Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lincoln's 200th birthday

Of course, most with any sense know the name of Abraham Lincoln. To some, Lincoln freed the slaves. To others,Lincoln saved the union.

Yet, Lincoln was a far more complicated man than the caricatures of him we learn in history books.

Abraham Lincoln was a self made man. He was a man of complexity that abhorred both what we style now as big government and the institution of slavery. Yet, despite his stand against slavery, let there be no illusion that Lincoln saw blacks as his equals. He did not. Indeed, up to the time of his assassination, Lincoln wanted to send blacks back to Africa.

While such a stance by Lincoln can be seen as a great fault, his great skills outweighed such. One of Lincoln's great skills was laughing at himself and dealing with ridicule. If former President Bush and President Obama think they have it bad, they need only to look how Lincoln was considered a monkey and lampooned for his supposed stupidity by those in the northern newspapers who one would think would support his cause of keeping the union together. Yet, Lincoln learned to laugh at himself and did not flinch in his determination to keep the union together.

That determination to keep the union together would be tested beyond normal political lengths. Political rivals in Lincoln's cabinet conspired to keep him from election to a second term. Lincoln would lose a son to illness that drove his wife half mad. Lincoln would deal with Generals who slowly reacted to his orders as Commander in Chief. Lincoln would go through several Generals in charge of the War between the States before he found General Grant would actually be one that followed through on orders. Indeed, one of Lincoln's old generals would actually stand against Lincoln in Lincoln's effort to win re-election in 1864.

Lincoln won that election, only to have his second term cut short by the bullet of John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln's assassination was ironic. Lincoln was the one man in government who seemed likely to show his typical compassion to the South, yet, he was cut down by a man with Southern sympathies.

The fact that Lincoln's end was so ironic should not detract from what Lincoln was. Lincoln was the non church going man who appealed to God and religion in America's most trying times. Lincoln was the unlikely man who held together the nation through compassion and strength of character. The old rail splitter he was, Lincoln found a way to work with great Northern politicians to hold his will against the rebellious South. As such, Abraham Lincoln became known as the man who held the union together and moved it to the next level.

Lincoln did so surrounded in his cabinet by men who thought they were his betters. Lincoln did so by discouraging the malcontents among him for striking up war with the United Kingdom, who was pro South. "One war at a time, " Lincoln would caution the malcontents. Lincoln would also show remarkable acts of courtesy and compassion in his role of commander in chief.

Where there greater Presidents of the United States than Lincoln? Perhaps. Was there any President who understood his moral duty as President and did everything he could to live up to it, damn the political consequences? No. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Lincoln, we should remember Lincoln's courage of conviction at a time in which such was not convenient or popular.

It was not just the physical size of Lincoln that stood tall in American history. His physical height aside, in the most trying time of American history, Abraham Lincoln stood the tallest. He deserves whatever honors the nation sees fitting.


  1. From

    An article by Charles Joiner

    In 1899, less than 35 years after Lincoln’s assassination, James H. Cathey of Sylva wrote and published the third edition of a book, entitled “The Genesis of Lincoln,” in which he endeavors to prove “an interesting fact in the story of America’s most remarkable man.”

    Quoting interviews and letters from widely scattered sources, Cathey makes a case that Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, became pregnant as a servant girl in the home of Abraham Enloe, located on Ocona Lufta, about 14 miles from Bryson City in what is now Swain County.

    Abraham Enloe fathered nine sons and seven daughters by his wife (a former Miss Egerton). The ninth and only surviving son in 1899 was Wesley M. Enloe. Wesley was 88 years old when he was interviewed by Cathey at the Enloe home — the same house on the same farm where his father and mother lived when Nancy Hanks was banished from the household and sent to Kentucky.

    Wesley Enloe said in 1899: “I was born after the incident between father and Nancy Hanks. I have, however, a vivid recollection of hearing the name Nancy Hanks frequently mentioned when I was a boy. No, I never heard my father mention it; he was always silent on the subject so far as I know.. . . I have no doubt that the cause of my father’s sending her to Kentucky is the one generally alleged.”

    Cathey interviewed Joseph A. Collins, then 56 and living in Clyde in Haywood County. Collins said he met a Judge Gilmore in 1867, who said he knew Nancy Hanks before she was married, and that she then had a child she called Abraham. “While the child was yet small,” Collins quoted Judge Gilmore, “she married a man by the name of Lincoln, after which the boy was known as Abraham Lincoln.”

