Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln’s Mother, Nancy Hanks


Do you know who Nancy Hanks is?  Well of course you do now, I gave it away in the title of this page.  But as I drove through the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, I didn’t have a clue.  For some reason, though, when I saw a sign pointing to a memorial in her honor, I decided to take the detour.


Watch for small brown signs to point the way to the “Nancy Hanks Memorial”.  You’ll spot the first sign along US 50, between MD Rte. 972 and US 220.

My Visit

The old log cabin that stands as a memorial to Honest Abe’s mom is a long way off the beaten path.  It’s about six miles from US 50, and you have to take three roads to get there–each one narrower than the last.

This is the turn from the second road to the third, where the pavement reduces from 1 1/2 lanes down to one lane.  Keep in mind, I was wandering around these back roads, not knowing who Nancy Hanks was, or why I was spending so much time looking for her memorial.  Just as I was about to give up…

… I came upon this log cabin at the side of the road.  The cabin is a replica of the original, in which Nancy Hanks was born, on February 5, 1784.

Little is known about Nancy Hanks’ early life.  Her father either died shortly after her birth, or he was out of the picture before her arrival.  When Nancy was very young, her mother, Lucy, married a man named Henry Sparrow (on April 26, 1790), and Nancy began using his last name.  As she grew up, she became known as an excellent seamstress.

I’m not certain if the cabin’s front door was supposed to be unlocked, but it was, so I invited myself in.  The cabin’s interior probably looks a lot like the original 1700’s version, with a bed, table, chairs…

 … and fireplace, all in one room.

Across the street from the cabin, there’s a small plaque on a stone pillar.  It’s the only thing on the property that explains who Nancy Hanks was.

As I examined the house, a car drove past, and the driver explained that some neighborhood kids had recently broken some of the windows in the cabin.  He said he had called the historical society, and they should come out and replace them soon.  I was impressed — not only to find out that this place existed, but that there are people actively maintaining it.

Nancy Hanks married a carpenter named Thomas Lincoln in 1806.  Abraham was the second of her children, born in 1809.  Nancy died in 1818, when Abraham was only nine years old.  “Milk Sickness” killed her — milk sickness is caused by drinking tainted milk, from a cow that has eaten poisonous white snakeroot.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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