Andrew Jackson State Park
While Andrew Jackson’s actual place of birth remains a mystery, both South Carolina and North Carolina claim to be his birth state. North Carolina has erected a monument on one possible site of Jackson’s birth. While South Carolina has built a State Park with a museum, park lake, hiking trails, picnic area, and campground at Jackson’s other possible birth place.
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We do know that Andrew Jackson was born in the Waxhaws settlement along the North Carolina South Carolina border on March 15, 1767. At the time, the Waxhaws was a Scots-Irish settlement consisting of a church, a store, and a few homesteads scattered around the region. Looking at his early life, it’s hard to imagine Andrew Jackson rising to prominence to become the seventh president of the United States.
The Waxhaws and Scots-Irish Immigration
The Waxhaws are named after the Indians who lived there until the 18th Century. A small tribe who spoke the Siouan language, they were likely related to the nearby Catawba Indians. Like other Native American peoples, the Waxhaw had no natural immunity to the infectious diseases brought to the New World by Europeans. Many in the tribe succumbed to small pox, and still more died fighting against English settlers in the Yamasee War of 1715. Those who survived are thought to have joined the Catawba, and the Waxhaw Tribe ceased to exist.
Starting around 1740, Scots-Irish immigrants began settling in the area. By 1755, the Presbyterian Meeting House in the Waxhaws had been established and the community was flourishing.
It was into that community that the Jackson family moved in 1765. Immigrants from the north of Ireland, they acquired 200 acres of marginal farmland at Twelve Mile Creek on the North Carolina side of the state line near present day Mineral Springs. Andrew Jackson Sr. along with his two sons Hugh and Robert and his wife Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson worked the land for two years before tragedy struck.
In February 1767 at the age of 29, while clearing land for their farm, Andrew Jackson Sr. was killed in a logging accident. Elizabeth, just three weeks away from giving birth, buried her husband at the Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, SC. On March 15, 1767, she gave birth to a son and named him Andrew after his father.
Andrew Jackson’s Childhood in the Waxhaws
A controversial figure from his very first breath, the exact spot of Andrew Jackson’s birth place has been contested by both Carolinas for over 250 years. Both states claim Jackson as their own, with North Carolina putting up a monument at one site and South Carolina establishing a State Park at the site of the James Crawford farm where Jackson might have been born.
At the time of his birth, the border between North had South Carolina had not been established, and Jackson had uncles living on both sides of the modern state line. The only thing everyone agrees on is that he was born at one of his uncles homes.
Throughout his life, Jackson claimed that he was born at his uncle James Crawford’s farm in South Carolina, not far from the Presbyterian Church where his father was buried and where Andrew was baptized. However, Mrs. Sarah Lathen, who’s mother was the midwife at Jackson’s birth claimed that he was born at George McCamie’s cabin in Union County, North Carolina.
Wherever he was born, his mother Elizabeth soon moved the family in with her sister and brother in law in modern day South Carolina. Her sister, Jane Crawford, had become ill during the passage from Ireland and had only gotten worse once arriving at her new home. By this time Jane was an invalid and her husband James saw an opportunity.
Even before the death of Andrew Sr., the Crawfords were much more affluent than the Jacksons. The Jacksons, seen as the poor relations, needed a place to stay and the Crawfords needed a nurse and housekeeper, so a deal was struck. Elizabeth and her sons would be given a place to live on the Crawford Plantation, in exchange she would care for her sister Jane and take care of the house.
It was here where Andrew Jackson lived the first 14 years of his life. Surrounded by a large family, but without a home of his own. His mother hoped that he would become a Presbyterian minister, but Andrew’s fondness of fighting, cussing, and pranks led to her giving up that notion.
Andrew Jackson in the American Revolution
Andrew Jackson was nine years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed, but the War of Independence was still far away from the backcountry Waxhaw settlement. The Patriots in Charleston had already forced the last British Governor of South Carolina, Lord William Campbell, to flee the state, and they held firm control of Charleston.
The Carolina Backcountry had much more support for the British than the coast, but for the most part people just went about their business, except for Andrew’s oldest brother Hugh Jackson. Hugh had joined the Patriot militia. In one of the early engagements of the Southern Campaign, Hugh died of heat stroke at the Battle of Stono Ferry on June 20, 1779. He was the fist but not the last Jackson to die during the American Revolution.
