Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lincoln's Parentage: The Myth Which Will Not Die

Back on April 11, I published a post titled "Bad Lincoln 'History'" in which I told about a new Lincoln museum in North Carolina which was established to perpetuate the myth that Abraham Lincoln was really the illegitimate son of one Abraham Enloe. This myth has persisted in some circles for more than 100 years. It claims that Lincoln was actually born in North Carolina (not Kentucky) and that his son Robert Todd Lincoln basically paid off Lincoln historians to cover up his illegitimate heritage.

This myth continues into modern times without a single shred of evidence to back up the claim. Now, an article from the Terra Haute (Indiana) Tribune-Star published just yesterday trumpets the fact that a "stunning new document" found on Genealogy Today (an online guide) presents "proof" about Lincoln's illegitimate heritage.

Well, no. The story on that site is just more regurgitation from a gentleman by the name of R. Vincent Enlow, a descendant of the Enloes from North Carolina. He has done "research" for the past decade or so, which he claims proves the myth about Lincoln really being an Enloe. One of the pieces of evidence these revisionist "historians" love to use in their claims is the image I've included here. It's a photo of a gentleman named Wesley Enloe, the supposed "half-brother" of Abraham Lincoln. Wesley was the son of Abraham Enloe, the "real" father of Lincoln. The "historians" point out the obvious height and lankiness of Wesley as strong evidence that he was related to Lincoln.

On the Genealogy Today site, you can download an essay from Mr. Enlow detailing his evidence, etc. What I don't like about this article from this genealogy site and the article from the Tribune-Star is that this claim about Lincoln's parentage is presented as FACT. It is bad history. It misleads readers into believing this myth and I believe is an attempt to denigrate Lincoln.

As my post from April 11 stated, Dr. Edward Steers, Junior, one of the leading Abraham Lincoln scholars of our day, carefully examined all the claims in his book "Lincoln Legends, Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated With Our Greatest President." His conclusion is that there is not one bit of evidence to prove that Lincoln was born in North Carolina to a father named Abraham Enloe.

We all must always be aware of attempts by revisionists who try to disparage the titans of American history for their own gains, be it in the form of mindless newspaper articles, false claims of historians on obscure websites, or books written by kooks trying to make a fast buck.


kathiepitman said...

Would not DNA samples of hair and / or teeth from Abraham Enloe and Abraham Lincoln and Todd Lincoln solve this question? Enloe and Enlow decendants ought to get together on this!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. I'm sure the government has a sample of Lincoln's DNA they can compare with Enloes. What's the problem with at least testing the DNA, unless of course they have something to hide.

Anonymous said...

I am a direct descendant of Abraham Enloe - he was my great-great-great-great grandfather. I don't know what historical data exists during that time to prove or disprove what has been written by R. Vincent Enloe or other Lincoln scholars, but from my geneological gleanings, anything from 1840 back record-wise is subject to question. Census data only recorded head of household and unnamed family members until 1850. Deeds could have been owned anywhere by anyone and assertions by some scholars that Thomas Lincoln never left Kentucky based on deeds and tax records in Kentucky is patently ridiculous. People traveled a good bit then and it may have been that Lincoln couldn't afford to work his land and needed to find work somewhere else to make enough to get started. Historical accounts certainly never paint him as a wealthy man.

I am reasonably certain I know where Abraham Enloe is buried, and DNA evidence could be extracted from the remains at that site - he died in 1841 in Cherokee County, North Carolina. If they match my DNA, my sister's or an Enloe cousin I know who is also a direct maternal descendant and who could provide mitochondrial DNA, we've at least found him. It wouldn't be a stretch to then compare his DNA with that of Lincoln - there are numerous museums who have blood and hair samples of Lincoln's that could be tested against any DNA that belonged to Abraham Enloe once it is established. What I do know is that I have pictures of relatives (not just Wesley Enloe) and the resemblance is remarkable in some of the men. Marfan's syndrome, which Lincoln had, runs in the Enloe family (my sister has it - she is tall and looks a lot like Lincoln herself), as well as depression (Lincoln was often profoundly depressed), which also ran in the Enloe family line.

I'm open to anyone who wants to check the DNA - it's a surefire way to be sure of Lincoln's parentage; however, I agree with R. Vincent Enlow that the larger than life mythology that has been created around Abraham Lincoln over the last 200 years would probably prohibit this from ever being done.

Laura Taylor

kathiepitman said...

