Abe Lincoln’s Carolina Roots

Sunday’s News & Observer offered an article discussing the recent opening of the Bostic Lincoln Center Museum. What is the Bostic Lincoln Center, you ask? A Rutherford County group whose mission is “to preserve, study, prepare and make visitor-friendly the traditional birthplace of Abraham Lincoln,” which, by the way, is in Bostic, North Carolina.

Ok, most people would agree that the traditional birthplace was actually in Kentucky, but the Bostic Lincoln Center claims evidence to the contrary. For instance, records of Bostic’s Concord Baptist Church showed that Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, was listed as a member at the time of his birth, suggesting that little Abe was born out of wedlock. With a little searching, I found a number of books here in the North Carolina Collection that support Lincoln’s Carolina roots, such as James H. Cathey’s 1899 work, The Genesis of Lincoln, pictured below.


Each of these sources disagrees on one detail: who’s the father? Among the seven sires of Abraham Lincoln, as listed by William Barton, are Abraham Enloe, Andrew Marshall, and John C. Calhoun. Even Napoleon Bonaparte has been accused, fictionally speaking. Perhaps playing on this Western North Carolina lore, the accusation was made by a character in Thomas Wolfe’s short story “Gentlemen of the Press.”

To settle the matter, the Bostic Lincoln Center is calling for a DNA test. Will they ever find Honest Abe’s illegitimate father? Stay tuned.

28 thoughts on “Abe Lincoln’s Carolina Roots”

  1. You are missing the obvious choice for father. Peter Stuart Ney, school teacher of Salisbury, NC, who was, in reality, Michel Ney, Marshall of France under Napoleon. Vive la France!

  2. Alright, Harry. Let’s take a closer look. Thomas Lincoln, Abe’s textbook-legitimate-Kentucky father, is pictured at left, and Michel Ney is pictured at right.

    sires of lincoln

    Personally, I can imagine a more slender Thomas having Abe’s hollow cheeks. Unfortunately, I have been unable to track down a portrait of Abraham Enloe of Bostic, N.C.

  3. Jessica, if you give Honest Abe a shave and put him in one of those fancy, high-collared coats, he and Ney would look like brothers.

  4. To put an end to this heresy, I will quote a 6 March 1848 letter from Abraham Lincoln to Solomon Lincoln of Hingham, Massachusetts: “I was born Feb. 12th. 1809 in Hardin county, Kentucky. My father’s name is Thomas; my grandfather’s was Abraham, — the same of [sic] my own. My grandfather went from Rockingham county in Virginia, to Kentucky, about the year 1782; and, two years afterwards, was killed by the indians.”

    As for me, I’ll take Honest Abe’s word.

  5. I say, this is heretical blasphemy. The great Lincoln was born in Kentucky. North Carolina’s appropriation of Honest Abe is an affront to historical accuracy and all that is holy in the field of Lincolnia. I condemn this miscarriage of history with every ounce of my being.

  6. They tell me I was born at Duke Hospital in Durham, and I’m bound to take their word for it, since I have no memory of the event. Could be that Honest Abe’s eye-witness account of his own birth was similarly based more on hearsay than recollection.

  7. In this day and age, why should there be any question. DNA could settle this issue once and for all. There are plenty of Enloe descendants willing to take the challenge.

  8. The Bostic Center is an example of bad history no matter how you look at it. Just because there is a record of a “Nancy Hanks” does not mean she was the same person as Lincoln’s mother. Just because Lincoln does not resemble Thomas Lincoln in photos, what does that mean? I look nothing like my father. Does that mean he wasn’t my father?

    There is not a single shred of evidence for the claims made by Enloe descendants. For more on this, see the book “Lincoln Legends, Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated With Our Greatest President” by esteemed Lincoln scholar Edward Steers, Jr. He devotes an entire chapter to the Enloe myth and completely shatters it.

    I would trust his research and Lincoln’s own words more than I would this Bostic “museum”.

    Geoff Elliott


    1. When I was about 12 years old in 1957-58 my mother showed me a picture in the Asheville Citizen Times Obituary column and asked who the man looked like. I said Abraham Lincoln. The man was an Enloe and that’s when mother told be the tale.

  9. Men and even great men lie, BUT science never lies… (DNA)

    We live in a time that DNA will 99.9999% close the argument of this matter. I beleive that someone is scared of the truth, but either way we know he was a great president and it would be nice to put this to rest but it would also open up a can of worms and much more. Who is stopping the DNA testing? There lies your problem. I can present hundreds of pictures of Enloe and Dowdle decendents that look just like President Lincoln and you would want a DNA test just to satisfy the mind’s eye.

