Thomas Lincoln – Father of Abraham Lincoln


Thomas Lincoln was the father of the 16th President Abraham Lincoln, United States.

Born                                                – Jan 6 (1778 – 1851)

                                              Rockingham County, Virginia, United States


Died                                                 – Jan 17, 1851 (73 yrs)

                                              Coles County, Illinois, United States


Occupation                                         Farmer and Carpenter



Spouse                                               Nancy Hanks (Marriage-1806, Death -1818)

                                                           Sarah Bush Johnston (second wife) (Marriage- 1819)



Children                                              Sarah, Abraham Lincoln, and 3 children from 2nd marriage                                     


Parents                                                Father -Captain Abraham Lincoln

                                                             Mother – Bathsheba

Early Life of Thomas Lincoln

Thomas was born in 1778 in Linville Creek, Virginia to Captain Abraham Lincoln and Bathsheba Lincoln. The Lincolns later sold the land and moved to Western Virginia in 1780 in Springfield, Kentucky. Captain Abraham Lincoln Owned an estate of 5,544 acres of prime Kentucky.

In 1786, Abraham Lincoln and his three boys Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas were planting a cornfield on their new property, Native Americans attacked them. Captain Abraham Lincoln was killed. Mordecai, at fifteen the eldest son, sent Josiah to the settlement half a mile away from the farm to seek help, while he ran to a nearby cabin, he saw an Indian sneaking out of the forest towards his 8year old brother Thomas, who was near their father’s body. Mordecai picked up a rifle, aimed for a silver pendant on the Native American chest, and killed him before he reached his brother Thomas Lincoln.

Inheritance of the Property

As the eldest son, and by Virginian law at that time, Mordecai inherited his father’s estate of all the three boys, he seems to have inherited more than his share of talent. Josiah and Thomas were forced to make their way, Thomas Lincoln did many low-paying jobs in several locations.

Thomas Lincoln marriage and family

Thomas Lincoln married Nancy Hanks at Beechland in Washington County, Nancy Hanks was born in Hampshire County, Virginia, who was the daughter of Lucy Hanks and a man who Abraham believed to be a well-bred Virginian planter.

Thomas Lincoln was an American farmer, carpenter, and father of the Nation’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, Unlike some of his ancestors Thomas could not write, he struggled to make a successful living for his family and met the challenges of Kentucky real estate border disputes, the early death of his first wife, and by remarriage the integration of his second wife’s(Sarah Bush Johnston) family with his own family and made his final home in Illinois.

Relationship with Abraham Lincoln

During Abraham Lincoln’s youth and particularly after the death of his mother, Abraham’s relationship with his father became increasingly strained, due to aging Thomas’s eyesight became blurred and health declined, Thomas Lincoln relied on his son Abraham Lincoln to perform the work required for farming. He also generated money for a living by sending Abraham to work on a neighbor’s farm.

On the views of authors – Thomas Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln Relationship

Historians differ on Thomas’s parental treatment of Abraham Lincoln. Burlingame, cited testimony from Lincoln’s relatives like Dennis Hanks, that Thomas was abusive and hostile to his son’s efforts to better himself, saying he “avoided whipping or scolding his son” Abraham Lincoln in front of visitors but would punish him after their departure.

David Herbert Donald cited similar testimony, concluded that Thomas Lincoln, generally an easy-going man, was not a harsh father or brutal, and noted that Thomas Lincoln enrolled his children in public schools during the few periods when they were available to the family. He quoted Sarah Bush Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s stepmother who said that Thomas Lincoln never disturbed Abraham Lincoln from reading to do any work instead he will do the work by himself.  

Both Burlingame and Donald agree that Thomas Lincoln punishes his son Abraham Lincoln, if he ignores his duty or if he engages himself in adult conversations. As Abraham Lincoln grew older, he distanced himself from his father Thomas Lincoln and moved away from his home. 

Lack of understanding by Abraham Lincoln about his father Thomas Lincoln

Although the degree to which it impacted their relationship is not clear, there seemed to be a struggle between Abraham Lincoln’s yearning for knowledge and Thomas Lincoln’s lack of understanding about the importance of education to Abraham Lincoln’s life stained their relationship. Abraham Lincoln hated his father’s irresponsibility towards his education which was very precious to Abraham. 

Ronald C., White a Historian, wrote that the negative portraits of Thomas Lincoln come from his son, who said his father grew up literally without education.

Abraham Lincoln was unaware of his father’s early struggles, particularly the death of his grandfather which forced Thomas Lincoln to perform labor jobs. Abraham Lincoln has never been able to comprehend the struggles that Thomas Lincoln went through during his early years of life.

As Abraham Lincoln became an adolescent his father was becoming more dependent on him for farming, grubbing, Hoeing, making fences which were 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 to a certain age.

Final years of Thomas Lincoln

Thomas Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln also differ in their religious beliefs, Thomas was a conventional Baptist, growing up in a Non-conformist household ‘Abe’ grew up as a free thinker. Lastly, some say that Thomas Lincoln was in favor of Johnston, his stepson over Abraham.

Abraham Lincoln provided financial assistance to his family and visited his father only once during his ill health when he was on his deathbed “Abraham Lincoln sent word to a stepbrother saying if he meets his father Thomas Lincoln it will be more painful than pleasant for his father, but if he wishes to go now, he will soon have a joyous meeting with many loved ones gone before..

Abraham Lincoln denied attending his father Thomas Lincoln funeral

Abraham Lincoln preferred not to attend his father’s funeral and would not pay for a headstone for his father’s grave, aside from the strained and distant relationship between father and son, Abraham Lincoln’s actions may have been influenced by a painful midlife crisis and depression.

During Thomas Lincoln’s lifetime, Abraham Lincoln and his wife were not invited to Abraham’s wedding and Thomas Lincoln never met Abraham Lincoln’s wife and children. In all his published writings, reports of 100 s of stories, and conversations, Abraham Lincoln had not made one favorable word about his father Thomas Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln named his fourth Son as Thomas Todd Lincoln, the choice of which Donald speculates suggested that Abraham Lincoln’s memories of his father were not all bitter.

Thus the legend, Abraham Lincoln’s love-hate relationship with his father Thomas Lincoln, was understood with all the above events.

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