On July 19, 1845, Westminster paused with great fanfare to mourn the death of President Andrew Jackson, who served in office from 1829 to 1837.
For a historian, it is always fascinating to research and write about Jackson. His legacy is so complicated. Historians either love him or hate him. There seems to be no middle ground. According to my research at the State Library of North Carolina, conducted when I participated in the civil rights movement in the early 1970s, Jackson “was born … near the border between North and South Carolina on March 15, 1767. [He] was the third child and third son of Scots-Irish parents. His father, also named Andrew, died as the result of a logging accident just a few weeks before the future president was born.
“All three boys saw active service. One of Andrew’s older brothers, Hugh, died after the Battle of Stono Ferry, South Carolina in 1779, and two years later Andrew and his other brother Robert were taken prisoner for a few weeks in April 1781. ... Because of his ill treatment Jackson harbored a bitter resentment towards the British until his death.
“General Jackson emerged a national hero from the War of 1812, primarily because of his decisive defeat of the British at the Battle of New Orleans. … In 1814, after several devastating campaigns against Native Americans in the Creek War, he was … promoted to major general in the regular army. Jackson also later led troops during the First Seminole War in Florida.”
After a lengthy career as an elected official in Tennessee, Jackson first ran for the presidency in 1824.
“Jacksonians often referred to the 1824 election as the ‘Stolen Election’ because while Jackson swept the popular vote hands down, he did not have enough electoral votes to automatically win the presidency. Therefore the election had to be decided by the House of Representatives.”
He lost the election in the House after a great deal of intrigue that is debated to this day by presidential historians.
According to an article written in Politico on Dec. 20, 2017, “On May 28, 1830, Jackson had signed the Indian Removal Act. The statute gave the president the power to negotiate relocation pacts with Indian tribes. During the two-term Jackson presidency, the legislation led to the removal of nearly 50,000 Indians from the eastern seaboard to new locations west of the Mississippi River.
“Under the provisions of the Indian Removal Act, U.S. Army troops forced the Cherokee from their Georgia homeland to Oklahoma in 1838. Some 4,000 Cherokees died of starvation, disease and the cold during the long march, which became known as the Trail of Tears.” It is his relationship with Native Americans for which history has not been kind to Jackson. Not to be overlooked is Jackson’s aggressive support of the expansion of slavery into the new western territories of the United States.
Although his lifetime is partially understood as the storyline of a suspense novel about how many ways a man may colorfully escape death, he died on June 8, 1845 at the age of 78. According to “The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents,” by William A. DeGregorio, his last days were miserable.
At one point on the morning of June 8, he had lapsed into unconsciousness, “Although a touch of brandy revived him.” His dying words are said to have been, “Oh, do not cry. Be good children, and we shall all meet in heaven.”
Well, at least Jackson and his supporters believed that he was going to heaven. His critics, however, including this historian, may certainly have their doubts.
Carroll County Daily Headlines
According to an article researched and written by Jay Graybeal a number of years ago for the Historical Society of Carroll County by Jay Graybeal, chief curator at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, Westminster must have liked him. Graybeal’s research included information from the July 24, 1845 issue of a local newspaper that carried a lengthy article about the funeral procession for Jackson.
“The parade and memorial services lasted from 10 o’clock in the morning to after two in the afternoon.
“Isaac Shriver, Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements, had invited the general public to attend and asked that everyone wear black crepe arm bands at the procession and also for thirty days following. He also requested that residents dress their houses in mourning and that businesses be closed.
“At 10 o’clock [July 19, 1845] the procession was formed, at the lower end of main street. … The precession included an elegant [horse] equipped with the trappings of a General, and with empty saddle, [it] had a most solemn and imposing effect.
“The Military parade was large and imposing – citizens … turned out by thousands. … Never did Westminster wear a more somber appearance – but it was only in consonance with the deep gloom which pervaded the hearts of our citizens on hearing … of Jackson’s death.
“On the ground, the Speaker’s stand was dressed in mourning. … The exercises were solemn and appropriate to the occasion. The funeral discourse of the Rev. Mr. Collier was preached from Romans, 13th chapter. …’Honor to whom honor is due.’”
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at email@example.com.