Thomas Lincoln

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For Abraham Lincoln's son, see Tad Lincoln.
Thomas Lincoln
Thomas Herring Lincoln.jpg
Thomas Lincoln (1778–1851)
Born January 6, 1778[a]
Rockingham County, Virginia, United States
Died January 17, 1851(1851-01-17) (aged 73)
Coles County, Illinois, United States
Occupation Farmer, Carpenter
Spouse(s) Nancy Hanks Lincoln (1806–1818; her death)
Sarah Bush Johnston (1819–1851; his death)
Children Sarah, Abraham, and Thomas Jr.
Parent(s) Abraham Lincoln and Bathsheba Herring
Relatives See Lincoln family

Thomas Lincoln (January 6, 1778[a] – January 17, 1851) was an American farmer, carpenter and father of President Abraham Lincoln. Unlike some of his ancestors, Lincoln could not write, but he was a well-respected community and church member known for his honesty. Lincoln struggled to make a successful living for his family and met challenges of Kentucky real estate border disputes, the early death of his first wife, and the integration of his second wife's family into his own family before making his final home in Illinois.

Ancestors[edit]

Samuel Lincoln House, land purchased in 1649.

Lincoln was descended from Samuel Lincoln, a respected Puritan weaver, businessman and trader from the County of Norfolk in East Anglia who landed in Hingham in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637.[1][b] Some Lincolns later migrated into Berks County, Pennsylvania, where they intermarried with Quakers, but did not retain the peculiar ways.[1][3] According to the National Humanities Center, both Quakers and Puritans were both opposed to slavery.[4]

Noteworthy ancestors include Samuel's grandson, Mordecai (1686–1736) who married Hannah Salter from a prominent political family, and made a name for himself in Pennsylvania society as a wealthy landowner and ironmaster.[5] Mordecai and Hannah's son, John Lincoln (1716–1788) settled in Rockingham County, Virginia and built a large, prosperous farm nestled in Shenandoah Valley.[6]

Abraham Lincoln, instead of being the unique blossom on an otherwise barren family tree, belonged to the seventh American generation of a family with competent means, a reputation for integrity, and a modest record of public service.

— David Herbert Donald in his book, Lincoln[6]

John Lincoln gave 210 acres of prime Virginian land to his first son, Captain Abraham Lincoln (1744–1786),[5][7] who was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. In 1770, Abraham married Bathsheba Herring (c. 1742 – 1836), who was born in Rockingham County, Virginia.[5][7]

Early life[edit]

Virginia[edit]

Thomas was born in 1778 in Virginia to Abraham and Bethsheba Lincoln.[8]

The Lincolns later sold the land to move in the 1780s to western Virginia, now Springfield, Kentucky.[6][9] He amassed an estate of 5,544 acres of prime Kentucky land, realizing the bounty as advised by Daniel Boone, a relative of the Lincoln family.[6]

In May 1786, Lincoln witnessed the murder of his father by Native American Indians "... when he was laboring to open a farm in the forest." Lincoln's life was saved that day by his brother, Mordecai. One of the most profound stories of President Abraham Lincoln's memory was:

While Abraham Lincoln and his three boys, Mordecai, Josiah and Thomas, were planting a cornfield on their new property, Indians attacked them. Abraham was killed instantly. Mordecai, at fifteen the oldest son, sent Josiah running to the settlement half a mile away for help while he raced to a nearby cabin. Peering out of a crack between logs, he saw an Indian sneaking out of the forest toward his eight-year-old brother, Thomas, who was still sitting in the field beside their father's body. Mordecai picked up a rifle, aimed for a silver pendant on the Indian's chest, and killed him before he reached the boy.[5]

Kentucky[edit]

Between September 1786 and 1788 Bathsheba moved the family to Beech Fork in Nelson County, Kentucky, now Washington County, (near Springfield).[c] A replica of the cabin is located at the Lincoln Homestead State Park.[11] As the oldest son, and in accordance with Virginian law at the time, Mordecai inherited his father's estate and of the three boys seems to have inherited more than his share of talent and wit.[5] Josiah and Thomas were forced to make their own way.[5] From 1795 to 1802, Thomas Lincoln held a variety of ill-paying jobs in several locations.[12]

