Mary Lincoln Crume: An Early Kentucky Pioneer

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Mary Lincoln Crume was the aunt of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. She had a humble upbringing in rural Virginia and the woods of Kentucky. She became a hardworking mother and pioneer woman.

Mary Lincoln was born in 1775 in Linville Creek in Rockingham County, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She was one of five children born to Abraham and Bathsheba Lincoln. Her siblings were Mordecai born approx. 1771, Josiah born approx. 1773, Thomas born in 1778, and Nancy born in 1780.

Biographer David H. Donald quotes President Abraham Lincoln as saying the Lincolns were an “undistinguished” Virginia family. However author R. Gerald McMurty said the elder Abraham was a “well to do Virginia planter,” owning a large amount of land in Rockingham County, Virginia. Mr. Lincoln engaged in Lord Dunmore’s 1774 expedition against the Shawnees and he was a captain in the Revolutionary War.

The Lincoln family moved from Virginia to Kentucky in 1782, when Mary was seven years old. After the Revolutionary War many settlers came across the mountains to Kentucky. The area where the Lincolns settled was an area where Native Americans contested settlement, and skirmishes between whites and Natives were common.

In May 1786 Abraham was working outside on his farm with his three sons, trying to plant some corn. A small group of Native Americans came from the nearby woods and shot Mr. Lincoln. He was killed at forty-two years of age, leaving his wife, 15 year old Mordecai, 13 year old Josiah, 11 year old Mary, 8 year old Thomas, and 6 year old Nancy. After her father was killed the family moved to an area of Kentucky that was more settled. They lived in a part of Nelson County which later became Washington County.

Under the law of the time, Mary’s oldest brother Mordecai was the only child to inherit any part of Abraham’s estate. Mordecai reached adulthood and took his inheritance, likely leaving the rest of the family in a poor financial state (Burlingame).

Life in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century was hard, especially for women on the frontier. There were not a lot of opportunities for a poor, fatherless, young woman. In 1790 in the United States, less than one thirteenth of households had female heads. At that time families headed by females were more likely to be poor (Smith).

When Mary Lincoln was sixteen years old, she joined in a common law marriage with Daniel Edgar Crume, according to Crume family genealogists. Daniel Crume was a widower who was seventeen years her senior that lived close to the Lincoln family in Kentucky. He had four young children, including an infant. Mr. Crume obviously needed someone to help take care of his children and domestic duties. Mary had two daughters with Daniel (Pollard).

At age twenty-six she left Daniel to marry his nephew Ralph Crume, Jr. in 1801. Mary’s brother Mordecai and Daniel’s brother Ralph Crume, Sr. both appeared before the court stating that Mary was free to marry Ralph Jr. Incidentally there was no official record of her first marriage; formal records only give credit for the latter marriage to Ralph (Dodd).

With Ralph she had an additional three or four more children. Additionally after Ralph’s brother, William, passed away in 1812 Ralph was named guardian of his brother’s four young children (Gladow). Her life was full of the hustle and bustle of raising children.

Mary and Ralph Crume spent most of their life in Kentucky, except for a short time spent in Indiana (Warren). Mary Lincoln Crume died between 1830 and 1832, being around fifty-five to fifty-seven years of age. Unfortunately Mary did not get to see her nephew become President during her lifetime.

She is believed to be buried at the Crume Cemetery in Breckenridge County, Kentucky. It has erroneously been reported in the past that she was buried at the Lincoln Family Cemetery near Ft. Knox/Mill Creek, Kentucky. However the Mary Crume buried in the Lincoln Family Cemetery is Nancy Lincoln Brumfield’s daughter Mary, who married Ralph Lincoln Crume. She would have been Mary Lincoln Crume’s niece and daughter-in-law (Gladow & Radcliff/Ft. Knox Trsm. & Conv. Comm).