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344. John Hanks (William H. Herndon Interview).

[1865 — 66]

John Hanks

I was born in Ky on the 9th day of Feby 1802 (1802) in Nelson Co in 4 M of Beardstown. My father moved to Hardin Co in 1806 — I Knew Abraham Lincoln


in Ky. Abrah was Known among the boys as a bashful — Somewhat dull, but peacable boy: he was not a brilliant boy — but worked his way by toil: to learn was hard for him, but he walked Slowly, but Surely. He went to School to a man by the name of Hazel: the School was but a Short distance. Lincoln lived on the Bank of Knob Creek — about ˝ mile above the Rolling fork, which Empties into Salt River which Empties into Ohio R. Abraham Lincoln's mother and I were Cousins Abm & I are 2d Cousins. I Knew Mrs Nancy Lincoln — or Nancy Sparrow before marriage. She was a tall Slender woman — dark Skinned — black hair & Eyes — her face was Sharp & angular — forehead high — She was beyond all doubt an intellectual woman — rather Extraordinary if any thing. She was born in Mercer Co Ky about 1780 — her nature was Kindness — mildness — tenderness — Sadness — obedience to her husband. Abrm was like his mother very much. She was a babtist by profession

My recellection, in fact Abm's Father told me so that his great grandfather was an Englishman — Came from England and Settled in Virginia. This is the family reputation. When I was in Ky in 1864 I was Shown a house in Mercer Co which was Said to be the house that Abm's Grand had built. I doubt the House, but don't the farm — about 10 M from the mouth of Kentuck river — about 10 or 2 M from Harrisburg — South East from Harrodsburg.

I Knew Thomas Lincoln in Ky: Knew him well — He was Cabinet & House Carpenter — farmed after he got married — Still working at his trade. He was a man about 5 feet 10 in high — weigh about 180 — Eyes dark gray — hair black — a little Stupt Shouldered — good humored man — a Strong brave man — a very Stout man — loved fun — jokes and equalled Abe in teling Stories. Happiness was the End of life with him. He, Thos, was older than his wife — Say about 5 years — being born about 1775 — . Thomas was born in Virginia — So was his wife — Thos. was 6 years of age when he Came to Ky His father was Killed by the Indians as Dennis Hanks has Said. The Indian Story of Dennis Hanks is generally Correct as told you by Dennis — So is Chapmans story generally Correct Thomas Told me So. My Father & Lincoln were born in Old Va in what is called the Rappahannock River — We Knew Each other in Virginia — that is the families did. Abm's Mother was my first Cousin. Abrm's grand mother was my father Sister. Abrms Grandfather & Mother on his Mothers Side lived in Mercer Co Ky — about 20 M South of Abrms grand father on his fathers Side — the one Killed by the Indians. Dennis Hanks & I are Cousins. Mr Sparrow & Mrs Sparrow never Came to Ills. They lived in Ky in Mercer Co. Sparrow married my fathers Sister — Henry Sparrow was his name — lived & died in Mercer Co — never Came to Indiana. They came from Old Va. All these families Came from about the same County — Can't say what Co.

Thomas Lincoln moved to Indiana in 1818 — probably 1816 and settled in Spencer Co near what is now Caled Gentryville Indiana. I staid in Ky — did not Come out when Dennis Hanks did — Dennis Hanks came out in about 1818 —


Mrs Lincoln died say in 1818. I think and lies buried South East of the Lincoln farm about ˝ m on a rise-Knowl or Knob. She was buried by the Side of Mr Hall & his wife, as I understand it. I Came out to Indiana in 1822 after Thos Lincoln had married his 2d wife & Staid in Indiana near to & with Thomas Lincoln for 4 ys I remember Abrm well in Indiana He was then 10 ys of age then & 14 ys when I left Indiana & went back to Ky. I was in 1822 20 ys.

Abrm was farming when I got there & when I left & went to Ky. He went to School but little: he went to School to Dorsey or Swaney, I can't now Say which. Old man Lincolns house the was a rough-rough log one — not a hewed one — his 2d one was Sorter hewed but is gone — never standing in 1860. The 3d one was hewed, logs: that one never was occupied by Lincoln: it was up but not inhabited.: the House Stood East & west and faced the South — chimney in East End. it was — is about 4 M to Gentryville from the Lincoln farm — N. of East a little — The House stood on a round Hill — Knowl or Know — Lincoln's farm was on the forks of big pigeon & little Pigeon. The big pigeon is north and the little one South —

