Monday, April 9, 2018

History Comes Alive at Andrew Jackson State Park

Andrew Jackson State Park is so close to the NC border that it took a visit to Charlotte to get us there the first time. However, this educational destination is really just a little over two hours from Greenville, entertaining both the possibility of a one-day road trip, or a weekend tour if combined with a night at the campground. Jackson was the only U.S. president native to South Carolina, and he was born near the Upcountry, in Lancaster County.


View of the schoolhouse through the historic orchard

Be sure to start your Park tour at the Andrew Jackson Museum, where you’ll find Revolutionary War artifacts and relics related to the Park’s namesake and his presidency. Jackson was the 7th President, elected in 1828 and remembered for winning the Battle of New Orleans against the British in the War of 1812. Through exhibits that portray life in the SC Carolina backcountry during the late 18th century, visitors can explore the impact of the Revolutionary War on the local communities and imagine what Jackson’s childhood was like. Watch a short movie, pick up a park map, and then head out to tour the rest of the park. (Museum hours are 1-5pm/weekends, or by appointment Monday through Friday)

In the museum...

Coming out from the Museum you’ll see the statue Boy of the Waxhaws. Noted American sculptress Anna Hyatt Huntington was the recipient of a letter campaign started in 1962 by the Lancaster County schoolchildren, asking for a statue honoring Andrew Jackson on the 200th anniversary of his birth. A gift to the children of South Carolina, the piece was finished when Huntington was 90 years old. Children from elementary schools throughout the state donated money to provide the base, and together with the statue weighs 25,000 pounds; the granite base bent the crane when it was being installed.

Huntington's Boy of the Waxhaws

“I have Jackson as a young man of sixteen or seventeen seated bareback on a farm horse, one hand leaning back on the horse's rump and looking off over his native hills, to wonder what the future holds for him.” –A. Huntington 

Side note... Horses figure prominently in Anna’s work; you’ll find another equine-themed piece (titled Fighting Stallions, 1950) at the entrance of Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, the largest outdoor sculpture garden in the world. Brookgreen Gardens were established by the artist, and the winter home of Anna H. Huntington and her husband Archer Milton Huntington was just across the road; the couple donated this land to found another of South Carolina’s State Parks, Huntington Beach State Park. In the old Moorish castle Atalaya that is located within the park is a big chamber which functioned as her sculpting studio; it was complete with cages and chains to contain live animals such as horses & bears for study while she sculpted.

Beautifully aged picnic shelter


Originally ‘Waxhaws’ was the name given to an Indian tribe that lived in the area, while later it referred to the region of the Carolinas that included the counties of Chester, Lancaster & York along the Catawba River, and the western edge of Union County in NC.

On the steps of the schoolhouse

Also near the Museum are multiple sites of historic interest. Andrew Jackson State Park’s Historic Orchard and Herb Garden features fruit trees and herbs that were sources of food, flavorings, dyes and medicines in the Carolina Backcountry during the late 18th century. An 18th-century replica schoolhouse is open for lessons mid-March to November, 1-5pm Saturdays and 2-5pm Sundays. And next to the schoolhouse is a Carolina Fence Garden, which incorporates natural and cultural elements that have been designated symbols of our state.


In addition, the 360-acre State Park contains a large lake. It is open to fishing with a SC fishing license; try your luck from the banks of the 18-acre lake, from the fishing pier, or rent a boat. You can bring your own boat, however gasoline motors are not allowed on the lake – see park website for more information. Swimming is not permitted.


On the list of must-do things at the Park is the 1-mile loop trail that circles the lake, Garden of the Waxhaws Trail. On a recent visit the redbuds and trout lilies were blooming, and we observed various migratory birds and other wildlife while on our hike. Another trail, the Crawford Trail, takes visitors on a 1-mile loop through the mixed oak, cedar and pine forest behind the Meeting House.

Trout lily and rue anemone on the Garden of the Waxhaws trail

A unique way to experience the park is during one of their annual events. Every year in March there is a birthday celebration (this year was Andrew Jackson's 251st birthday) with traditional artisans, militia demonstrations, museum tours and colonial games for the kids. In fall, visit to view the endangered Schwientz's Sunflower in bloom. Then in November join costumed volunteers for the annual ‘Life in the Waxhaws Lantern Tour’ with storytelling, demonstrations and a 30-minute lantern tour of the park.


A playground, amphitheater, campground and picnic facilities, as well as the living history programs are numerous additional reasons to visit this intriguing midlands State Park. To round out your Andrew Jackson itinerary, visit the Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church cemetery five miles to the southwest of the park; this is the church that Andrew Jackson attended, and his father and two of his brothers are buried there. Or continue on to Landsford Canal State Park, where visitors can view the well-preserved remains of a canal system to bypass shoals on the Catawba River. Whatever your motivation in visiting this corner of the state may be, know that a stop at Andrew Jackson State Park will offer a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of our 7th President, as well as showcase the natural beauty of the midlands of our state.

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