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Andrew Jackson's Birthplace Controversy 

By Historian Louise Pettus


Probably most people in this area are aware of the Andrew Jackson birthplace controversy. Was he born in South Carolina or North Carolina? Each state has a marker making the claim.

The question never arose in Jackson's lifetime. He died in 1845. In 1858 the Daughters of the American Revolution of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina erected a monument at the site of the George McKemey cabin in Union County, NC that claimed Jackson was born there. Mrs. McKemey was the sister of Andy's mother, Elizabeth Hutchinson.

Between 1845 and 1858 there were at least six biographies of Jackson and several hundred sketches of his life published. All of the publications stated that Jackson was born in South Carolina. In 1911, A. S. Salley, Jr., head of South Carolina Archives, wrote that William Richardson Davie, a native of the Waxhaws and governor of North Carolina, "stated positively, in answer to a question, that Jackson was born in the Waxhaw settlement of what was subsequently Lancaster district." Mills Atlas in 1826 showed the site in Lancaster District where Jackson, at least six times, said he was born on his uncle's plantation.

So, why, with evidence to the contrary, did the Mecklenburg members of the DAR make their claim for Jackson's birth in North Carolina?

Salley wrote, "About 1858 a Mr. [Thomas] Cureton acquired a farm in Union county, North Carolina, which was shown by his muniments of title to have belonged to one George McKemey at the time of Jackson's birth in 1767. Mr. Cureton had heard a tradition to the effect that Jackson was born in McKemey's house while his mother was visiting there." Cureton was convinced that he now owned the land on which Jackson was born. "He told Gen. Walkup of Union county about it and Gen. Walkup gathered a lot of hearsay statements from old people in the neighborhood and succeeded therewith in convincing over-credulous and poorly informed people that Jackson was born on the Cureton tract. Not a single one of the hearsay witnesses had heard a statement direct from a grown person who had been present at Jackson's birth. . . ."

Not only was there no evidence that Jackson was born in uncle George McKemey's house, Salley added that "there is no proof whatsoever that McKemey's house stood on his own tract of land three miles away from the place where Jackson himself has said that he was born." Salley ended with this: "I call upon all people of South Carolina and elsewhere who despise humbuggery to unite in an effort to rebuke the falsehood that has been proclaimed on that stone in Union County, North Carolina." Salley proposed that that South Carolina form a birthplace association that would mark the spot where Jackson was born in South Carolina.

Through the work of a number of organizations and private individuals, enough money was raised to erect a monument on a donated Lancaster county 3 - ton, 6 ft. tall boulder. Mr. Salley, who claimed to have spent 26 years researching the question, selected the exact spot for the monument.

The marker was unveiled on May 24, 1929. On one side the inscription was "Andrew Jackson's Birthplace, erected by the Catawba Chapter, D.A.R. of Rock Hill, South Carolina." On the reverse side of the monument was inscribed extracts from a letter written by Andrew Jackson in 1832 to John Witherspoon of Lancaster in which Jackson said that he was always told that he was born on his uncle's plantation in South Carolina.

Since that time there have been hundreds of additional biographies of Andrew Jackson. The majority state that Jackson was born in South Carolina. Some avoid the question by using such phrases as "Carolina frontier," or "Carolina backcountry." A few still claim North Carolina, Pennsylvania or even Ireland as his birthplace. Others simply mix up Waxhaw, N. C., named for a railroad stop in the late 1800s, with the Waxhaws of Lancaster County, SC which was a prominent pre-Revolutionary community that still carries the name as a Lancaster county township.