When Lincoln, Ab & I returned to the house from work, he would go to the Cupboard — Snatch a piece of Corn bread — take down a book — Sit down on a chair — Cock his legs up as high as his head and read — He and I worked bare footed — grubbed it — plowed — mowed & cradled together — plowed Corn — gathered it & shucked Corn — Abrm read Constantly when he had an opportunity — no news papers — then — had monthly meetings at church — Sometimes at private houses — Abe went to Church generally — not always — I Know he read weems washington when I was there — got it wet — it was on a Kind of book shelf Close to the window — the book shelf was made by 2 pins in the wall & a clap board on them — books on that — Lincoln got it of Crawford — told Crawford & paid it in pulling fodder by 2 or 3 days work. He frequently read the Bible. He read Robinson Crusoe — Bunyans Pilgrims progress — . Lincoln devoured all the books he could get or lay hands on: he was a Constant and voracious reader — I never Could get him in Company with women: he was not a timid man in this particular, but did not seek such Company. He was always full of his Stories — as much so in Indiana as Ills — He would go out in the woods & gather hickory bark — bring it home & Keep a light by it and read by it — when no lamp was to be had — grease lamp — handle to it which Stuck in the crack of the wall. Tallow was Scarce — Abrm was a good hearty Eater — loved good Eating. His own Mother & Step Mother were good Cook for them day & time. In the summer he wore tow linen pants & flax Shirt and in the winter he wore linsey wolsey — that is during the time I was there. I have Seen Lincoln — Abe — make Speeches to his Step brothers — Step Sisters — and youngsters that would Come to See the family.


I moved from Ky to Ills in the fall of 1828 and settled where I now live — 4 M north west of Decatur. and built the first house in Decatur. I wrote to Thos Lincoln what Kind of a Country it was: he Came to this State the 1 day of Mch 1830 — to my house. He then built 10 M west of Decatur — & about 100 Steps from the N. F of Sangamon River & on the North side of it on a Kind of bluff — The house — the logs of it, I cut myself in 1829 & gave them to old man Lincoln: The house set East & west — fronted South — chimney at west End — the Same House which was Shown in Chicago. Lincoln broke up 15 acres of land Abrm & myself Split the rails: he own 4 yoke of oxen — broke prairie in the Summer — broke 30 acres for my brother — he broke prairie for others. 2 yoke belonged to Thomas Lincoln and 2 to my brother. Dennis Hanks Came out at the Same time — Mr & Mrs Hall — Dennis Hanks married Abes Step Sister — So did Hall — . Abrm during the winter of 1830 & 1 walked 3 M and maul 1000 Rails for Maj. Warnick

I Knew Abs own Sister Sarah: She was a Short built woman — Eyes dark gray — hair dark brown: She was a good woman — Kind, tender, & good natured and is Said to have been a smart woman. That is my opinion.

After Abrm got to Decatur — rather to Macon — My Co — a man by the name of Posey Came into our neighborhood and made a Speech: it was a bad one and I Said Abe could beat it. I turned down a box or Keg and Abe made his Speech. The other man was a Candidate — Abe wasn't. Abe beat him to death — his subject being the navigation of the Sangamon River. The man after the Speech was through took Abe aside and asked him where he had learned So much and what he did so well. Abe Explained, Stating his manner & method of reading and what he had read: the man Encouraged Lincoln to persevere.

Offutt Came to my house in Feb'y 1831, and wanted to hire me to run a flat boat for him — Saying that he had heard that I was quite a flat boatman in Ky: he wanted me to go badly. I went & saw Abe & Jno Johnson — Abes Step brother — introduced Offutt to them. We made an Engagement with Offutt at 50 per day and $60 to make the trip to N Orleans. Abe & I Came down the Sangamon River in a Canoe in March 1831. — landed at what is now Called and Known as Jamestown — 5 East of Springfield — once Called Judy's ferry. We left our Canoe in Charge of Mr Man — walked afoot to Springfield and found Offutt. He was at a tavern in Old town — probably Elliotts: it was Elliotts. He Offutt Expected to find his boat according to Contract at the mouth of Spring Creek 5 north of Springfield — got disappointed — Abe — Johnson & myself went down to the mouth of Spring Creek & there Cut the timbers to make the boat — we were


about 2 weeks Cutting our timber — suppose it was on Congress land — Abe walked afoot to Springfield — thence to Judy's ferry — got the Canoe and floated it down to the mouth of Spring Creek where the timber was Cut: we then rafted the logs down to Sangamon River to what is Called Sangamon town 7 miles N.W of Springfield. We boarded when we were working at the mouth of Spring Creek — walked 1. M — Eat 2 meals a dy. When we got to Sangamon town we made a shantee-shed — Abe was Elected Cook. We sawed our lumber at Kirkpatricks Mill on Prairie Creek about 1 ˝ M S.W. of Sangamon Town. We hewed & scored the timber at the mouth of Spring Creek. We finished making & launching the boat in about 4 Weeks — we loaded the boat with barrell pork — Corn & live hogs — and left Sangamon twn. I remember a jugglers show at Sangamon Town. Abe went to it. Abe was full of jokes during all this time — Kept us alive. Offutt was a whig — so was Lincoln but he Could not hear Jackson wrongfully abused — Especially where a lie & malace did the abuse. I can say that Abe never was a democrat: he was always a whig — so was his father before him.

