Owens, Mary S.

Born: 1808-09-29 Green County, Kentucky

Died: 1877-07-04

Alternate name: Vineyard

Mary's father Nathaniel Owens enrolled her in Nazareth Academy, a Catholic school, in 1816. After leaving the academy, Mary taught school at her father's Brush Creek Academy, where she had access to an extensive library. In 1833, Mary visited her sister, Elizabeth Abell in New Salem, Illinois, where she met Abraham Lincoln. When her sister visited her in Kentucky three years later, Mary returned with her to New Salem. From November 1836 to the spring of 1838, Mary remained in New Salem. Lincoln corresponded with Mary Owens from at least late 1836 into the fall of 1837. At some point in mid-1837, the two may have become engaged or close to it, and then broke it off. Mary later reminisced that she and Lincoln were incompatible: he "was deficient in those little links which make up the great chain of womans happiness....not that I believed it proceeded from a lack of goodness of heart, but his training had been different from mine." Mary returned to Kentucky in early 1838 and married Jesse Vineyard in 1841. The Vineyards and their five children settled in Missouri, where Jesse died in 1862. Mary's sons fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Gravestones of Mary Vineyard and Jesse Vineyard, Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, Weston, MO; Mary Owens Vineyard to William H. Herndon, 23 May 1866, in Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 255-56; Mark E. Neely Jr., The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982), 230; Abraham Lincoln to Mary S. Owens; Abraham Lincoln to Mary S. Owens; Abraham Lincoln to Mary S. Owens; Abraham Lincoln to Eliza Browning; Dale Thomas, Lincoln's Old Friends of Menard County, Illinois (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012), 54-58, 60-64.