizabethtown cabin, confused 
it with the Knob Creek farmhouse, and thus added to the con- 



fusion. Henry J. Raymond, of the New York Tribune, in his 
octavo volume of more than 800 pages, issued in 1865, printed 
a good steel engraving, with this title, sub-title and note: 


His father built this Cabin, and moved into it when Abraham 
was an infant, and resided there until he was seven years of 
age when he removed to Indiana. 

Thomas Lincoln did not build it, and Abraham never lived in it. 

Abraham Lincoln was born in the log cabin, now standing 
inclosed in a marble temple, above the Rock Spring, on the 
Lincoln farm, about two and one-half miles south of Hodgen- 
ville, in what was then Hardin and now is La Rue County, Ken 
tucky. The farm now is owned by the Government, and is a 
national park. The purchase of the farm, and the preservation 
of the cabin, is due to the good work of the Lincoln Farm 
Association. Of the birth of this Association, and of its suc 
cessful work in preserving this important building, the president, 
Mr. Richard Lloyd Jones, said on February 12, 1907: 

The most valuable assets of any nation are the traditions, the 
sacred associations, and shrines made holy by the accumulatory 
love with which successive generations bedeck them. George 
Eliot said : " No nation has ever become great without holidays 
and processions dedicated to the noble." The United States 
as yet is notoriously poor in this direction. This is not wholly 
on account of its youth, but on account also of the indifference 
to spiritual welfare which has characterized a youth enamored 
of material plenty and drunk with the prosperity that comes from 
the easy conquest of fertile acres and exhaustless mines. Ameri 
can youths have turned longing eyes toward the holy places of 
Europe, and visited the birthplaces of Robert Burns and Schiller, 
the tombs of Walter Scott and Victor Hugo, and the millennial 
monument of King Alfred at Winchester; while the birthplace 
of our matchless American the strong-handed, clear-headed, and 
great-hearted Lincoln has been left, after its acres have been 
impoverished by careless tillage, to become a humiliation to the 
poet and the historian, and the butt of ridicule to the irreverent. 

Since that strong yeoman pioneer, Thomas Lincoln, moved 


his family across the Ohio into the almost unbroken wilderness 
of Indiana, this historic ground has been transferred by title 
but three times. A year ago last August this " little model farm 
that raised a Man," as Mark Twain has happily called it, was 
placed on sale at public auction on the court-house steps at 
Hodgenville, Kentucky, the neighboring town, to free it from 
the entanglement of a protracted litigation between a private 
estate and that of a religious society that had tried to acquire it. 
At the time the Commonwealth of Kentucky directed this public 
sale it was discovered that this historic spot was coveted by at 
least two large mercantile establishments, both of which were 
planning to exploit it for commercial ends. To prevent this, and 
believing that this birthplace of the " First American " should 
forever belong to the American people, one of the present officers 
of The Lincoln Farm Association bought the farm, and at once 
interested a group of representative American citizens in forming 
a national association for the preservation of this ground. 

This group of citizens, acting as a self-appointed board of 
trustees, organized the Lincoln Farm Association, which was 
promptly incorporated under the laws of the State of New 
York. The title of the Lincoln birthplace farm was transferred 
to this association, and the program for enlarging the membership 
of the society was at once begun. 

Rather than make it possible for a few men of great wealth 
to contribute large sums to the development of this national 
shrine it was decided to receive into membership in the society 
any one who contributed to the general fund of the association 
as small a sum as twenty-five cents, and to limit all contributions 
to twenty-five dollars thus making the great memorial to Lin 
coln represent the tributes of all the people, whom he loved and 
served, and not those of a privileged few. 

The purpose and plans of this new patriotic society that was 
to make this Kentucky farm, almost in the center of population 
of the United States, a worthy companion of Mt. Vernon in the 
affections of our countrymen were placed before the President 
of the United States and his Cabinet, one of whom was one of 
the organizers of the society. All gave it most enthusiastic and 
hearty support. The scheme was then laid before members of 
the United States Senate and House of Representatives, Gov 
ernors of States, men of letters everywhere, and educators of 
national fame. With their unqualified endorsement, a year ago 
this week the Lincoln Farm Association, through the pages of 
some of the most prominent weekly and monthly publications and 
the newspapers throughout the country, appealed to the American 
public for members. The response was immediate and generous. 


Subscriptions came in from every State in the Union North and 
South, East and West. To every subscriber the Association 
issued a handsomely steel-engraved certificate of membership, 
bearing a portrait of Lincoln, a picture of the log cabin in which 
he was born, the White House as it appeared when he occupied 
it, the autographs of all the officers and trustees, and the seal 
of the Association. The names of these members are filed in 
card catalogues and classified by States. When the list of mem 
bers has been completed and the constructive work of the Asso 
ciation has culminated in the centenary of February 12, 1909, 
this list will be preserved and guarded in the Historical Museum, 
which will have been erected on the farm, as the honor roll that 
built the Lincoln Farm Memorial. 

The Lincoln Farm Association to-day represents about twenty 
thousand members. The average subscription has been a little 
less than a dollar and forty cents to a member, and both the 
average of the subscriptions and the issue of certificates of mem 
bership have increased with each succeeding month. 

During the year the trustees of the Association have placed 
the farm under the personal charge of a competent caretaker, who 
lives on the ground. They have sent Mr. Jules Guerin and 
Mr. Guy Lowell, two of America s foremost landscape architects, 
to survey the ground and plan its development, and they have 
purchased the cabin in which Lincoln was born from the specu 
lators who took it from the little knoll where it originally stood 
and exploited it as a side-show at various fairs and international 
expositions. This cabin was found stored in a cellar at College 
Point, on Long Island, New York. The Pennsylvania Railroad 
provided a special car, which Mr. John Wanamaker decorated 
with flags and the national colors. The Governor of Kentucky 
sent to New York a special squad of State militiamen to escort 
the old weather-worn logs, Lincoln s old Kentucky home, back 
to its native soil. Its ride to Louisville is historic. It rested a 
day under military guard at Philadelphia, Baltimore, Harrisburg, 
Altoona, Pittsburg, Columbus, and Indianapolis. Thousands of 
citizens came to see and begged the privilege of touching the 
sacred pile. Mayors of cities and Governors of States paid 
eloquent tribute to the rude timbers that first sheltered the sad 
humorist of the Sangamon. And when at last the special train 
that bore it, brilliant in red, white, and blue, crossed the Ohio 
into its native border State it was met at the Louisville depot 
with martial music and military honors. It was carted through 
the city s streets and placed in the city s park, where Colonel 
Henry Watterson, one of the trustees of the Association, and 
Adlai E. Stevenson, former Vice-President of the United States, 


himself a Kentuckian, made the formal orations welcoming back 
to its native soil the cabin in which Abraham Lincoln was 

The most cordial cooperation has been pledged by many o! 
the surviving commanding generals of the Confederate Army, 
and the Grand Army of the Republic has officially endorsed the 
work of the Association, and empowered its commander-in-chief 
to call upon its upwards of six thousand posts and to enlisting 
all patriotic citizens as members of the Association. 

On the 1 2th day of February, 1909, the nation will celebrate 
the one hundredth anniversary of Lincoln s birth. On that day 
the Lincoln Farm Association will dedicate the birthplace farm 
to the American people. The principal address will be made 
by President Roosevelt, and the nation s most distinguished 
representatives, North and South, will take part in this dedication 
and centennial celebration. No national park within our vast 
domain can emphasize our national ideals and our abiding union 
as will this birthplace farm. 

