Mary Owens




“Nothing would make me more miserable than to believe you miserable – nothing more happy, than to know you were so.” — Abraham Lincoln


Abraham Lincoln’s second love, Mary Owens, was born to a prosperous planter, Nathaniel Owens, on his Little Brush Creek plantation in Green County, Kentucky, on September 29, 1808.  Mary and Abraham met for the first time in 1833, while she was visiting her sister Betsey Abell in New Salem, Illinois, thus commencing their relationship.  After Mary returned home to Kentucky, Lincoln was quoted as stating that he “would marry Miss Owens if she came a second time to Illinois.”  When Mary returned to New Salem in the fall of 1836, however, Lincoln failed to follow up on this promise and in the last of a series of three letters he stated, “I want in all cases to do right; and most particularly so, in all cases with women.  I want, at this particular time, more than any thing else, to do right with you, and if I knew it would be doing right, as I rather suspect it would, to let you alone, I would do it.”  Lincoln concluded, “If it suits you best to not answer this farewell – a long life and a merry one attend you.”


Following this letter, the communication ceased between Abraham Lincoln and Mary Owens.


Letter from Lincoln to Mary Owens, August 16, 1837

Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division