Thomas Lincoln

Thomas Lincoln

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Thomas Lincoln was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 farmer
Farmer
A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, who raises living organisms for food or raw materials, generally including livestock husbandry and growing crops, such as produce and grain...

 and father of President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

.

Ancestors


Thomas Lincoln was descended from Samuel Lincoln
Samuel Lincoln
Samuel Lincoln , was progenitor of many notable United States political figures, including his great-great-great-great-grandson, President Abraham Lincoln, Maine governor Enoch Lincoln, and Levi Lincoln, Sr...

, a Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 from East Anglia
East Anglia
East Anglia is a traditional name for a region of eastern England, named after an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom, the Kingdom of the East Angles. The Angles took their name from their homeland Angeln, in northern Germany. East Anglia initially consisted of Norfolk and Suffolk, but upon the marriage of...

 who landed in Massachusetts (possibly Hingham
Hingham, Massachusetts
Hingham is a town in northern Plymouth County on the South Shore of the U.S. state of Massachusetts and suburb in Greater Boston. The United States Census Bureau 2008 estimated population was 22,561...

) in 1637. Some Lincolns migrated into Berks County, Pennsylvania
Berks County, Pennsylvania
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 373,638 people, 141,570 households, and 98,532 families residing in the county. The population density was 435 people per square mile . There were 150,222 housing units at an average density of 175 per square mile...

, where they intermarried with Quakers, and later descendants dispersed into Appalachia and other backcountry. Abraham Lincoln later recalled that early Lincolns joined Quaker meetings, but that later generations were not as "peculiar" in their beliefs. However, Quakers and Puritans were both opposed to slavery.

Early life


Thomas was born in Rockingham County, Virginia
Rockingham County, Virginia
As of the census of 2000, there were 67,725 people, 25,355 households, and 18,889 families residing in the county. The population density was 80 people per square mile . There were 27,328 housing units at an average density of 32 per square mile...

, the fourth child of Abraham Lincoln (1744–1786) and Bathsheba Herring (c1742–1836). In the 1780s, he moved with his family to the part of Virginia which soon after became the state of Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

. In May 1786, Thomas witnessed the murder of his father by Native American Indians
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 "…when he was laboring to open a farm in the forest." That fall, his mother moved the family to Washington County
Washington County, Kentucky
Washington County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of 2000, the population was 10,916. Its county seat is Springfield. The county is named for George Washington. Washington County was the first county formed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky when it reached statehood...

, Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

 (near Springfield
Springfield, Kentucky
Springfield is a city in and county seat of Washington County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 2,634 at the 2000 census. It was established in 1793 and probably named for springs in the area.-Geography:...

), where Thomas lived until the age of eighteen. From 1795 to 1802, Thomas held a variety of jobs in several locations.

Religion


As a young man, Lincoln became active in the Primitive Baptist
Primitive Baptist
Primitive Baptists, also known as Hard Shell Baptists or Anti-Mission Baptists, are conservative, Calvinist Baptists adhering to beliefs that formed out of the controversy among Baptists in the early 1800’s over the appropriateness of mission boards, bible tract societies, and temperance...

 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
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

 that would have out-Calvined Calvin." In Indiana Thomas Lincoln served as a trustee of the Pigeon Creek Baptist Church and helped to build the church meeting house with Abraham. Thomas Lincoln had religious grounds for disliking slavery.

Kentucky


In 1802 he moved to Hardin County
Hardin County, Kentucky
As of the census of 2000, there were 94,174 people, 34,497 households, and 25,355 families residing in the county. The population density was . There were 37,673 housing units at an average density of...

, Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, where one year later he purchased a 238 acre (0.96315268 km²) farm. Four years later, on June 12, 1806, he married Nancy Hanks. A record of their marriage bond is located at the Washington County, Kentucky
Washington County, Kentucky
Washington County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of 2000, the population was 10,916. Its county seat is Springfield. The county is named for George Washington. Washington County was the first county formed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky when it reached statehood...

 courthouse.
Their first child, a daughter named Sarah Lincoln, was born in 1807. By early 1809, Thomas bought another farm, 300 acres (1.2 km²), in Nolin Creek, Kentucky. There on February 12, 1809, his son Abraham
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 was born. In 1811, Thomas and his family moved to Knob Creek Farm
Knob Creek Farm
Knob Creek Farm has been a noncontinuous section of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park since 2001; prior to that date it was privately owned. From 1811 to 1816, it was the home of the future President of the United States Abraham Lincoln, who said it was his "earliest...

