In the days after Rep. Larry Pittman compared President Abraham Lincoln to Adolf Hitler, several Republican lawmakers voiced their support for Honest Abe.
Rep. David Rogers, a Rutherford County Republican, pointed out on Twitter that his legislative district has a potential connection to Lincoln.
“I too appreciate Abe Lincoln,” Rogers tweeted Sunday. “There is significant evidence to support his birth in Rutherford County, NC.”
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That comment raised a few eyebrows because the National Park Service operates the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace – hundreds of miles away in Kentucky.
But Rogers wasn’t making a new claim. He’s referring to a theory promoted by the Bostic Lincoln Center in Bostic, a town of about 400 people located an hour west of Charlotte.
The group, which operates a museum, points to research claiming that Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, was an unmarried teenager when she gave birth to Abraham in a cabin near Bostic around 1804. She then took the baby to Kentucky, the theory goes, where she married Tom Lincoln, who’s the president’s father in most official histories of his life. (Most biographies say that Lincoln’s parents - Nancy and Tom - were married in 1806 and Lincoln was born in 1809.)
From a 2008 News & Observer story:
Bostic’s Lincoln supporters draw much of their energy from a couple of old books. One of them, “The Genesis of Lincoln, “ was originally published in 1899. Author James Cathey made his case by collecting stories from people who remembered Nancy and her baby. In addition, there are people living today who remember Nancy Hanks’ name on the church rolls of Concord Baptist Church. The records burned in a fire.
Lydia Clontz, vice president of the Bostic Lincoln Center, acknowledges the storytelling tradition in her part of the state and the tendency toward tale-telling.
She said a story passed from generation to generation “might be embellished a little bit. It might be changed a little bit. But there’s always a grain of truth running through the whole thing.”
As for the Lincoln tale, she said, “Now we might not be able to say that we’ve got this proof or that proof, because these people are all dead now.”
Museum organizers argue that Rutherford County residents would likely have wanted to cover up Lincoln’s local ties during and after the Civil War.
Rutherford County is not far from Lincoln County and the town of Lincolnton, but those communities aren’t named for the 16th president. They’re named after Revolutionary War Gen. Benjamin Lincoln.
And if Pittman’s claim that Abraham Lincoln was a “tyrant” is any indication, animosity toward the president is still strong among some in North Carolina. Those folks are likely happy to let Kentucky continue claiming him as a native son.