Ninety-eight years have passed since these rough rolling acres 
made claim to the affections of coming generations. The soil 
which cradled the man of tender strength, and the air which 
first fed the heart that suffered for a whole distracted people, 
and not for a single section, can serve a nobler end than ripening 
corn and squashes. The inspiration of high citizenship must ever 
emanate from such a spot. In these years, so crammed with 
eager life and so possessed with appetite for gain, the lesson 
of the Lincoln Farm becomes the nation s imperative need. 
Democracy is ever humble. The full-grown souls made at simple 
shrines are worth our emulation. The light of history is with 
each succeeding year revealing with greater clearness the rare 
beauty of Lincoln s strong spirit. He harmonized his high ideals 
of speech with conduct; and back of the black clouds of passion 
through which this uncouth figure led his divided people there 
always shone the soft radiance of a love unsoiled by a single 
touch of hate. The country not only reveres the memory of 
Abraham Lincoln, but it loves the man. To his people the 
" plain people " shall ever be entrusted the care of his first 
home, and there they shall, as he himself said he always tried 
to do, " pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever a flower will 

The past half century s unparalleled development of material 
riches and prosperity has not given our nation the supremacy of 
the commercial world without cost. Our keener patriotic sensi 
bilities have been dulled in the strenuous competition for indi 
vidual success. It is a pathetic truth which supports Colonel 


Henry Watterson s assertion that to-day we love the dollar as 
once we loved liberty. Though we are a virile people we are 
not without need of these things that remind us of times when 
cheeks blushed for the sorrows of men. 

To Lincoln s people to-day is given the rare privilege of 
revealing to all generations to come that high strain of patriotism 
known to Lincoln s men of nearly fifty years ago. If laws 
safeguard nations less than songs, and sentiment alone inspires 
the souls of men, how better can we ensure the perpetuation 
of our country s glory than by keeping alive and before us the 
heroic and unselfish achievements of those who made firm our 
foundations in the past? 

This birthplace farm will symbolize to our posterity the strong 
heroism that left the New England hills and the fertile valleys 
of Virginia, self-sufficient in their needs, to hew a nation out of 
a wilderness. It lies in the neutral State that in our great crisis 
was torn by its loyalty to all the stars in the flag. It will forever 
be a monument to our union rather than to our lamentable differ 
ences and it will be the most signal tribute ever paid by the 
American people to the nation s greatest servant. 

Richard Lloyd Jones, who represented Collier s Weekly in 
the purchase of the Lincoln Farm, and was made President of 
Lincoln Farm Association, was at the time managing editor of 
Collier s Weekly. It was through his influence, in good part, 
that Mr. Collier became interested. Back of the interest of Mr. 
Jones lay the interest of his father, Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones, 
Pastor of All Soul s Church, Chicago, editor of Unity, veteran of 
the Civil War, and fearless champion of a hundred good causes. 
Jenkin Lloyd Jones, more than any other man, deserves to be 
remembered as the rescuer of the Lincoln Birthplace. 

He visited the place in February, 1904, and found it neglected 
and held in no high local regard. He wrote an article which was 
published in Unity March 24, 1904, calling on Congress to pur 
chase the farm and on the people to contribute memorial buildings, 
museum, and so on. His whole plan has not been followed, and 
need not here be reprinted, but the substance of his article and 
plea was this : 

A slow, chilly drive through a drizzling rain over a pasty red 
clay road of three miles from the little village of Hodgenville, 
Kentucky, brought me to the cradle spot of the greatest American, 
the sole American who shares with Washington the love and 
admiration of the civilized world. Washington and Lincoln are 


the two names that have been lifted above all sectional, party and 
social prejudices. They have ceased even to be American they 
belong to Humanity. King and Peasant, Monarchy and Republic, 
rich and poor, foreign and native, North and South, unite in 
honoring them. 

It is a touching tribute to both that their names are so often 
connected and are fast becoming indissoluble. In the estimation 
of the competent as well as in the admiration of the young it is 
not Washington or Lincoln, but it is Washington and Lincoln. 
There is no occasion for invidious comparison. So different are 
they there is no chance for rival interests, for local or other 
jealousies. So removed are they in time and temperament, so 
different were their tasks, that they can never be considered as 
antagonists or rivals. Washington created, Lincoln perpetuated. 
Washington directed the crude forces of a primitive country, 
Lincoln directed and controlled the same forces grown turbulent 
and for a mad space of time defiant and antagonistic 

Proud is the Nation that has produced both a Washington 
and a Lincoln, so different and yet so near akin. Washington 
was noble; so was Lincoln, but he was loving too. Washington 
was just; so was Lincoln, but he added to justice, gentleness. 
Washington was sagacious; so was Lincoln, and he was also 
witty. Washington was pre-eminently guided by the head, he 
was the judgment of his people and his cause; Lincoln, not 
wanting in judgment, was dominated by the heart; he was the 
providence of his people, the friend of his foes, and in the light of 
time his foes have become his appreciative friends and loyal 

And still the birthplace of this great American is the picture 
of desolation and neglect. The humble cabin wherein he was 
born has been carried away as a curious show; there remain to 
mark the spot only a crude pole set in the ground and a few 
flagstones left there by Nature or by chance. Even the famous 
spring of water is desecrated and neglected accessible to pigs, 
cattle and horses. This spring still flows with delicious water, 
but the pilgrim who drinks from it must drink as I was glad 
to do without the help of cup or goblet. It still pours its wealth 
of water from under the overhanging cliffs, as it did when it at 
tracted Thomas Lincoln, the carpenter, and led him to pre 
empt his homestead, to cut the logs and to build the hut into 
which he brought his bride, Nancy Hanks, and where the three chil 
dren were born to them. 

The great trees are gone, but the ride of sixty-four miles 
from Louisville enables the tourist to judge even yet what the 
great forest must have been in its pristine glory. The solitary 
sycamores, the stately elms, the great oaks and the vigilant pines 


that still remain, suggest the impressive surroundings of the 
little cabin into which, on the twelfth day of February, 1809, 
Abraham Lincoln was born. The farm of no acres, the title of 
which is only two or three removes from the land warrant of 
Thomas Lincoln, is now worse than an abandoned field. The 
title is in litigation, and the local estimate holds the land well 
nigh valueless. Fifteen hundred dollars was mentioned as an 
extravagant price for it. An old house in a state of advanced 
dilapidation remains on the place and is occupied by an intelligent 
man of the mountain type, who seems to act as an unauthorized, 
at least as an unremunerated custodian. A bill was introduced 
into the Kentucky Legislature a few weeks ago for the purchase 
by the State of this farm and providing for setting it apart as a 
memorial park, forever dedicated to the public; but the fate of 
this bill seemed to be a matter of supreme indifference to the 
residents of Hodgenville; indeed, its very existence appeared to 
be unknown to many of them. The attitude of this otherwise 
thrifty little village seems to be that of indifference, not of igno 
rance. My driver expressed the public sentiment when he said, 
" We people here think it mighty common, but folks what come 
from north of the Ohio river make a great to-do about it, and 
fuss around cutting sas f ras sticks and the like." Surely this ought 
not to be. The intelligence of our own country, our obligation 
to the future and our respect for the " consensus of the com 
petent " of the world over ought to lift this neglected shrine into 
the dignity and respect that become the birthplace of a great 
historical character. 

This cannot be done by local enthusiasm, nor does it seem 
to me to be a State problem or obligation. It is a national lesson, 
a national opportunity which rises into a national obligation. 
Surely the government that is expending millions of dollars on the 
historic parks of Arlington, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Missionary 
Ridge and Vicksburg, could spend a few thousands in preserving 
this shrine as a pacific memorial to the civilian whose splendor 
outshines all the epauleted heroes of all our wars. 

How is this to be done? First let the Lincoln farm be bought 
by the Government, then all else will follow easily. Once the 
title is secured, a sense of permanence and of adequate mainten 
ance will be assured. Then something like the following should 
speedily follow: 

A word as to the general treatment of the farm. It should 
be all fenced with a good honest rail fence, worm pattern, six 
rails high, properly blocked, staked and ridered " such a fence 
as father used to build." Such a fence could be made picturesque, 
for there is the possibility of art in a rail fence as there is in a 
marble statue. 