    “Years ago,” Collins quoted Judge Gilmore, “on Turkey Creek in Buncombe County, N.C., I met an old gentleman whose name was Phillis Wells. Wells said he was then 90 years old. When he was a young man he traveled over the country selling tinware and buying furs, feathers and ginseng. On one occasion he called on Abraham Enloe to stay overnight, as was his custom.”

    Enloe went with Wells to the barn to put up the peddler’s horse, Judge Gilmore said. While there, Enloe told Wells: “My wife is mad; about to tear up the place; she has not spoken to me in two weeks, and I wanted to tell you about it before you went in the house.”

    Wells asked, “What is the matter?” And Abraham Enloe replied, “The trouble is about Nancy Hanks, a hired girl we have living with us.”

    As Cathey reports it, Wells said he returned to the Enloe place some time later and by that time Abraham Enloe had sent Nancy Hanks to Jonathan’s Creek and hired a family there to take care of her, and that later a child was born to Nancy Hanks and she named him Abraham.

    An Asheville lawyer named Col. Davidson, who married into the Enloe family, and who settled Abraham Enloe’s estate, related that shortly after the Civil War a man came to his office and introduced himself as a son of Nancy Enloe Thompson. The Thompson man stated that he was a Democrat and had been an Indian agent during Lincoln’s administration.

    “I asked,” Col. Davidson said, “why Lincoln, who was a Republican, appointed a Democrat an Indian agent. Thompson replied that the President was under some great obligation to his [Thompson’s] mother, and had expressed a desire to aid her in some substantial way. ‘This is the way I got my appointment,’ he told me.”

    Capt. James W. Terrell (born in Rutherford County in December 1829) recalled a conversation with a Dr. Egerton of Hendersonville, a relative of Mrs. Abraham Enloe. Dr. Egerton told him, Terrell said, that in the fall of 1860, just before the Presidential election, he had a guest in his home, a Mr. Davis, also a Rutherford County native, who had moved to Illinois in the early 1850s and had become “intimately acquainted with Abraham Lincoln.”

    “In a private and confidential talk,” Davis is quoted as saying, Lincoln told him he was of Southern extraction, that his right name was, or ought to have been, Enloe, but that he had always gone by the name of his stepfather.

    After reading Cathey’s book, I picked up the Hendersonville phone book and called the first three Enloes listed. “The story is common knowledge in the family,” Bryce Enloe of Edneyville told me. “I come from the same set of Enloes.”

    “I heard it from my grandparents,” said Keith Enloe of Laurel Park. “It has been passed down from generation to generation.”

    “Abraham Enloe was my great-great grandfather,” said Robert Enloe of Big Willow community. “I’ve heard the story all my life. I know it is true.”

    Was Abraham Lincoln the son of a western North Carolina farmer? You be the judge.

    Reader Responses 3/03

    Several people contacted us and Charles Joyner about Mr. Joyner’s article [“Was Abraham Lincoln Born in Western North Carolina?”, February 2003] on the book “The Genesis of Lincoln,” by James H. Cathey. Cathey claims that Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, gave birth to her son, Abraham, in western North Carolina.

    The book was first published in 1899, and although several editions were issued subsequently, the book has long been out of print. If you’re interested in reading it, try your local library’s Interlibrary Loan program.

    Patricia K. Smith, of Morganton, sent us copies of newspaper articles about her aunt’s mother-in-law, Callie Elizabeth Foster, who died in Fairview (Buncombe County) in March 1962. Born Callie Edney, near Edneyville (Henderson County), Mrs. Foster would tell the same story that James Cathey recounts in his book: that Abraham Enloe of Rutherford County (Callie Foster’s great-grandfather) was the father of Nancy Hanks’ illegitimate son, who she named Abraham.

    Richard “Harry” Brown, a member of Rutherford EMC, told us that the alleged site of Lincoln’s North Carolina birthplace is in Bostic, northeast of Forest City in Rutherford County, where the Bostic Historical Society has placed a marker.
    Kathleen A. Shipley, of Brevard, told us that since childhood she had heard that Nancy Hanks was related to her family, the Shipleys of Maryland. She says that other research, however, shows that Nancy Hanks had no connection to North Carolina. She referred us to a paper by David Andrew Sturgill that refutes the North Carolina and Enloe connections: It’s in the “Ideas of the Past” section at the Web site:

    Which is why Charles Joyner advises in his Carolina Country article: “You be the judge.”

