24. Dennis F. Hanks to William H. Herndon (interview).
Chicago Ills — Sanitary fair June. 13th 1865
I received your letter dated the __________ asking 8 or 10 interrogations. I take great pleasure in answering it, question by question as Each is put & in the order asked. The ancestors of Mr Lincoln came from England about the year 1650 — : They first settled in Rockingham County in the State of Virginia and not in Pennsylvania as stated in Abraham Lincolns Biographers — The ancistors of the Lincoln family were Scotch English. Two Men Came over from England about 1650 — one of these brothers was namd Mordaci Lincoln and the other Thomas Lincoln from whom the descendants derived their nature & their name. All died in Virginia These two men were ironside Babtists — . There was one of the children of these men who was named Mordaci — the son of Thomas — I knew none of the children of Mordaci. I think that this Mordaci was the great great grandfather of Presdt Lincoln. He was born in Virginia and died about 1700. Mordaci Lincoln was the grandfather of Abraham Lincoln — Mordaci Lincoln was the great grandfather of Abraham Lincoln Presdt. He was born in the State of Virginia Abraham Lincoln the son Mordaci, came his family from Virginia to Ky in about 1780 among the Pioneers of Danl Boon. He Mordaci died in Virginia. Mordaci was the father of Abrahams grandfather. Mordaci had 6 children — 4 boys & 2 girls — The only one of his Mordaci's sons I now remember was Abraham Lincoln born about 1755 — who was the grandfather of Abraham — and the father of Thomas He was killed by the Indian near Boonslick Ky no County — . All these persons Abraham Lincoln the grandfather of Abraham the presdt had 3 sons — Mordaci & Abraham — & Thomas Lincoln the last being the father of Abraham. All these sons & daughters scattered and went — some to Ky — some to North Carolina — Tennessee — Indiana & Ills. The Hanks family of which I am one was not Connected with the Lincoln family till about 1808 — . Thomas Lincoln — Abrahams father was born in the State of Virginia on the
Roanoke About 1775. Thomas Lincoln was 6 years old when his father was killed by the Indians — . I wish to state one fact here about the killing of Thomas Lincoln — Abraham's grandfather. In Kentucky all men had to clear out their own field — cut down the trees — Split them into rails &c. and in putting on the last rail — the 8th on the fence one Indian who had secreted himself shot Thomas Lincoln. Then the Indian ran out from his hiding place and caught Thomas — the father of Abraham — Mordaci the oldest brother of Thomas — and uncle of Abraham jumped over the fence — ran to the fort — shot the Indian through the [port?] holes of the fort — the Indian dropt Thomas — ran and was followed by the blood the next day & found dead — In his flight he threw his gun in a tree top which was found. Mordaci said the Indian had a silver half moon trinket on his breast at the time he drew his "beed" on the Indian, that silver being the mark he shot at. He said it was the prettiest mark he held a rifle on — So remains now of old Thomas Lincoln's children — boys — three — Mordaci, Thomas — & Silas. — The children of Mordaci came to Sangamon — the children of Silas scattered — some in Ky — some in Tennessee — some in North Carolina — & Thomas Lincoln Came to Indiana. There is Thomas Lincoln Abraham father is a young man: he Thos at the age of 25 was married to Nancy Sparrow — not Hanks as stated in the Biographies of the day — . Nancy Sparrow — Abraham's mother was the child of Henry Sparrow. Henry Sparrow's wife was Lucy Hanks — Abrahams Mother. The stories going about, charging wrong or indecency prostitution in any of the above families is false — and only got up by base political Enemies & trattors to injure A.Lincolns reputation — name & fame — . Thomas Lincoln — Abrahams was married to Nancy Sparrow about the year 1808 in Hardin County & State of Kentucky. Nancy Sparrow — the child of Henry Sparrow married Thomas Lincoln when she was about 20 years of age: she was born in Mercer Co Ky. Thomas Lincoln was born in Virginia. Thomas Lincoln the father of Abraham owned about 30 acres in Hardin County on a little Creek called Knob Creek which Empties into the Roling Fork. He owned the land in fee simple. After the marriage of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Sparrow — say in 3 or 4 years Abraham was born at that place. The cabin was a double one, with a passage or entry between. About the year 1813 or 14 as the volunteers of the War of 1812 were returning home they came by Lincolns house and he fed and Cared for them by Companies — by strings of them. I was a little boy at that time — Abraham was a little child and Sarah his sister and senior by 2 or 3 years was then likewise living and a little girl. They had no other children — Cause a private matter. It is said in the Biographies that Mr Lincoln left the State of Ky because and only because Slavery was there. This is untrue. He movd off to better his Condition — to a place where he could buy land for his Children & Thos. at $125 per acre — Slavery did not operate on him. I know too well this whole matter. Mrs Lincoln — Abrahams
mother was 5-8 in high — Spare made — affectionate, the most affectionate I ever saw — never knew her to be out of temper — and thought strange of it.
