Abraham Lincoln Birthplace
Administrative History
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In December 1808, Thomas Lincoln, the father of Abraham, received from one Isaac Bush an assignment of a parcel of land in central Kentucky, on the "waters of the South Fork of Nolin, Containing Three Hundred acres Beginning at or near a spring called the sinking spring to be Twice as long as wide Including as much of a Grove called the little Turkey Grove as will fall within the Boundreys aforesaid." [1] On this land, somewhere in the vicinity of a knoll by the Sinking Spring, he build a rough cabin in which his son Abraham was born, in February of the following year.

Larue County, in which the tract is presently located, was not organized until 1843. At the time of Lincoln's birth, as he later stated in some brief autobiographical notes, the land lay within Hardin County. It was fourteen miles from Elizabethtown, the county seat, and approximately three miles south of Hodgenville, the present seat of Larue County.

The land is rolling upland plain, and the soil of the farm, although not particularly fertile, was ample to support the corn, beans, squash, and the few head of livestock that provided the livelihood of the early Kentucky pioneers. A large white oak, still standing on the property, was mentioned in land titles preceeding Lincoln's and is believed to have been over 100 years old at the time of Abraham Lincoln's birth.

The area around Hodgenville was not generally inhabited by Indians in historic times, but was used rather as hunting and fishing grounds by the Cherokees, Chickasaws, and tribes of the Iroquois nation. The first white men in Kentucky were probably the French, but as early as 1750 Dr. Thomas Walker explored eastern Kentucky on behalf of the Loyal Land Company, heralding the dawn of English competition with the Indians and the French who claimed the territory as part of the French colonial empire.

The Treaty of Paris of 1763 ended the French-British disputes over the territory, although the Proclamation of 1763 forbade English settlement of Kentucky; and when colonization began a dozen years later, the pioneer emigrants found Kentucky truly a "dark and bloody ground." The clearing and homesteading provoked violent clashes with the Indians who resented this invasion of their game reserves.

In spite of these dangers, however, in November of 1788 Robert Hodgen and John Close built two mills on the Nolin and South Fork Creeks. These mills later became the nuclei of two permanent settlements in Hardin County. [2]

In February of 1786 a 60,000-acre entry Virginia. One-half and Joseph James in William Greenough (or Greenveigh) received or patent from the Commonwealth of of this property was bought by John Hood tracts of 15,000 acres each.

Richard Mather, a land speculator from New York, bought James' 15,000 acres and an added 30,000 acres of the same patent from William Weymouth. A few years later he began to sell tracts to incoming settlers. One of those to purchase property from Mather was David Vance, who entered into an agreement with him on May 1, 1805, to the effect that Vance would hold a bond of 300 acres from Mather, but Mather would hold a lien on it until the entire sum of the purchase price was paid. In November of the same year, Vance signed the bond over to Isaac Bush, who signed it over to Thomas Lincoln in December 1808. Time passed, and none of the three paid the debt on the land to Mather. In September 1813, Mather reappeared to claim his lien and filed suit against Vance, Bush, and Lincoln. Vance having disappeared, Bush and Lincoln answered the bill. Lincoln stated that he knew of the lien at the time of the purchase, but thought part of it had been paid off. Nevertheless, he offered to make up the difference. For some reason, the court decided in favor of Mather, and the land was offered for sale by a commissioner in March 1814. In December 1816 it was sold to John Welsh for $87.74. [3]

The Nolin Creek or Sinking Spring Farm was first surveyed on December 4, 1837, in connection with a suit between McKelvey Fogle and the John Welsh heirs. Research has shown that "This survey establishes beyond doubt the boundaries of the 300-acre tract of Vance's which Thomas Lincoln purchased from Isaac Bush on December 12, 1808." The survey begins "at a large white oak thirteen poles above the sinking spring or Rock Spring." This white oak is the same boundary oak used in previous surveys as a starting point and is the same which stands today as one of the principal identifying features in the deed of conveyance of Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site to the United States in 1916. [4]

The Lincolns, on losing the suit, moved on to Knob Creek, not far from the Sinking Spring Farm and remained there until 1816. It was the first home of which Abraham Lincoln had any recollections. Nevertheless, he later identified his birthplace as being "at a point within the now County of Larue, a mile or a mile and a half from where Hodgen's Mill now is. . . . It was on the Nolin." [5]

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Last Updated: 10-Feb-2003