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Producer: Joy Flynn, Brandon Wickey, Carolyn Gwinn
Special Thanks: Funding for this special edition of Kentucky Life was provided in part by the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Kentucky Historical Society.
Note: Program 1307 is 30 minutes long. Kentucky Life Program 1326 is an expanded, hour-long edition of the wedding reenactment with additional footage of the play and more interviews.
Tom and Nancy
reenacting the wedding of Abraham Lincoln’s parents
In June 1806, Thomas Lincoln of Elizabethtown married a young woman named Nancy Hanks. He was a carpenter, she a skilled seamstress who lived with an aunt and uncle or sometimes with one of the families she was doing sewing work for. After the wedding, the couple lived in Tom’s cabin in Elizabethtown for a time, then moved to a farm outside Hodgenville. There, on February 12, 1809, Nancy gave birth to their first son. They named him Abraham for Tom’s father.
Young Abe, of course, grew up to be America’s 16th president and one of history’s most revered leaders. 200 years later, a reenactment of the Lincoln-Hanks wedding kicked off a three-year bicentennial celebration of the birth of Tom and Nancy’s boy. This special edition of Kentucky Life attends the wedding celebration to learn more about Lincoln’s parents as well as the plans for the bicentennial.
The June 2006 reenactment was held at Lincoln Homestead State Park in Springfield, which preserves a farm the family moved to when Abe was a toddler. The centerpiece of the day was a performance of the play Dearly Beloved: The Vows of a Lincoln Legacy, written by Greg Hardison of the Kentucky Historical Society and staged as part of the society’s Museum Theatre project. Hardison has described the play as an attempt to explore the influence of Lincoln’s parents on his character and strength of spirit. The Lincolns’ story, he says, “provides us all with the inspiration that great things can come from simple beginnings.”
In researching his play, Hardison also retraced some steps that Lincoln himself once took. Accused by political enemies of being illegitimate, Lincoln searched in vain for proof that his parents were married. It was only after his assassination that official documents came to light in Springfield. Dearly Beloved is based in part on affidavits of witnesses to the wedding.
The play also uses Lincoln’s own words about his parents. They include an excerpt from a speech he gave upon leaving a different Springfield—in Illinois—to assume the presidency.
To place the play and the wedding in context, the reenactment celebration also included scenes of actors playing historical figures such as George Washington and the slave York, who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, or performing the tasks of daily life in early 19th-century Kentucky.
Dearly Beloved: The Vows of a Lincoln Legacy
Kentucky Life followed the Lincoln Trail through Kentucky for the special expanded “road show” Lincoln: ‘I, too, am a Kentuckian.’ We previously visited Lincoln Homestead State Park in Program 617 and Program 1118 to chronicle the volunteer effort to purchase and preserve the farm.
SEASON 13 PROGRAMS: 1301 • 1302 • 1303 • 1304 • 1305 • 1306 • 1307/1326: The Lincoln Wedding • 1308 • 1309 • 1310
1311 • 1312 • 1313 • 1314 • 1315 • 1316 • 1317 • 1318 • 1319 • 1320 • 1321 • 1322 • 1323 • 1324 • 1325 • 1327 • 1328
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