Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 4.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To Samuel Haycraft [1]

Hon. Saml. Haycraft Springfield, Ills.
Dear Sir: May 28. 1860

Your recent letter, without date, is received. Also the copy of your speech on the contemplated Daniel Boone monument, which I have not yet had time to read. In the main you are right about my history. My father was Thomas Lincoln, and Mrs. Sally Johnston, was his second wife. You are mistaken about my mother---her maiden name was Nancy Hanks. [2] I was not born at Elizabethtown; but my mother's first child, a daughter, two years older than myself, and now long since deceased, was. I was born Feb. 12. 1809, near where Hogginsville [Hodgenville] now is, then in Hardin county. I do not think I ever saw you, though I very well know who you are---so well that I recognized your hand-writing, on opening your letter, before I saw the signature. My recollection is that Ben. Helm was first Clerk, that you succeeded him, that Jack Thomas and William Farleigh [3] graduated in the same office, and that your handwritings were all very similar. Am I right?

My father has been dead near ten years; but my step-mother, (Mrs. Johnson) is still living.

I am really very glad of your letter, and shall be pleased to receive another at any time. Yours very truly


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[1]   ALS-P, ISLA. Samuel Haycraft was circuit clerk at Elizabethtown, Kentucky. The letter to which Lincoln replied is not in the Lincoln Papers, the earliest letter from Haycraft being the one of August 19, 1860.

[2]   It is unfortunate that Haycraft's letter is not extant, for Lincoln scholars have long wondered about his mistake. His later testimony to Herndon about Nancy Hanks' identity seems not to have been clear. It has been assumed that Haycraft's letter referred to Sally Bush Johnston as Lincoln's mother, but the assumption is hardly tenable since Haycraft knew about Thomas Lincoln's early residence at Elizabethtown and could scarcely have identified her as the mother of Thomas Lincoln's first child, whom he supposed to have been Abraham instead of Sarah. Probably Haycraft did not know Nancy Hanks at all, and in common with others among his Kentucky contemporaries, who began cudgeling their brains after Lincoln's nomination, confused her, as well as her mother with another notorious ``Nancy'' whose reputation has survived the years because of its unsavory quality. In spite of diligent research and scholarly criticism of sources, the status of research on the lineage of Nancy Hanks must be summarized as inconclusive. The best sources are Louis A. Warren, Lincoln's Parentage & Childhood (c. 1926) and William E. Barton, The Lineage of Lincoln (1929) and The Paternity of Abraham Lincoln (1920). See also Warren's excellent statement of the case for Nancy Hanks in The Lincoln Kinsman, No. 33.

[3]   All three men were lawyers practicing in Hardin County, Kentucky.