Dear Laura,
I have always wondered about Lincoln's parentage even before R. Vincent Enloe came out with his platform. Given Lincoln's childhood, the kind of man his father Thomas was portrayed as {uneducated, narrow minded, and a bit of a brute) and the short time he had with his mother I surmissed that he may have gotten his attributes from another source, perhaps genetically a different father. If this is true, then the truth of his real father, the story behind it, would be the only thing that would be changed in his biography. Lincoln would still stand tall in history as a great man and leader.
I would love to see a DNA testing done on the Lincoln - Enloe question. I put my suggestion on the Lincoln Blog in the hopes that the money and resources and interest is out there, perhaps there is someone out there with a love of truth and Lincoln with a bit of dollars to spare who could help, like the authors of recent books on Lincoln and/or their patrons.
I will see if I can get a list of them as well as Lincoln non profits and and pose the suggestion to them. Do you think this is a good direction to go?
I would love to see the other Enloe pictures as the Marfan's syndrome is also a factor and I assume that would show up in DNA composition results. Can you post those photos?
I find this totally fascinating as I am a Lincoln student of history. Lincoln, according to his law associate Billy Hendron said his real father was another man of higher birth and he has never talked of the father who raised him in any terms of endearment, but he did praise his mother, Nancy Hanks, as the one person that he owed everything to, surely because she was able to draw out of him the remarkable intelligence and strength she knew to be in him.
I am looking forward to talking more of this!
Kathie Pitman

Anonymous said...

I too am an Enlow and like others, there are many Abraham Enlow/Enloes in our family line. I have been fascinated with this information ever since it was brought to my attention as an adult. What's so odd, is that as a child going through school and being introduced to Lincoln in history class, I'd always tell my father that he looked just like Abraham Lincoln (many, many times). My father has the deep set eyes, thick arched eyebrows and similar hairline. My father is now deceased and he only has one sibling still living. There is no history of Marfan's in our family; however, my son, is tall, with long extremities. I would love to see this investigated further and I would be very interested in any further information available.
Also, our line of Enlow's live right here in the Land of Lincoln!

Unknown said...

I am the author of a historical mystery adventure novel published in December 2008 (The Lincoln Secret) that takes place in modern day and involves characters unraveling real mysteries about Lincoln and the Civil War, including this one.

I spent several years reseraching this mystery and others for my novel.

While I agree that the evidence does not prove that Abe was an Enloe, I find it amazing how readily people assume that an already accepted historical theory is accurate.

Look closely at the accepted theory and you will discover there is no contemporaneous evidence for it either. The best we can say is that Abraham Lincoln probably believed and certainly officially told others that he was the son of Thomas Lincoln. But he might have been the last to know the truth. Bottom line is that short of DNA testing, it is a mystery with most of the world accepting the standard story that Abraham Lincoln was the son of Thomas Lincoln with out really personally examining and weighing the evidence in support of that theory.
A good historian starts with a blank slate, gets original documents, considers all evidence in the context of its timing, source, and verifiability, and then writes an opinion supported by evidence and explanatory of why the historian belives a particular version to be true vice others.

I have seen several credible historians dismiss the Enloe theory with statements similar to "there is no evidence" or suggesting that there plenty of evidence that proves that Thomas Lincoln was the father. That is wrong on many levels, but mostly because there is no probative evidence either way. Bottom line is that Abe was born in frontier land with no contemporaneous evidence and his mother dies when he was young. It is very believable that Abe's monther and Thoams Lincoln would have not told Abe the truth in his early days if ever and that after Nancy Hanks death, Thomas would have had even less of a reason to tell Abe the truth. Abe's ostensible belief si all that we have to go on really and if push came to shove I think we should go with that as the most probable, but I don't think the alternate history should be dismissed as being a myth. And DNA testing would be a great way to resolve it for all time.
It certainly worked in the case of the Thomas Jefferson/ slave theory, though certainly against the popularly accepted answer.

Seraphim9 said...

I saw on Yahoo News this morning that a Pa.Museum my allow DNA testing on some of Lincoln's blood that is on a strip of pillowcase they have on display. This will be used to test a hypothesis that a cardiologist has.

The article is here:

Perhaps this will finally also determine his true paternity after all these many years! That certainly would be exciting to know. I am an Inlow descendent (one of the many variations of the name...) and have heard the rumors over the years.

Revealed_Truth said...

To Laura Taylor...
Thank you for the information that you submitted. I know what it is like to have questions about your family history. My father never knew his real father or his name, only that his father passed away when he was young. My grandmother (his mother) has memory loss so this makes the search difficult. I truly believe that the government already has this information because of all the stories circulation. But we all know from past experiences how they are master deceivers! This would mean that all of the garbage that our children have been tought over the years has been a law. Why can't they just tell the truth for once. God hates liers! It is in His word. I will pray for your family that the truth be revealed. That the information that they already have would come forth. That those who are directly linked to the information, that God would touch their heart to release the information and that God's revealed truth come forth. God bless you and your family and I know that the truth will come forth! Minister C.

Desta Elliott said...

Why is it that we search for a "reason" for Lincoln's success in life--surely not from a brute like Tom Lincoln.
Problem is, Abraham is the **second** child of the marriage, which makes the stories that Tom married an already-pregnant Nancy improbable.
My theory is that DNA & genealogy are way more complicated than figuring Lincoln couldn't be descended from Tom.
PS the notion that Lincoln thought he was the illegitimate son of a rich Southern gentleman was created by Herndon and I do not find him credible.

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