Happy Thanksgiving! Today, America has President Abraham Lincoln to “thank” for proclaiming a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a day for families to gather together and share a feast celebrating the simplicity of family and the gratitude they possess. Although Lincoln is responsible for declaring November as the month for this U.S. holiday, some scholars debate the legitimacy of his family – specifically his paternity.
Since the 19th century, scholars have questioned who fathered Lincoln. Reasons fueling this debate include: The overall size and facial feature differences of President Lincoln when compared to his alleged father, Thomas Lincoln. The opposing intelligence levels shared between the two. Lincoln’s reserved nature when talking about his childhood and most convincingly, the rumor that there was another man involved with Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks.
One story suggests, Abram Enloe, a wealthy mountain man, took in an orphan named Nancy Hanks to be his family servant. While working for Enloe, Hanks became pregnant and delivered a baby boy, naming him Abraham. The similarity in the alleged father and child’s first names aides this rumor of questionable paternity. Further supporting the theory, there are photos that depict the physical resemblances between the two as well as biographers that argue Lincoln’s birth record was falsified so that the illegitimate pregnancy would be covered up.
Because of the questions surrounding Lincoln’s paternity, author William E. Barton wrote a book entitled The Paternity of Abraham Lincoln. In this book, he mentions seven possible fathers for Lincoln but rejects them all in favor of Thomas Lincoln. His main argument supporting Thomas Lincoln as the father was an official marriage certificate found that places the wedding date three years prior to Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Historians have also noted the possibility of two women sharing the same first and last names during this particular time period and further question whether or not Lincoln’s mother was ever a family servant for Enloe.
The argument surrounding President Lincoln’s paternity is an “unsolved mystery”. It will probably be up for debate for eternity unless someone decides to rely on more than what they have previously to date – can anyone say DNA?