He seemed to be immovably Cam: she was keen — shrewd — smart & I do say highly intellectual by nature. Her memory was strong — her [perception?] was quick — her judgement was accute almost. She was Spiritually & ideally inclined — not dull — not material — not heavy in thought — feeling or action. Her hair was dark hair — Eyes bluish green — keen and loving. Her weight was one hundred-thirty — . Thomas Lincoln Abrahams father — was 5 — 10 Ë high — very stoutly built and weighed 196 pounds — His hair dark — his Eyes hazel. He was a man of great streght & courage — not one bit of Cowardice about him — He could [illegible] fatigue for any length of time — was a man of uncommon Endurance. Mr Lincoln's friends thought him the best man in Kentucky and others thought that a man by the name of Hardin was a better man — so the two men through the influence of their friends met at a tavern in Hardinsburg Ky. There the two men had a long & tedious fight and Lincoln whipped Hardin without a scratch. They did not fight from anger or malice but to try who was the strongest man — to try manhood. These two men were great good friends ever after. Thomas Lincoln the father of Abraham could beat his son telling a story — cracking a joke — Mr Thomas Lincoln was a good, clean, social, truthful & honest man, loving like his wife Evry thing & every body. He was a man who took the world Easy — did not possess much Envy. He never thought that gold was God and the same idea runs through the family. One day when Lincolns mother was weaving in a little shed Abe came in and quizzically asked his good mother who was the father of Zebedee's Children: she saw the drift and laughed, saying get out of her you nasty little pup, you: he saw he had got his mother and ran off laughing. About Abs Early Education: and his sisters Education let me say this — Their mother first learned their Abc's and then Ab's. She learned them this out of Websters old spelling book: it belonged to me & cost in those days c75, it being Covered with Calf skin — or suchlike Covering. I taught Abe his first lesson in spelling — reading & writing — . I taught Abe to write with a buzzards quillen which I killed with a rifle & having made a pen — put Abes hand in mind & moving his fingers by my hand to to give him the idea of how to write — . We had no geese then — for the Country was a forrest. I tried to kill an Eagle but it was too smart — wanted to learn Abe to write with that. Lincolns mother learned him to read the Bible — study it & the stories in it and all that was moraly & affectionate it it, repeating it to Abe & his sister when very young. Lincoln was often & much moved by the stories. This Bible was bought in Philadelphia about 1801 — by my Father & Mother & was mine when Abe was taught to read in it. It is now burned together with all property — deeds if any & other records — This fire took place in Charleston — Coles Co Ills Decr. 5th 1864 — lost all I have — my wife died December
18th 1864. I was born in Hardin Co Ky in 1799 — May the 15 — on Nolan Creek near Elizabethtown — . I was ten years older than Abraham and knew him intimately and well from the day of his birth to 1830 — I was the second man who touched Lincoln after his birth — a custom then in Ky of running to greet the newborn babe. A man by the name of Hazel hellped to teach Abraham his letters Abc — spelling reading & writing &c — Lincoln went to school about 3. mo — with his sister — all the Education he had in Ky — Parson Elkin a preacher of the old Babtist religion Came to Mr Thomas Lincoln's and frequently preached in that neighborhood.
