“Lord Only Knows”: The Many Birthplaces of Andrew Jackson

Four birthplace markers. Two states. One president.

"The seventh president of the United States was born a few miles southwest of this spot," declares a roadside historical marker in the main center of Waxhaw, NC. Appropriately, "a few miles southwest of this spot" could fall in either state. The marker offers no further clues.

What we know is simple. Andrew Jackson was born somewhere in the Waxhaws region backcountry of North and South Carolina, straddling the nebulous border between the two states, on March 15, 1767. But on which side of the border he was born—or whether there even existed a clearly defined border line—remains in question today.

The family’s definitive residence during the president’s boyhood (and until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War) was Lancaster, South Carolina, at his uncle James Crawford’s plantation. But at the time of his birth, Jackson’s mother was returning from a trip to bury her husband, Andrew Hutchinson Jackson, in North Carolina. She may have made it back to Crawford’s plantation before giving birth. She may have gone into labor  at another sister’s residence, the McCamie Farm, barely a mile from the border line in North Carolina. Jackson himself claimed in letters that he was born in South Carolina, even approving an 1825 map that pinpointed his birthplace in the Palmetto State. But could he even have known? The land then was so remote that the borders hadn’t even been surveyed yet.

Read the rest of this entry »


“Entwined in History”: An Interview with Alan at Pope’s Creek Plantation

This is the second and final post regarding my visit earlier this month to Pope’s Creek Plantation, where President Washington was born 280 years prior on land graced by chickens, Devon cattle, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (say what?) ever since. This one’s an unabridged interview with Alan, the gracious and well-spoken NPS employee I met in the visitor center just overlooking the swelling Pope’s Creek estuary. (Tangentially, I cannot for the life of me seem to determine whether or not “Pope[‘]s Creek” is spelled with the apostrophe. If you’d like to spend next summer researching topics in the grammatical history of Pope[‘]s Creek Plantation, kindly fill out your Olin application here.)

Below, Alan speaks in great depth about the history of the site, the value of knowing your history, and why the George Washington birthplace attracts far more senior citizens than students (“I’m not trying to be fatalistic or anything . . . “). Click past the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »