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Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson: The Missing Matron

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Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson: The Missing Matron

In 1765, the Jackson family, Andrew Jackson, Sr., Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, and their two children, Hugh and 

Robert, immigrated to the American colonies from Northern Ireland following a tumultuous period of political unrest and religious persecution against Protestants from an Anglican-controlled British government. The family entered the colonies in Philadelphia and made the long, slow journey to the rural and rustic Waxhaw Settlement, a region which straddles the North Carolina and South Carolina border. Named for the Waxhaw Indians who lived in the region, Waxhaw Settlement lies southeast of present day Charlotte, North Carolina and was the site of a growing Scotch-Irish farming community. Elizabeth’s four sisters had already moved to the area and were awaiting the arrival of the Jackson family from their ancestral home in Carrickfergus, Ireland.
    

The family settled on the North Carolina side of the border on a 200-acre-tract of land which was poorly suited for farming. Following the death of Andrew, in February of 1767, Elizabeth was forced to move her family to the home of James and Jane Crawford, her sister and brother-in-law who owned a profitable plantation on the South Carolina side of Waxhaw. There, less than a month after the death of the elder Andrew Jackson, Elizabeth gave birth to Andrew Jackson Jr., on March 15, 1767.
     
“I was born in South Carolina, as I have been told at the plantation whereon James Crawford lived about one mile from the Carolina road of the Waxhaw Creek……”
-- Andrew Jackson, 1824

In the years that followed the birth of Andrew Jr., Elizabeth became the house mother and nurse of the Crawford plantation. Although most accounts record Elizabeth as little more than a maid and poor relation in the Crawford household, some evidence suggests that she was much more than that and was well respected as the plantation’s house mother and primary caretaker of the Crawford’s eight children and the three Jackson children. Mrs. Crawford had fallen ill and was described, by one Jackson biographer, as being an invalid.  It was on the Crawford plantation that that Andrew, his brothers, and his cousins were raised on the heroic tales of Elizabeth’s father, Francis Cyrus Hobart Hutchinson, who had defended Carrickfergus during the Seven Years War in Ireland.

In 1780, four years into the American Revolution, Charleston, South Carolina fell to British forces commanded by Lord Charles Cornwallis. Cornwallis began a scorched earth campaign against towns and civilians who were loyal to the Continental forces. When British forces approached Waxhaw following the Battle of Camden, they surprised a tattered and ineffectual patriot army of less than 200 that could not protect the town. The battle and its aftermath on the town and citizens were devastating and would become known as the Massacre at Waxhaw. This prompted Andrew Jackson Jr., who was 13 years of age, to join a Continental regiment as a messenger and scout.

While on a scouting mission in 1781, Andrew and his brother Robert encountered a British cavalry unit under the command of Colonel Banastre Tarleton. The boys sought refuge at the home of Thomas Crawford, but the dragoons found the boys and immediately took the patriots captive. One of the British officers ordered Andrew to clean his boots, which he refused. The officer attempted to slash the boy with his sword but Andrew deflected the blow leaving a severe gash on his left arm. The incident would leave a visible scar and a disdain for the British that would stay with him until his death.

Elizabeth Jackson secured the release of her two sons through a prisoner exchange between the British and Continentals at Camden, South Carolina. Robert died shortly thereafter from smallpox and Andrew recovered from his wounds and imprisonment to return to his unit. Mrs. Jackson and several ladies of Waxhaw traveled to Charleston, which was still occupied by the British, to render aid to patriot prisoners of war who were being held on prison ships in the Charleston harbor. It was there that she died from cholera in November of 1781. Her belongings were sent back to Waxhaw and the young Andrew Jackson was informed that he had lost his mother and most of his relatives at the hands of the British during the American Revolution.

Jackson would go on to do and be many notable things in his lifetime including: lawyer, U.S. Representative from Tennessee, U.S. Senator from Tennessee, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice, One of three founders of Memphis, Tenn., Major General of the Tennessee Militia, Hero of the War of 1812, Creek Wars, and Seminole Wars, as well as President of the United States……..but one fact always escaped Andrew Jackson! He never knew where his mother was buried!

In 1824 Andrew Jackson wrote a letter to James H. Witherspoon of the Lancaster District, Waxhaw region. In his letter Jackson reveals all that he knew regarding the circumstances surrounding his mother’s death and burial. He enlisted the help of Witherspoon to find out all that he could about what had happened to his mother and where she may have been buried.

"I knew she died near Charleston, having visited that City with several matrons to afford relief to our prisoners with the British - not her son as you suppose, for at that time my two Elder brothers were no more; but two of her Nephews, William and Joseph Crawford Sons of James Crawford then deceased. I well recollect one of the matrons that went with her was Mrs. Barton. It if possible Mrs. Barton can inform me where she was buried that I can find her grave. This to me would be great satisfaction, that I might collect her bones and inter them with that of my father and brothers."

Mrs. Agnes Barton was located and interviewed by Witherspoon who then wrote back to Jackson explaining his findings.

"I have examined Mrs. Barton on that subject, (she lives in one mile of me). She states that if it was in her power to point to the spot she would fondly do so; as well as she remembers...your Mother was buried in the suburbs of Charleston, about one mile from what was then called the Governor's Gate, which is in and about the forks of the Meeting and Kingstree Roads. Mrs. Barton states that your Mother was buried by her Husband (Mr. Barton), and two men of the name of Hood's from the Waxhaws one of them is now dead, the other is living on Beaver Creek. Mrs. B. is of the opinion that after as long a time of nearly fifty years, she would have no knowledge of the particular Spot; but she is of the Opinion that Mr. Hood can point to the place for he has frequently in conversation with Mrs. B. told her, that he has often noticed the little House where they all lived in passing to Charleston in his Wagon, and spoke of your mother etc."

The burial site of Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson has never been located and Andrew Jackson was never able to reunite his mother, father, and brothers in the Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Cemetery. There are, however, three monuments dedicated to the Irish frontier woman and ardent patriot who gave birth to a president of the United States.

The first monument erected honoring Elizabeth Jackson was donated by members of the U.S. military stationed at Fort Moultrie; however, the original location, on King Street extension, made the monument difficult to maintain. Seven years later, in 1949, the second monument for Elizabeth was placed in the Old Waxhaw Cemetery. Then, in 1954, the Daughters of the American Revolution, unable to acquire permission to move the first (King Street) monument, dedicated their own monument to Elizabeth Jackson in downtown Charleston’s Washington Park. In 1967 the original King Street monument was moved to the campus of the College of Charleston where it resides today and is, most likely, closest to the actual burial site of Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson.

Just for the record: Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States, was born in South Carolina!!!