He served in the state militia at the age of 19 and became a Cumberland County constable at 24.[13] He moved to Hardin County, Kentucky in 1802 and bought a 238-acre (1.0 km2) farm the following year for 118 pounds; It was located seven miles north of Elizabethtown, Kentucky[13] on Mill Creek.[14] When he lived in Hardin County, he was a jury member, a petitioner for a road, and as a guard for county prisoners." Lincoln was also active in community and church affairs in Hardin Counties. [15] The following year his sister Nancy Brumfield, brother-in-law William Brumfield and his mother Bathsheba moved from Washington County to Mill Creek and lived with Lincoln.[11][16][d]

In 1805, Lincoln constructed most of the woodwork, including mantels and stairways, for the Hardin house, now restored and called the Lincoln Heritage House at Freeman Lake Park in Elizabethtown.[16] In 1806, he ferried merchandise on a flatboat to New Orleans down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers for the Bleakley & Montgomery store in Elizabethtown.[15][14][13]

Marriage and family[edit]

Kentucky[edit]

Marriage bond between Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, dated 10 June 1806. Original is in the courthouse in Springfield, Kentucky.

On June 12, 1806, Lincoln married Nancy Hanks at Beechland in Washington County, Kentucky.[15][13] Nancy Hanks, born in what was Hampshire County, Virginia, was the daughter of Lucy Hanks and a man who Abraham believed to be "a well-bred Virginia farmer or planter." She was also called Nancy Sparrow and adopted daughter of Elizabeth and Thomas Sparrow.[13][18] Dennis Hanks, Abraham's friend and second cousin, reported that Nancy Hanks Lincoln had remarkable perception. Nathaniel Grisby, a friend and neighbor, said that she was "superior" to her husband. Nancy taught young Abraham to read, and modeled "sweetness and benevolence". Abraham said of her, "All that I am or hope ever to be I get from my mother".[19]

Lincoln developed a modicum of talent as a carpenter and although called "an uneducated man, a plain unpretending plodding man," he was well respected for his civil service, storytelling ability and good-nature. He was also known as a "wandering" laborer, shiftless and uneducated. A rover and drifter, he kept floating about from one place to another, taking any kind of job he could get when hunger drove him to it. He worked on roads, cut brush, trapped bear, cleared land, ploughed corn, and built log cabins.[11][14]

Replica of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln's cabin and Abraham Lincoln's birthplace at Hodgenville

Their first child, a daughter named Sarah Lincoln, was born on February 10, 1807 near Elizabethtown, Kentucky at Mill Creek.[14][20] By early 1809, Lincoln bought another farm, 300-acre (1.2 km2), near Hodgenville at Nolin Creek, located 14 miles southeast of Elizabethtown and near the home of Betsy (Elizabeth) and Thomas Sparrow.[14] [20] Although their cabin was a standard dirt floor, one room log cabin, their property was named Sinking Spring Farm for the "magnificent spring that bubbled from the bottom of a deep cave."[14] It was also noteworthy as the birthplace of Abraham, who was born on February 12, 1809. Seeking more fertile property, in 1811, Lincoln and his family moved to Knob Creek Farm, about 10 miles northeast of the Sinking Spring Farm on Nolin Creek. The Knob Creek Farm was situated just off the Louisville and Nashville Turnpike. It was at Knob Hill that Abraham had some of his first memories. For instance, he remembered the death of his parents' third child, his brother Thomas, Jr. a few days after his birth in 1812. He also remembered the cultivation of corn and pumpkins and sometimes attending a limited, "A.B.C." school with his sister within a couple of miles of the family's cabin. It was while living at Knob Creek that Lincoln was made annual road surveyor and became 15th wealthiest of 98 property owners by 1814.[15][21][22][e]

Lincoln lost farms three times after boundary disputes due to defective titles and Kentucky's chaotic land laws, complicated by the absence of United States land surveys and the use of subjective or arbitrary landmarks to determine land boundaries. He did not have the money to pay for the attorney's fees to resolve all of the title disputes, such as liens against previous owners and survey errors. In addition, as a farmer, Lincoln was unable to compete with those who had slaves to work their fields.[24]