War Comes to Andrew Jackson’s Door
When Andrew Jackson was 13 years old, the Revolutionary War returned to South Carolina with a vengeance. Henry Clinton laid siege to Charleston and took the city on May 12, 1780. On May 29th the Third Virginia Detachment under the command of Colonel Abraham Buford was returning to Hillsborough, North Carolina after failing to reach Charleston before its fall. They were overtaken by British forces under command of Colonel Banastre Tarleton in the Waxhaws not far from the Crawford Plantation.
The ensuing battle became known as Buford’s Massacre because the British forces continued to massacre Patriots under a flag of truce. Of the 380 troops under Buford’s command 113 were killed and 147 wounded. Many of the wounded were taken to the Presbyterian Church that Jackson attended where they were cared for by congregants including the Jackson Family.
After hearing of the British atrocities at the Waxhaws, Jackson’s mother encouraged Robert and Andrew to attend the local militia drills. They soon joined the Patriot cause as couriers and were present at many encounters including the Battle of Hanging Rock that August.
Jackson Becomes a Prisoner of War at 14
On April 11 1781, Robert and Andrew were captured while at the house of Thomas Crawford. After their discovery, the British commander ordered Andrew to clean his boots, but Andrew stubbornly refused. In retaliation, the British officer struck at Andrew’s head, but the boy was able to deflect the blow and was left with lifelong scars on his hand and his head to remember the encounter.
The brothers were taken to the British garrison at Camden where they were held prisoner. They were held with 250 other prisoners and given little food and no medicine. The boys were not only starving, but they soon became infected with smallpox. On the outside, their mother Elizabeth managed to arrange a prisoner transfer and her two sons were released.
The trip from Camden back to their home in the Waxhaws was long and would take its toll on the Jackson boys. With only one horse and Robert being the sickest of the brothers, he and Elizabeth rode while Andrew walked the 40 miles back home. Two days after returning home both boys were gravely ill and Robert died two days later.
After Andrew regained his strength, Elizabeth traveled to Charleston to care for her nephews William and Joseph Crawford onboard a British prison ship anchored in the harbor. While caring for them and other Patriot soldiers, she contracted cholera and died in November 1781. She was burred in an unmarked grave near a relative’s home in Charleston. Andrew always hoped to find the grave and move her body to the Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church where his father and brothers are burred, but he was never able to located her grave.
Andrew Jackson’s Life After the Revolution
By this time the British had surrendered at Yorktown, but not before Andrew lost his entire immediate family. Now an orphan and war veteran at the age of 14, Andrew Jackson moved back in with relatives in the Waxhaw region for a time. He moved from relative to relative always leaving on bad terms. For a time he worked as both a saddle maker and school teacher, but wasn’t successful at either.
In 1784. at the age of 17 he left the Waxhaws for good and traveled to Salisbury, North Carolina where studied law. In those days studying law was much like any other apprenticeship. For three years he studied under prominent lawyers like Spruce Macay and in 1787 qualified for the bar in a number of North Carolina backwoods counties.
The following year, Jackson’s friend and mentor John McNairy was elected Superior Court Judge of the Western District of North Carolina which including Watauga, all of which would later become the state of Tennessee. Jackson was offered the position of prosecutor and he happily accepted. After spending the first 21 years of his life in the Carolina’s, Jackson left for good.
Andrew Jackson State Park in South Carolina
For details on our visit check out our Andrew Jackson State Park Field Report
Andrew Jackson State Park was established in 1952 to honor South Carolina’s only native born president. Although there is dispute over where Jackson was born, the State park that bears his name is located on land that once belonged to James and Jane Crawford, Andrew Jackson’s aunt and uncle in who’s home he grew up.
Things to do at Andrew Jackson State Park
Although Andrew Jackson State Park is on the small side, it packs a lot of things to do in its 360 acres. From the main parking lot, you can visit a museum with interactive exhibits and artifacts from both the Revolutionary War and Jackson’s life in the Waxhaws and beyond. The museum is open mainly on the weekend with sporadic hours during the week.
The area around the Jackson museum has a replica 18th Century School House like the one that the Jackson Brothers attended and a replica of the Presbyterian Meeting House where Andrew Jackson attended church, was baptized, and helped care for the wounded after Buford’s Massacre.