The farm is divided by a public road. On the spring side 
it should be brought to as high a stage of park cultivation as pos 
sible ; lawn treatment with a few sheep, a lot of chickens and one 
or two old-fashioned little red cows, not the new-fashioned Jer 
seys. The opposite section of the farm, on the other side of the 
road, should be restored as soon as possible to forest glory. Let 
all the old trees be planted back, the necessary walks arranged 
for, and then let Nature do her work, and a hundred years from 
now there will be a forest indeed, dense and majestic, such as 
the botanist will delight to visit. Near the entrance on the spring 
side let the Government put the noblest statue of Abraham 
Lincoln that art ever produced. Awaiting something better, this 
might well be a replica of St. Gaudens noble statue, now 
situated in Lincoln Park, Chicago, the most worthy representation 
of the great emancipator yet modeled by sculptor s hand. 

Has the time not come? Abraham Lincoln can wait; his 
fame is sure, but the American children and coming generations 
cannot afford to lose the passing opportunity. The old settlers 
are dying, the back woods are nearly all cleared, the type of 
American life represented by Thomas and Nancy Lincoln is fast 
passing away. Even the relics of that life are becoming scarce, 
and that life is too valuable, too full of spiritual potency, to 
pregnant with divine grace and power to be forgotten and lost. 
For this reason there is occasion for haste. Let the legislators 
at Washington cease for awhile their clamorings and their clash- 
ings in the interests of parties, sections and the enginery of 
destruction, and apply themselves to this constructive task, so 
easily accomplished, so filled with pacific potencies, so benignant 
a contribution to history. 

Theodore Roosevelt, then President of the United States, 
was the principal speaker on the day when the Lincoln Memorial 
was dedicated; but on Sunday, February n, 1917, not many 
months before his own death, a service of remembrance was 
held at the farm near Hodgenville, and Jenkin Lloyd Jones was 
the chief orator. He was permitted to see of the fruit of his own 
toil. The author of this volume met him a few days afterward 
at Cumberland Gap, and the glow of that memory was still upon 
the heroic old soldier. 

The early illustrated biographies of Lincoln contain a steel 
engraving showing what purports to have been his birthplace. 
Even in the Lincoln home in Springfield, this engraving is shown 
as " the house where Mr. Lincoln was born and where he lived 
the first seven years of his life." Even the Chicago Historical 


Society displayed the engraving with the same information until 
it was recently corrected. That picture is not of the house 
where Lincoln was born, but of the house where Thomas and 
Nancy lived in Elizabethtown when they were first married, 
and which the early biographers assumed to have been also his 
birthplace. A number of reputable works have easily, and par 
donably, fallen into the same error. 

Even among such cabins as abounded in primitive Kentucky, 
the Lincoln home was humble. Many log houses had two rooms, 
with an open porch between and a stone fireplace at each end. 
Not so the Lincoln house, which was small and with a stick 

The farm which Thomas Lincoln occupied was as sterile as 
any in the region. It was nearly destitute of timber and its 
growth was low bushes and " barren grass." The land was pleas 
antly rolling, and nearly all of it tillable. But the soil was a 
stubborn clay, which even now is only meagerly productive. If 
Thomas Lincoln had been a very enterprising man he would have 
bought a better farm, for land was the cheapest thing in sight in 
those days and no one possessed of enterprise had difficulty in 
buying a really good tract. 

What title, if any, Thomas Lincoln ever had to this farm is 
not known. Recorded deeds were few., Land transfers were 
commonly made on what was called a land bond. The bond by 
which a portion of this same farm, including the site of the 
birthplace, came into the possession of the Creal family is in 
existence. It is signed by E. Duckworth, who had inherited it 
from William Duckworth, deceased, and is made to Micajah 
Middleton under date of August 17, 1827. A year later, on 
July 21, 1828, Micajah Middleton endorsed this contract to 
Richard Creal, whose name in the contract is spelled Crail. The 
maker of such a bond was theoretically required at any time to 
change a warranty deed for it, but in a majority of cases this 
formality was dispensed with. 

It is not known that Thomas Lincoln had even this kind of 
title. Land was sometimes taken over by verbal contract and 
boundaries were established by piling a little brush at each of the 
corners. Exact boundaries were seldom attempted, excepting 
where a stream or other natural object gave a fixed line. Tech 
nically, Thomas Lincoln s title to the place where his son Abraham 
was born may have been nothing more than that of a squatter; 


but even squatters titles had a value in that day and they were 
generally respected. Whatever the character of Thomas Lin 
coln s claim upon this land, it afforded him all the protection 
he needed during the brief period of his occupancy. This is 
supposed to have been about four years, but there is good reason 
to doubt his living there for even so long a period as this. 



In the name of God, Amen. I, Isaac Lincoln, of the County 
of Carter and State of Tennessee, being sick and weak of body, 
but of sound mind and disposing memory (for which I thank 
God) and calling to mind the uncertainty of human life, and 
being desirous to dispose of all such worldly substance as it has 
pleased God to bless me with, I give, devise, and bequeath the 
same in manner following, that is to say: 

1st. I desire that all my just debts and funeral expenses be 
paid out of my perishable property, by my executrix hereinafter 

2ndly. After the payment of my debts and funeral expenses, 
I give, devise and bequeath to my wife, Mary Lincoln, all my 
real and personal estate to dispose of as she may think proper. 

3rdly and lastly. I do hereby constitute and appoint my be 
loved wife, Mary Lincoln, my sole executrix of this my last will 
and testament, hereby revoking all others or former wills or 
testaments, by me heretofore made. In witness whereof I have 
hereunto set my hand and seal this the 22nd day of April in the 
Year of our Lord, 1816. 

Signed, Sealed, Published and Declared to be the last will 
and testament of the above named Isaac Lincoln, in the presence 
of us, who at his request and in his presence have hereunto sub 
scribed our names as witnesses to same. 







I, Mary Lincoln, of the County of Carter in the State of Ten 
nessee, being of sound mind and memory, though weak of body, 
and being anxious to dispose of all such worldly property as 
my Creator has left me with, do hereby make, ordain and estab 
lish this as my last will and testament. I give my soul to God 


who created it, hoping that He will receive and bless me in a 
world of happiness hereafter; and when I shall have departed 
this life, I desire that my executor hereinafter named shall give 
my body a decent and Christian burial. 

First. I will, give, devise and bequeath to Campbell Crow, 
the lower plantation, it being the one on which he now lives, 
adjoining the lands of Alfred M. Carter on the West and South, 
and of John Carriger on the East. 

Second. I will, give, and bequeath to Phoebe Crow, wife of 
Campbell Crow, my negro girl, Margaret and her four children, 
to wit, Lucy, Mina, Martin and Mahalla. 

Third. I will, give, devise and bequeath to William Stover, 
the plantation on which I now live, with all the hereditaments 
appurtenances to the same belonging, the said plantation sup 
posed to be composed of two different parcels and adjoining 
John Carriger s home plantation and believed also to adjoin the 
land of Alfred M. Carter on the South and bounded on the East 
and North by Watauga River. 

I give the said plantation to the said William Stover, to have, 
hold and enjoy during his life and at his death to descend to 
his heirs. 

Fourth. I will, give, and bequeath to William Stover, the 
following negroes, to wit, Patsy (a negro girl) and her two 
children, Cynthia and Landon ; also negro woman, Jane and her 
two children Sam and Tom; also negro woman Mary and her 
six children, to wit, Elizabeth, Campbell, Margaret, Charlotte, 
Delphy and Bill ; also Caesar and Lucy, to whom I desire the 
said William Stover to permit to remain during their lives on the 
plantation which I have hereinbefore bequeathed to him. It 
is my will that the said Stover, so long as the said Caesar and 
Lucy continue to live, shall clothe and support them. I also give 
and bequeath to the said William Stover, to wit, George, Phoebe, 
Eliza, children of Lucy, whom I wish the said William Stover 
to remain on the home plantation that they may take care of the 
aforesaid negroes, Caesar and Lucy during their lives. 

I also give and bequeath the following other negroes to the 
said William Stover, to wit, Esther, and her seven children, that 
is to say, Lavisa, Violet, Juba, Lucinda, Mary, Lewis, and Phoeba. 
I also give and bequeath to the said William Stover, two other 
negroes, to wit, William and Isaac, children of Lucy. 

