Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Abraham Lincoln's Brother, Thomas "Tommy" Lincoln Jr.

Very little is known about Tommy Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's younger brother. Thomas Lincoln Jr. was named after his father and was born while the Lincolns lived at the Knob Creek Farm in Hodgenville, Kentucky. The family lived there from 1811 to 1816, and many sources list 1812 as the year of Tommy Lincoln's birth. The birthdate is lost to history.

Tommy lived only for a short period. Dennis Hanks said that the baby "did not live 3 days." Augustus H. Chapman, a Lincoln family relative by marriage, said Tommy "died when only 3 days old." No cause of death is known.

Dr. Daniel B. Potter of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, rode 13 miles on horseback to the Lincoln cabin to treat infant Tommy, but he was unable to save the baby's life.

Dr. Potter arrived in the area in 1811. He passed away in 1814. When his estate was settled, it was discovered that Thomas Lincoln had once paid him $1.46 for services rendered. It is possible that there was a connection between this account and the death of Tommy. As Dr. Potter was only active in the area for three years, it makes 1812 a logical guess as the year of Tommy's birth and death.

Thomas Lincoln made a coffin for his child. He also carved the letters T.L. into a stone that would be Tommy's grave marker. Tommy was buried in the Redmon family cemetery on a knoll overlooking the Lincolns' farm.
Tommy Lincoln's gravestone was discovered in 1933
by Work Progress Administration workers. 
Workers from the Works Progress Administration found a small stone buried just below the sur while clearing the cemetery. The stone had the initials T.L. carved into it, and the initials matched the T.L. that Thomas Lincoln carved into pieces of cabinetry he made for neighbors. It was felt that this was indeed Tommy's grave marker.
The Knob Creek cabin where the Thomas Lincoln Jr. was born.

Boy Scout Post 15 of Des Moines, Iowa, donated a new tombstone for Tommy in 1959. For years, the original grave marker for Tommy was on display at the Nancy Lincoln Inn next to the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, but it's now under the care of its owner. Tommy's grave is located on private land.
Photograph of the new tombstone for Tommy that was
donated by Boy Scout Post 15 of Des Moines, Iowa.
Abraham Lincoln only made mention of Tommy on one occasion. When Lincoln ran for President in 1860, John L. Scripps of the Chicago Tribune asked him to write an autobiography. In it, Lincoln wrote that he had "a brother, younger than himself, who died in infancy."

Little Tommy was the third and last child born to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. The first child, Sarah, was born February 10, 1807. The second child, Abraham, was born February 12, 1809.
Otis Wayne Miller, 4, pictured with Tommy's original grave marker in 1958.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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