The Boy of the Waxhaws displayed at Andrew Jackson State Park
There’s also a statue of a young Andrew Jackson on horseback entitled “The Boy of the Waxhaws” by Anna Hyatt Huntington, one New York’s most prominent sculptors in the first half of the 20th Century. She is famous for founding Brookgreen Gardens in Georgetown, South Carolina and was the first woman to have one of her statues erected in New York City.
In her 80’s, she was contacted by a group of South Carolina children from Rice Elementary School who asked her to sculpt a statue for the state park. She agreed and school children across the state donated nickles and dimes to build the base. The statue was formally unveiled on Andrew Jackson’s 200th birthday in March 1967. It marked Huntington’s last major work.
Other Things to do at Andrew Jackson State Park
Andrew Jackson State Park also has all of the amenities you’d expect at a state park. The 18 acre park lake offers great fishing from the park pier, or rent a boat and get out on the water. You can walk to the lake from the main parking lot, or drive by turning right out of the lot and then left onto a gravel drive to the parking lot for the lake.
There’s a large picnic shelter, playground and camping. The 25 space campground has water and power hookups.
Hiking at Andrew Jackson State Park
Crawford Trail at Andrew Jackson State Park
Starts behind the Meeting House near the main parking area and is a 1.1 mile loop. Look for a sign that says “Nature Trail”. The trail is mostly shaded and easy to follow although there aren’t any trail blazes. It’s mostly compacted dirt, so it might get muddy after heavy rains. Close to half way in is an open area with picnic tables and fire pits used as a camp for the BSA and Girl Scouts. Overall the trail is level, but there are a few areas where you have to climb up some wooden steps.
Garden of the Waxhaws Trail at Andrew Jackson State Park
This one starts by the fishing pier at the park lake and is steep at times. It’s a one mile loop that runs around the lake and offers the best opportunities for bird watching at the park. The first section of the trail is in full sun as you walk along the lake shore, but once you reach the other side of the lake, it turns into the woods. There’s also a lot of road noise along the start of the trail but by the time it passes through the campground the noise is gone.
Events at Andrew Jackson State Park
The park has a large amphitheater used for special events throughout the year, but some of the annual events at the park include “Life of the Waxhaws Lantern Tour”, a candle light tour that shows how people lived in the Carolina frontier. It offers a glimpse of the daily lives of the people of the Waxhaws just like Jackson and his family.
Andrew Jackson’s birthday is celebrated every March at the park.
Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church Cemetery
The Church that Andrew Jackson attended as a boy and where his father and brothers are buried is located just five miles from the park. The original Meeting House is long gone, the current church dates to 1896 with a significant remodel in 1942, but the cemetery dates back to the 1750’s.
Other notable graves and markers include General William Richardson Davie who was born in England but settled in the Waxhaws in 1763. During the American Revolution, Davie fought under a number of generals in the Carolinas including General Alien Jones and Horatio Gates. In 1781, he was appointed commissary general for the Carolina campaign. After the war he entered politics and while serving in the North Carolina legislature, he was instrumental in the establishment of the University of North Carolina. He would go on to serve as governor of North Carolina in 1798 finally retiring from public life in 1805. He died in 1820 as was buried in a large enclosure at the Old Waxhaw Cemetery.
The cemetery is also the final resting place for at least 38 Revolutionary War soldiers who died after “Buford’s Massacre”.
One of the more unusual memorials is the Leckie Enclosure. Robert Leckie was an engineer and a stonemason. He came to the Carolinas when he was hired to supervise construction of the Landsford Canal. Within a 20 month period his youngest son died, followed by his aunt, his wife, and then his oldest son. Leckie took time away from his duties at Landsford to build an enclosure at the Old Waxhaw Cemetery for his family. The enclosure is seven feet high at its tallest without an entrance, instead stones protrude through the wall on one side forming steps to the top.
More Information: Andrew Jackson State Park Field Report
Fast Facts About Andrew Jackson State Park
|Type:||State Park – Historic Site|
|Admission:||$3 adults; $1.50 SC seniors; $1 children age 6-15; age 5 & younger free|
|Location:||196 Andrew Jackson Park Rd, Lancaster, SC 29720|
Things to do: Hiking, Picnicking, Camping, Bird Watching, Fishing, Museum ( Open Saturday and Sunday 1pm-5pm)