Reluctant to discuss the extreme poverty of his youth, Abraham quoted Gray's Elegy in 1860, saying his life could be summed up as "The short and simple annals of the poor." Without the food and clothing that they needed, they were considered among the "very poorest people" while in Kentucky. Abraham recounted years later, in a discussion with homeless boys in New York, that that he had been poor and could remember "when my toes stuck out through my broken shoes in the winter; when my arms were out at the elbows; when I shivered with the cold."[25]

Lincoln moved the family to Indiana in December 1816, and purchased land in accordance with the land ordinance of 1785, partly because slavery had been excluded in Indiana by the Northwest Ordinance. Abraham Lincoln claimed many years later that his father's move from Kentucky to Indiana was "partly on account of slavery, but chiefly on account of the difficulty of land titles in Kentucky."[24]

Indiana[edit]

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Indiana. Abraham Lincoln lived on this southern Indiana farm from 1816 to 1830. During that time, he grew from a 7-year-old boy to a 21-year-old man. His mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, is buried here.
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Foundation of the Lincoln home in the Little Pigeon Creek Community

In December 1816, the Lincolns settled in the Little Pigeon Creek Community in what was then Perry County and is now Spencer County, Indiana. There Thomas and Abraham set to work carving a home from the Indiana wilderness. Father and son worked side by side to clear the land, plant the crops and build a home. Thomas also found that his skills as a carpenter were in demand as the community grew.[15][26] Nancy's aunt Elizabeth Sparrow, uncle Thomas Sparrow, and cousin Dennis Hanks settled at Little Pigeon Creek the following fall. While Abraham was ten years younger than his second cousin Dennis, the boys were good friends.[27][28]

In October 1818, Nancy Hanks Lincoln contracted milk sickness by drinking milk of a cow that had eaten the white snakeroot plant. There was no cure for the poison and on October 5, 1818, Nancy died.[29][30][f]

Lincoln, his children, Sophie Hanks, and Dennis Hanks lived alone for six months when he went back to Kentucky to seek a bride and courted Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow from Elizabethtown, Kentucky.[31] On December 2, 1819 he married her and she brought her three children, Elizabeth, Matilda, and John, to join Abe, Sarah, and Dennis Hanks to make a new family of eight.[29][32][g] Lincoln assisted in building the Little Pigeon Baptist Church, became a member of the church, and served as church trustee. By 1827, Lincoln had become the proud owner of 100 acres of Indiana land.[15]

The family continued to live in extreme poverty in Indiana, according to family members, neighbors, and friends. There were times that the only food in the house was potatoes, and the children did not have sufficient clothes to wear. Abraham was not invited to a wedding because he did not have appropriate clothes to wear. Sarah was taken in by a local family and earned her room and board by performing housekeeping chores. Abraham's life was considered "one of hard labor and great privation."[33]

David Herbert Donald described Lincoln's struggle to support his family:

In the early 1820s, Lincoln was under considerable financial pressure after his second marriage as he had to support a household of eight people. For a time he could rely on Dennis Hanks to help provide for his large family, but in 1826 Dennis married Elizabeth Johnston, Sarah Bush Lincoln's daughter, and moved to his own homestead. As Abraham became an adolescent, his father grew more and more to depend on him for the "farming, grubbing, hoeing, making fences" necessary to keep the family afloat. He also regularly hired his son out to work for other farmers in the vicinity, and by law he was entitled to everything the boy earned until he came of age.[34]

Illinois[edit]

Lincoln had a restless nature, and when John Hanks, a cousin who had once lived with the Lincolns, moved to Illinois and sent back glowing reports of fertile prairie that didn't need the backbreaking work of clearing forest before crops could be planted, he sold his Indiana land early in 1830[35] and moved first to Macon County, Illinois and eventually to Coles County in 1831. The homestead site on Goosenest Prairie, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Charleston, Illinois, is preserved as the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, although his original saddlebag log cabin was lost after being disassembled and shipped to Chicago for display at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Lincoln, already in his fifties, remained a resident of the county for the rest of his life. In 1851, at the age of 73, Lincoln died and was buried at nearby Shiloh Cemetery, which was 3 miles from his home. Sarah, his widow, remained at their home until her death in 1869.[15][36]