. In 1812, a third child, Thomas, Jr., died in infancy.

Nancy Hanks may have been one of the Quaker Hanks who migrated to Pennsylvania in the 1680s. Neighbors reported that Nancy Hanks Lincoln was "superior" to her husband, a strong personality who taught young Abraham his letters as well as the extraordinary sweetness and forbearance he was known for all his life. Quakers had the nearest of all English settlers to equality between the sexes, so this side of Nancy Hanks suggests that her background was, indeed, Quaker.

Quakers also showed affection for their children, unlike the austere Puritans. Hence Abraham's gratitude to his mother, who loved and gave him his self-esteem.

Quakers however did not have more love of learning than Puritans. That Thomas could not read or write was the unhappy consequence of subsistence agriculture in the back country where life's emphasis was placed on clearing the land and putting food on the table. The killing of Thomas's father when he was only eight made education difficult to obtain. Lincoln, probably alluding to his mother's education and spirituality, said later that everything he was, he owed to her.

Thomas was active in community
Community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...

 and church
Christian Church
The Christian Church is the assembly or association of followers of Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἐκκλησία that in its appearances in the New Testament is usually translated as "church" basically means "assembly"...

 affairs in Hardin County. He served as a jury
Jury
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty,...

 member, a petitioner
Petitioner
A petitioner is a person who pleads with governmental institution for a legal remedy or a redress of grievances, through use of a petition.-In the courts:The petitioner may seek a legal remedy if the state or another private person has acted unlawfully...

 for a road, and as a guard for county prison
Prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

ers. He was a rough carpenter
Carpenter
A carpenter is a skilled craftsperson who works with timber to construct, install and maintain buildings, furniture, and other objects. The work, known as carpentry, may involve manual labor and work outdoors....

 and hired hand most of his youth. Like other uneducated young men, he may have been vulnerable to scams and land fraud, though the land laws themselves were vague. He lost farms three times after boundary disputes. Discouraged by these setbacks, he decided to move his family to Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

 where the land ordinance of 1785
Land Ordinance of 1785
The Land Ordinance of 1785 was adopted by the United States Congress on May 20, 1785. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress did not have the power to raise revenue by direct taxation of the inhabitants of the United States...

 ensured that land once purchased and paid for was retained. Further, slavery had been excluded in Indiana by the Northwest Ordinance
Northwest Ordinance
The Northwest Ordinance was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, passed July 13, 1787...

. Abraham Lincoln claimed many years later that his father’s move from Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

 to Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

 was "partly on account of slavery, but chiefly on account of the difficulty of land titles in Kentucky."

Indiana


In December 1816, the Lincolns settled near Little Pigeon Creek
Little Pigeon River
The Little Pigeon River is the name of several rivers in the United States:*Little Pigeon River in Indiana*Little Pigeon River — three rivers of that name in Michigan*Little Pigeon River in Tennessee...

 where 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.

In October 1818, Nancy Hanks Lincoln contracted milk sickness
Milk sickness
Milk sickness, also known as tremetol vomiting, or in animals as trembles, is characterized by trembling, vomiting, and severe intestinal pain that affects individuals who ingest milk or other dairy products, or meat from a cow that has fed on white snakeroot, which contains the poison...

 by drinking milk
Milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...

 of a cow that had eaten the white snakeroot
White Snakeroot
White Snakeroot , also known as White Sanicle or Tall Boneset, is a poisonous perennial herb in the family Asteraceae, native to eastern North America...

 plant. There was no cure for the disease and on October 5, 1818, Nancy died. For over a year, Thomas and his children lived alone. He went back to Kentucky to seek a bride and found Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow from Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Elizabethtown is a city in and the county seat of Hardin County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 28,531 at the 2010 census, making it the eleventh-largest city in the state...

. On December 2, 1819 he married her. Sarah and her three children, Elizabeth, Matilda, and John, joined Abraham, Sarah and Dennis Hanks (a cousin of Nancy's who had lived with the Sparrow family, before they also died from milk sickness) to make a new family of eight.