    I know nothing of the museum but I know genetics. DNA testing will provide the truth.

  10. Thomas Lincoln was in fact married to Nancy Hanks on June 12, 1806 in Washington Co., Kentucky. Some savvy historian managed to track down the actual marriage license which shows that the couple was married by the Rev. Jesse Head, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The ceremony took place at the home of one Richard Berry, who lived near Beechland, in Washington County. Nancy Hanks may have already been pregnant with her first child, Sarah, at the time the marriage took place. Sarah Lincoln was born eight months afterwards on February 10, 1807. A copy of the Washington Co., Kentucky, marriage bond can be seen at: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hlglkg/incolnhanksbond.jpg

  11. Yes, kentucky is his birth place.I have read his biography.I also have found so many books that states he was born in Kentucky.You can also confirm it from wikipedia.

  12. Just because a biographer states (and believes) something to be true doesn’t always make it so. Accurate facts are not easy to track down when dealing with the often non-existent records of what were essentially wilderness areas 200 years ago.

    As for wikipedia, it’s a great resource but I wouldn’t take it as the ultimate word. I can go change it right now to say Abraham Lincoln was born on the moon…

    Like others have said, DNA will easily settle this question. It’s an interesting story. Might as well follow up on it, even if it upsets some long-held popular traditions.

  13. i was married 2 a Enloe 4 30 yrs. &i have 4 children 4 them i would like 2 no if any one ever did do a dna?my Father&Mother enlaws have passed away but they were from Swain County Fred Enloe was very tall &dark hair &my sister inlaw told me back in the 70’s the story of Abraham Lincoln was really Enloe .I would really like to know if youhave found out anything new concering this subject? thank you very sincerly martha jackson enloe yingst

  14. Thanks for the info. I wonder if any musums or anyone has any DNA sample that could be tested of Abraham Lincoln? I once saw a framde piece of hair jewelry which was a patriotic eagle design in a shadow box and it claimed to be the hair of Linoln and his cabinet. DNA testing has sure grown a lot inthe past ten years. The popular TV series, Who Do You Think You Are on NBC has certainly increased a great amount of public interest in tracing a family tree. DNA Genealogy testing is now becoming mainstream.

  15. I am a decendent of the Floyds, Enloe’s and the Mingus Family who settled Cherokee N.C. My Great Grandmother was a Floyd. The Floyds, Enloes and Mingus’s had married into the family’s at some time. The Mingus Mill in Cherokee N.C. now belongs to the Federal Goverment, once belong to the Mingus Family. Abraham Enloe, from every thing handed down from the family was Abraham Lincoln’s real Father. As Nancy Hanks was a servent on the Enloe Plantation. Which is now the Federal Park Rangers Headquarters for the Smokey Mountain National Park just outside of Cherokee N.C. Some where in some of my mothers books and pictures she has a copy of a picture of Abe Lincoln, Abe Enloe and Abe’s Lincoln’s half brother, Standing outside the Enloe home. All three look exactly alike and they is so much resemblence that you can not mistake Mr Enloe as his father. When Abe was borned to Nancy, Mrs Enloe ordered Mr Enloe to send Nancy and Little Abe off the plantation. Where he took Nancy and Abe to Mr. Lincolns home in Il. Where Nancy married Mr Lincoln and gave Abe the Lincoln Last name. This is the story which has been pasted down from all of the family. I had a book that had been ordered to be distroyed and to not republish again which gave alot of the history, which as a fool I let someone borrow and it never was returned. My mother has a photo copy of the book which she got from the Library at UCLA

  16. Amazon has the book “Truth is Stranger than Fiction” by James H. Cathey. You will see some of the pictures I had talked about earlier

  17. If you read the volume named “The Genisis Of Lincoln,” you see the Statesmen describing Abraham Enloe’s giving the house maid Nancy and the baby Abraham to the scroundel Tom Lincoln. Mr. Enloe gave land and donkeys to the scroundel in Kentucky so as to take the baby and Nancy. This is reality, not manufactured “History” for American text books.

  18. For Col.. F. Lee–

    Maybe we’d all better take a look @”honest ABE”–some pretty surprising things have surfaced, which are NOT taught in our history books!

  19. Thank you Jessica sedgewick for posting the pictures. The one on the left was the one I was looking for. According to the article on Lincoln in Our State magazine, this is a picture of Wesley Enloe, not Tom Lincoln. Resemblance is striking as is the resemblance to Wesley’s daughter. She has Uncle Abe’s mouth.

