Deed of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Lincoln to John D. Johnston, 12 August 18511
This Indenture made this twelfth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fiftyone, by and between Abraham Lincoln, and Mary Lincoln, his wife, of the City of Springfield, county of Sangamon, and State of Illinois, party of the first part, and John D. Johnston, of the county of Coles and State aforesaid, party of the second part, Witnesseth:
That the said party of the first part, for, and in consideration of the sum of one dollar to them in hand paid, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, have remised, released, and forever quit-claimed; and by these presents do remise, release, and forever quit-claim to, and in favor of the said party of the second part, his heirs and assigns forever, all the right, title, interest and estate, which the said party of the first part have in and to the North West quarter of the South East quarter; and the North East quarter of the South West quarter, both of Section Twentyone, in Township Eleven North, of Range Nine East of the Third Principal Meridian, situated in the said county of Coles, and together containing eighty acres more or less—2 the interest of the said party of the first part in and to said lands, being that derived as sole heir at law of the late Thomas Lincoln, now deceased, and subject to the right of Dower of Sarah Lincoln, widow of the said Thomas Lincoln deceased–3
To have and to hold to the said party of the second part, and to his heirs and assigns forever, the interest aforesaid, in and to the above described lands, together with all and singular the privileges and appurtenances thereunto belonging–4
In testimony whereof the said party of the first part have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year first above written–5A. Lincoln
seal M. Lincoln
State of Illinois
Before me the undersigned clerk of the County Court for the County aforesaid personally appeared Abraham Lincoln and Mary Lincoln his wife who are personally Known to me to be the identical persons by whom and in whose names the forgoing deed is subscribed and by whom and in whose names the same is prepared to be acknowledged and acknowledged the execution of said deed to be their free and voluntary act and deed for the use and purposes named–
And the said Mary Lincoln wife of the said Abraham Lincoln being by me examined seperate and apart from her said husband and the contents of said conveyance being explained to her acknowledged that she executed said deed freely and voluntarily without the threats or compulsion of her said husband and relinquished her claim of Dower to said premises6
Given under my hand and seal of office at Springfield this 12th day of August AD 1851N W Matheny Clk[Clerk]7
Recorded & ExaminedN. Ellington Clerk9
September 6th 1851
In Book O on Page 215
September 6th 1851
In Book O on Page 215
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this deed. Mary Lincoln also signed the deed. Lincoln also wrote the script, “A Lincoln & wife Deed To John D. Johnston–” in the third image.
2As in modern times, conveying or transferring realty to someone with $1.00 listed as the amount of consideration on the deed was a common way of indicating that the transfer was a gift rather than a sale. Hence, this was a deed of gift, in which Abraham and Mary Lincoln gifted the land that Lincoln inherited from his father to John D. Johnston, Lincoln’s stepbrother. Since no correspondence between Lincoln and Johnston regarding this gift of land has been located, it’s unclear if Lincoln agreed to this transfer on the basis of any arrangements or factors beyond what is specified in this deed.
1941 Supplement to the Code of Federal Regulations of the United States of America (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1943), 2:2370.
3Dower was a form of estate that provided for a widow’s needs out of her husband's real and personal property, and such property was not subject to creditor’s demands. In antebellum Illinois, the widow of a man with children received one-third of the land that her husband owned at any time during their marriage for the rest of her life, unless she relinquished her dower rights in the prescribed manner. If her deceased husband had no children, the widow received outright ownership of one-half of the estate.
In Sarah Lincoln’s case, since Lincoln was Thomas Lincoln’s sole heir, she was due one-third of the land that her husband owned during their marriage.
“Dower,” Reference, Glossary, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Reference.aspx?ref=Reference%20html%20files/Glossary.html.
4In legal terminology, an “appurtenance” refers to “that which belongs to something else,” and “which passes as incident to it.” In this context, Sarah Lincoln’s right of dower passed along with this transfer of property, meaning that the land Abraham and Mary Lincoln gifted Johnston in this deed were still subject to her right of dower. She remained entitled to one-third of the land that Thomas Lincoln had owned during their marriage.
Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, MN: West, 1979), 94.
5Lincoln enclosed this deed in a letter to Johnston, dated August 31, 1851. Just a few months later, in November 1851, Lincoln wrote Johnston several other letters in an effort to dissuade him from selling this land and moving to Missouri.
6Since Lincoln inherited his father’s land upon his death, this meant that it became part of the right of dower to which Mary Lincoln was entitled, should she be widowed. With this additional section, then, she relinquished her claim of right of dower over the lands being gifted to Johnston.
“Dower,” Reference, Glossary, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Reference.aspx?ref=Reference%20html%20files/Glossary.html.
Autograph Document Signed, 3 page(s), Huntington Library (San Marino, CA).