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Lincoln's From Puzzle Creek Generations Of Locals Know The Facts

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President Emeritus of the Lincoln Center, Keith Price, sits among the memorabilia in the Bostic Lincoln Center during a recent interview. Price is as convinced of the LIncoln born on Puzzle Creek story as he is that the sky is blue.

Was Abraham Lincoln born on Puzzle Creek in Rutherford County?

The evidence is overwhelming.

Why is it not acknowledged by the likes of the National Park Service, which operates a Lincoln Birthplace site in Hodgenville, KY? Why would a Google search or a trip to the local library tell you that Lincoln was a native of Kentucky?

The answers to those questions are likely as numerous as the authorities you might ask.

But Keith Price, president emeritus of the Bostic Lincoln Center, Inc. will tell you that "origins matter."

What if the 16th president, who was commander of the Union armies that fought The Civil War had been a native of a slave state that seceded from that same Union?

It would not have played well in the papers.

Lincoln was often criticized in the Northern press for having Southern sympathies. Mary Todd's brother, who was a captain in the Confederate army, spent a night in The White House after being taken prisoner by the Union army. That did not play well in the papers.

Price, who along with former Bostic School principal Tom Melton, is a long-time promoter and researcher in the effort to keep the tradition alive, talked about his passion and the facts in the case.

"Nancy Hanks had a dark-haired baby on the banks of Puzzle Creek in Rutherford County and named him Abraham. That fact is beyond dispute. Who the father was is another matter," Price said.

The story found on Wikipedia and in Google searches and in most classrooms is that Nancy Hanks married Tom Lincoln and the boy was born of that union in Kentucky.

Not so, according to Price, Melton, and a group of dedicated local volunteers who operate the Bostic Lincoln Center in the old railroad depot in the heart of Bostic.

One of the earliest and most credible resources is Judge William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner. Price called him "a fly on the wall," who heard the stories of Lincoln's birth from his early days in partnership with The Great Emancipator.

But the Lincoln Center offers a number of books which affirm the Puzzle Creek story, some of which are sourced in witness interviews from the period in question. A writer named James H. Cathey published a book in 1899 which included interviews with three women who knew the information from their own childhoods.

Okay, but wait, why does it matter? If nothing else, it would tilt the narrative in favor of Rutherford County, Bostic, and Puzzle Creek. Some 3,000 people have visited the converted railroad depot since it opened as the Lincoln Center in 2005. Imagine the traffic that will come when the National Park Service begins operating a visitor's center in Bostic and the Puzzle Creek site is developed for parking and tours.

Although Melton was a scholar of some repute, holding two masters degrees, another most impressive advocate of the Puzzle Creek birthplace, was Dr. Aaron Hyatt. Hyatt was not only a Puzzle Creek advocate and president of Macon College, he also served as General Secretary of Rotary International. Those are no small potatoes.

Why would such august scholars and thinkers advocate for Puzzle Creek? Maybe they would as it appears to be true and it is a truth not generally acknowledged.

Beyond that, would there not be a sense of urgency about establishing the origins of the most iconic American in the history books? Price calls Lincoln the original, ultimate American, one who came from nothing in the years following the break from England and who rose to the nation's highest office, to fight its most tragic war.

Ann Calton, who currently presides over the Lincoln Center board of directors, says excitement around the project is found in the hard work of the volunteers who staff the museum nine hours a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 1-4 on Thursdays and 10-1 on Fridays and Saturdays.

She also shared an encouraging story of being in Kentucky when "a man in a service station told us, 'Oh, we know Abraham Lincoln was born in North Carolina.' " He was from Kentucky.

Another writer who documents Puzzle Creek as the birthplace is James Caswell Coggins who published a book in 1926 and a second in 1940 authenticating the claim.

Other books by Jean Tisdale, Jerry Goodnight, and Richard Eller are on sale at the center and offer further authentication.

The issue of who the real father was muddies the water.

"Three women came up from Craytonville, South Carolina and said there was a Hanks tavern there, and that story goes that Nancy Hanks worked there during the time frame. John C. Calhoun, one of the possible fathers, would have been a young, traveling lawyer during that time," Price said.

Other candidates for paternity include Abraham Enloe, and many Enloe men photographed at the time bear an uncanny resemblance to the man we know today as Lincoln.

As to the father historians claim today, Tom Lincoln, Price said the president had very little regard for him and did not attend his funeral.

Also Lincoln was notorious for downplaying his origins, which has led Puzzle Creek advocates to believe he did so as in that story, he would have been born out of wedlock.

Price told that Lincoln said, "I'm not so much concerned as to who my grandfather was, but rather what his grandson will become." The man could turn a phrase.

The quest to get Lincoln on the Puzzle Creek map took Melton and Price traveling many miles. Price said Melton never wanted to argue, but upon leaving the museum in Hodgenville, KY, Melton very gentle and with a grin asked the ladies there, "Tell me one more time who Lincoln's mother was?" When they answered, "Nancy Hanks," Melton said, "You have just validated everything I have been saying."

After all, if they believed Lincoln had been born of the marriage alleged in most history books, they would have answered, "Nancy Lincoln."

Price also said the Lincolns were married by a Methodist deacon named Jesse Head who recorded that a dark-haired little boy had been with them at the wedding.

Keep an eye out here for more stories from the Lincoln Center and the effort to get a national monument built on Puzzle Creek.

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