By WILLIAM E. BARTON
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The Parents of
An Address by
WILLIAM E. BARTON
AL uthor of "The Soul of Abralham Lincolb," "The Paternity
of Abraham Libwoln," etc.
Dtelivered at. the ograve of Thomas Lineoln, Goose Nest
Prailrie, near Janesville, Illilois,
September 18, 1922.
The Charleston Daily Courier
THlE C(ELEBRA TION A TSHI bLOHI
Shiloh (Cthurch, 'which adjoins the cemetery where
Thomlioas Linicolin and Sarah Bush Lincolni are buried, was
recentli remodeled and its facilities were enlar-ed. A
service of rede(ication was held, and a memorial window
was (ledicated to the memory of Thomas and Sarah Liii-
coln. Shortlv after this rededication, a notable Lincolni
celebrationi was held, allul atte(ldedl by people fromi the
neiglhborhood anll( froin several a(dja en;t towns. A niumiber
of people were present .who had1 personally knowni Thomas
Lincoln, and nman 'y who had knowu his widow. The
speaker of the (lay was D)r. WAilliamn E. Barton, who (he-
livereld tWo a(l(lresses, one oin The (Greatness of Abraham
Lincoln and(] the other on "The Parenits of Abraham Liii-
coln." The church wvas packed to its capacity for the
niorniia address. This was followed by a picnic (diliner,
and(1 1-eunion of ol( fIrienids. The afternoon nmeetin g was
held out of (loors, iii the cemetery. l)r. Barton delivered
his adl(lress stai(lin- beeside the graves of Thomas and
The Parents of Abraham Lincoln
T1hlee i i mighty forces go to the nitakiig (of aity luau.
First is that 11mysterious elenmenit of personality wher-ein
everv man differs from every other miian. -No two men,
Vevi tiholl-1 born of the salle parenifts alld reared ill the
samiie surroiindii-s, lo'vXe to be wholly similar. No two
leaves upoii the tree, no two blades of grass, no two thunmb-
prhits of the humjan hanid, no two brains, no tn o chaac-
ters are l)recisely alike. The secoll(l of the forces which
mliake us what, we are is hlee(lity. Ever-y minai is what lhe
is par tly because of what his parents, his grandparents
and his remote ancestors wei-e. The third of these forces
is eimvironmnent. Every man's life is shaped by the influ-
ence, of other lives, by soil, climate, and other conditions
surr1ounllding himin. Tlie life of Abraham Lincoln was what
it was partly because of his successive viri-onmlllellts,
plartly because of his inheritance, and pattly belcause of
his own personality. It is fitting that we should consider
today something of his iliheritauce through his father,
Thomas Lincoln, his mtotler, 'Nancy Haimks, and the subse-
uent- influence uponI hili of his devoted step-mother, Sarah
Brush Johnson, the second wife of Thomas Lincoln.
It. is surpr'ising that so little reliable work has been
do(le iii this field. Oin the death of Abralham Lincoln no
nmember of the Lincoln family was present at his funeral
save his widow, M1a1ary Todd Lincoln, and her two survivin,
soIIs, Robert, amid Thomas. Although most. of the Todds
were Confederates, there were Todd relatives at the fu-
imeral, but no Lincoln. There has beeii but little oppor-
tunity to learn to what extelt, Abrahlam Lincoln was a
Lincoln. His own contact with the Lincoln family was
This we know, however, that, Abraham Lincoln w\-as
thoroughlly a, Lincoln. We know eniough of the Lincoln
family traits to assure ourselves. that. however grl'eat the
contrast between hini and either of his parents, lie had ani
important, heritage froom both. While Thomas Lincoln
never 1 could have been as great a inan as his soii, and while
Nancy Hanks niever contemplated the possibility of herself
becotimii a notable wonian, each of these two gave Soille-
thing important to the making of Lincolhm. The picture
of 'Nancy Hanks, which has come down to us, is vagule in
its outline and elusive in its definition. But Lincolhn him-
self said of his mother that she was a woman of strong
mind and character and that, front her he inherited his
power of analysis and his logical mind. Thomas Lincoln
died before his son became fainios, and he was held in no
very high regard by Lincoln's earlier biographers; but, in
proportion as we come to know the Lincohis, and to be
able to foim some judgment, of the character of Thomas
Lincoln, we find him. to have been indispensable in the
heredity of his great son.
No one of us can spare any one of his ancestors. There
is no way in which we caii short-circuit the line of descent
so as to cut, out, the obscurest and least interesting of them,
Each one of them, male and female, is indispensable in his
or her own generation; and had the place of any one mail
or aiiy one woman among them been taken by any other
man or woman in that generation, we should note be what
now we are.
We have to reckon with Abraham Lincolii as he was;
and it is in some respects a minor question how he came
to be what he was; butt this we know, that his personality
was a strange compoumid of diverse elements, some of them
inherited from his paternal and some from his maternal
lines, and that he needed all of theni to be Abraham Lin-
So much of error has been printed as truth, it may be
well to give a few dates and other biographical data.
First. of all, the dates given on the tombstone of
Thomas Lincoln, I am colifident,, are correct, and not those
furnished in some of the biographies. He was born in
Rockingham County, Virginia, January 7, 1778, and he
died January 15, 1851. He was the youngest of three sons,
and next to the vouingest of five children of Abraham and
Bathsheba Lincoln. His father was not twice married;
the five children were all children of one mother, who re-
moved to Kenttuckv with her husband in 1782, and long
survived him. Abirahaim Lincoln the elder was killed by
Indians in Mlay, 1780;, and not in 1784, as is usually stated.
Thomas Lincoln learmned the car-peniter's trade. He was
probably not a very skilled carpemiter, but he was compe-
tent, to do the kind of work which the frontier required.
