President Lincoln’s Warren County relatives

By John J. Zimkus

President Abraham Lincoln’s great grandfather John Lincoln was born in New Jersey. He would move to Pennsylvania and eventually settled in Rockingham County, Va. some 120 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. He and his wife Rebecca would have nine children. Abraham, the president’s grandfather, was their oldest.

At the advice of a relative, Daniel Boone, Abraham and his wife Bathsheba moved to Kentucky in the early 1780s. While he was working in a clearing with his three sons in 1786, Abraham was shot and killed by an Indian. He was only 42.

After hearing the shot and seeing his father fall, Abraham’s oldest boy, 15-year-old Mordecai, ran to the cabin to get his rifle. His brother, 13-year-old Josiah, ran for help to the nearby settlement half a mile away. Eight-year-old Thomas, the father of the future president, stood frozen near his slain father’s body.

The Indian, seeing Thomas all alone, was about to seize him when a bullet from Mordecai’s rifle cut him down. In later years this story was repeated so often by Thomas Lincoln that it became — as President Lincoln later put it — “the legend more strongly than all others imprinted upon my mind and memory.”

In June 1860 Abe Lincoln, then the Republican Party’s nominee for president, wrote an autobiographical sketch for John L. Scripps to publish in the Chicago Tribune. In it he wrote, “[My] grandfather Abraham had four brothers – Isaac, Jacob, John, and Thomas. So far as known, the descendents of Jacob and John were still in Virginia.”

What Abe Lincoln did not know was that his great uncle John had moved from Virginia to Warren County, Ohio in 1819. John bought a 181-acre farm between Lebanon and the community of Red Lion.

John had married his cousin Mary Yarnell in 1782 in Virginia. Together they would have ten children. They were devout members of the Baptist Church of Lebanon, which stood in the northwest corner of what in now Lebanon’s Pioneer Cemetery.

Mary died in 1832 at age 72, and John three years later at 79. They were both buried in Lebanon’s Baptist Graveyard near their church.

In his autobiography for Scripps, President Lincoln failed to mention his grandfather’s four sisters. One of them, Sarah (the seventh of the nine children), was born two years after her brother John in 1757. She married John Franklin Dean in Virginia around 1777. Around 1800, like her older brother Abraham before her, she and her young family moved to Kentucky. Four generations of Sarah’s family lived in the Blue Grass State.

Within the first third of the 20th century, Sarah Lincoln Dean’s great-great grandson, Fred McKinley Jones, moved from Kentucky to Ohio.

Fred’s granddaughter would eventually live within a few miles of her great-great-great uncle John’s farm. She would also make a name for herself in local politics and in the leadership of the Republican Party in Warren County. President Lincoln’s second cousin four times removed is Warren County Commissioner Pat Arnold South.

Library of Congress photos
President Abraham Lincoln, whose great uncle John settled near Lebanon
President Lincoln’s father, Thomas Lincoln, who, as an eight-year-old boy in Kentucky, was nearly killed by an Indian