At about the year 1818 Thomas Lincoln — the father of Abraham had a notion in his head — formed a determination to sell out his place and move to Indiana, then a new State where he could buy land as said before at $125 per. He sold out to _________ Mr Lincoln got $300 — and took it — the $300 — in whisky. The 30 acre farm in Ky was a knotty — knobby as a piece of land could be — with deep hollows — ravines — cedar trees Covering the parts — knobs — knobs as thick as trees could grow. Lincolns hous was in a hollow — high — tall & peaky hills & borded with cedar. Stood up against the sky all around — Mr Lincoln as stated before sold his farm for whisky. He cut down trees — made a kind of flat boat out of yellow poplar. He made the boat on the Rolling fork at the mouth of Knob Creek Hardin Co Ky — loaded his household furniture — his tools — whisky and other Effects, including pots — vessels — rifles. &c. &c on the boat. He took no dogs — chickens — cats — geese or other domestic animals. He floated on awhile down the Rolling Fork and upset — and lost the most of the tools &c and some of his Whisky. He went along by himself not taking his family. From the Rolling Fork he ran into the Beach fork and thence into the great Ohio. He landed at Thompsons Ferry at Poseys — house or farm. He started out from this ferry in search of a place and found one and located it by making blazes — brush heaps &c to make a location, which he afterwards bought at $2.00 per acre — purchased it under the $2.00 act. This was an 80 a tract, and Mr Lincoln not being able to pay for it, lost his $80 which he paid to the government and which the government kept and has to-day — . When he had Cornered the land — blazed it off — marked the boundaries he proceeded on horse back, with his own food & his horses fodder behind him to Vincennes where he paid the $200 per acre as stated before. Mr Lincoln never owned the land — more than a kind of preemption right & sold it when he moved to Ills. I fared like him in all these particulars. He then returned to the State of Kentucky from Spencer Co Indiana, then Perry Co — since divided — as Hardin Co Ky was — as Sangamon Co — . From the old homestead in Ky Hardin — now Lareau Co Thomas Lincoln —
Nancy father & mother of Sarah & Abe ther two children, & two feather beds — clothing &c mounted 2 horses and went back to Spencer Co — then Perry Co Indian where said land was located on a little Creek Called pigeon Creek — about north of the Ohio — & about 70 miles north west of Hardin Co Ky — & across & north of the Ohio —. They had no waggons — no dogs — cats — hogs — cows — chickens or such like domestic animals. Abe was at this time 7 years of age. — Abe read no books in Ky — Abe was a good boy — an affectionate one — a boy who loved his father & mother dearly & well always minding them well — Sometimes Abe was a little rude. When strangers would ride along & up to his fathers fence Abe always, through pride & to tease his father, would be sure to ask the stranger the first question, for which his father would sometimes knock him a rod. Abe was then a rude and forward boy Abe when whipped by his father never bawled but dropt a kind of silent unwelcome tear, as evidence of his sensations — or other feelings. The family landed at Thompson's Ferry on the Ohio & on the other side crossed the Ohio, and landed at Poseys Farm on the Indiana side. Hence 17 miles northwest of the ferry. I went myself with them backwards & forwards — to Indiana — & back to Ky & back to Ky & back to Indiana and know the story & all the facts well. We all started from Ky in Septr 1818 & was three or four days to the ferry & one day from the Ferry out to the place of location — Here they stopt — Camped — erected a little two face Camp open in front, serving a momentary purpose. Lincoln saw a wild turkey near the Camp on the second day after landing and Mrs Lincoln — Abs good mother loaded the gun — Abe poked the gun through the crack of the camp and accidentally killed one, which he brought to the Camp house. Thomas Lincoln then went to cutting trees for the logs of his house — cutting down the brush and underwood — Indiana then being a wilderness and wholly a timbered Country. I assisted him to do this — to cut timber — hawl logs. &c and helped him erect his log Cabin — & Camp — one story high — just high Enough to stand under — no higher. This took only one day. Abe Could do little jobs — such as Carry water — go to the springs — branches &c, for water which was got by digging holes — This was a temporary affair. This was in 1818. We — Lincolns family, including Sally & Abe & my self slept & lodged in this Cabin all winter & till next Spring. We in the winter & spring cut down brush — under wood — trees — cleared ground — made a field of about 6. acres on which we raised our crops — . We all hunted pretty much all the time, Especially so when we got tired of work — which was very often I will assure you. We did not have to go more than 4 or 5 hundred yards to kill deer — turkeys & other wild game. We found bee trees all over the forests. Wild game and were our [fir?] We ate no wild locust, like John The Babtist. We had to go to the Ohio river 17 miles to mill and when we got there the mill was a poor Concern: it was a little bit of a hand horse mill the ground meal of which a hound could Eat as fast as it was ground. Yet this was a God Send. The mill was close to Posey's. The Country was wild full of game — dense with vegetation — swampy — . We could track a bear — deer — wolf or Indian for miles through the wild matted pea vines. Indians — wild bears — wolves — deers were plenty.