  20. Abraham Enloe or Enlow was born Bryson Swain North Carolina in 1770, sometimes it’s spelled Inlow or Enloes Abraham has it spelled sometimes Enloes . I am related to Enlows. I believe this is my family line . There are pictures on the internet of Abraham Enlow and I think Abraham Lincoln looks like him, he has dark black looking hair and I read he was tall . Don’t know if this story is true or not about him being Abraham Lincoln’s father,
    it would be nice to know the truth.

  21. Herndon interviewed Mr. Enloe. His statement was that he was only 13 years old when Lincoln was born, and he is not the father of Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was the 2nd child of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the first being his sister Sarah. They lived in Kentucky, which documentation proves. The nonsense of North Carolina was created by Adin Baber, who’s grandmother told him Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s father was Abraham Hanks. There was an Abraham Hanks, but he married Lucy Jennings, remained in Virginia and is on the census records, had only two sons, no daughters, and when his only surviving son moved to Tennessee, also moved there and died. There are documents for all of this information. Baber moves him to North Carolina, having 8 children with Sarah Harper ( who was really married to Alexander Harper) makes them orphans, and Nancy Hanks somehow ends up with the Joseph Hanks family! These Hanks families are only distantly related, and how would they know where they even lived! By the way, the Enloe referred to, lived in Harden County, Kentucky.

  22. Such nonsense! Lincoln had an older sister born in Kentucky in 1807. Did Nancy Hanks Lincoln return to Virginia to have an affair with a conjured male Lincoln, to beget Abe?

    Yes, the married mother of the toddler, Sarah, born in 1807, living in dirt floor, one room cabin, in Kentucky, took a vacation to Virginia, in 1808, only to give birth to her bastard, Abraham, in Kentucky on 12 February 1809.

    In actuality, Lucy Hanks, Nancy’s mother, migrated to Kentucky with her daughter, Nancy. The two resided with relatives in Washington County, Kentucky.*

    Pure nonsense! They could count back then too. Simply impossible.

    *Lincoln, Eilliam Ensign (1909). The Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 85.

  23. I am a descendant of Abraham Enloe I will take a DNA swab test..Abe looks just like his half brother Wesley..Bring it on..Just email the kit an I bet me an my two brothers will all take the DNA swab..We want to know the truth behind this mystery..

  24. Abraham Enloe was my great great grandfather. His daughter, Mary Enloe married John Mingus.Their.. daughter Sarah Angeline
    Mingus married Rufus Gordon Floyd. All of this history is from Swain County North Carolina at the Smokies Park entrance.Mr. Floyd was my great grandfather.
    As a scientist and historian, I am stating there is not one example of documented evidence or record to prove that Lincoln was in any way related to the Enloes or descendant lines. This is a legend I believe was concocted by one of A. Enloe’s sons… Wesley originally and further promoted by a ridiculous book of Catheys in 1898.
    Conversely, birth and marriage records of Lincoln’ sister and Nancy Hanks prove otherwise, if examined.

    As for DNA testing suggested in some of the foregoing comments, there is plenty of it around from the Enloes, Floyds and descendants, but where is Lincoln’s for an attempted match?

    You folks need to “get a life”

    Rufus Gordon Floyd III

    1. Okay Uncle RG, you know that DNA shows up out of the blue. Look at me for instance. My birth certificate doesn’t have Floyd. No one would have know until DNA showed up through Ancestry. It would be great if we could get some kind of DNA through Lincoln just to put all of the stories to rest. You would think there was DNA from Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith somewhere, since he didn’t pass until 1985.

  25. through all the lies told by the not so honest abe there is a very good possibility that he was born in north Carolina and was a illigentiment bastard if church records are correct after all he was well known to tell many a fabricated yarn to have folks believe him.

  26. abraham lincoln made thanksgiving a holiday&FreedMenFrom _?
    Abe lincoln mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln.1784-1818.Good woman.
    Her mother probarbly Lucey Hanks Sparrow daughter Joseph/Ann Hanks.
    Lucey had 2 unwed illegimate (fornication)babys 1784Nancy/1788sarah.
    Nancy raised Elizabeth Hanks Sparrow (Lucey sister) lived in Indiana.
    Who do you think got Lucey Pregnant in Virginia 1)saloon men drunk nearby,
    2)Joseph Hanks work Plantion RIch men infact they didn’t want pay him his wages?
    3)Joseph Hanks left Va because wasn’t be paid/or daughter got pg by __man?
    4)Leroy Peachey (Ferry/saloon/plantation)&Flauntleroy/Beale owe Hanks?
    5)Plantation Rich men ( slaves did anything to them) felt holier thou?
    6)Joesph Hanks Overseer did what plantation rich men told him to do?
    7)where did that leave Lucey surrounded Powerful Plantation rich men?
    8)nancy with lucey/grandfather Joesph in va not in N.C/S.C?

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