NANCY HANKS LINCOLN, birth mother of Abraham Lincoln, was born on February 5, 1784, in Hampshire County, (West) Virginia. The birth occurred in a cabin along Mike’s Run at the foot of New Creek Mountain in what is now Mineral County, West Virginia. Nancy’s mother was Lucy Hanks, but nothing is really known for certain about Nancy’s father. According to Abraham Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, Abraham once said that his maternal grandfather was “a well-bred Virginia farmer or planter.” During the same conversation, Abraham said of his mother, “God bless my mother; all that I am or ever hope to be I owe to her.”
Little is known of Nancy’s early life. As a child Nancy was taken by her mother along the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. In Kentucky Lucy Hanks married Henry Sparrow. Young Nancy went to live with Henry’s brother, Thomas Sparrow, and Elizabeth Hanks Sparrow, a sister of Lucy. Soon Nancy began being called Nancy Sparrow. Elizabeth Hanks Sparrow became almost a mother to Nancy.
As Nancy grew up, she became skilled in the art of needlework, and she became an excellent seamstress. She was hired to sew anything from wedding gowns to funeral attire. Nancy became known for her work ethic, neatness, cheerfulness, and intelligence. She was deeply religious. Her cousin, John Hanks, described Nancy as having dark hair, hazel eyes, 5-7 in height, a delicate frame, weighing 120 pounds, and “was loved and revered by all who knew her.” No photographs of Nancy exist.
Nancy sometimes lived briefly with families she was sewing for; her services were in demand in Hardin, Mercer, and Washington counties. During the time Nancy was working as a seamstress she met Thomas Lincoln, a carpenter from Elizabethtown. A romance developed, and the two decided to be married.
On June 12, 1806, Nancy Hanks and Thomas Lincoln were married; presiding over the ceremony was the Reverend Jesse Head. The couple moved to a cabin in Elizabethtown where Thomas worked as a carpenter making cabinets, door frames, even coffins. The Lincolns joined the Little Mount Separate Baptist Church. A daughter, Sarah, was born to the couple on February 10, 1807.