Fifth. I also give, devise and bequeath to the said William 
Stover, all my horses, cattle, hogs and sheep, my wagon, all 
my farming utensils, my household and kitchen furniture and 
all the debts, dues and demands which may be owing to me at 
the time of my decease. 


Sixth. I also will, give and bequeath to Campbell Crow my 
interest in any crop which he may have attended for himself 
upon my land, or which he may be attending for himself upon 
my land at the time of my decease. 

Seventh. I also will, give and bequeath to William Stover 
all the grain of every description which I own at the time of 
my death. 

Eighth. I will, give and devise and bequeath to Christian 
Carriger, Senior, the following negroes, to wit: Negro woman 
Letty and five of her children, to wit, Christy, Tennessee, Mor- 
decai, Nathaniel, and also said Letty s youngest child. 

Ninth. I will, give and devise to Mary Lincoln Carriger, 
daughter of Christian Carriger, Senior, two negro girls, children 
of Letty, to wit, Sarah, Seraphina and Ann. 

Tenth. I will, devise, give and bequeath to William Stover 
all the other real and personal estate, not hereinbefore specifically 
named of which I may be possessed, or the owner at the time 
of my decease. 

Eleventh. I require the said William Stover out of the estate 
herein bequeathed to him to pay and discharge all the honest 
debts or claims which I may be owing or which may be against 
me at the time of my death. 

Lastly. I do hereby constitute, nominate and appoint the 
said William Stover the executor of this my last will and testa 
ment, and it is my will that the said William Stover be not 
required to give any security for the discharge of his duties as 
executor of this my last will and testament. 

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal 
this the 27th day of April in the Year of our Lord, one thousand 
eight hundred and thirty four. 



Signed, sealed and acknowledged in the presence of 



Memoranda of James G. Jenkins, Elizabethtown, Tenn., from 
letters in 1914 and 1915, to D. J. Knotts. 

I went to see L. W. Hampton, a grandson of Johnson Hamp 
ton, the horse-trader you spoke of. He says he had always un 
derstood that his grandfather, Johnson (not John) Hampton was 


a horse-trader and visited North Carolina, West Virginia and 
South Carolina in his travels. At the time of my call Mrs. 
Hampton had become a spiritualist and Mr. Hampton was getting 
into the business also. In a short time he lost his mind over 
spiritualism and is now in the insane asylum. He came to me 
and told me that he had called up the spirit of his grandfather 
and his grandfather refused to talk on the subject very much. 
He came to the conclusion that his grandfather was the father 
of Abraham Lincoln. 

Isaac Lincoln married Mary Ward, and my great grand 
father, Daniel Stover, married also a Ward, a sister of Mary. 
Isaac had one child and it was drowned when very young. They 
took my great uncle, William Stover and raised him, and at 
Mrs. Lincoln s death he inherited most of their estate. They 
were wealthy for their day. William Stover married Miss Sarah 
Drake, who claimed to be a descendant of Sir Francis Drake. 
The Stovers came to Tennessee from Pennsylvania and were of 
German descent. They were Baptists. 

There is a tradition that Abraham Lincoln was born here 
and his parents took him to Kentucky when a babe in their arms. 
There was a cabin on the side of Lynn Mountain, near Isaac s 
residence, where Tom lived. Dr. Nat Hyder, who has been dead 
many years, gathered up much history and he contended that 
Abe was born here and was taken to Kentucky, when a babe. 

This valley was settled by God-fearing people. At first the 
Presbyterians predominated, but the Baptists, being more evan 
gelical, grew faster. Now the Baptists predominate, with Meth 
odists second in numbers. 

No family stood higher here than the Stovers. I never heard 
of one of their women going astray. They were noted for 
their purity. Colonel Daniel Stover married Miss Mary Johnson, 
daughter of President Andrew Johnson. My grandfather was 
Solomon Hendrix Stover, son of Daniel Stover and brother of 
William Stover. 

I am under the impression that Abraham Lincoln was born 
here, but of course have no way to prove it. Of course Ken 
tucky claims him. 


In a letter addressed to David Lincoln, of Virginia, and written 
from Washington, April 2, 1848, and included in his works edited 
by Nicolay and Hay, Vol. I., page 117, Abraham Lincoln said, 
among other things : 


There is no longer any doubt that your Uncle Abraham and 
my grandfather was the same man. His family did reside in 
Washington County, Kentucky, just as you say you found them, 
in 1801 or 1802. The oldest son, Uncle Mordecai, near twenty 
years ago, removed from Kentucky to Hancock County, Illinois, 
where within a year or two afterward he died, and where his 
surviving children now live. His two sons there now are Abra 
ham and Mordecai, and their postoffice is La Harp. 

Uncle Josiah, farther back than my recollection, went from 
Kentucky to Blue River, Indiana. . . . 

My father, Thomas, is still living in Coles County, Illinois, 
being in the seventy-first year of his age. His postoffice is 
Charleston, Coles County, Illinois. I am his only child. I am 
in my fortieth year and live in Springfield, Sangamon County, 

I think my father has told me that his grandfather had four 
brothers, Isaac, Jacob, John and Thomas. Is this correct?. And 
which of them was your father? Are any of them alive? I 
am quite sure that Isaac resided on Watauga, near a point where 
Tennessee and Virginia join, and that he has been dead more 
than twenty, perhaps thirty years. Also that Thomas removed 
to Kentucky, near Lexington, where he died a good many years 



In the name of God, Amen, I Luke Hanks of South Carolina, 
Pendleton County, being now in a weake and low state of health 
but sound of memory do make this my last will and testament 
this twenty first day of May seventeen hundred and eighty nine 
in maner and for following viz. 

Imperimus I bequeath my sole to allmighty God in hopes of 
a blessed and glorious reserrection thro the merits of Jesus Christ 
my savior and my body to the Earth to have a decent and Chris 
tian Burial at the charge of my executors and as touching and 
concerning such worldly goods as it hath pleased God to bestow 
upon me I give bequeath dispose them in the maner and form 
following in the first place I will that my just debts and funeral 
charges be pade. 

Item I give and bequeath to my dear and well beloved wife 
Ann Hanks all my hole estate real and personal during her nat 
ural life and at her death to be equally divide among all my chil 
dren and if any of my children should marry I will that my 
wife may dispose of any of my estate to them toward their sus 
tenance but shall be accounted for at her death to rest of the 
children and lastly I constitute and ordain my loving wife, Anne 
Hanks executrix and my friend John Haynie executor of this 
my last will and testament sind with my hand and sealed with 
my seal the day and year within written. 



In presence of 


Note apparently by Clerk of Court: 

There is no papers with the will showing what disposition 
was made of the land. 





Recorded in Book No. i, page 106, Records of Probate Court 
of Abbeville County, South Carolina; furnished by J. F. Miller, 
Judge of Probate, January 17, 1911, and certified with seal of 
the Court. 

I. Inventory. 

We the underscribers in obedience to our order of the Court 
of Abbeville County to us directed, do make the following in 
ventory and appraisment of the estate of Luke Hanks, deceased, 
to wit: 

L S d 

2 Cows and Calves 747 One Steer 357 
One Heifer 2O/ 6 9 8 

1 Mare and Colt 1507 One Bay Filly So/. . . IT 10 o 

2 Bells 5/6 6 Hogs at io/ each 6o/ 

4 Shoats 12/ 3 17 6 

i Feather Bed & Furniture I2O/ i do do 160 
do do 60 17 o o 

1 Chest 12/6 i Table 3/ i Churn 3/ i 

Tub 2/ i 6 

2 Sad Irons 4/ 2 Hammers 3/ I Pr Nip 
pers i/ o 8 o 

Table Utencils 12/ Parcel of plantation tools 

39/ 2 ii o 

2 Iron & Hooks & other kitchen furniture 2 9 o 

A Parcel of Pewter & Tin 45/ i Muskett Gun 

17/6 3 2 6 

A Parcel of Leather 57/ I Cotton Wheel 2/ 

Cards 17/4 3 14 4 

2 Water Pails & 2 Piggon 7/ o 7 o 

1 Tract of land 210 acres 42 o o 

2 Razor Hones & Strap o io o 


Given under our hands and seals this 6 day of August,. 1792 

South Carolina, 

Stephen Willis, James Nash and John Read Long appeared 
before me and being duly sworn to appraise the estate Real and 


personal, of Luke Hanks, deceased, that shall be shown them 
by Ann Hanks, executrix, and John Haynie, executor. 
Sworn to this 6th day of September, 1792. 


