Family Stories

Jesse Head – Cabinet Maker, Justice of the Peace, Methodist Minister Who Performed Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Marriage

Jesse Head was born in Frederick County, Maryland, January 28, 1768, the son of William and Mary Walker Head.  He married Jane Ramsey January 9, 1789.  Jane was the daughter of Robert and Susannah McDonnell Ramsey, born April 10, 1768, in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.  Jesse and Jane moved their family to Washington County, Kentucky, about 1797.

Jesse Head

We have stated on several occasions, that Jesse Head, the man who married Lincoln’s parents at Francis Berry’s house in Washington County on June 12, 1806, quit Springfield for Harrodsburg in the year 1810.  The following advertisement which appeared in The Argus of Western America, Frankfort, Kentucky, Friday, December 14, 1810, confirms our conclusion as to the removal date.  It reads:  ‘CABINET WORK:  The subscribers are about to settle themselves in the town of Harrodsburg where they intend to carry on the above business in its various branches.  They have imported some elegant mahogany, and intend keeping some plank of the first quality, and hope by their attention to business, to please all those who may favor them with their custom.  They will take any kind of produce.  December 13, 1810.  Jesse Head & Son.’

Jesse Head appears in Washington County records in 1797.  It does not appear from the old tax books that he owned real estate at that time, but he seems to have been a resident of the town of Springfield where he engaged in the business of cabinet making.  On December 5, 1797, David Rodman, a minor, was bound to him ‘to learn the art of cabinet maker.’

On February 6, 1798, Jesse Head’s name comes into the records of the county to remain there until a short time before he quit Springfield to go to Harrodsburg in 1810.  On the aforementioned day in 1798, he was sworn a Justice of the Peace and by virtue of that office was a member of the County Court.  This office he held as late as the year 1808.

At the election of trustees for the town of Springfield in January 1810, Jesse Head was re-elected a member of the board for the ensuing year.  He had served for nearly ten years in the capacity of trustee.  After being re-elected in January he determined to leave Springfield where he had successfully engaged in the business of cabinet making and set up in a similar business in Harrodsburg.  He sold his properties in Springfield and was gone from the town before the close of the year, so that when the inhabitants thereof gathered for the annual election in 1811 his name was not proposed for reelection.

For approximately 12 years Jesse Head was a dominating figure in the religious, political and business life of Washington County.  In the field of religion, he was the leading spirit in the establishing of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington and adjoining counties.  In politics he was the outstanding member of the County Court and of the board of trustees of Springfield during his sojourn here.  This statement is not altered or qualified by the fact that Felix Grundy, later to become one of the foremost lawyers and statesmen of the State of Tennessee, was here at the same time and serving with Head as a member of the board of trustees.  As a cabinet maker he had few equals, and many were the early homes of Washington County that contained ‘better furniture’ made by the hands of Jesse Head and his son in their shop in Springfield.  If unbroken pedigrees were at hand it might be shown that some of the antique pieces that grace the homes of Springfield and Washington County today had their beginnings in Jesse Head’s shop.

Lincoln Marriage Temple, houses the log cabin in which Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were married June 1806, in Washington County, Kentucky.  Located in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, at Fort Harrod.

Historians have tried to assign some good reason for the selection of Jesse Head as the officiating minister at the wedding of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks on June 12, 1806.  Such a task should not be difficult.  To us there is but one explanation.

We have not the least doubt but that Jesse Head and Thomas Lincoln formed an acquaintanceship some years previous to the marriage date.  Both men were cabinet makers – Lincoln more of carpenter than cabinet maker, perhaps, but even so, as good as the average in the work in which Jesse Head excelled.  Undoubtedly Thomas Lincoln was often in the shop of Jesse Head and perhaps the two men worked together on numerous occasions.

Thrown together in their work as carpenters and cabinet makers, Lincoln and Head must have become fast friends.  Jesse Head, many years Thomas Lincoln’s senior, old enough to be the young and struggling carpenter’s father, probably spoke of many things, the more important things of life, when the two worked together or when Thomas sat in Head’s shop passing away the time when he happened to be in Springfield.

The Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Daviess County, Kentucky.  Sunday, May 21, 1922.

Jesse Head was a devout man.  He loved his God and his church.  He was a zealous exponent of the faith and Methodism but tolerant of others and their religious beliefs, and men loved him for his works sake.  He was in influence for inestimable good on the lives of all with whom he associated.  In this respect his association with Thomas Lincoln was not an exception.  If there was one person whose association with Thomas Lincoln made that young man the honest, sober and straightforward fellow that he was, that person was Jesse Head.

Viewing the matter in the light of the foregoing explanation, one does not ask why Thomas Lincoln sought Jesse Head in preference to any other, when he came to marry Nancy Hanks on that memorable day in June 1806.

From  Kentucky, Pioneer History of Washington County,compiled from newspaper articles by Orval W. Baylor and others.

Rev. Jesse Head, January 28, 1768 – March 22, 1842.  Preacher – Editor – Patriot.  He married June 12, 1806, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, parents of Abraham Lincoln.  Jane Ramsey Head, April 10, 1768 – August 30, 1851.  Married Jesse Head January 9, 1789, and nobly shared with him the privations and triumphs of the life of a pioneer preacher.  Spring Hill Cemetery, Harrodsburg, Mercer County, Kentucky.

4 replies »

  1. I love this! A wonderful overview of his life…I didn’t realize his cabinet-making skills were so well known! I would love to see a picture of a piece of furniture he created one day. My great grandmother was Jesse Head’s 2nd great granddaughter.

  2. I just found this in Minute Book B of Washington County, Kentucky, note #249, dated 7-Feb-1803:
    “On the motion of Jesse Head, a Minister of the Gospel of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who made oath a Testimonial is granted him to solemnize the rites of marriage on his giving bond in 3 days in the Clerk’s Office with Edward Clarkson and William H. Hays, his securities.”

  3. My Grandmother’s madden name was Grimes and somehow she was related to Jesse Head.
    Any help would be appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Michael&Cynthia Davidson

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