— Looking for Lincoln —
Abraham Lincoln was a frequent visitor to Cole County in the 1840's, traveling on the judicial circuit. In Charleston, according to Amanda Hanks Poorman (the daughter of Dennis Hanks), Lincoln would use the Hanks's horse and wagon, and, with some of the Hanks children, visit his father's farm. Amanda recalled: "He was very generous with us, and was also to his father and stepmother, giving them $10 or $15 every time we went down there with him." In the book Abraham Lincoln and Coles County, Illinois, Charles Coleman imagined a scene with Lincoln on a visit home, showering his stepmother with flour, sugar, coffee beans, a bolt of cloth, and even a warm comforter. "Land sakes, Abe," she would say with pretended dismay, "why did you bring me such fol-er-ols? Does that high-toned lady in Springfield know how you throw your money away on your old mother?" "Don't you fret Mama," he would reply, "the comforter was Mary's idea." Dennis Hanks's son-in-law, Augustus Chapman, also reported that in 1858, he gave Sarah Lincoln $50.
Lincoln's care and concern for his family's welfare is shown by one particular gift:the purchase of forty acres of his father's farm. On October 25, 1841. Lincoln purchased forty acres from his parents for $200 then deeded the property back to them for their exclusive use during their lifetimes. Thus, Lincoln secured a cash gift for his parents and property that could not be lost to creditors. It could also provide an income in their old age.
Lincoln's concern for his parents was justified. Thomas Lincoln's financial woes stemmed from co-signing debts for his stepson John D. Johnston. Thomas had purchased both of Johnston's farms when he needed cash in 1834 and 1840. However, these purchases, and money from his stepbrother Abraham, never improved Johnston's finances and further indebted Thomas. In December 1848, Johnston complained about his numerous debts and explained in a letter to his step-brother Abraham how he avoided paying them: ". . . I have kept from paying them by not having any property. . . " He implied that he had tried to raise money by leveraging Thomas Lincoln's land, stating, ". . . have maid no new contracts but tried altogether on Fathers property. . . ." Lincoln, unmoved by his stepbrother's plea, refused to lend him the money.