Within the boundaries of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial lie the gravesite of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln' mother. The impact of her life, and her death, did much to shape the character of the boy who grew up to become President. The desire to commemorate her life has done much to shape the development of the national memorial.
On October 5, 1818, Nancy Hanks Lincoln died from milk sickness. The disease resulted when cows ate the white snakeroot plant and the poison from the plant contaminated the milk. Nancy became ill when she went to help care for her sick neighbors.
Thomas and nine-year-old Abraham whipsawed logs into planks, and with wooden pegs they fastened the boards together into a coffin. Nancy was buried on the hill just south of the family's farm. Thomas probably followed pioneer custom and placed fieldstones at the head and foot of the grave and may have carved the letters, N.L., into the headstone.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries efforts began to preserve Nancy's final resting place, as both a tribute to her and her son. Those efforts began with a desire to permanently mark her grave and led, ultimately, to the creation of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. Abraham Lincoln, the man, was the sum total of all the experiences and people that had been a part of his life. Understanding and appreciating how his mother helped shape him can help us better understand who he was.