II. Probation of Will, Luke Hanks, deceased. 



In open Court this seventh day of October One thousand 
seven hundred and eighty nine. Personally came Blake Mauldin, 
one of the witnesses to the above will, and made oath that he 
saw Luke Hanks, deceased, sign, seal, publish, pronounce and 
declare the same to be his last will and testament, and that he 
was then of sound and perfect mind, memory and understanding 
to the best of Deponents knowledge and belief and that John 
Reaves together with this deponent did subscribe their names 
thereto as witnesses, in the present of the testator and at his 
request, and in the presence of each other Certified by order 
of Court the day and date above written. 


Ann Hanks, the executrix, and John Hainey, the executor, 
named in the above will took the oath of executors of said will 
in open Court of Abbeville County the seventh of October, 1789 

(Seal of Probate Court.) 

III. Extract from Letter, J. F. Miller, Probate Judge 
December 30, 1910. 

I find among the papers pertaining to the said estate the 
following papers ; to wit ; the will of testator, the Appraise War 
rant, the Appraise Bill. 

The testator does not give the name of his children. 

The personal property was appraised at 100 pounds $500. 
Real Estate 210 acres 42 pounds $210. Date of appraise 
ments August 6, 1792. J. F. MILLER. 

Note. It is important to notice that Judge Miller says, and 
these documents show, that Luke Hanks does not name his 
children. W. E. B. 


In the name of God Amen. I Joseph Hanks of Nelson 
County, State of Kentucky, being of sound mind and memory, 
but weak in body, and calling to mind the frailty ot all human 


nature, do make and devise this my last will and testament in 
the manner and form following, to wit: 

Item. I give and bequeath unto my son Thomas one sorrel horse 

called " Major ". 
Item. I give and bequeath unto my son Joshua one gray mare 

called " Bonny " 
Item. I give and bequeath unto my son William one gray horse 

called " Gilbert ". 
Item. I give and bequeath unto my son Charles one roan horse 

called " Dove ". 

Item. I give and bequeath unto my son Joseph one sorrel horse 
called " Bald." Also the land whereon I now live con 
taining one hundred and fifty acres. 
Item. I give and bequeath unto my daughter Elizabeth one 

heifer yearling called " Gentle." 
Item. I give and bequeath to my daughter Polly one heifer 

yearling called " Lady." 
Item. I give and bequeath unto my daughter Nancy one heifer 

yearling called " Piedy ". 

Item. I give and bequeath unto my wife Nancy all and singular 
my whole estate during her life. Afterwards to be 
equally divided between all my children. 
It is also my will and desire that the whole of the property 
above bequeathed should be the property of my wife during 
her life. 

And lastly I constitute ordain and appoint my wife Nancy 
as Executrix of and Executrix to this my last will and testament. 
Signed, sealed and delivered in presence of us this eighth day 
of January, One thousand seven hundred and ninety three. 




At a court begun and held for Nelson County on Tuesday 
the fourteenth day of May, 1793. This last will and testament of 
Joseph Hanks dec d was produced in court and sworn to by 
William Hanks, one of the executors therein named and was 
proved by the oaths of Isaac Lansdale and John Davis, sub 
scribing witnesses thereto, and ordered to be recorded. 

Attest. BEN GRAYSON, Clerk. 
A Copy 

Attest. MORGAN GILKEY, Clerk 

Nelson County Court, November 10, 1913. 



From Letters of Mrs. J. T. Manon (Mary Ellen Hanks, 
daughter of John Hanks), with some assistance from her cousin 
Mrs. M. E. Jordan, in letters to D. J. Knotts, February and 
March, 1913, and July n and October 27, 1913. 


I am a daughter of John Hanks, who split rails with Abraham 
Lincoln and carried the rails into the Republican Convention in 

I was born in Illinois in 1844, married Dec. 31, 1868, to J. T. 
Manon, and removed to Humbolt County, California, November 


My father s father lived near the Falls of Rough Creek, 
Kentucky. His name was William Hanks. 

My father, John Hanks, was born near the Falls of Rough, 
Ky., February 9, 1802; married Susan Malindy Wilson. He 
moved to Illinois in 1826, and died July I, 1889, near Decatur. 

My mother, Susan Malindy Hanks, was born Feb. 14, 1804, 
and died March n, 1865, m Macon County, Illinois. 

John and Susan Hanks were parents of the following children : 
William, married 

Emily Grayson 
Mary Ellen 

The children of William (?) and Hanks were: 

Sons : Charles married a Miss Morehead 

John (my father) married Susan Malindy Wilson 

William married Polly Young 
Joseph married Sarah Freeman 

Daughters : Nancy married a Mr. Miller 
Celia married a Mr. Dunham 
Lucy or Lucinda married a Mr. Douglas 
Elizabeth or Betsy married a Mr. Ray and 

afterward a Mr. Dillen. 

I remember hearing Father speak of the Sparrows and Ship- 
leys, but know nothing definite about them. 


My grandfather was a shoemaker and a farmer. He died 
in Sangamon Co., 111. 

I knew Dennis Hanks very well. He was a shoemaker, and 
a first (?) cousin of my father. I think his mother was a sister 
of Lincoln s mother. 

I know nothing definite about the Friend family. 

Dennis was one of those stray boys who often come into 
the world with no known father. He took the name of Hanks 
from his mother. His mother was a cousin of John Hanks. 

John Hanks was a Universalist until a few years before his 
death when he joined the Disciples. Some of my brothers be 
longed to the Baptist Church; one sister to the Congregational; 
one to the United Brethren. I belong to the Methodists. 

I know nothing about our distant relatives. 

My uncles were rather above the medium height; so was 
my father, who weighed about 200 pounds. 

My cousin, Mrs. M. E. Jordan, is a daughter of my father s 
sister Lucy or Lucinda. Her maiden name was Douglas. 

Mr. Knotts has made a pencil note on Mrs. Manon s letter 
with reference to her grandfather s name. At first she was not 
sure if it was Joseph or Thomas. Later, after conferring with 
Mrs. Jordan, they agreed that it was William. Mr. Knotts says 
that records show that William s wife was Betty, and the His 
torical Society says it was Elizabeth Hall. 

Mrs. Manon s statement that her father was first cousin to 
Dennis Hanks appears to be contradicted by the statement that 
his mother was a cousin of John Hanks. John and Dennis were 
not first cousins ; Mrs. Manon is mistaken about this, and appears 
to be correct in saying that Nancy, the mother of Dennis, was 
John s first cousin. However, the question is difficult, and I 
have not been able, with the information now available, to reach 
a conclusion in these matters. I give these memoranda for what 
ever they are worth. 

The article in The Atlantic Monthly for February, 1920, by 
Mr. Arthur E. Morgan, a prominent civil engineer of Dayton, 
Ohio, told a very interesting story of Mr. Morgan s travels in 
the Ozarks and of his meeting with certain representatives of 
the Hanks family ; and also of his securing additional information 
through a friend, who, as I now learn from Mr. Morgan, was 
then Miss Lucy Griscom, and is now Mrs. Arthur E. Morgan, 
on a journey to Oregon, where she met other representatives 


of the Hanks family. The following is my own summary of 
the genealogical part of Mr. Morgan s article : 


As disclosed by Mr. Arthur E. Morgan in Atlantic for 
February, 1920. 

SARAH, or POLLY HANKS, sister of Lincoln s mother, 
never married, but had six children, inter alia, SOPHIE, who 
died in November, 1895. Her three children were living in differ 
ent parts of the Ozarks in 1909. 

