Sarah Bush Lincoln
December 13, 1788
|Died||April 12, 1869 (aged 80)|
|Resting place||Shiloh Cemetery, Lerna, Illinois|
|Known for||stepmother of Abraham Lincoln|
|Children||3, 2 stepchildren|
Sarah Bush Lincoln (December 13, 1788 - April 12, 1869) was the second wife of Thomas Lincoln and stepmother of President of the United States Abraham Lincoln. She was born in Kentucky, to Christopher and Hannah Bush. She married her first husband, Daniel Johnston, in 1806, and they had three children. Daniel Johnston died in 1816, and in 1819, she married the widower, Thomas Lincoln, joining his family with her three children.
Sarah Bush was born December 13, 1788 in Hardin County, Kentucky, the third daughter to Hannah Davis (1745-1835) and Christopher Bush (1735-1813). Christopher Bush was a slave patrol captain who was somewhat well-off financially and was described as "... a stirring, industrious man, and had a large family sons and daughters." The Bushes moved with their nine children to Elizabethtown, Kentucky when Sarah was two years old. As a child Sarah prided herself on her appearance and keeping up with the latest fashion. She had blue-gray eyes and was light complexioned. Sarah has been described as proud, energetic, hard-working, neat and possessing good sense.
The Johnstons struggled financially throughout their marriage, having little or no taxable property, and debts that Daniel's brothers would sometimes settle. In 1814 Daniel obtained the position of county jailer, which included living quarters for the family within the jailhouse. Sarah became the cook and cleaner for the jail. In addition, the couple performed cleaning services for the courthouse. In 1816 Daniel died of cholera during an epidemic. Thereafter, Sarah seems to have recovered financially somewhat; She purchased a cabin that had previously been owned by Samuel Haycraft, furnished it with luxurious furnishings and sent one of her daughters to a private school.
Thomas Lincoln (1778-1851) met Sarah in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. After Nancy died in 1818, Thomas returned to Elizabethtown, as he had heard that Sarah Bush Johnston was then a widow. His proposal was apparently: "I have no wife and you no husband. I came a-purpose to marry you. I knowed you from a gal and you knowed me from a boy. I've no time to lose: and if you're willin' let it be done straight off." The two decided to marry and Lincoln paid her outstanding debts. Sarah and Thomas married on December 2, 1819, in an old log house on Main Street in Elizabethtown. He brought her and her three children, who ranged from 8 to 13 years of age, to his farm in Indiana, where she became stepmother to his two children. Sarah transformed the home with the addition of furniture and furnishings that would have seemed luxurious to the Lincolns, cleaned up the house and children, and insisted upon the placement of a wooden floor in the cabin, loft for the boys (John Johnston, Abraham Lincoln and Dennis Hanks), creation of a greased paper window and completion of the roof.
Dennis Hanks described Sarah:
'Maybe it was somethin' she tuk comfort in to have a man that didn't drink an' cuss none. She made a heap more o' Tom, too, than pore Nancy did. Before winter he'd put in a new floor, he'd whipsawed an' planed off so she could scour it; made some good beds an' cheers, an' tinkered at the roof so it couldn't snow on us boys 'at slep' in the loft. Purty soon we had the best house in the kentry. Thar was eight of us then to do fur, but Aunt Sairy had faculty an' didn't 'pear to be hurried or worried none. Little Sairy just chirked right up with a mother an' two sisters fur comp'ny.
She treated Sarah and Abraham the same as her own children, earning the lasting affection of Abraham. Age 10 when she arrived, he always addressed her as "Mama." She encouraged his appetite for reading and learning, including access to books she had brought from Kentucky, including the Bible, Aesop's Fables, The Pilgrim's Progress and Lessons in Elocution.
Sarah's daughter Elizabeth married Dennis Hanks in 1821 and the couple lived in their own home about a half a mile from Sarah and Thomas' home. In 1823 Sarah, Thomas and his daughter, joined the nearby Little Pigeon Creek Baptist Church. Although Abraham did not join the church, he would attend church and listen to sermons; He sometimes got in trouble for parodying the minister's sermons. In 1826, Abraham's sister Sarah married Aaron Grigsby and lived near the Lincoln home; She died within a year and a half during childbirth. Her grave is located at the Lincoln State Park. Matilda married shortly after Sarah was married and moved away with her husband, Squire Hall.
Thomas sold his Indiana land early in 1830 and with Sarah moved first to Macon County, Illinois and eventually to Coles County in 1831. The homestead site on Goosenest Prairie, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Charleston, Illinois, is preserved as the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site.
Abraham sometimes visited Sarah and Thomas when he was in Coles County on the law circuit; Sarah said that she "saw him every year or two." After Thomas died in 1851, Lincoln maintained land for Sarah and supported her until his death. Their final visit was before Lincoln left Illinois for the White House. Sarah died in 1869.[nb 1]
The Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln biography by the National Park Service sums up the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and his step-mother as follows:
'She proved to be a good and kind mother' to him. By all reports their relationship was excellent, and Mrs. Lincoln considered her stepson a model child who was always honest, witty, and 'diligent for knowledge.' He never needed a 'cross word.' In all the vast literature of controversy over Lincoln's early years, there is hardly an unkind word about Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln.
Lincoln's legendary sense of humor was probably influenced by his stepmother. He recalled that she was a firm but kind-hearted woman who loved to laugh. When he was eighteen years old, Lincoln, at 6' 4", was so tall that his head nearly touched the ceiling of the family's farmhouse kitchen. His stepmother repeatedly joked that Lincoln was so tall that he needed to keep his hair washed or he'd leave prints on her ceiling. Lincoln decided to have some fun with this idea. One day, when his stepmother was not home, Lincoln got together a group of younger boys and had them dip their bare feet in the mud outside the farmhouse kitchen. Then Lincoln took each of the boys inside, held them upside-down, and had them walk their feet across the ceiling, leaving muddy footprints. When Sarah Lincoln saw the muddy footprints on her ceiling, Lincoln recalled, she chuckled as she threatened to spank him.
| Mother of the President of the United States
March 4, 1861 - April 15, 1865
Mary McDonough Johnson