Hanks, the cousin of Abraham Lincoln’s mother, was born in Hardin County, Kentucky.
He was the illegitimate son of Nancy Hanks, an aunt of Lincoln’s mother, also named Nancy Hanks.
moved to southern Indiana
in 1817 and lived with the Sparrow family, relatives of Nancy Hanks Lincoln.
Abraham and Dennis became close friends. In 1818, when both the Sparrows’
mother and Lincoln’s mother died, Dennis moved
in with the Lincolns.
He and Abraham Lincoln shared the loft space in their cabin. In 1821, he married Sarah Elizabeth Johnston,
the daughter of Thomas Lincoln’s second wife, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln. They
moved with the Lincoln family to Illinois in 1830.
Dennis and Abraham parted ways after moving to Illinois, they still stayed connected to
some degree. From 1844 to 1846, Harriet, his daughter, boarded with Abraham and
Mary Lincoln in Springfield
while she was at school. In 1851, Lincoln
represented Dennis in a lawsuit against William B. White. During Lincoln’s presidency, Dennis assisted in the care of Lincoln’s aging and ill
After Lincoln’s assassination, Hanks was a key player in
purchasing and displaying to the public a cabin Lincoln
lived in briefly in Decatur,
Letter from Dennis Hanks to Abraham Lincoln, April 5, 1864 discussing
of the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division