Jim Jenkins

A (could be) Lincoln kinsman speaks out on the ‘tyrant’ talk

Staff Photographer

Your correspondent is one of the few people in the Triangle, perhaps the only one, who has actually set foot on the grounds of the Bostic Lincoln Center in Rutherford County, a charming foothills place that is often described as “an hour west of Charlotte.” In fact, those of us who claim roots in Rutherford are more apt to say that Charlotte is a few slabs of asphalt “an hour from Rutherford County.”

My people go way back in Rutherford County and live there still. On my last trip, a cousin took me to something he said “I’ll bet you haven’t seen,” and he was right. The Bostic Lincoln Center commemorates a history that might-have-been. Namely: that the town of Bostic or the area around it might have been the birthplace of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. I didn’t get inside the small building that houses period artifacts and the like, but it’s by the side of the road in rural Bostic, which has a claim to fame as the home of Washburn’s General Store, the oldest general store in North Carolina. Washburn’s sells iron skillets and stick candy and everything in between.

Bostic and Lincoln have come to the fore because of famed historian Larry Pittman, a state Republican House member from Concord who is so conservative he makes Ted Cruz look like Ted Kennedy. Pittman previously drew attention because he wanted to remove from North Carolina’s constitution a ban on secession. Now he’s back with a theory that Abraham Lincoln was “the same sort (of) tyrant” as Adolf Hitler. Pittman’s view came as he got some blowback on a bill he wanted that would have restored a ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina, despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court says that would be unconstitutional.

Hmmm ... guy wants to go against the Constitution, remove the ban on secession, and rates Lincoln a tyrant. Sounds like the Pitt-man is ready to fire on Fort Bragg and mix it up with the Yankees. How’d that go last time, Larry?

As it happens, your aforementioned correspondent has this Rutherford County connection. This raises the possibility, Rutherford County being a small place in those days of the early 1800s, that my kin might have also been kin to Abraham Lincoln, which could make me a relative if the Bostic connection is true. It may be that the great Lincoln was my Great-Great-Great Uncle Abe, or something like that.

Now it’s true that generations of historians have questioned the Bostic-as-birthplace story. It is said in academic tomes that there were likely a number of women named Nancy Hanks (Lincoln’s mother) in the area in the early 1800s, and that the president’s father, Tom Lincoln, married a Nancy Hanks in 1806 and welcomed the baby Abraham in 1809 — in Kentucky. The Bostic connection is said to be that Abraham was born in 1804 to the unmarried Nancy Hanks who later married Tom Lincoln.

Alas, church records that allegedly would have shed light on the life of a Nancy Hanks long ago vanished, so the Bostic connection is based on stories collected over many years, stories from people who said they knew Nancy Hanks and the baby.

Nevertheless, it’s clear from family resemblance, from the lore of our clan, from the fact that all of us found it easy to memorize the “Gettysburg Address” when we passed through sophomore year of high school, from the fact that we all were adept at Lincoln Logs, that there is in fact a family connection there. Thus, my kinfolk have asked me to pass this on to Mr. Pittman: If you say anything more about Great-Great-Great Uncle Abe, there’s going to be trouble. From the family. You can find us at Washburn’s. We’ll be in the back with the hard stuff — the peppermint stick.

Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at jjenkins@newsobserver.com