Dennis Friend Hanks

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Dennis Friend Hanks

Birthplace: Hardin, Marshall, Kentucky, United States
Death: Died in Paris, Edgar, Illinois, United States
Cause of death: run over by a wagon
Place of Burial: Charleston, Coles, Illinois, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Charles Friend and Nancy Hall
Husband of Sarah Elizabeth "Betsy" Johnston
Father of Sarah Jane Hanks; John Talbot Hanks; Nancy Hanks; Harriet Chapman; Amanda Hanks and 3 others
Half brother of Squire (Levi) Hall, II; William Hall and Mahala Beames

Occupation: Farmer and Shoemaker
Managed by: Debbie Fain
Last Updated:

About Dennis Friend Hanks

DENNIS HANKS (1799-1892). President Lincoln's cousin-once-removed, foster brother, and step-brother-in-law. He is the child of Charles Friend and Nancy Hall (Hanks), although they did not marry.

Born in Hardin County, Kentucky, and raised there by Elizabeth and Thomas Sparrow, his aunt and uncle. Acquainted with President Lincoln all of Lincoln's life, he lived in the Thomas Lincoln household with him 1818-21. A farmer in Indiana, he accompanied Thomas Lincoln in his migrations to Macon County and Coles County, Illinois. In the mid-1830's moved to Charleston in Coles County, where he became a shoemaker and resided most of the rest of his life.

He married 1821 in Indiana Sarah Elizabeth Johnston (1807-1864), President Lincoln's step-sister, the oldest daughter of Daniel Johnston and his wife Sarah Bush, who in 1818 became the second wife of Thomas Lincoln.

Their children who survived childhood were:

  1. Sarah Jane Hanks (1822-1907).
  2. John Talbot Hanks (1823-1915). Settled in California, then Oregon.
  3. Nancy Hanks (1824-?).
  4. HARRIET HANKS (1826-1915). Resided in the Abraham Lincoln household in Springfield, Illinois in 1844-46, while attending school. Married 1847 Col. Augustus H. Chapman of Coles County.
  5. Amanda Hanks (1833-?).
  6. Mary Hanks.
  7. Charles Hanks (1841-1870).
  8. Theophilus Hanks (1849-?).
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  • ========================== From FindAGrave:

Dennis was reared by his mother's sister Elizabeth Sparrow and her husband Tomas until they died of the milk sickness in Spencer County, Indiana. Abraham's mother, Nancy would die of the same milk sickness at the same time. Dennis would then move in with Thomas Lincoln, young Abraham and Sarah. Hardship and sadness would rule the household until Thomas would take hold, go to Kentucky and bring back a new wife, Sarah Bush Johnston. Sarah Bush's daughter, Sarah Elizabeth "Betsy" Johnston would marry Dennis on September 13, 1826. The family tree gets very complicated with this marriage.

Dennis and Betsy would have thirteen children, eight of which survived infancy. These eight children and all of the other Sarah Bush Lincoln grandchildren would grow up calling Abraham Lincoln "Uncle Abe." These children would be the only nephews and nieces he would have. His brother Thomas died at infancy and his sister, Sarah died in childbirth.

The Dennis and Betsy Hanks children which survived infancy were: Sarah "Jane" Dowling, Nancy Melvina Shoaff, John Talbott Hanks, Amanda Poorman, Charles F.M. Hanks, Mary Shriver, and Theophilus Van Deren Hanks. Another daughter, Harriett Ann Hanks lived and bore a number of children. Harriett was noted as Abe's favorite niece. She lived in Abe's Springfield home around 1843, while she continued her schooling.

The story of Dennis Hanks, the Halls and the Lincolns moving from Indiana to Illinois in 1830, and settling in Macon County represents the last time the two would live together. Abraham was a young man, and would move to New Salem after a year. The Lincolns, Hanks and Halls would move to Coles County. Dennis and Betsy would become "City Folk" at Charleston, where Dennis would help to develop the small pioneer village of log cabins and shacks. The distance from Charleston to the Thomas Lincoln farm was some ten miles. Dennis was known as a shoe cobbler and maker, and would also run a tavern/inn/boarding house called the "Illinois House." He would also run a gristmill on the Embarrass River. He was quite a business man.

Dennis and Abraham would visit often when Lincoln would come to the Coles County courthouse for legal dealings in the 8th Judicial Circuit. "Uncle Abe" was popular with all his nieces and nephews. After the Charleston Riot, Dennis was concerned for the fate of the men imprisoned for the riot, and would make a journey to Washington to see his old friend and cousin, Abraham Lincoln, the President, to see if he could get the men released. This was the last contact Dennis Hanks would have with Abraham Lincoln.

Dennis Hanks lived a long life of 93 years old. His death was a bit unusual, but kind of represents the kind of rough pioneer life he led. He was invited to nearby Edgar County Fairgrounds for an "Emancipation Day" celebration. He was living at Charleston and at Paris, where the fairgrounds were located with his children. On returning home from the celebration, he was struck by a wagon, knocked down, with one wheel passing over his arm and shoulder. He survived almost a month more and died October 21, 1892 in his daughter's home at Paris. It seem he almost could have lived into the 20th Century. A lot of history was lost with the death of Dennis Friend Hanks. He could relate stories of Abraham even until the time of his unfortunate death.

Information for this page was gained from:

  • Recollections of Abraham Lincoln in Illinois by David Kent Coy, the Looking for Lincoln Project
  • Abraham Lincoln, the Boy and the Man, by Lloyd Ostendorf
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Dennis Friend Hanks's Timeline

May 15, 1799
Hardin, Marshall, Kentucky, United States
Age 22
May 5, 1823
Age 23
Age 24
Age 26
Age 33
Age 41
Age 49
October 21, 1892
Age 93
Paris, Edgar, Illinois, United States