We had no trouble with the Indians in Indiana, they soon left and westward. In the fall & winter of 1819 & 20 we Commenced to cut the trees — clear out the brush and underwoods & forest for our new grand old log cabin, which we Erected that winter: it was one Story — 18 by 20 feet — no passage — on window — no glass in it. The lights were made from the leaf Coming off from the hog's fat. This was good mellow light & lasted well. The house was sufficiently high to make a kind of bedroom over head — a loft. This was approached by a kind of ladder made by boring holes in the logs, forming [illegible] one side of the house and this peg over peg we Climed aloft, the pegs creaking & screching as we went. Here were the beds — the floor of the loft was clap boards & the beds lay on this. Here I and Abe slept & I was married there to Abes stepsister — Miss Elizabeth Johnston — not Johnson. During this fall Mrs Lincoln was taken sick. with what is known with the Milk sick: she struggled on day day by day - a good Christian woman and died on the 7th day after she was taken sick. Abe & his sister did some work — little jobs — Errand & light work. There was no physician near than 35 miles — She knew she was going to die & Called up the Children to her dying side and told them to be good & kind to their father — to one an other and to the world, Expressing a hope that they might live as they had been taught by her to love men — love — reverence and worship God. Here in this rude house, of the Milk Sick, died one of the very best women in the whole race, known for kindness — tenderness — charity & love to the world. Mrs Lincoln always taught Abe goodness — kindness — read the good Bible to him — taught him to read and to spell — taught him sweetness & benevolence as well. From this up to 1821 — Mr Lincoln lived single, Sarah cooking for us, she then being about 14 years of age. We still Keept up hunting — and farming it Mr Lincoln — Ab's father was a Cabinet maker & house joiner &c — : he worked at this trade in the winter at odd times, farming it — in The summer. We always hunted it made no difference what came for we more or less depended on it for a living — nay for life. We had not been long at the log Cabin before We got the usual domestic Animals, Known to Civilization. These were driven out from near the Ohio river or halled in a cart pulled by one yoke of oxen. Mrs Lincoln was buried about one fourth of a mile from the log cabin and the babtist Church, the Pastor was [Lamar?]. Abraham learned to write so that we could understand it in 1821 — . David Elkin of Hardin Co Ky — called Parson Elkin whose name has been mentioned before paid a visit — do not think Elkin Came at the solicitation & letter writing of Abe, but Came of his own accord or through the solicitation of the Church to which Mrs Lincoln belonged She being a hard shell Babtist Abe was now 12 years old. Elkin Came over to Indiana in about one year after the death of Mrs Elkin — and preach a funeral sermon on the death of Mrs Lincoln. Parson Elkin was a good — true — man and the best preacher & finest orator I Ever heard. I have heard his words distinctly & clearly one fourth of a mile. Some little time before this funeral service
he Thomas Lincoln went to Kentucky and married Johnson whose maiden name was Bush. When Thomas Lincoln married her she had 3 children — 2 daughters — & 1 son. The family Came to Indiana with their Step-father and their own mother. There was now 5 Children in the family — Sarah — & Abe. Lincoln — Elizabeth, John D — & Matilda Johnston — . I married the Elizabeth. I was just 21 — She was 15. Thos Lincoln now hurried his farming — his Calling & business, always remember hunting. Now at this time Abe was getting hungry for book, reading Evry thing he could lay his hands on. The marriage of Thomas Lincoln & the widow Johnson was in 1821 — Abraham being now 12 years old. Websters old Spelling Book — The life Henry Clay. Robinson Crusoe — Weems Life of Washington — Esops fables — Bunyan's Pilgrim's progress —. I do not Sy that Lincoln read thse books just then but he did between this time & 1825. He was a Constant and I my Say Stubborn reader, his father having