In the early 1820s, Thomas was under considerable financial pressure (because of aging and ill health) after his 2nd 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.

Illinois


Thomas had a restless nature and when John Hanks
John Hanks
John Hanks was Abraham Lincoln's second cousin, his mother's cousin. He was the son of Joseph Hanks, Nancy Hanks Lincoln's uncle.- Early years :...

, 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 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
Charleston, Illinois
Charleston is a city in and the county seat of Coles County, Illinois, United States. The population was 21,838 as of the 2010 census. The city is home to Eastern Illinois University and has close ties with its neighbor Mattoon, Illinois...

, is preserved as the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site
Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site
The Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site is an 86-acre history park located eight miles south of Charleston, Illinois, U.S.A., near the town of Lerna. Its centerpiece is a replica of the log cabin built and occupied by Thomas Lincoln, father of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln...

, although his original saddlebag log cabin
Log cabin
A log cabin is a house built from logs. It is a fairly simple type of log house. A distinction should be drawn between the traditional meanings of "log cabin" and "log house." Historically most "Log cabins" were a simple one- or 1½-story structures, somewhat impermanent, and less finished or less...

 was lost after being disassembled and shipped to Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 for display at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition
World's Columbian Exposition
The World's Columbian Exposition was a World's Fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. Chicago bested New York City; Washington, D.C.; and St...

. Thomas Lincoln, already in his fifties, remained a resident of the county for the rest of his life and is buried at nearby Shiloh Cemetery.

Relationship with son Abraham Lincoln



Thomas's relationship with his son Abraham was probably typical of that time and place. For the first two hundred years in the colonies and then in the United States, relations between parents and children were marked by duty and obedience. Affection between Puritan fathers and sons was non-existent. Affection for their children or lack of it must have been the biggest difference between Thomas and his first wife Nancy Hanks, and between him and Abraham's stepmother who was partly of Quaker descent; she, too, was very fond of Abraham. Affection amongst the Puritans came after parents commonly started living past their fifties, and after the 'All Men are Created Equal' ethos that took hold after the Declaration of Independence. Fischer called it a revolution in age relations. But the effects were slow to be felt in the hardscrabble world Thomas inhabited. In 1809 he was still the exalted elder, Abraham's job was to obey him. On dirt farms, children were physical assets, and parents exploited them. The Quakers as well as the Puritans thought of their children as servants. Tall and strong for his age, Abraham was put to work early.

There is no evidence that Thomas encouraged his son's education. It would not have been logical for that time. On the contrary, contemporaries tell that he occasionally burned Abraham's books because he thought reading was an indolent pastime that interfered with real work. Nancy Hanks Lincoln thought Abraham should learn his letters, but her Quaker background was in agreement with Thomas': too much reading was considered a distraction. This attitude persisted well into the 20th Century in rural communities. Thomas sometimes struck Abraham if he thought he was neglecting his work by doing too much reading, or if he inserted himself into adult conversations. By his stepmother's account Abraham was a sweet, accommodating child, never defiant, so it's difficult to explain Thomas's harshness any other way than that it was how he was treated as a child. When he hired out his son to pay off a debt, he was doing no worse than thousands of other fathers who needed cash. In fact his mother probably hired him out. But it meant the end of Abraham's chances to go to school, as it had been the end of his own.

Subservience to a father who showed no affection, who did not appreciate his gifts had to be trying. Abraham's later allusions to his father's lack of ambition were the sort of shot his generation would make at the older one, for Abraham's generation was astonishingly ambitious.

It had been the way for generations that the last son continued in bondage till the father died, then inherited the property. Abraham did not want his father's life. The Louisiana Purchase had opened up opportunities for young men their fathers never dreamed of. One could go as far as talent and ambition allowed. Foreign visitors remarked on the "longing to rise" that infected young Americans.

What made Abraham even dare to judge his father was what Fisher called a revolution in age relations. The idea that all men are created equal had caught the American imagination. Equality in spirit had always been a tenet of Quakerism, but the American Revolution had young men questioning their fathers' despotism. Thomas's tyranny didn't mean only that Abraham had no free will to work on the farm or not. It also deprived him of intellectual growth. Abraham read books; there was no one to talk to about them.

Abraham made his break right around the time his father moved the family (yet again) to Coles County, Illinois in 1831.

