Jerry Summers: Abraham Lincoln - His Legitimate Father

Friday, April 2, 2021 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

Prior to “Fake News” and slanted news channels on television in the modern era there were also rumors about the paternity of the 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln, who has historically been credited with saving the country through his support of the Union in the Civil War (War to Suppress the Rebellious) and  that his father was not Thomas Lincoln but was Abram Enloe.

            The origin of the paternity story started in articles in the September 10 and 17, 1893 editions of the newspaper Charlotte Observer.  After it got circulated several other Western North Carolina writers perpetuated the myth.

            The most notable source was first published in 1899 by author James H. Cathy in his book entitled “Truth is Stranger Than Fiction:  True Genesis of A Wonderful Man” based on Cathy’s research and that of one of the earlier writers in 1893 who was identified only as a “Student of History”.

            The most recent reference to the shocking rumor was a Spring 2008 article in a two-page newsletter published by the University of Tennessee (Knoxville), Great Smoky Mountains Colloquy, Spring Volume 9, Number 1.

            Other sources that discuss the paternity issue are: (1) Barton, William E. “The Paternity of Abraham Lincoln”.  New York, George H. Doran Co. 1920 and (2) Coggins, James Caswell. “Abraham Lincoln:  A North Carolinian: A True and Thrilling Story Never Before Published Told by a Third Cousin of President Lincoln…A Buncombe County, North Carolina Tradition”.  Asheville Advocate Pub. Co. 1925.  Later reprinted as “Abraham Lincoln:  A North Carolinian with Proof” 1927 by author J. C. Coggins; “The Tarheel Lincoln” by authors Jerry Goodnight and Richard Eller, 2003 and Goodnights individual writing, “Searching for Lincoln”, 2008.

            Bostic, North Carolina around February 12, 2009 made a claim that their town was the original birthplace of Abe Lincoln and conducted a festival commemorating his illegitimate arrival on the alleged 200th Anniversary of his birth.

            Bostic is located in Rutherford County about 50 miles east of Hendersonville near the North Carolina – South Carolina border and can be reached easily on Interstate 26 and then on Highway US 74.

            The town has created the Bostic Lincoln Center as a museum that was initially housed in a building that was once the railroad ticket office at the train depot in Bostic.  It contains Lincoln memorabilia including books and materials that describe Enloe-Lincoln and book signings by authors on the subject have been held there.

            There has been discussion over the years to have DNA testing of both Lincoln and Enloe descendants.

The Bostic Lincoln Center has been advertised as part of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and visitors to North Carolina Welcome Centers have been given advertising material making the public aware of its existence.  It is located at 112 Depot Street, Bostic, N.C. 28018 Phone (828) 245-9800.

            Abram Enloe was a resident of the village of Oconoluftee in Swain County in western North Carolina at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains.

            Around 1800 Abram Enloe had in his house a 10-12-year-old orphan servant named Nancy Hanks as well as a legitimate daughter also named Nancy.

            Unfortunately, daughter Nancy Enloe eloped with a man with the last name of Thompson to Kentucky against the wishes of her family.

            After their daughter left, they discovered that servant Nancy Hanks was pregnant and had a child in either the Enloe home or at a neighbors as rumor number one.  The additional allegation was that Abram Enloe was the father of Nancy Hanks' child.

            A second version of Nancy Hanks pregnancy was that she was removed from the Enloe home prior to the birth of her son (Abe Lincoln?).

            In the meantime Nancy Enloe Thompson returned from Kentucky and made amends with her family and, when she left western North Carolina to return to Kentucky, she took Nancy Hanks, who was either pregnant or had just delivered a son with her. (Abe Lincoln has historically been claimed by Kentucky as a native son by birth).

            After Nancy Hanks was taken to Kentucky, she met and married Thomas Lincoln who has always been identified as the late President's father.

            What are alleged factors that support the theories that Abram Enloe was Abraham Lincoln's father:

            1.         The obvious similarity in the first names.

            2.         The similarity of both men being tall with dark hair.

            3.         The facial resemblance of several of the 16 children of Abram Enloe including Wesley Enloe and Wesley’s daughter, Julia as shown in photos reproduced in Cathey’s book.

            4.         Second and third hand hearsay information, if true might be corroborative evidence.

            5.         Two stories were allegedly told to a local merchant, Joseph R. Collins, from Judge Gilmore of Texas of a conversation with traveling salesman Phillip Wells who often stayed with Abram Enloe.  The two-part story that Wells told to author Cathy was that: (a) he and his wife were having problems over the servant girl, Nancy Hanks; and (b) Enloe told Wells that he had sent Nancy Hanks to a family near Jonathan Creek (locations in both North Carolina and Kentucky) to have her baby which she named Abraham; and

            6.         According to the hearsay accounts of Phillip Wells, Nancy Hanks and her baby were sent to live with relatives in Beechland, Kentucky in Washington County where she met and married Thomas Lincoln, the acknowledged father of Abraham Lincoln.

            Other unusual coincidences are that when Abraham Lincoln’s alleged father, Thomas Lincoln, passed away on January 17, 1851 at the age of 73, the future president did not attend the funeral.  On October 5, 1818 his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died at the age of 34 from a disease caused by drinking milk from cows which had grazed on poisonous white snakeroot.  In later years Abraham Lincoln allegedly would recall helping to carve pegs for his mother’s coffin.

On February 12, 1809, at the Sinking Spring Farm on Nolin Creek near Hodgenville, Kentucky Abraham Lincoln was allegedly born on a bed of poles covered with corn husks.

            Conspiracy theories about presidents' lives and deaths have existed throughout history.

            Political campaigns up to the present have a way of providing colorful (and often false) news fodder to the hungry public of America!

            Portions of this article should be credited to author Wally Avett of Murphy, North Carolina from one of his several books about the history of the adjoining states of Tennessee and North Carolina.  It was written in 2017 under the title of “Real Mountain Tales.” 

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at


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