These three children of SOPHIE HANKS were children of 
at least two different fathers, one of whom was named Lynch. 
The other s name is not given. It is not stated whether she was 
married to either or both of these men. 

Of only one of SOPHIE HANKS children is much detail 
given, and his surname is not stated. 

These three children are : 

1. JOHN LYNCH, who lived east of Iron Mountain, Mo. 
Very old, memory failing. He was a voter in 1861, and voted 
against Lincoln, and is thus older than the son who was Mr. 
Morgan s chief source of information. 

2. Mrs. NANCY DAVIDSON, maiden name not given, liv 
ing in 1909 with her husband at Limestone Valley, Ark. 

3. "THE DOCTOR" born in Dubois County, Indiana, 
December 26, 1843; his name withheld. In spring of 1847 ^ e 
moved from Indiana to St. Francis County, Mo. Taught school, 
served in Civil War, and " practiced physic " living in Jasper, 
Ark., 1874-1909 since when he has lived in Harrison, Ark., hav 
ing given up his practice. The Doctor is Mr. Morgan s chief 
source of information concerning Lincoln s school days in Indi 
ana, and his information is in essential accord with such as we 
already have, and confirms that of Dennis Hanks, our best wit 
ness on the youth of Lincoln, though he is none too good. The 
Doctor s information is through his mother, Sophie Hanks. 

The. Doctor said his grandmother, Sarah or Polly Hanks, and 
Nancy Hanks, Lincoln s mother, were half-sisters, and also 
cousins. This means that one man, President Lincoln s grand 
father, had relations with the two Hanks sisters, Polly and 
Nancy. If so much as that was known in the Hanks family, 
more must have been known. What was the name of this man? 

The article interested me much, and raised more questions 
than it answered. 

Mr. Morgan has generously given me all the information 
which he has been able to secure. I regret that it does not 


answer the more important of my questions. He gives the 
name of " The Doctor " as James Legrand, and says that on 
the question of the father of Nancy Hanks he could obtain no 
additional information: 

Referring to the Doctor s remark that Nancy Hanks, and 
Sarah, or Polly, were half-sisters, also cousins, I have no in 
formation beyond that contained in the Atlantic article and the 
notes inclosed. In many cases interesting facts were lost. Some 
times the Doctor or his wife were willing to fill in the gaps, but 
when I questioned them closely, I found they were uncertain. 
I last heard from the Doctor indirectly in January, 1920, at 
which time he was very sick with pneumonia. Letters to his 
wife have not been answered. I am at present making an effort 
to get in touch with the family, and hope to be able to supply 
this information soon. 

The Doctor had 18 half-sisters and brothers, and one whole 
sister, nineteen in all. 

The information obtained by Miss Griscom, now Mrs. Mor 
gan, is from John T. Hanks, son of Dennis Hanks, and grandson 
of Mrs. Sarah Bush Lincoln. He said to her: 

" Abe Lincoln s step-mother was my grandmother," which 
was true. John was born in Indiana in 1828, and was one of 
the sixteen people who went to Illinois in 1830. He was sure 
that Abraham Lincoln s mother died, not in Indiana, but in 
Kentucky. He was sure the poverty of Abe in his boyhood 
had been exaggerated; Abe did not need to read by the light 
of pine-knots, since there were candles abundant from the fam 
ily s own hogs. 1 

In the same place in Oregon lived James Lewis Hanks, a 
son of John Hanks. He and John T. were rivals in their stories 
about their intimacy with Abraham Lincoln. 

Miss Griscom compiled in a family tree their joint knowledge 
of their lineage. Mr. Morgan calls attention to manifest errors 
in it, and they lie plain on the face of it. It is very well worth 
reproducing here, however, for it shows that in the memory 
of these two old men, one the son of John Hanks and the other 
the son of Dennis, Nancy Hanks was legitimate. 

The family, as these two men gave the data to Miss Griscom, 

*Did people make candles from the lard of hogs? The author does 
not remember candles of that character. 


was descended from Joseph and Nancy Hanks. They gave the 
names of five children of this couple : 

1. William Hanks, father of John Hanks, who split rails 
with Lincoln; who had, at the time of this interview, two living 
children, James Lewis Hanks, of Canyonville, Oregon, and Mrs. 
Mary Ellen Hanon, of Eureka, California. 

2. Nancy Hanks, who married Thomas Lincoln and became 
the mother of Abraham. 

3. Sarah Hanks, who married M. M. Broun, and who had 
a living daughter, Mrs. Billy Carrol, of Portland, Oregon. 

4. Lucy Hanks, mother of Dennis. Dennis married Sarah 
Johnston, daughter of the step-mother of President Lincoln ; and 
had four living children when this interview was had, Mrs. 
Harriet Chapman, of Charleston, Illinois ; Mrs. Amanda Porman, 
of Matoon, Illinois ; John T. Hanks, of Day s Creek, Oregon, who 
had eleven children, all scattered; and Theophilus Hanks, of 
Denver, Colorado. 

5. " Mrs. Sparrow! John T. Hanks said that Mr. Sparrow 
brought Dennis up as his own son, and left him his property; 
which is doubtless correct. 

This is all the information which Mr. Morgan could procure 
for me up to July 2, 1920. It is not all reliable, but it is valuable 
to any one who is to work on the Hanks family, and is given 
here, with thanks to Mr. Morgan, for whatever it may be worth. 

As this book goes to press, I have a letter from Mrs. Legrand, 
wife of " The Doctor." He is seriously ill, probably with tuber 
culosis, and not expected to recover. Mr. Morgan did well to 
obtain the information when he did. Mrs. Legrand makes one 
correction. " My husband is not first cousin, but second cousin, 
of Abe Lincoln. Abe and the Doctor s mother were not sisters, 
but first cousins." 


In 1901 a paper was read before the Fifteenth Annual Meet 
ing of the Society of Germans in Maryland, by Louis Paul Hen- 
nighausen, in which he endeavored to prove that Abraham Lin 
coln was of German descent. The argument was based largely on 
the fact that the name Lincoln is found in several documents 
spelled " Linkhorn," which, the writer claimed, is a German 
name. He held, with considerable skill of argument, that this 
name had been Anglicized into Lincoln and a false pedigree 
manufactured to fit the change. The ancestors of the President, 
as he set forth, came from Pennsylvania into Virginia; and he 
maintained that they were originally Pennsylvania Germans. 

This paper was published in the proceedings of the German 
Society and it attracted wide attention. The Germans claim 
Shakespeare; why not Lincoln? 

Ingenious as was the argument of Herr Hennighausen, it 
was utterly fallacious. The name Lincoln is a good, old English 
name, and it has been traced back, generation by generation, 
through Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, to 
Massachusetts and thence to England, and President Lincoln s 
right to use it in its original spelling is incontestable. 

Moreover, no German name Linkhorn has been found in 
Pennsylvania, nor has any family connection been traced whereby 
a German family of any like name could have quartered arms 
with the family of Abraham Lincoln. 

The Hennighausen argument is fully answered in a book 
entitled Abraham Lincoln: An American Migration, published, 
1909, by William J. Campbell, of Philadelphia. The author is 
Marion Dexter Learned, Professor of the Germanic Languages 
and Literature in the University of Pennsylvania. 

The typical American is often represented as necessarily 
of mixed nationality ; Abraham Lincoln s claim to be fairly repre 
sentative of the life of his nation cannot be based upon any 
such admixture. While we are not able to trace with complete 



certainty the ancestral line of Nancy Hanks, we have no reason 
to believe that she was on either side of other than Virginia blood. 
The Hanks line is Anglo-Saxon, unmixed so far as we know, 
through its generations in the colonies, with families other than 
those of English descent. Thomas Lincoln was on both sides, of 
pure Anglo-Saxon blood. Both families came originally from 
New England through Virginia into the western country. In 
coming down through Pennsylvania either family might have 
intermarried with the Pennsylvania Germans, but so far as we 
know neither family did. The hardy Scotch-Irish stock which 
contributed so worthily to the conquest of the wilderness and to 
the population of the hill country of Kentucky, yielded so far as 
we are informed no single drop of its warm red blood to the life 
of Abraham Lincoln. Few American families have been traced 
with greater care than his, and so far as we know he was in every 
line of his ancestry American of pure Anglo-Saxon descent. 


