Nancy Hanks

Some historical figures we know so little about, that it is almost impossible to say much about them.  A prime example is Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the mother of Abraham Lincoln.  Nancy Hanks was born on February 5, 1784 in Hampshire County, Virginia.  She married Thomas Lincoln on June 12, 1806 in Washington County, Kentucky.  They had three children:  Sarah Lincoln, February 10, 1807- January 20, 1828;  Abraham Lincoln; and Thomas Lincoln who died in infancy in 1812.  On October 5, 1818 at Little Pigeon Creek, Indiana, she died of the “milk sickness”, a malady caused by drinking milk from a cow that had eaten the poisonous white snakeroot.  Her husband made her coffin, helped by her son.  That sums up much of what we know about her.  Well might her son describe his family history as “the short, simple annals of the poor”.

It is deeply unsatisfying to know so little about a woman who brought into this world a son who had such a major impact upon this world.  However, when the facts fail us, we can always turn to the poets:

If Nancy Hanks
Came back as a ghost,
Seeking news
Of what she loved most,
She’d ask first
“Where’s my son?
What’s happened to Abe?
What’s he done?”

“Poor little Abe,
Left all alone
Except for Tom,
Who’s a rolling stone;
He was only nine
The year I died.
I remember still
How hard he cried.”

“Scraping along
In a little shack,
With hardly a shirt
To cover his back,
And a prairie wind
To blow him down,
Or pinching times
If he went to town.”

“You wouldn’t know
About my son?
Did he grow tall?
Did he have fun?
Did he learn to read?
Did he get to town?
Do you know his name?
Did he get on?”

Rosemary Benet

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Published in: on December 28, 2009 at 6:42 am  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. [...] Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks we know next to nothing.  Of his father, Thomas Lincoln, the chief fact in regard to him and his famous son is that they [...]

  2. [...] Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks we know next to nothing.  Of his father, Thomas Lincoln, the chief fact in regard to him and his famous son is that they [...]


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