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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Helm, John B. 'John B. Helm to William H. Herndon' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon081.html


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64. John B. Helm to William H. Herndon.

1st Aug 1865

Dear Sir —

You with this will receive two Letters one from Hon S. Haycraft, The other from Revd. Presly Nevil [1] — both addressed to me and in reply to letters written to them by your request and under the strongest assurances of confidence on my part that their names should not hereafter be alluded to — Indeed all this would not have sattisfied any of us to make unpleasant disclosures about the dead that are gone unless some good might grow out of it I also send you clipt from a Ky paper an obituary of Jack Thomas written by the same Hon. S. Haycraft — simply to show an idea Haycraft admires Lincoln and cannot even write an obituary notice of his dearest friend without bring in something if it occurs to his mind to Strengthen and confirm his position that old Thomas Lincoln was somebody and an honest man. Thus he says old Tom Lincoln the Presidents father did the Joiners work upon the house of old Hardin Thomas &c — This amused me because when a boy going to school I boarded at old Hardin Thomas and in this same house and did not remember any joining work on the house a rough log house with two or three glass windows — plenty of rough room good cheer and honest friendship was all they had and joiners work was scarce

Likewise the story got up on speculation about the veritable log cabin in which Abe Lincoln was born near Hodgenville — that was hunted up taken to a saw mill

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— sawed into slats and worked up into Cains and sold for gain Also the mirricle as one might call it that any living person should know on what day he was born is all mistery

After a careful reading of the letters of Haycraft and Nevil — you will find two or three points settled beyond dispute Nancy Hanks was his mother. That Nancy Hanks was of low character but that Thomas Lincoln married her — and the presumption is before Abe birth — Now outside of these letters I have other sources of information from a friend by the name of Wm Van Metre and others — who tell me that after Abe's birth a man by the name of Abraham Enlows claimed him as his son that Lincoln and Enlow had a regularly set to fight about the matter — In which fight Enlow lost the end of his nose — Lincoln held the mother and child. But Enlow ever after claimed that he was the father of Abe Lincoln and the name his mother gave the boy was evidence old Enlow would contend of the fact and I heard Wm Van Metre say that he had heard old Abe Enlow claim Abe Lincoln as his son since Mr Lincoln was president of the US.

Now this Abe Enlow was as low a fellow as you could find — you need not try to find any thing under his circle

Hon S. Haycraft and others like him who cannot for their lives see how so great and good a man as Abe Lincoln could have sprung from such an origin have been trying to trace back his ancestral line to the Lincolns of Lincoln Shire &c — But lo! they fail they could trace him back to old Abe better

It is also plain that old Tom Lincoln had courted Sally Bush before she married Johnson and failed to get her — that Sally Bush and Johnson had had a number of children. And Tom Lincoln to get clear of Abe Enlow had removed to Indiana that in the winter 1813 & 1814 — The year of that dreadful plague that past over our country and left 13 dead bodies in our little village in 24 hours I find myself then a school boy boarding in the house of Hardin Thomas the joining of which had been executed by old Tom Lincoln some years before — When I with others assisted to bury the dead — amongst them was Johnson Sally Bush's husband —

It also appears that not long after this Sally Bush then the widdow Johnson was lawfully married to Tom Lincoln and Abe was received into her family as a step son — This is a new era in Abe Lincolns life — The Bushes were rough, uncouth, uneducated beyond any thing that would seem credible now to speak of but the Hanks — Enlows &c — were along way below the Bushes again

A few years pass over our heads and I am clerk in my uncle Ben Helm's store when he my uncle purchased the old Bush farm and Sally being one of the heirs got her part of the purchase money and then for the first time the Great Man of destiny springs into my view. He was then a slender well behaved quiet boy — that was all attention to the wishes of his step mother — and well he should feel it so — for she was doubtless the first person that ever treated him like a human being — He was then by her aid trying to find out the truth as to who and what he was He was with a lot of boys and girls by the name of Bush — Johnson &c — and he was one of them By the aid of his Step Mother a matter of fact sort of a woman she gave him information. He retained the name of Abe, corrected the spelling of

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his fathers name and by name became Abe — Lincoln, as to the time of his birth he has it no doubt from Sally Bush who in all human probability gave it to him correctly

In one of your letters you inquired about the Camp Meetings of that day — before and after Abe's birth — the Hanks girls were great at Camp meetings after I could remember say 1816 I will give you one scene and if you will then read the books written on the subject you may find some appology for some of the superstition that was said to be in Abes character.

I was at a Camp Meeting as before said about 1816 when a general shout was about to Commence — preperations were being made a young lady invited me to stand on a bench by her side where we could all see over the altar. To the right a strong athletic young man about 25 years of age was being put in trim for the occasion — which was done by divesting him of all apparal except shirt and pants On the left a young lady was also being put in trim in some what the same way so that her clothes would not be in her way and so that when her combs flew out her hair would go into graceful braids — She too was young not more than 20 per haps less The performance commenced about the same time By the young man on the right and the young lady on the left — slowly and gracefully they worked towards the centre — Singing shouting hugging and kissing generally their own sex until at last nearer and and nearer they came — The centre of the Alter was reached and the two closed with their arms around each other — The man Singing and Shouting at the top of his voice — I have my Jessus in my arms — Sweet as Honey comb and Strong as baccon ham, just at this moment the young lady holding to my arm said they are to be married next week. her name is Miss Hanks — It was in the part of the country where Abe was born and possibly some of that family.

There were very few who did not believe this true religion inspired by the holy spirit and the man that could not believe it had better keep it to himself or be off for we had our bullies to keep order at such places — The Hanks' were the finest singers and finest shouters in our country — the only draw back on them was that some nine months after these interesting meetings some of them were likely to have baby's

A few words more as to the Enlow family and I am done with this subject — As far back as I can recollect there lived in Hardin County Three families of Enlow's all said to be cousins — I think from N.C. but not certain — Isham Enlow married a widdow Larue had a family of some distinction — Gov Helm is of Mrs Enlows descendants by her first husband Larue — and several other persons of distinction by her Larue and Enlow husband — Abe Enlow another cousin a tall dignified looking man of fine personal appearance very neat — silent and reserved — more of a book worm than for action — married a Vernon one of our best families — raised a respectable family

Then comes our veritable Abe Enlow who claims to be father of the President This Abe was a man over six feet — pretty much in appearance as if he might have been of the same family of the president. He had a sister Polly that

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lived with him on a small farm a few miles from our town — His sister Polly was a notorious prostitute — had some half a dozen pretty daughters all raised up in the same way — like others of that stripe they had their broils — fights and fusses —

I remember old Abe — with part of his nose bit off as one of the institutions of our country for some thirty years — very silent — very unobtrusive — never drunk nor boistrous seemed not to suffer in reputation by the conduct of his Sister & her daughters — dont expect I ever had a dozen words with him except to sell him some article for his farm. He may have been a man of destiny also — and patiently filled the place assigned him by Providence

For over ten days I have been prostrated on a bed of sickness — Calomel Quinine Blue mass — these papers took possession of my mind when I had any mind — I am determined this morning to place them beyond my reach — I hope you will burn them

Jn. Helm,

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Helm, John B. 'John B. Helm to William H. Herndon' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon081.html
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