"Andrew," alleged foster son of 
Chief- Justice Marshall, 107-112, 

Antietam, Lincoln s visit to battle 
field, 22-3. 

Arthur, John P., 114, 123, 132, 143, 

145, 204, 215. 

Athertpnville distillery, 201. 
Atlantic Monthly, quoted, 275, 406 


Barrett, Joseph H., 271. 

Bartlett, D. W., 312. 

Bartlett, Truman H., xi. 

Battle, Walker, 83. 

Beck, H. J., 90. 

Berea College Library, xi. 

Berry, Richard, 218, 279, 327, 330. 

Beveridge, Albert J., 208-9. 

Binns, Life of Lincoln," 33. 

Bixby, W. 1C, 291. 

Black, Chauncey F., 41, 42, 46, 335, 

Bonham, Gen. M. L., 145. 
Booker, W. F., 35, 201, 248, 329 seq. 
Boone, Daniel, 25. 
Boyd, Lucinda J., 107-112, 207-213. 
Bristow, B. H., 329 seq. 
Brown, Dr. W. C, 133. 
Browne, R. J., 248, 329 seq. 
Brownfield, David T., 69, 381. 
Brownfield, George, 20, 69-71, 189- 

191, 259. 

Brownfield, John, 379. 
Buchanan, Pres. James, 239 seq. 
Buckley, Rev. J. M., 325. 
Burt, Gen. A., 127, 135, 224. 
Burton, John E., 98-100, 156. 
Byrd, Mrs. Anna L., 122. 

Calhoun, John C., 18, 24, 103, 113- 

146, 214-225. 
Camp-meeting, 60, 162-5. 

Cathey, James H., 79 seq., 124, 202- 
206, 214. 

Chapman, " Latest Light on Lin 
coln," 33. 

Charlotte, "Observer" 74, 203. 

Charnwood, "Life of Lincoln," 33. 

Christie, P. B., 138. 
Clay, Henry, 236^. 
Cleveland, H. W., 337. 
Coleman, W. M., 55 seq. 
Collier, Robert J., 348, 389. 
Collier s Weekly, 389. 
Collins, History of Kentucky, 161. 
Collins, J. A., 88. 
Conley, W. H., 84 
Courier- Journal, Louisville, 30. 
Creal, Chas. F., 165, 347. 
Creal, Hon. Richard W., 165, 171-5, 

Daviess, Maria T., 275. 

Davis, David, 328-335. 

Davis, Jefferson, 73, 117, 135, 136, 

138, 236. 

Davis, Valentine, 146. 
Davidson, Colonel A. T., 77, 78, 

124, 203. 

Dennett, A. W., 173, 348. 
Dills, Philip, 82. 
Dills, William, 87. 
Dunlop, J. K., 42. 

Elkin, Rev. David, 45, 112, 137, 


Enlaw, or Enlaws, Isom, 176 seq. 
Enloe, Abraham, 19, 24, 74 seq., 117, 


Enloe, Wesley, 74 seq., 92. 
Enloe, W. A., 91. 
Enlow, Abraham, 19, 24, 46, 57, 65- 

68, 157-188, 309, 314, 317, 320-321. 
Enlow, Robert, 182, 378. 
Everett, Capt. Ep., 85. 

Fell, Jesse W., 17, 27, 53, 290, 319- 

Fish, Daniel, xi, 320. 

Franklin, Benjamin, 232. 

Friend, Jesse, 44. 

Friend, John C, 382. 

Fremont, John C, 312. 

Fuller, Thomas, 244. 

Geiger, G. H., xi, 120, 221. 
Geoghegan, Denton, 251 seq. 
Goodwin, Rev. Thomas, 271. 




Graham, Christopher C, 25, 30, 31, 

269, 336 seq. 
Grant, U. S., 334- 
Griffin, A. P. C, xi, 320 
Grigsby, Aaron, 127, 139, 251, 259, 

272, 355 

Grundy, Felix, 247, 336. 
Gunther, C. R, xi. 

Hall, Levi, 44 

Handley, L. B, 70, 165. 

Hanie, John, and his family, 119. 

Hanks, Betsy, wife of Thomas 
Sparrow, 44, 218, 280. 

Hanks, Dennis F., on Thomas Lin 
coln s treatment of Abraham, 36, 
43; his statements concerning 
Abraham and Thomas Lincoln, 
42, 286, 302; his parentage, 44, 
141, 299, 405; his veracity arid 
accuracy, 46, 51-54, 301, 306-7, 407. 

Hanks family, their social status, 
36, 60, 93; their tangled geneal 
ogy, 115, uSseq., 216, 219, 276, 
277, 280, 401 seq. 

Hanks girls, their behavior, reputa 
tion and marriages, 44, 60, 162-5, 

Hanks, John, 45, 140, 141, 287, 301, 

302, 405. 
Hanks, Joseph, 217, 2^S seq.; memo 

randa of family, 401 seq. 
Hanks, Lucy, mother of Nancy, and 

wife of Henry Sparrow, 39, 44, 

in, 115, 207, 280. 
Hanks, Luke and Ann, and their 

descendants, 115, 145, 215-225. 
Hanks, Mary Ellen (Manon), 115, 

131, 139, 140, 142, 144, 
Hanks, Nancy, mother of Dennis, 

and wife of Levi Hall, 44, 280. 
Hanks, Nancy, confusing frequency 

of the name, 216, 217, 218, 226; 

the first Nancy Hanks, 286. 
Hanks, Polly, wife of Jesse Friend, 

44, 280. 

Hanks, Sophie, 275, 407. 
Hardesty, William, 245, 372. 
Hardin, Martin D., 20, 24, 105-6, 

200-202, 334. 
Harris, Benjamin, 119. 
Hay, Milton, 360. 
Haycraft, Samuel Jr., 3,5, 160, 161, 

313, 319, 350, 358. 
Haycraft, Samuel, Sr., 188, 354. 
Head, Rev. E. B., 325. 
Head, Rev. Jesse, 25, 28, 73, 115, 

116, 142, 196, 197, 202, 226, 246- 
248, 286, 326, 336 seq. 

Helm, Ben Hardin, 161 ; his widow, 
161, 176. 

Helm, J. B., 60, 98, 161, 198. 

Henry, Patrick, 202. 

Herndon, Archer G., 303. 

Herndon, William H., quoted, 20, 
95; his theory of Lincoln s pa 
ternity, 25, 37; knew the date of 
marriage of Lincoln s parents, 
27; history of Lincoln s secret, 
39; the alleged suppression of his 
first edition, 37, 96, 100, 117, 206, 
228; his visit to Kentucky, 160; 
story of camp-meeting, 161 ; de 
scription of Nancy Hanks, 273; 
his^ final opinion of Lincoln s 
legitimacy, 303-311; mayor of 
Springfield, 303 ; contradictions 
of his life, 304; his daughter s 
testimony, 365 ; his feeling toward 
Lincoln, 360 seq. ; Reed s sharp 
criticism, 367 seq.; his death, 304. 

History, what is it?, 149^5. 

Hitchcock, Mrs. Caroline Hanks, 
19, 31, 274, 277, 279, 347, 383. 

Holbert, George, xi, 252, 262. 

Holland, J. G., Life of Lincoln, 192. 

Homer, 21. 

Hornback, Nancy, no, 195-7, 207. 

Illinois College, 303. 

Ingersoll, R. G., 102. 

Inlow, Abraham, 20, 72-3, 107-112. 

Irwin, J. L., 349, 35O, 359- 

Jefferson, Thomas, 232. 
Jenkins, J. D., 127. 
Johnson, Andrew, 29, 242. 
Johnston, John D., 267, 200, 292-4, 

Jones, Jenkin Lloyd, 269, 272, 295, 

389 seq. 