-Nancy Hanks, fimst wife of Thomas Lincoln, and
mother of the President, w-as born in Virginia in 1783;
removed with her family to Kentucky in early childhood;
was married to Thomas Lincoln by Rev. Jesse Head on
Beech Fork, in Washington Oounty, on June 12, 1806.
With her husband and children she removed to Indiana.
in 1816, and she died October 5, 1818.
Sarah or Sally Bush, secoiid wife of Thomias Lincoln,
lived in Elizabetlhtown i, Kentucky, a id married, first,
Daniel Johiiston, by w-hom she had three childreii, .JohnI
D., Sarah aimd Matilda. After the death of ler first huts-
band, she married Thomas Lincoln December 2, 1819. She
was a good mnother-, both to her own Chlldlrenl aid to tlte
two children of Thonmas Lincoln, Sarah and Abralaill.
She (lied April 10, 18(i9, and is buried here beside her hits-
band. Her influence upon the life of AbrahamL Lincoln
was wholly good. He held her in honor-, and she cherished
his memory with a beautiful and truly mimotherly affection.
Standimwg here today by the grave of Thomias Lincoln,
and that of his second wife, Sally Bush, the second mother
of Abrahamn Limicoln, we have to remind ourselves that
there is muc(h1 need of revision of popular knowledge, or
what, passes for knowledge, comncerning Lincoln's parelts.
His step-mother survived himmi, and lived to be interviewed
by the earlier biographers. She was able to bear her testi-
mnomiv that Abrahani was always a good bov and never
spoke to her a, cross word, and that she loved him as her
own son. But. Thomas all(l Naney Lincoln died long before
Abraham, and there is munch error commonly accepted asI
truth in the literature,( concerIiini both of them.
It is often alleged that the liamne of Thomas Linmcolnu
was not Lincoln but Linkhor'n. Various authors lhave de-
clared that this branch of the famiyv never wrote the name
as Lincolim until Abraham Lincoln himself obtained suffi-
cient education to settle the spelling. As recent, a writer
as NornIan Hapgood says of Thoias Lincoln, or Linkbornm,
"His name was under the circunmstancces unstable, but in
Indiana. it showed a genieral drift toward Lickern, away
froum the favorite Kemitucky forum of Linkhorn, settling) its
present spelling mnaumy years later in Illinois." Mr. Hap-
good is wrong iii this and in munch besides. In the back-
woods, not, only the nanae of Lincoln but. most, other names
were mispronounmced auI(l nmisspelled, but I have not, found
one single instance of its being umuisspelled bv a member of
the family. Thonmas Lincoln a-nd Thoimas Lincoln's father
Abraham and Thomas Lincoln's uinle Thomas, for whoin
he was named, and his grandfather amid his great-granid-
father all sigmied their namies Lincoln.
It is often alleged and commonly believed that
Thomas Lincoln was tatult. to read and write bv his first
wife, Nanicv Hanks. Onl the contrary, lie signed his name
before he was married. We have reason to believe that
Nanc-y Hanks did write, but in the only document that has
been dliscovered executed bly these two, Thomas Lincoln
signed his inainie aid Nanye i imade her mai'k. It, is true that
Thomas Lincoln's education was very mleager. As his
famous soX said of him, he was able "bunglingly to write
his own name' and that' wvas all. But that was something
of a (listinctinll in a tiie Aw-hen so iuaiiv niei il ('Onteml-
porl-at-y life and with like advanitages signed their nialmes
with a c-ross.
It. is often alleged that Thomas LincolnI was cheate(i
out of his inheritance by his two older brothers, Mordecai
and Josiah, Alordecai taking the whole property by right.
of prinmogeniture aiid distributing a mlinorI portion to
Josiah bv leavin,_ Thomas entirely ulnl)lpoi(le(i for. Oin the
contrary, it. appears that Mlordecai as heir-at.-law of his
father represented hono-abl yv the interests of the whole
familv. So01n after Thonmas Lincoln became of agVe he was
able to buy an improved farnm and to pay for it, in cash.
The money pr'estimmiably ha(l commie to hmimim througgh the set-
tlemieit. of his father's estate.
Very nearly everiything that has been written about
Thomas Lincolin's thr-ee farmiis in Kentucky is wrong. The
historians and biographers, even the best, of them, have
the three hopelessly mlixe(l uip, anul hardly anythinig that
thev tell about. thenm is authentic.
It is comnonlv asserted that Thomas Lincolmn and his
first wife, -Nancy Halliks, were first. cOusins, she being the
daubghter of .Joseph and Nancy Shipley Hanks, and he the
son of Abraham anld Malry Shipley Lincoln, and that.
Nancv was brought up by a third of the five Shipley sis-
ters, her dear Aunt Lucy, wife of Richard Berry. Thomas
Lincoln and Nanecy Haniks w-er-e not cousins: we inight
even g.o the Hiber-nian leng-th of saying that "neither of
them welre Coullsms." Her nmother was not N\aney Shipley
and his mimother was not 3airv Shipley, and her Aunt. Lucy
was not Aunt Lucy, but was named i Rachel and there was
1o proof that she was Nancv's aunt.
It is (comninolv asserted that Thomas Lincoln was
virtually a pauper, and )athetic stories are told of the ex-
treme poverty of himself and wife at, the time of the birth
of Abraham. The Lincoln family was poor, even as pov-
erty is judged ill the backwoodsx but there exist records of
certain purchases ii made by TPhonmas5 Lincoln of articles for
the home, showning that, even in those primitive days in the
backwoods of Kentucky the discouufomt was not quite so
oreat. nor the povel-ty so wretc-hed as has been- described.
Authors have seemed to feel the necessity of going to
one or two extrenies