Very little is known about Tommy Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's younger brother. Thomas Lincoln Jr. ("Tommy") was named after his father and born while the Lincolns were living at the
Knob Creek Farm in Hodgenville, Kentucky. The family lived there from 1811-1816, and many books list 1812 as the year of Tommy Lincoln's birth.
The Knob Creek cabin where the Lincoln family was living when Tommy was born.
Tommy lived only a short period. Dennis Hanks said that the baby "did not live 3 days." Augustus H. Chapman, a Lincoln family relative by marriage, said Tommy "died when only 3 days old." No cause of death is known.
Dr. Daniel B. Potter of Elizabethtown was called to treat little Tommy. Dr. Potter rode through the night to the Lincolns' cabin, but his best efforts could not save the baby.
Dr. Potter first arrived in the area in 1811, and he passed away in 1814. When his estate was settled it was discovered that Thomas Lincoln had once paid him $1.46 for services rendered. It is possible that there was a connection between this account and the death of Tommy. As Dr. Potter was only active in the area for three years, it makes 1812 a logical guess as the year of Tommy's birth and death.
Thomas Lincoln made a coffin for his child. He also carved the letters T.L. into a stone that would be Tommy's grave marker. Tommy was buried in the Redmon family cemetery on a knoll overlooking the Lincolns' farm.
In 1933, while clearing the cemetery site, workers from the Works Progress Administration came upon a small stone buried just below the surface. The stone had the initials T.L. carved into it, and the initials were an exact match with the T.L. that Thomas Lincoln carved into pieces of cabinetry which he made for neighbors.
It was felt that this was indeed little Tommy's grave marker.
Boy Scout Post 15 of Des Moines, Iowa, donated a new tombstone for Tommy in 1959. For years the original
grave marker for Tommy was on display at the Nancy Lincoln Inn next to the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, but it's now under the care of its owner. Tommy's grave is located on private land.
Abraham Lincoln only made mention of little Tommy on one occasion. When Lincoln ran for president in 1860 John L. Scripps of the Chicago Press & Tribune asked him to write an autobiography. In it Lincoln wrote that he had "a brother, younger than himself, who died in infancy."
Little Tommy was the third and last child born to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. The first child, Sarah, was born February 10, 1807. The second child, Abraham, was born February 12, 1809.
SOURCES: The Women Lincoln Loved by William E. Barton (Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1927), Following in Lincoln's Footsteps: A Complete Annotated Reference to Hundreds of Historical Sites Visited by Abraham Lincoln by Ralph Gary (New York, Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2001), Lincoln: A Pictorial History by Edward Steers, Jr. (Gettysburg, Thomas Publications, 1993), Lincoln's Parentage and Childhood by Louis A. Warren (New York, The Century Company, 1926), and
Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln edited by Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1998). The pictures of the gravestones at the top of the page came from p. 24 of Edward Steers' Lincoln: A Pictorial History. The sketch of the Knob Creek cabin came from p. 35 of Following Abraham Lincoln 1809-1865 by Bernhardt Wall (New York, Wise-Parslow Company, 1943).
Thank you very much to Otis Wayne Miller for sending the photo below.
Otis Wayne Miller, age 4, pictured with Little Tommy's original gravestone in 1958