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It's time to unearth Lincoln family legends

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By Linda Ireland

Many of us who have lived in LaRue County all our lives are descended from this region's earliest settlers.

Our ancestors homesteaded in what was then Hardin County in the early 1800s, during the time the Lincoln family toughed it out at Sinking Spring Farm and Knob Creek. That means plenty of family legends, some with substantiation, have resurfaced with the focus on the Lincoln Bicentennial - the 200th celebration of the birth of our most famous native son, Abraham Lincoln.

I became interested in my family's history in my 30s. Dad and I trudged through nearly every cemetery in the county, looking for tombstones of our ancestors. He was a gifted storyteller, when he chose to be, and related the most interesting tidbits about those olden days. There were tales of backbreaking work and hardscrabble; moonshiners and bushwhackers and riverboat gamblers; feuds and broken hearts and love children.

My children were often in tow during those treks and I hoped they too would show interest in their history. That didn't happen, but they still talk about how their family field trips often consisted of visits to obscure cemeteries.

One of the stories Dad liked to tell was about George Redmon, who was born in 1777. George and his large family lived on a steep hill overlooking the Lincoln cabin on Knob Creek during the "Knob Creek years," 1811-1816, and beyond. Their cabin was located on the main wagon road to Hodgen's Mill.

I don't know whether George was considered a wealthy man at the time, but an old photo shows the homestead as a double cabin with a dogtrot between the sections. His dirt floor log cabin was bigger than the Lincolns' - and maybe better - but it was still a dirt floor log cabin.

One of George's daughters, and my great(X4)-grandmother, Rebecca, was born Jan. 17, 1807, just weeks before Abraham's sister Sarah, who was born Feb. 10, 1807.

George also had a younger son, George Jr., who was about the same age as Abraham. It's believed the children were playmates. One of Rebecca's granddaughters (from another branch of the family) said Rebecca told of visiting the Lincoln home once and Abraham, still a toddler, fell into a large washtub. She pulled him out by his shirttail (the only clothing he wore).

There was another child born to the Lincoln family during the Knob Creek years, a son named Thomas, after his father. The baby died, probably before the age of 2.

After he was elected president, Abraham spoke of the child and old-timers recalled the birth, but the site of his burial was unknown. After Lincoln's assassination, researchers became frantic to locate any relics of his existence in Kentucky - but few remained. Most believed the Lincoln infant was buried in Little Mount Cemetery in Leafdale where the Lincoln family attended (and where coincidentally, Rebecca and her husband Sylvester are buried), but they could find no proof.

Finally, in 1933, more than 100 years after the Lincolns left Kentucky, a work crew was hired to clear brush from neglected cemeteries - including those in the Knob Creek area. James Taylor, a descendant of George Redmon, was selected as foreman.

James, who was my great-grandfather, located the near-forgotten Redmon family cemetery and began fighting through the briars and sumac. He noticed a small, sunken grave. He dug in the surrounding soil and unearthed a triangular-shaped tombstone. It was just a slab of native limestone but had the initials "T.L." clearly engraved. They had found the Lincoln baby's grave.

After the discovery, James and his sister Julia felt free to pass along a story they heard from their father George Taylor.

George Redmon, they said, went to the Lincoln cabin during the mourning period for the infant. He carried the tiny coffin back up that extremely steep hill (check it out the next time you visit the Boyhood Home at Knob Creek) and buried the child in his own family's cemetery. They weren't sure when the limestone marker was placed, but another legend has the family visiting the grave and Nancy Lincoln weeping over it before they left Kentucky for Indiana. Perhaps it was placed at that time.

The limestone marker eventually fell into private ownership and a Boy Scout troop purchased a new marker for the baby in August 1959.

So that's my story - my many-times great-grandmother got a peek at Abraham Lincoln's backside when he was a lad, and my many-times great-grandfather offered his assistance during a neighbor's time of need.

You probably have a few stories of your own - maybe some of them are even about the Lincolns. Make sure you write them down or pass them along to your children. Once those tales are forgotten, they're gone. And few of us are lucky enough to dig them up again.

- Linda Ireland is editor of The LaRue Herald News, Hodgenville.