    Reader Responses 2/04

    Last February we published an article (see links above) by Charles Joyner recounting the continuing speculation over the birthplace of our nation’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. The article cited a book published by James Cathey in 1899 asserting that Lincoln’s mother, the unmarried Nancy Hanks, became pregnant while living with the Abram Enloe family in Oconalufty, then of Swain County in western North Carolina. Mr. Enloe was a well-known, tall, angular livestock dealer. The story says that the wife of Abram Enloe, who was suspected of impregnating Nancy Hanks, banished Ms. Hanks from the household, and that Ms. Hanks was taken in at a neighbor’s place in Jonathan’s Creek, Haywood County. Later, the neighbor moved the still pregnant Nancy to Puzzle’s Creek in Rutherford County, where she gave birth to a boy and named him Abraham. She then ended up marrying a man named Tom Lincoln and moved to Kentucky.

    We also published a photo of a man named Wesley Enloe, born in western North Carolina in 1811 as the ninth son of Abram, whose features resemble Lincoln’s and who was quoted in Cathey’s book supporting the Enloe connection.

    After publishing the piece, we received letters that both supported and refuted the story, including reference to a scholarly article by David Andrew Sturgill that dismisses the Enloe parentage.

    Recently, we received three more letters, just in time for publication during the month of Lincoln’s birth. Lincoln himself set the date of his birth at Feb. 12, 1809, though some have attempted to disprove that claim.

    Thomas Fretty in San Francisco, seeing the story on our Web site, said in December that President Lincoln wrote a letter to Soloman Lincoln on March 6, 1848, stating that he was born in Kentucky. Mr. Fretty quotes from the letter as published in the book “Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858,” published by Library of America in 1989. A portion of the letter says, “I was born Feb. 12th, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky. My father’s name is Thomas; my grandfather’s was Abraham, the same of my own. My grandfather went from Rockingham County in Virginia to Kentucky, about the year 1782; and, two years afterwards, was killed by Indians. We have a vague tradition, that my great-grand father went from Pennsylvania to Virginia; and that he was a Quaker. . . Owing to my father being left an orphan at the age of six years, in poverty, and in a new country, he became a wholly uneducated man; which I suppose is the reason why I know so little of our family history.”

    Meanwhile, Chad Medford sent us information about his Web site ( that describes Rutherford County’s claim on Lincoln’s birthplace and includes a story told by Tom Melton, who is related to Lincoln’s nephew. The story is that the Enloe family is from Rutherford County and that Nancy Hanks was an illegitimate daughter of a local woman, Lucy Hanks, who was an itinerant spinner. Nancy, they say, was taken in as a young girl to work in the large Abram Enloe household. The family later moved to Swain County when Nancy became pregnant. When Mrs. Abram Enloe banished the pregnant Nancy Hanks, Ms. Hanks returned to Bostic in Rutherford County and gave birth to little Abe in a cabin on Puzzle Creek. The Bostic claim further asserts that Mr. Enloe arranged for a local sawmill worker, Tom Lincoln, to marry Nancy and head for Kentucky. This story alleges that Tom Lincoln was stocky and low-browed and not very smart, and that one of Mr. Enloe’s legitimate sons, Wesley, looked a lot like the President.

    Then, Joan Howard Wallace of Murphy, state registrar for the Daughters of the American Revolution, told us that Frank Young of Cullowhee at last year’s Murphy Heritage Days sold out of his recent book entitled “Nancy Hanks, Single Mother of Abraham Lincoln,” which she says supports the Enloe connection.

    And finally, we learned of a 2001 essay by R. Vincent Enlow, published by Genealogy Today Publications (, which not only supplies copious information supporting the North Carolina Enloe connection and birthplace, but also challenges the stories about Lincoln’s birth in Kentucky.

    So the beat goes on.

  2. Hmmm. This seems to have more substance than the old tale that Jefferson Davis and Lincoln were brothers.

  3. Southern FriedFebruary 12, 2009

    Abraham Lincoln was never my President. My one and only President was Jefferson Davis.

  4. Abraham Lincoln can kiss my well endowed black ass. He wanted to send my peoples back to Africa. How brothas and sistas seem him as so good is just ignorant. Lincoln was just a cracker without the whip, people.

    It don't shock me that the cracker was from the South. It is time brothas and sistas unite in harmony to not honor this drunk ass country cracker.

  5. AnonymousJune 04, 2009

    Brad Pitt is a direct descendant of Joris Kindlosson and he is a direct descendant of Wesley Enloe (half-brother of Abraham Lincoln, according to legend).
    Laurence Herman "Gus" Versluis is a distant cousin of Abraham Lincoln.