Our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, lost his home twice because of title defects!

Losing a home is a cruel thing, but life can be cruel –  even to those destined for greatness.

Abraham Lincoln was born in a meager, one-room cabin on the Big South Fork of Nolin’s Creek near Hodgenville, Kentucky.  It had a dirt floor, one window and a stick-clay chimney.  Lincoln’s father, Tom, had paid $200 for the cabin and 300 acres of discouraging land.  It wasn’t much, but it was home and the young family’s only chance for a decent life.

After four years of fighting mosquitoes, heat and hardscrabble land, the Lincolns had to pack up and leave.  There was a defect in the title.  They didn’t have the right sort of papers and somebody else had a better claim to the land.  With three-year-old Abe in his mother’s arms, the family moved eight miles away to Knob Creek.

In less than four years, Tom Lincoln had to go to court to prove his ownership rights to this second farm.  Another claimant to the land sued him as a “trespasser.”  Tom Lincoln won the suit, but was haunted by the fear that he might someday lose another property.  There was enough talk of land-titles, landowners, landlords, land-laws, land-lawyers and land-sharks to make him unsure of his title.  After all, Daniel Boone, the first pioneer of the Kentucky wilderness, had lost every inch of his once vast landholdings because he had “the wrong kind of papers.”  Tom decided to move his family to Indiana where there was rich, black-land, government land with clear title and the right kind of land-papers.  Thus, Abraham Lincoln lost a second home to title problems.

It was the anxiety and outright losses of the Lincolns and other hard-working Americans that gave rise to today’s title insurance industry.  The first land title insurance company was founded in Philadelphia in 1876.  Title insurance protects buyers against the hidden hazards of real estate ownership: forgeries; faulty surveys; hidden liens; conveyances by minors or the mentally incompetent; the false representation of a married person as being single; and many other title defects.  Even the most complete search of land records may not reveal them all.

Today, title insurance is just as important as ever.  The same potential flaws in title exist. A home is still the largest purchase most of us make in our lifetime.  And, with escalating land values, the loss of property can still bring a family to ruin.  Consequently, both buyer and seller should insist on the stability and reliability they receive through coverage by title insurance.

The unfortunate loss of the Lincoln family would have been covered by title insurance had Thomas Lincoln insisted on title insurance when he bought either the home at Nolin’s Creek or Knob Creek.

-by Michael Holden

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Disclaimer: This publication is designed to provide information only in regard to the subject matter covered. It is distributed with the understanding that the publisher is not rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If legal or accounting advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.


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