We landed at the New Salem mill about the 19th April and got fast on Rutledges Mill dam — now called Bales Mill dam. We unloaded the boat — that is we Changed goods from one boat to a borrowed one — rolled the barrels forward — bored a hole in the end of the boat over the dam — water ran out and thus we got over — on the dam part of a day and one night. We then went on down to the Yellow bank or blue banks on the Sangamon River near Squire Godbys about 1 M above the mouth of Salt Creek. We purchased Some hogs of I think Squire Godby — am not sure — tried to drive them, Couldnt — ran them back in the pen — Caught them — Abe held the head of them — I the tail — and Offutt sewed up their Eyes — wouldn't drive — couldn't — put them in a cart — Carried them to the boat about one mile to the river — Abe recd the hogs — Cut open there — Johnson & I halled them — to Abe —

We then proceeded — Offutt — John Johnson — Abe Lincoln & Myself, down the Sangamon River — thence into Ills — . We Kept our victuals & in fact Slept down in the boat — at one End — went down by a Kind of ladder through a scuttle hole. We used plank as Sails — & Cloth — Sometimes — rushed through Beardstown in a hurry — people Came out & laughed at us — passed Alton — Cairo — and Stopt at Memphis — Vicksburg — Natches — &c. There is nothing worthy of being Known going down the river.

I Can say we soon — Say in May we landed in N.O. There it was we Saw Negroes Chained — maltreated — whipt & scourged. Lincoln Saw it — his heart bled — Said nothing much — was silent from feeling — was Sad — looked bad — felt bad — was thoughtful & abstracted — I Can say Knowingly that it was on this trip that he formed his opinions of Slavery: it ran its iron in him then & there — May 1831. I have heard him say — often & often — Offutt — Johnson


Abe & myself left NO in June 1831. We Came to St. Louis on the Steam boat together walked to Edwardsville 25 N.E of St Louis — Abe, Johnson & Myself — Abe & Johnson went to Coles Co. & I to Springfield Sangamon Co. Thomas Lincoln had moved to Coles Co in 1831 in — say June.

I Came near forgetting some facts. I was in the Black Hawk war — was in Stillman's defeat, which was on the 14th day of May 1832. Lincoln was out in that war. I went in March 1832 — Lincoln Started as Captain of the N Salem Company about the same time — Lincoln was at Dixons fery at the time of Stillmans defeat —. I did not go to the battle of the Bad Axe. Lincoln I think was there, though not in the action, as I understand it. I was out about 4 or 6 mo — So was Lincoln — Lincoln went with Maj Henry I Know. I was discharged at Ottowa & Lincoln at Rock Island or near that — Met at Dixon's ferry — after the Stillmans defeat. Lincoln went on with Henry. We were ordered to build a fort at Ottowa to protect the People. The Stillman defeat affair grew out of the drunkenness — folly — cowardice. The fight with Black Hawk was about Sundown — 1h by Sun at or near Sycamore Creek about 700 Indians — and about 200 white —

Saw Abrm in Springfield in 1833 — Summer: he was in town on business & So was I. I Saw him frequently from this time — Every year from this time till he was Elected Presdt. He practiced Law in Decatur. He came out to my house frequently, leaving Court in the Evening & after court was over — Ended — I ate dinner with him after he was Elected Presdt. He wrote me a letter that he was going to See his mother — Came by Decatur — I went with him — Saw his fathers grave. He stayed with his Mother one. We ate dinner at in Farmington — Pretty woman there that took Abes Eyes — I assure you. We then went back to Charleston — & Came to Springfield. I saw him in Washington when he was inaugurated — was in his rooms Several times — Never Saw him again till I Saw his dead form in the City of Springfield —

I Served in the Army of the USA in 1861 — and toiled there 3 years to preserve and defend what he loved.

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3900 — 3913; Huntington Library: LN2408, 1:111 — 23


1. Marginal note: I can say that this testimony can be implicitly relied on. Mr Lincoln loved this man — thought him truthful — honest and noble. Lincoln has stated this to me over and over again. / Herndon.

2. For Dennis Hanks's account, see §16; for A. G. Chapman's account, see §327.

3. Levi Hall and Nancy Hanks Hall, AL's aunt.

4. See §71, note 16.

5. Josiah Crawford.

6. Probably Charles Hanks.

7. Squire Hall and Matilda Johnston Hall, AL's stepsister.

8. Capt. William Warnick of Macon County, a landholder and aspiring politician who commanded a company of mounted rangers during the Black Hawk War.

9. Probably John F. Posey. See §7, note 1.

10. Uriah Mann, a farmer who emigrated to Sangamon County in 1831, settling in what is now Clear Lake Township.

11. See §336.

12. Russell Godbey.

13. Presumably cut open their eyes.

14. See AL's autobiographical statement, which asserts that John Hanks did not go all the way to New Orleans. CW 4:64.

15. James D. Henry.