Andrew Jackson and me


When I was young, family legend had it that we were in some way related to President Andrew Jackson. I was proud of that, though I didn’t know much about Old Hickory back then. In my 20s, I found myself in Charlotte, NC, and took a drive out to a place known as the Waxhaws, on the North Carolina/South Carolina state line. That’s where some ancestors on my mother’s side lived for awhile back in the late 1770s. I couldn’t find anything but pine trees, but I had little expert guidance.

A cousin of mine did more serious research later. She reported back that we weren’t related to Jackson by blood, though our people may have known his people in passing.

An interesting fact I learned touring Jackson’s home: In a duel defending his wife’s reputation, Jackson took a lead bullet that lodged inches from his heart. Surgeons decided they couldn’t safely remove it, so it stayed there for 35 years, leeching lead into his system. He was a very sick man for much of his life, with a variety of ailments. Not only did he get lead poisoning from the bullet, his doctors fed him medicine containing both lead and mercury. Did those chemicals cause brain damage, or contribute to flashes of temper, paranoia and bad judgment? The guide I asked declined to speculate.

Some more thoughts about the president I’m happy to no longer consider part of my family here.