We know from Abraham's account only that he put a small bundle of things on his shoulder and left on foot. All his public life, Abraham never made a momentous decision without lengthy and solitary reflection. Then he would wait until the timing was right. Perhaps that was the case here, because twenty-two seems a little late. And as with all his decisions, once he made up his mind, he never changed it. Abraham sent money home, visited once in a while, and made executive decisions about the property after his father died, but he never put hand to plow again.

Thomas and his son had been caught in a period of social transition. If Abraham's generation chaffed, it was Thomas's that suffered the shocking loss of what they thought they were entitled to. It must have been cruel irony to have been young when age was exalted, and then be old when it was not.

Although Abraham rushed to see his father during an illness in 1849, he did not see him on his deathbed the next winter, citing work and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Ann Lincoln was the wife of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and was First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865.-Life before the White House:...

's recent childbirth. "Say to him", he wrote his stepbrother John D. Johnston (to whom Thomas Lincoln was much closer) "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." This was at odds with his opinion at the time of Ann Rutledge's death that there was no Hereafter. But perhaps he meant to be comforting. Abraham did not attend his father's funeral. "He was not heartless", historian David Herbert Donald
David Herbert Donald
- Career :Majoring in history and sociology, Donald earned his bachelor degree from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. He earned his PhD in 1946 under the eminent, leading Lincoln scholar, James G. Randall at the University of Illinois...

 wrote, "but Thomas Lincoln represented a world that his son had long ago left behind him."

Throughout all of Abraham Lincoln's writings, and the recollections of his speech, "he had not one favorable word to say about his father." However, he named his fourth son Thomas
Tad Lincoln
Thomas "Tad" Lincoln was the fourth and youngest son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. The nickname "Tad" was given to him by his father who found Thomas "as wriggly as a tadpole" when he was a baby. Tad was known to be impulsive, unrestrained, and did not attend school...

, which "suggested that Abraham Lincoln's memories of his father were not all unpleasant.". That may have been the reason, but naming a son after his grandfather was conventional enough, and by Number Four, the Lincolns were running out of names. A generation earlier, when exaltation of grandparents was the rule, Abraham would have been expected to name his first son Thomas (Abraham was named after Thomas's father).

But for all Abraham's reticence about his father, one thing speaks for itself. Thomas was a popular storyteller with a remarkable memory and gift for mimicry. Abraham spent his earliest years in the corner of the room listening to the grownups, learning to emulate his father and enthrall his own friends later with a limitless supply of stories. It was one of his great political skills.

Portrayals


A 1970 episode of Daniel Boone
Daniel Boone (TV series)
Daniel Boone is an American action/adventure television series starring Fess Parker as Daniel Boone that aired from September 24, 1964 to September 10, 1970 on NBC for 165 episodes, and was made by 20th Century Fox Television. Ed Ames co-starred as Mingo, Boone's Native American friend, for the...

, although fictionalized, portrays the courtship of Thomas Lincoln (played by actor Burr DeBenning
Burr DeBenning
Burr DeBenning was an American character actor, who has done work in both film and television. DeBenning appeared in nearly 100 films and TV shows during his career. His credits include the television films The House on Greenapple Road, Wolfen, The Incredible Melting Man, A Nightmare on Elm...

) and Nancy Hanks (Marianna Hill
Marianna Hill
Marianna Hill , born Mariana Schwarzkopf, in Santa Barbara, California on February 9, 1941 is an American actress mostly working in American television.She has appeared in more than 70 films and television episodes...

). 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."

Sources

  • This article incorporates text from http://www.nps.gov/libo/thomas_lincoln3.htm, a work of the National Park Service
    National Park Service
    The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

     and as such in the public domain
    Public domain
    Works are in the public domain if the intellectual property rights have expired, if the intellectual property rights are forfeited, or if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all...

    .
  • Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York; Touchstone, 1995
  • Fischer, David Hackett. Growing Old in America. Oxford University Press, 1978
  • Fischer, David Hackett. Albion's Seed. Four British Folkways in America. Oxford University Press paperback, 1991.
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals. The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2006
  • Lincoln, Abraham. Lincoln Letters. Vook
    Vook
    Vook is a New York-based company that publishes digital books that combine text, video, links to the internet and social media into singular applications available both online and as mobile applications...

     ebook, 2010

External links