Search billions of records on

Jackson Birthplace Debated in Congress

On February 23, 1922, while the House of Representatives was debating the appropriations bill for the Department of Commerce and Labor, the Hon. William F. Stevenson, Congressman from S.C.'s Fifth District, rose to make a lengthy statement which began:

"Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, it is an old controversy, but recently I have discovered that in the last edition of the Congressional Records, the permanent one, the myth that Andrew Jackson was born on the McKemey Plantation in North Carolina has been engrafted on our Congressional Directory, and I desire to controvert that proposition and once and for all place before the Congress and this country the evidence as to the birthplace of Andrew Jackson."

Congressman Stevenson then began to lay out the proof that Jackson was born in Lancaster District on the plantation of his uncle, James Crawford. Twelve times, Stevenson pointed out, Jackson had written this.

The observation was made that as long as Andrew Jackson was alive no one ever challenged South Carolina as the birthplace of Jackson. In 1848, after his death, James Parton, in his 3-volume biography of Jackson, asserted that Jackson was born at the plantation of his uncle George McKemey, which was in North Carolina.

After Parton's assertion, various North Carolinians were willing to testify in support of the McKemey birthplace (and continue to make the claim, usually following the line of former North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin that Jackson was too young to remember the event of his birth.)

For William F. Stevenson, it was too much. He told his fellow congressman that he himself had been born in North Carolina, but he was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jackson was born in South Carolina.

Jackson was born in 1767. At that time, the present NC-SC boundary line had not been drawn around the Catawba Indian Land. The 1734 survey had stopped far to the east and the 1772 survey had stopped at Old North Corner (just south of the present Andrew Jackson State Park). The Camden to Salisbury road (which meandered considerably and ran east to present-day Highway 521) served as the boundary.

Jackson's statement in 1824 was, "I was born in South Carolina, as I have been told, on the plantation whereon James Crawford lived." Crawford's house was in S.C. but a good bit of his land was in North Carolina. George McKemey's house and land were in North Carolina. People claiming North Carolina as the birthplace liked to use the unsettled boundary as part of the argument.

Congressman Stephenson would not accept the boundary line question as valid to the argument. He read a letter from Robert Mills who in 1837 had sent to Andrew Jackson, for verification, a copy of the map of Lancaster District which he had prepared for his famous Mills Atlas. Mills asked Jackson whether his birth place was correctly marked.

Jackson wrote Mills thanking him for th emap and for the good memories the map brought back. Jackson concluded with the sentence, "I lived there for many years, and from the accuracy with which the spot [Jackson's birthplace] is marked on the map, I conclude the whole must be correct."

Stephenson's speech was frequently interrupted by questions from interested members of the House. When Stephenson's time expired, he asked unanimous consent to continue. No one objected. Apparently the members of the House were a lot more interested in Jackson's birthplace than they were in discussing an appropriations bill for the Department of Commerce and Labor.

© 1999 by Louise Pettus