Are the Smokies the true ‘Land of Lincoln’?



Both Groundhog Day and Presidents’ Day occur in February. The former can be celebrated in the Smokies by a trip to the Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum to check on the activity level of the robust population of groundhogs (aka woodchucks) living in the vicinity. The latter can also be marked at Oconaluftee by stirring the ashes of the old Enloe-Lincoln legend.

First off, it is important to note that the topic of President Abraham Lincoln’s paternity has been a favorite subject for amateur historians to debate around the campfire or barroom since Abe was nominated for president in 1860. Over a dozen different authors have posited their very different theories. And those who are aware of the debate over our current president’s place of birth can understand that interviews and documents don’t always get in the way of a good story.

There are a couple of reasons for the persistence of the idea that Abram (Abraham according to some sources) Enloe of Oconaluftee is the father of Abraham Lincoln. For one, records of births (which almost always occurred at home) in the early 19th century were sketchy. For another, according to some Enloe family photos, Abram and Abraham did bear a certain resemblance.

The Enloes were one of the founding families of the relatively prosperous Oconaluftee area of the Smokies in the early 1800s. Park landmarks such as Enloe Creek, Enloe Ridge, and Enloe Slave Cemetery are named for their presence. According to the legend, Nancy Hanks, president Lincoln’s mother, was brought into the Enloe household as an orphan when the Enloes resided in Rutherford County, N.C. When Nancy was in her teens, the family moved to Oconaluftee. Nancy allegedly became pregnant by Abram and gave birth to a son named Abraham either at a neighbor’s home or the Enloe home in Oconaluftee. Later, Nancy moved with one of the Enloes’ daughters to Kentucky where she met and married Thomas Lincoln. She died when Abraham Lincoln was about 10 years old.

No American has been the subject of more biographies than Abraham Lincoln, and serious historians have largely discounted the Abram Enloe paternity story. Marriage, tax, and other documents from Kentucky convincingly show the truth to be otherwise. Yet when one views photos of Abram Enloe, Thomas Lincoln, and “honest Abe,” one’s mind can’t help but speculate….