Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln [Stepmother]

Abraham Lincoln's stepmother was born in what is today Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Her first husband, Daniel Johnston, whom she married in 1806, appeared on the delinquent tax list for Hardin County in 1806. When he was sued to collect a debt in 1810, he was found without funds.

In 1814 he was appointed Hardin County jailer but died two years later leaving Sarah with no money.

Widower Thomas Lincoln travelled from southern Indiana to Elizabethtown in 1819 to marry her. The two had known each other while they were both living in Kentucky. Thomas and Sarah married on December 2, and soon travelled to the Lincoln farm in Indiana.

She found the country "wild, and desolate" and Thomas' children in meager conditions. She claimed that they needed to be "dressed...up" to look "more human."

Eight people lived in the Lincoln cabin, two from Thomas' first marriage and three from Sarah's first marriage: Thomas and Sarah, their five children (Sarah Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Johnston, John D. Johnston, and Matilda Johnston.) Abraham's cousin -- Dennis Hanks -- also lived with them throughout most of their Indiana years.

Sarah always spoke fondly of Abraham and he spoke fondly of her. He described her as "a good and kind mother" and referred to her as "Mother" in his letters. After Abraham left home, he visited her "every year or two" in Coles County, Illinois, where she lived from 1831 until her death.

Lincoln attended to her welfare as much as he could from a distance. When Thomas died in 1851, Lincoln retained a 40-acre plot of land in his own name "for Mother while she lives."

Abraham last saw his stepmother on January 31 and February 1, 1861, when he came to bid her farewell before going to the White House. When she later recalled the visit after her stepson's death in 1865, she wept. She died in 1869, and was buried next to her husband Thomas Lincoln in the Shiloh Cemetery in Coles County.

Sources: The Lincoln Encyclopedia, (1982) by Mark Neely and Lincoln's Youth (1959) by Louis A. Warren.

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Last updated: January 24, 2024

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