Relationship with Abraham[edit]

During Lincoln's youth, and particularly after the death of his mother, Abe's relationship with his father changed. Due to his failing eyesight and likely poor health, Lincoln relied on Abe to perform work needed to run the farm. He also sent Abe to work for neighbors, generating money for Thomas. Michael Burlingame, in his book The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln classified Abe's subservience, "Abraham Lincoln was like a slave to his father," he penned in a secret biography.[37][38]

Although the degree to which it impacted their relationship is not clear, there seemed to be a struggle between Abe's yearning for study and Thomas' understanding about the importance of study to Abe's life. Abraham seemed particularly critical of his father's lack of education and lack of an earnest drive to see that his children received a good education. Father and son also differed in their beliefs about religion; Lincoln was a conventional Baptist. Growing up in a nonconformist household Abe developed his own free-thinker. Lastly, some say that Lincoln favored John Johnston, his stepson, over Abe.[37][38] Their relationship had become strained after Abraham left his father's house and even moreso after Abraham bailed Thomas out of financial situations. His stepbrother, John D. Johnston, with whom Thomas had a closer relationship, also made repeated requests for money.[39]

Although Abe provided financial assistance on a few occasions and once visited Lincoln during a bout of ill-health, when he was on his deathbed Abe sent word to a stepbrother to: "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 many loved ones gone before; and where the rest of us, through the help of God, hope ere-long to join them."[h] Lincoln preferred not to attend his father's funeral and would not pay for a headstone for his father's grave. Aside from the distant relationship between father and son, Abraham's actions may have been influenced by a "painful midlife crisis" and depression.[37][38]

During Lincoln's lifetime, he and his wife were not invited to Abe's wedding and never met Abe's wife or children.[41][39] David Herbert Donald stated in his book, Lincoln that "In all his published writings, and indeed, even in reports of hundreds of stories and conversations, he had not one favorable word to say about his father."[37][38]

Abe, likely in response to his unhappy relationship with his father, was a caring and indulgent father with his children, particularly Willie and Tad, with whom he had more in common than Robert.[42]

Religion[edit]

As a young man, Lincoln became active in the Primitive Baptist church (also known as Predestinarian or Separate Baptists) and eventually became a leader in the denomination. According to several historians, "Thomas Lincoln was "one of the five or six most important men" among the Indiana Separates, and it becomes clear that, for all effective purposes, Abraham Lincoln's life in Indiana was lived in an atmosphere of what William Barton called "a Calvinism that would have out-Calvined Calvin."[43] In Indiana, Lincoln served as a trustee of the Pigeon Creek Baptist Church and helped to build the church meeting house with Abraham.[15] Thomas Lincoln had religious grounds for disliking slavery and these served as a partial reason for moving from Kentucky to North of the Ohio river where slavery would not be tolerated.[24] After moving to Coles County, Illinois, Lincoln and his wife became church of Christ members.[44]

Portrayals[edit]

A 1970 episode of Daniel Boone, although fictionalized, portrays the courtship of Thomas Lincoln (played by actor Burr DeBenning) and Nancy Hanks (Marianna Hill). Sarah Bush Johnston is referred to but not seen. It is mentioned that the couple will name their first son after Tom's father, Abraham. Daniel remarks, "He might even be President someday."

Films[edit]

