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Plaque on a rock in the woods marks the supposed North Carolina birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
Lonely monument marks the birth spot of Abraham Lincoln -- in North Carolina, not Kentucky.

The Bostic Lincoln

Field review by the editors.

Bostic, North Carolina

"There have been over 17 possible fathers named for Abraham Lincoln," says the narrator of the introductory video at the Bostic Lincoln Center. That may come as a surprise to most Americans, who assume that Lincoln's dad was some guy named Lincoln.

Bostic Lincoln Center outdoor sign features Abraham Lincoln in a stovepipe hat.
Does this old railway depot hold the secret to Honest Abe's origins?

In fact, say the citizens of Bostic, the most possible biological father of Lincoln was a prosperous North Carolina planter named Abraham Enloe. This scandalous origin would have destroyed Lincoln's political career had it been widely known in his lifetime. It would've made Honest Abe not only a bastard, but a bastard from North Carolina, a state whose succession helped spark the Civil War.

Which is why you probably haven't heard of it until now.

According to the story told by generations of Bostic families -- and preserved in the Lincoln Center -- Lincoln's grandmother, Lucy Hanks, came to the area looking for work. Unable to care for Nancy, her 10-year-old daughter, Lucy gave her to the Enloe family as a servant. That worked out well for a while -- until Nancy grew up and became pregnant. She gave birth around 1805 to a boy she named Abraham. This did not sit well with Mrs. Abraham Enloe. Nancy and her baby were banished to Kentucky, along with some supplies and money; "sealing the deal with cash" as a plaque outside the Center puts it.

Storyboards inside the Bostic Lincoln Center make the case for his North Carolina birth.
Storyboards lay out the case for Lincoln's birth to a father who wasn't Lincoln.

Citizens of Bostic gather at the birthplace in 1926.
Citizens of Bostic gather at the birthplace in 1926.

Nancy either went in the company of Tom Lincoln, or met him soon after she arrived in Kentucky. They were married there on June 12, 1806. Later, they told Abe he'd been born in 1809.

"if you go to Kentucky, they don't know anything about Nancy Hanks until she all of a sudden she arrives and marries Tom Lincoln," says a Bostic citizen in the video. According to one of the storyboard displays in the Lincoln Center, the deacon who married Tom and Nancy later recalled that they were accompanied by a little boy with black hair.

Belief in the Bostic Lincoln goes back to the 1860s (John Wilkes Booth supposedly mentions it in one of his diaries) and helps explain several odd aspects of Abe's early life, such as why he was so big and strong as a kid -- which is understandable if he was several years older than everybody thought he was -- and why he never had any affection for Tom Lincoln, who, the Center points out, did not physically resemble Abe and was "shiftless and illiterate."

Table display includes a Lincoln bust, a souvenir bottle, a jacket, and lots of reading material.
Table display includes a Lincoln bust, a souvenir bottle, a jacket, and lots of reading material.

Abraham Enloe, on the other hand, was educated, ambitious, a natural leader, and "a pillar of the community" (except with his servant girl). And apparently he looked like Lincoln. No photos exist of Abraham, but the Center does have photos of his son, Wesley, who has the same tall, lanky physique; raw-boned face; and big ears of the 16th President. When Wesley died, he left a confession that Lincoln was his brother.

Five rust-eaten hunks of unidentified metal on display in the Bostic Lincoln Center.
Key Artifacts display of rusted relics found at the birth spot.

A surprising number of books have been published about the Bostic Lincoln, dating as far back as the late 19th century, and most are for sale in the Center's gift shop. The people of Bostic decided that their story deserved more than just books, and opened the Lincoln Center in 2008. There's a long tradition of presidential birthplace rumors, whether about Barack Obama in Kenya or Chester A. Arthur in Canada, but the Bostic Lincoln is unique -- the only President whose wayward baby origins have their own museum.

The people in Bostic say that Lincoln probably never deliberately lied about his birth year; he simply believed what he'd been told by his mother. They admit they have no official documents to back their claim, but point out that Kentucky doesn't have any, either, because Abraham Lincoln never had a birth certificate.

Painting of the small, rustic Abe Lincoln birth cabin in North Carolina.
Painting of the Abe Lincoln birth cabin was based on what survives of its foundation.

Kentucky tourism officials obviously aren't happy about what's being said in North Carolina. If Abe Lincoln wasn't the child of Tom and Nancy, no one would visit the supposed Lincoln Birthplace, and parents hoping to procreate a future President would shun the Lincoln Marriage Temple.

"Perhaps the world will soon know the scientific truth behind this powerful legend," says the video narrator, encouraging visitors to the Bostic Lincoln Center to sign a petition urging the U.S. government to provide a Lincoln DNA sample -- taken from a hair or an assassination bloodstain -- to compare with samples taken from descendants of Tom Lincoln and Abraham Enloe. The volunteers at the Center are confident that the results will prove that the 16th President came from Bostic, and dream of the day when their Lincoln birthplace -- now just a ruined foundation in the woods -- will be professionally excavated, merit its own official brown highway signs, and be turned into a National Monument.

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The Bostic Lincoln

Bostic Lincoln Center

112 Depot St., Bostic, NC
Bostic Lincoln Center. 60 mi. west of Charlotte, US Hwy 74 Exit 182 north onto Broadway St, left on Main St./Business US Hwy 74 at Depot St. in Bostic.
Th 1-4, F-Sa 10-1. Visits to the birth site must be arranged in advance. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Free, donations appreciated.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
The Odditorium: Freak Bar, Asheville, NC - 46 mi.

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