Sometimes to slash him for neglecting his work by reading. Mr Lincoln — A bs father — often Said I had to pull the old sow up to the trough — when speaking of Abes reading & how he got to it, then and now he had to pull her away" From the time of the marriage Thos Lincoln & Mrs Johnson, Mrs Lincoln proved an Excellent Step mother: When she Came into Indiana Abe & his sister was wild — ragged & dirty. Mrs Lincoln had been raised in Elizabethtown in somewhat a high life: She Soaped — rubbed and washed the Children Clean so that they look pretty neat — well & clean. She sewed and mended their Clothes & the Children onc more looked human as thir own good mother left them. Thomas Lincoln and Mrs Lincoln never had any Children, accident & nature stopping things short. From 1820 to 1825. Mr Lincoln & Mrs Lincoln Each worked a head at their own business — Thomas at farming — Cabinet making — & hunting: She at Cooking — washing — sewing — weaving &c. &c — About the year 1825 or 1826, Abe borrowed of Josiah Crawford Ramseys life of Washington — which got spoiled as specified generally in The Presidents life and paid as therein described — : he pulled fodder at 25c per dy to py for it. He worked 3 or 4 dys — . Abe was then growing to be a man and about 15 or 16 ys of age. He was then just the Same boy in Evry particular that he subsequently Exhibited to the world from 1831 — to the time of his death — at this Early age he was more humerous than in after life — full of fun — wit — humor and if he Ever got a new story — new book or new fact or ideia he never forgot it. He was honest — faithful — loving truth, Speaking it at all times — & never flinching therefrom. Physically he was a stout & powerful boy — fat round — plump & well made as well as proportioned. This Continued to be so up to the time he landed in Salem. Sangamon County. In 1825 or 1826 he then Exhibited a love for Poetry and wrote a piece of humorous Rhyme on his friend Josiah Crawford that made all the neighbors, Crawford included burst their sides with laughter. I had it was lost in the fire. He was humorous funny — witty & good humored in all times. Sarah married a man (Aaron Grigsby): she married
him in 1822 and died in about 12 mo in childbed. About 1826 & 7 myself and Abe went down to the Ohio & cut Cord wood at 25c per Cord & bought stuff to make Each a shirt. We were proud of this — It must have been about this time that Abe got kicked by a horse in the mill and who did not Speak for several hours and when he did speak — he ended the sentence which he Commenced to the horse as I am well informed & blieve. From this last period 1825 — 6 & 7 Lincoln was Constantly reading, writing — cipher a little in Pikes Arithmatic. He Excelled any boy I ever saw, putting his opportunities into Conversation,. He then Some had or got Barclay's English Dictionary — a part of which I have now & which can be seen now at my house — and which I am to give to W H Herndon of the City of Springfield. During these years the ports of Mr Lincoln were hunting — shooting squirrels — jumping — wrstling — playing ball — throwing the mall over head — The story about his Carrying home a drunken man is not true as I think or re cellect. He was good Enough & tender Enough & Kind Enough to have saved Any man from Evil — wrong — difficulties or damnation. Let his claim nothing but what is true — Truth & Justice — & Mankind will make him the great of the world: he needs no fictions to back him. Lincoln sometimes attempted to sing but always failed, but while this is true he was harmony & time — & sound. He loved such music as he knew the words of. He was a tricky man and sometimes when he went to log house raising — Corn shucking & such like things he would say to himself and sometimes to to others — I don't want thes fellows to work any more and instantly he would Commence his pranks — tricks — jokes — stories — and sure Enough all would stop — gather around Abe & listen, sometimes Crying — and sometimes bursting their sides with laughter. He sometimes would mount a stump — chair or box and make speeches — Speech with stories — anecdotes & such like thing: he never failed here. At this time Abe was Somewhat He was now and