Jones, Richard Lloyd, 385^4., 389. 
Journal, Boston, quoted, 328. 

Kieth, W. D., 378. 

Knotts, D. J., 113-146, 214-225. 

Lamon, Ward Hill, sang songs for 
Lincoln, 23; wished to deny a 
slanderous story, 23; his theory 
of Lincoln s paternity, 25, 28, 37, 
40, 41-48, 95; alleged attempt to 
suppress his book, 37, 96, 100, 
206, 228; admitted marriage of 



Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, 160; 
his book first to suggest Lincoln s 
illegitimacy, 320; gave rise to the 
Hardin story, 200; occasioned the 
discovery of the marriage return, 
201 ; his description of Nancy 
Hanks, 274; his possible error as 
to Joseph Hanks, 279; his book 
quoted, 287, 288, 290, 291, SZQseq., 

LaRue, Rev. A. W., iSoseq. 

LaRue, John, 176 seq. 

Latimer, Hon. A. C, 132. 

Lea and Hutchinson, cited, 19, 257, 
261, 277, 345- 

Lee, Robert E., 103, 242. 

Legrand, Dr. James, 276, 406^5. 

Lewis, J. B., 122. 

Libel, law of, protects the reputa 
tion of the dead as well as living, 


Library of Congress, xi, 320. 

Lincoln, Abraham, sixteenth presi 
dent of the U. S., meagerness of 
biographical information in 1860, 
17, 159; campaign of 1864, 17, 
159; knew of rumors concerning 
his birth, 22, 39-40; felt the pri 
vations of youth, 38; did not 
know in what county the mar 
riage of his parents was recorded, 
23, 40; his birth, fact and date, 
41, 165, 225, 244 seq.; where be 
gotten, 166, 225 ; did he honor his 
father and mother?, 287 seq.; the 
place of his birth, 384 seq.; his 
lineage not German but Anglo- 
Saxon, 409-410. 

Lincoln family in America, 257. 

Lincoln family record, 115. 

Lincoln, Isaac, 117, 126, 249 seq.; 

259, 395- 

Lincoln, Mary Todd, 300. 

Lincoln, Mary, wife of Isaac, 395. 

Lincoln, Nancy Hanks, mother of 
the President, her marriage to 
Thomas Lincoln, 25, 226, 246, 279, 
325, 326, 330 seq.; discovery of 
the marriage return, 328 seq.; her 
appearance, 45, 58, 273 seq.; Hern- 
don s tract concerning her, 50-54; 
her home in Elizabethtown, 285; 
her home in the " plum-orchard," 
70; her home near Hodgenville, 
70; date of her birth variously 
given, 116; signed her name with 
cross, 127 ; was she the heiress of 

the pied heifer?, 141, 220, 226, 278, 
279, 280 ; left no personal memory 
of herself in Elizabethtown, 160; 
no rumor affecting her chastity 
during her life in LaRue or 
Hardin Counties, 161, 167, 170, 
174, 188, 190; not a cousin of 
Thomas Lincoln, 267 ; her ances 
try, 218-221, 276, 280, 407; what 
we know about her, 272 seq.; 
Herndon s description, 273 ; 
Lamon s description, 274; Mrs. 
Hitchcock s description, 274 ; ten 
dency to change her to a blonde, 
275; never lived in a home of her 
own, 285; her religion, 286; her 
funeral, 298 ; her grave, 295. 

Lincoln, Sarah Bush, 36, 59, 136, 
137, 259, 289, 297, 298, 313, 314. 

Lincoln, Sarah, sister of Abraham 
and wife of Aaron Grigsby, 28, 
166, 187, 106, 197, 251, 259, 271, 
314, 333, 338. 

Lincoln, spelling of the name, 56, 

Lincoln, Thomas, father of the 
President; birth, 258; marriage to 
Nancy Hanks, 18, 25, 27, 251, 259, 
325, 326, 336^9.; his character 
and social standing, 25, 173, 271 ; 
resemblances and contrasts to 
Abraham, 36, 42, 287; mutual re 
lations with Abraham, 36, 41, 287; 
his alleged fight with Enlow, 167, 
170; his whereabouts from 1796 
to 1809, 249 seq.; known facts 
concerning him, 257 seq.; personal 
appearance, 265 ; habits and re 
ligion, 265-6, 271 ; where did he 
obtain money in 1803?, 266; was 
he defrauded by his brothers?, 
266; not a cousin of Nancy 
Hanks, 267; not an industrious 
man, 270; did Abraham honor 
him?, 287 seq., 296; as a land 
holder, 345^-; his grave, 43. 

Logan, Gen. Benjamin, 200. 

Manon, Mary Ellen, see Hanks, 

Mary Ellen. 
Marshall, Chief-Justice John, 18, 20, 

107-112, 207-213. 
Marshall, sons of Chief-Justice 

John, 208 seq. 
Martel, Charles, 187. 
Massachusetts Historical Society, 




Masters, H. W., 309, 362. 
Mather, O. M., xi, 165, 177. 
McClellan, Gen. G. B., 22, 23. 
McCormick, Medill, 320. 
McDougal, Jack, 172. 
McLellan, Hugh, xi. 
Meserve, F. H., xi, 113. 
Miller, W. A., 74. 
Morgan, Arthur E., 275, 405. 
Morgan, William, 349. 
Morse, John T., Jr, 32. 
Morse, Prof. S. F. B., 17. 
Murray, G. W., 310, 363. 

New England Historic Genealogi 
cal Society, 234, 277, 328. 

New England Historical and 
Genealogical Record, quoted, 271. 

Newton, Joseph Fort, 42, 49, 304. 

Nicolay, John G., and Hay, John, 
secretaries and biographers of 
Lincoln, 32, 219, 271, 293, 330. 

Oldroyd, O. H., xi. 

Orr, James L., 120, 132, 134, 225. 

Paxton, Mrs. M., 208, 209, 212. 
Pendleton, Geo. H., 23. 
Peters, B. J., 72-3 
" Plum-orchard," home of Thomas 
Lincoln and Nancy Lincoln, 70. 
Polin, Joseph, 260, 375. 
Proof, burden of, 

Rathbone, Thomas W., 176. 

Reed, James A., suppressed pages 

from his lecture, 367 seq. 
Rogers, Rev. Samuel, 109. 
Rutledge, Ann, 300. 

Scripps, John Locke, 17, 35, 38, 45, 
S3, 59, 60, 313. 

Seward, W. H., 312. 

Shipley family, 217, 258 seq., 404. . 

Slater, or Stator, Dr. John Tom, 

255, 351^4. 
Sparrow family, 18, 44, 52 seq., 280, 


Stewart, Judd, 320. 
Stover, D. L., 127. 
Stover, William, 306. 
Studebaker, P. H., 295. 
Swett, Leonard, 328, 335. 

Tarbell, Ida M., 19, 24-5, 32, 105, 

282, 297, 328. 

Teillard, Dorothy Lamon, 47. 
Terrell, J. W., 85. 
Thompson, James, 248. 
Thompson, Nancy Enloe, 203. 
Thompson, R. M., 201, 374. 
Torrie, Hiram D., 301. 
Transylvania University Library, xi. 
Tribune, New York, quoted, 330. 
Tuttle, J. H., xi. 

Van Diver, Peter, 146. 
Vawter, Mrs. C. S. H., 343. 

Walker, Felix, 75, 86, 123, 204, 

Walters, Margaret LaRue, 171, 175, 


fartman, J. W., 336. 
Washington, George, 231 seq. 
Watterson, Col. Henry, 29, 94, 102. 
Weik, Jesse W., quoted, 20, 57, 73, 
r ?6, 107, 229, 305, 308, 320, 335- 
White, Horace, 304, 335. 
Whitney, Henry C., 335. 
William the Conqueror, 19, 187. 
Williams, Charles, 383. 
Wilson, Woodrow, 270. 
Wood, William, 245. 

re 58153