Date Title Portrayer Country Notes IMDB
2012 Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (fiction) Joseph Mawle USA Directed by Timur Bekmambetov [1]
2013 The Green Blade Rises Jason Clarke USA Directed by A.J. Edwards [2]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Thomas' year of birth is stated by the National Park Service as 1778.[15] Thomas was reported to have been 73 years and 11 days old when he died by Abraham Lincoln, which would have made his date of birth January 6, 1778.[8] Burlingame states that he was born about 1776.[45]
  2. ^ Abraham Lincoln commented in 1858 that he thought his ancestor settled in Hingham in 1638.[2][3]
  3. ^ Lincoln is believed to have built a cabin for the Lincoln family before his death in May, 1786. He purchased a 100 acre piece of his property along a creek known now as Lincoln Run in the Beechland neighborhood from Richard Berry, Sr. in 1781 or 1782. The neighborhood was a piece of land created by a horseshoe bend in the Beech Fork River.[7][10] There is also a theory that Bathsheba moved to the Springfield area because Abraham's cousin, Hannaniah Lincoln, had borrowed money to purchase property there but had never repaid the debt. Whether that occurred or not is unclear, but she apparently lived at Hannaniah's home before moving to Beechland.[11]
  4. ^ Bathsheba Lincoln, Nancy Lincoln and William Brumfield, and Mary Brumfield Crume are buried at the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery which overlooks Mill Creek in Fort Knox.[17]
  5. ^ Carl Sandburg claimed that Lincoln purchased 348.5 acres at Hodgenville, paying $200 in cash to Isaac Bush and taking over a small previous debt.[23]
  6. ^ She may have had contributing factors or causes of her death, as discussed in the Nancy Lincoln article.
  7. ^ The children thought that Lincoln would be gone for three months. When six months had passed, they believed that he had died. The children were claimed to have been near-starved and in want of clothing while alone. For more than one year following her mother's death and until the arrival of Sarah Bush Lincoln, Thomas's daughter Sarah was responsible for the household duties her mother had performed.[31]
  8. ^ Carl Sandburg also reported that Lincoln wrote the following to his stepbrother John Johnston: "I feel sure you have not failed to use my name, if necessary, to procure a doctor, or any thing 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 own wife is sick-abed... I sincerely hope Father may yet recover his health; but at all events, tell him to remember to call upon, and confide in, our great, and good, and merciful Maker: who will not turn away from him in any extremity."[40]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Donald 2011, p. 20.
  2. ^ Burlingame 2013, p. 1.
  3. ^ a b Fischer 1991, pp. 836–837.
  4. ^ National Humanities Center.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Donald 2011, pp. 20–21.
  6. ^ a b c d Donald 2011, p. 21.
  7. ^ a b c Davenport 2002, p. 4.
  8. ^ a b Lincoln 2008, p. 95.
  9. ^ Davenport 2002, pp. 3–4.
  10. ^ Lincoln Run, Washington County, Kentucky.
  11. ^ a b c d Kentucky Parks.
  12. ^ Burlingame 2013, pp. 3–4.
  13. ^ a b c d e Sandburg 2007, p. 12.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Donald 2011, p. 22.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i NPS & Thomas Lincoln - Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.
  16. ^ a b Davenport 2002, pp. 6, 22.
  17. ^ Radcliff Tourism.
  18. ^ Donald 2011, pp. 20, 23.
  19. ^ Goodwin 2006, p. 47.
  20. ^ a b Davenport 2002, p. 12.
  21. ^ Donald 2011, pp. 22–23.
  22. ^ Sandburg 2007, pp. 15, 20.
  23. ^ Sandburg 2007, p. 15.
  24. ^ a b c Donald 2011, pp. 23–24.
  25. ^ Burlingame 2013, pp. 15–17.
  26. ^ Donald 2011, pp. 24–25.
  27. ^ Davenport 2002, pp. 29, 33.
  28. ^ Center for History.
  29. ^ a b Sandburg 2007, p. 22.
  30. ^ Organization of American Historians 2009, p. 89.
  31. ^ a b Burlingame 1997, pp. 94–95.
  32. ^ Donald 2011, pp. 26–28.
  33. ^ Burlingham 2013, pp. 16–17.
  34. ^ Donald 2011, p. 32.
  35. ^ Donald 2011, p. 36.
  36. ^ History Illinois.
  37. ^ a b c d Donald 2011, pp. 32–33, 48–49, 102–103, 109, 152–153.
  38. ^ a b c d Burlingame 1997, pp. 37–42.
  39. ^ a b Guelzo 2009, p. 159.
  40. ^ Sandburg 2007, p. 70.
  41. ^ Thornton 2010, p. 5.
  42. ^ Burlingame & 197, pp. 63–64, 68.
  43. ^ Guelzo 2009, pp. 33–34.
  44. ^ Martin 1996.
  45. ^ Burlingame 2013, p. 3.

Sources[edit]

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