well as before a kind of forward boy & sometimes forward too when he got stubborn: His nature went an Entire revolution. One thing is true of him — always was up to 1830 when our intimacy ended, because he went to Sangamon & I went to Coles Co.: he was ambitious & determined & when he attempted to Excel by man or boy his whole soul & his Energies were bent on doing it — and he in this generally — almost always accomplished his Ends. From these years 1826 — & 7 what has been said of other years is applicable up to 1830 — working — chopping — toiling — woman child & man — . The plays & sports were the Same. In 1829 (March) Thomas Lincoln moved from Spencer Co Indiana and landed in Macon Co Ills, ten miles west of Decatur. In that spring & summer the log cabin which I now have on Exhibition at the Sanitary fair in Chicago was Erected. Lincoln helped Cut the logs — so did John Hanks — Abe halled them & I hewed them all in & raised it the next day we
raised the Cabin. Abraham & his neighbors had a mall, [railing?] party 1830 and he & they then split the rails to fence the ten acres of land which was done. In the Spring & Summer of 1830 the ten acres of land were broken up with the place — . This was on the north fork of Sangamon River in Macon Co Ills — Lincoln was 20 years of when he left Indiana, not 21 — as said in the Books. In the fall of 1830 he went down the Sangamon, he then being 21 years of age with John Hanks in a boat of some kind.
I now have told you all I recollect & think worthy of being told. I hope this will put history right, as I have taken time to reflect & to refresh my memory by Conversations — times of well authenticated date — by records — friends & papers. All of which I do hereby certify to be true in substance — time & fact — knowing what is said to be true personally, as I was an actor pretty much all my life in the scene —
D. F. Hanks
Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2165 — 83
1. Written out by WHH in the form of a letter and signed by Hanks.
2. Baptist supporters of the Parliamentary cause and of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War.
3. Heavy corrections on the original document make meanings sometimes difficult to ascertain.
4. Cf. testimony on pp. 95 — 96.
5. The confusion about the name of Lincoln's grandfather in this instance is probably that of WHH.
6. Silas is a mistake for Josiah.
7. Meaning $1.25 per acre.
8. Apparently a mistake for "she."
9. For another version of this story, see §16. Note that in the earlier account the name of Thomas Lincoln's antagonist is given as "Breckinridge" and the fight took place in Breckinridge County. Here the name is given as "Hardin," the fight taking place in Hardinsburg, the Breckinridge County seat.
11. A ferry connecting Kentucky with the Indiana side of the Ohio near the present town of Troy.
12. The Land Law of 1800 allowed the purchase of federal land on four years' credit at $2.00 per acre, and in 1804 the minimum allowable purchase was established at 160 acres. It appears that under the Act of March 2, 1821, Thomas Lincoln relinquished half of this original purchase, retaining 80 acres for which he was able to pay in full. See William E. Bartelt, "The Land Dealings of Spencer County, Indiana, Pioneer Thomas Lincoln," Indiana Magazine of History 87 (1991): 211 — 23.
13. Hanks seems here to be describing the homemade candles used for interior lighting.
14. Caret indicating interlineated note, "See 13," which seems to refer to further details on the death of Nancy Lincoln on page 13 of the manuscript.
15. David Ramsay, The Life of George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Armies of the United States in the War Which Established Their Independence; and First President of the United States (1807).
16. AL's sister.
17. Nicholas Pike, A New and Complete System of Arithmetic, Composed for the Use of Citizens of the United States (1788).
18. James Barclay, A Complete and Universal Dictionary on a New Plan . . . to Which Are Prefixed a Free Enquiry into the Origin and Antiquity of Letters . . . a New Compendious Grammar of the English Language; and to the Whole Is Added an Outline of Antient and Modern History (1774).