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As I was heading for Andrew Jackson State Park I kinda figured it was dedicated to the seventh president of the United States. But what I didn’t know, what I never could have expected, was the intriguing story of what happened to Jackson during the American Revolutionary War that would change his life, and presidency, forever. It was just one of the amazing things I discovered about a president’s boyhood at Andrew Jackson State Park.
The state park is located about thirty minutes east of Rock Hill and ten minutes north of Lancaster, South Carolina. The heart of the park is centered around the museum filled with information about Jackson, but here is also a reconstruction of a one-room schoolhouse, meeting house, small lake, and rather nice campground.
Here’s everything I found with my visit to Andrew Jackson State Park.
Andrew Jackson was born in 1767, but nobody really knows where exactly. They agree he was born in The Waxhaws, a large region straddling the border between North Carolina and South Carolina just south of Charlotte. Jackson once stated he was “born in So Carolina, as I have been told, at the plantation whereon James Crawford lived.” Today that plantation is the site of Andrew Jackson State Park.
The Waxhaws was a tight knit community of Scotch-Irish immigrants such as Jackson’s parents. Building projects were tackled together and food from hunting and farming was shared. These early lessons undoubtedly had an impact on Jackson.
But all that changed in 1775 when the American Revolutionary War began in Boston. It would take a few more years before it reached The Waxhaws but when it did it changed Jackson’s life forever.
In 1779 Jackson’s eldest brother, Hugh, died from heat exhaustion after the Battle of Stono River. Jackson was still too young to enlist so instead he, along with his older brother Robert, joined the militia as couriers.
Andrew and Robert were staying at the Crawford plantation when they were captured by the British. They were seriously mistreated while being held in captivity. One night Major Coffin, the British commander, demanded that Jackson polish his boots. When Jackson refused Coffin drew his sword, gashed Jackson’s left hand to the bone, and gash his forehead, leaving a permanent scar.
Jackson was eventually freed and in 1828 was elected the seventh president of the United States.
Andrew Jackson State Park Museum
The state park visitor center and museum is a fantastic place to learn about the life of Andrew Jackson. Everything I have told you so far, I learned with a twenty-minute walk through the museum and chat with a park ranger.
The museum contains artifacts of Andrew Jackson and the Revolutionary War. Educational panels expound on life in The Waxhaws and key moments of Jackson’s presidency. This museum is the single greatest introduction to Andrew Jackson in the country.
Anna Hyatt Huntington
One of the coolest things to see at Andrew Jackson State Park is A Boy of the Waxhaws, a larger-than-life bronze statue of a young Andrew Jackson riding a farm horse. Although Anna Hyatt Huntington had a studio at Atalaya Castle, located inside present-day Huntington Beach State Park, she completed this bronze statue at her studio in Connecticut.
The statue was put into place on a pink granite base at Andrew Jackson State Park in 1967 just before Jackson’s 200th birthday ceremony. It was the last major work finished by Huntington who was 91 years old when finished.
The 18-acre park lake was quite the surprise when I first arrived at the state park. I was early on a weekday and the museum wasn’t open yet, so I decided to drive around the park and check it out. I came to a large gravel parking lot with a few other cars and a short wooden pier stretching onto the lake.
Eighteen acres looks bigger than it is. It’s really a small lake that would only take twenty minutes to kayak from one end to the other. Motorboats aren’t allowed on the lake, but the park does have a put in for row boats, kayaks, and canoes.
The 1-mile Garden of the Waxhaws Trail was utterly peaceful and a great activity to start the day. The trail begins across the grassy earthen dam and then winds through the woods around the lake, passes around the edge of the campground, and returns to the parking lot.
The small campground at Andrew Jackson State Park only has 25 sites, but they are some of the best sites I’ve seen in a South Carolina state park. Each site has water and electrical hookups and there is a dump station nearby.
The bathhouse, with restrooms and showers with hot water, is located right in the middle of the campground. About six or seven of the sites had a view of the lake. I pulled into either Campsite #17 or #18 for a bit; I think it was one of the best sites in the campground.