The Carolinas have undisputed claim to three U.S. presidents and the possibility of a fourth. And as with all good Southern stories, intrigue is not lacking.
I have written about our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, before. He was certainly born in the Carolinas, the question being, which one, North or South? Both states have people with strong feelings about their side of the line. He was born March 15, 1767, and served as president from 1829-37. Jackson was also known as the first “Citizen President.”
Jackson earned the nickname of Old Hickory for good reason. His life was hard. His father died when he was 2 and his mother died when he was 14. His military activity started in his early teens as a courier during the American Revolutionary War.
A young Jackson left the Carolinas for Tennessee and in 1801 was appointed colonel in the Tennessee militia and his political life began.
Our 11th president, James K. Polk, was born Oct. 14, 1845 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. At age 11, the Polk family homestead was sold and they moved to join his grandfather in Tennessee.
He won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1825. Polk advised Jackson on campaign matters during his 1828 run and after Jackson’s victory, Polk supported the administration’s position in Congress.
Polk became speaker of the house, where he continued to work for Jackson’s policies. Polk is the only president to have served as speaker of the house.
After an interesting campaign and commitment to only serve one term, Polk returned to Washington and became the 11th president on March 4, 1845 at age 49, the youngest president of his time, and served to 1849.
Our 17th president, Andrew Johnson, was born Dec. 29, 1808 in Raleigh, North Carolina. His family was poor and he started out as an apprentice to a tailor in 1822. At age 17, he set out for Tennessee and in 1827 married 16-year-old Eliza McCardle. Johnson’s wife taught him how to read and write.
Johnson served as an alderman, then as mayor of Greenville, Tennessee before becoming a U.S. congressman. He served as governor of Tennessee from 1853-57.
In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln left the Republican party and ran for re-election under the National Union Party. Johnson was added to the ballot as vice president and the pair defeated George McClellan.
Johnson was sworn in as vice president on March 4, 1865 and became President Johnson on April 15, 1865 after Lincoln was assassinated. Johnson became the first president to face impeachment proceedings. He was acquitted, but was unable to secure the Democratic nomination in 1868.
The Abraham Lincoln National Historical Park is in LaRue County, Kentucky. It is stated that Lincoln was born there in a one-room log cabin on Feb. 12, 1809. However, that is not the only place that claims to be Lincoln’s birthplace.
We discovered The Bostic Lincoln Center in Rutherford County, North Carolina. The center believes there is evidence that the 16th president might have been born on Puzzle Creek in Rutherford County.
As the story goes, a woman by the name of Nancy Hanks (Lincoln’s mother’s name) was a “bound out” servant girl to the Abraham Enloe family. It is said that while in care of the Enloes, Nancy became pregnant and Enloe’s wife suspected that her husband might have been the cause of the new development.
In short, things become very stressful for everyone involved. Abraham Enloe’s wife’s anger increased with the birth of the Nancy’s boy child. Wanting to find peace, Abraham struck a deal with Tom Lincoln for $500 to take Nancy and the boy child away.
Lincoln’s birthplace and his father’s identity has been subject of conversation and debate since before his presidency.
We do have a Carolina link to Lincoln that seems to be undisputed. The presidential couple who were together for almost 50 years, Andrew Johnson and Eliza McCardle, were married by Justice of the Peace Mordecai Lincoln, first cousin to Thomas Lincoln. That’s right, Abraham Lincoln’s father. Maybe.
Carl White is the executive producer and host of the award winning syndicated TV show “Carl White’s Life In the Carolinas.” The weekly show can be seen in the Greenville, Spartanburg viewing market on WLOS ABC 5 a.m. Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays at WMYA My 40. Visit www.lifeinthecarolinas.com, email White at Carl@lifeinthecarolinas.com.