This is the story of how a young boy saved the life of a United States President, 23 years before the man was born.
One of the great things about living in Louisville, Kentucky, is that you are surrounded by reminders of history. About 6 miles from my house, atop a commanding knoll, sits the Long Run Cemetery. Among the 100 or so grave markers in the small cemetery are the remains of the foundation of the Long Run Baptist Church.
But long before the church existed, the hilltop was the site of a single log cabin — the home of a Kentucky pioneer and his small family. On May 19, 1786, the man and his three sons went out to clear timber for additional planting land. As they worked, they were attacked by a small band of Shawnee Indians.
Almost immediately, the man suffered a fatal shot of an arrow to his chest. The oldest son, 16-year-old Mordechai, sprinted back to the cabin where a loaded musket was kept. The middle son, Josiah, ran towards the Hughes fort, approximately 1/2 mile to the north. The youngest son, nine-year-old Thomas, ran to his stricken father’s side.
As Mordechai returned with the musket, a Shawnee warrior was carrying the struggling Thomas away. Mordechai took careful aim and killed the Shawnee with a single shot to the chest, thus saving his young brother’s life.
The father’s remains were buried on the south side of the cabin. Recognizing that her home was vulnerable to further attacks because of its isolation, the pioneer’s wife, Bathsheba, abandoned her home and took her sons and an infant daughter to live with relatives near Bardstown, Kentucky, 40 miles to the south.
There, the boys grew into men, eventually establishing their own families.
A Son is Born
The youngest of the boys, Thomas, married a local girl, Nancy Hanks, and moved with his bride to Hodgenville, Kentucky. There, in 1809, the couple had a son. The boy was named after his slain grandfather, Abraham Lincoln*.
And so, had 16-year-old Mordechai Lincoln not been a good shot on that fateful day in 1786, young Thomas Lincoln might never have survived to father the 16th President of the United States.
A Church Begins
Shortly after the family moved away, a small Baptist congregation adopted the abandoned cabin as their church. Calling themselves the Long Run Baptist Church, the congregation continued to meet in the cabin until it began to deteriorate.
Eventually, the congregation took down the cabin and laid a rock foundation for a new and larger church. It is that foundation which is still visible on the Long Run Cemetery grounds today.
The Long Run Baptist Church continued to flourish, and is still in existence in nearby Middletown, Kentucky, today.
Among the church members in the late 1800’s were the grandparents of another future United States President, Harry S. Truman.
Marking the Grave
In 1937, a local group decided to install a grave marker for Abraham Linkhorn. However, the exact location of his remains was unknown. Bathsheba Linkhorn only stated that he had been buried on the south side of their cabin. But by 1937, even the exact location of the cabin, which had been surrounded by the foundation of the church, was unknown.
Therefore, the group decided to place the marker at the south side of the now deteriorated church foundation, where it remains today.
My Favorite Historical Site
When I have friends visit from outside the area, I enjoy taking them on a tour of the local historical sites. While there are many to choose from — some of which will be featured in future posts on this site — Long Run is my favorite historical location of the area. And based on the reactions of people I have taken there, the feeling is shared.
* The grandfather of the future president actually spelled his name ‘Linkhorn.’ The family had immigrated to England from Germany in the late 1500s and had Anglicized their name to ‘Lincoln.’ But for reasons lost to history, Abraham adopted the German spelling. (His father, Samuel, had used the English spelling.) Mordechai also continued to use the German spelling throughout his life. The other two sons reverted to the English spelling when they reached adulthood.