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The Centennial History of Independence, Mo. by W. L. Webb

Chapter 3:
Andrew Jackson


Had kings been in vogue on the frontier, Andrew Jackson would have been chosen king of Missouri.  As it was, Missouri named two counties for him and three county seats, honors without a parallel in the United States, where nearly 4,000 counties have offered opportunities for honoring national or local heroes.  In the several states of the Union there are 28 Washington counties, 23 Jefferson counties, 21 Jackson counties, 19 Madison counties and four Van Buren counties.

     In 1824 Andrew Jackson lost the Presidency to John Quincy Adams.  The next year the Indians relinquished title to a wide strip of land along the western border of Missouri, extending from the Missouri River to the Arkansas River.  The Missouri Legislature immediately enacted that the newly acquired Indian land when organized would be named Jackson County -- it's name chosen thus ahead of its formation. This was in 1825.  The next session of the Legislature, held in 1826, organized the aforesaid strip of land into a county and named in Jackson.  The county seat was named Independence, in recognition of Gen. Jackson's independence of character.  The town of Independence was laid out in 1827.

     The next year, namely in 1828, Gen. Jackson was elected President of the United States; and the new county rejoiced in the new President and in its own fortuitous name.

     After Jackson retired from the Presidency, his popularity continued without impairment in Missouri.  But it was not until 1845 that the Legislature conferred further honors on the hero of New Orleans.  The honors actually bestowed and those proposed were the inventions of hero worshippers, as the facts will clearly reveal.  In February of 1845, the Legislature organized a new county out of parts of Benton and Polk counties and named it Hickory for the victor at New Orleans, whose pseudonym was "Old Hickory."  The county seat of Hickory County is "Hermitage", named for Jackson's country home in Tennessee.  Neither the name of the county nor the county seat had any reference to President Jackson but to General Jackson.

     It might be surmised that the hero-lauding Missouri lawmakers had paid their final tribute to Andrew Jackson in naming Hickory county, but no.  The limit of legislative adulation had not been reached.  If Jackson himself could not be directly complimented, an immediate member of his family might be substituted.  And this was done in the most extraordinary effort ever made to organize and name a county -- an effort, however, that failed.

     Lone Jack, in the Southeastern part of Jackson County, famous since 1862 as the scene of a bloody battle, was ambitious in 1845 to become a county seat.  There was one store, kept in a log house by George Tate.  But the surrounding settlers were enterprising and ambitious and they set on foot a movement to form a new county by taking a corner of Jackson, Cass, Johnson and Lafayette counties, so that Lone Jack might become the county seat.  A convention was held at Sam Yankee's  house and in anticipation a full set of county officials was  named.  The late Dr. C. Winfrey of Kansas City, was a delegate in the convention which named Rubin Fulkerson for Sheriff.  Josiah Carter was chosen Circuit Clerk, while one of the county judges was Archibald Riddings, President of Chapel Hill College, five or six miles away.  The movement for the new county was urged enthusiastically and when the bill came up for adoption in the Lower House of the Legislature it failed by only one vote.  The name of the new county was to be Donelson and there is where Andrew Jackson comes again into Missouri history.

     Andrew Jackson Donelson was the nephew of Mrs. Jackson and as a little tot was brought to the Hermitage and reared as one of the family.  Gen. Jackson was an affectionate man in the home, where he never displayed any irritability or impatience, not even toward servants.  However irascible he might have been in public life, he was altogether gentleness in the home.

     Gen Jackson was fond of children and presumably his nephew Donelson was a favorite, inasmuch as he received special attention from the uncle and was given the best educational advantages, graduating from West Point, becoming private secretary at the White House after Jackson's election to the Presidency.  In after years A. J. Donelson was ambassador to Germany  and Charge-de-affaires to the Republic of Texas.  Such as the man whom Lone Jack selected as its patron saint.

     We may here add that Andrew Jackson Donelson went over to the American party in 1856 and was a candidate for the Vice Presidency as running mate with Millard Fillmore.  It is very probably that Donelson County would have been assigned another name after the Presidential campaign of 1856, if we may take as a criterion the treatment given to another Jackson favorite, Martin Van Buren, who was honored in Missouri and then defamed in Missouri.

     Toward the close of Jackson's second term in the Presidency, it became fairly evident that Vice President Van Buren was destined to be chosen to the higher office.  The news came to Missouri that President Jackson was bending every administration influence in favor of Van Buren.  That was enough for Missouri.  If Jackson wanted him then Missouri wanted him.  Ten years before, the state had named a county for Jackson and his election to the Presidency followed; the same palladium for Van Buren would make him President.  To render the charm more potent the Southern half of Jackson County was cut off for a new county named Van Buren.

     In 1848 Gen. Cass was a candidate for the Presidency and as a part of his platform he endorsed the Wilmot Proviso.  Martin Van Buren, without aspiring again to the Presidency, stood opposed to the Wilmot Proviso.  This was bad enough in the eyes of Missouri Democrats, but the final, crushing load of ignomy was laid on when the Free Soilers nominated Van Buren, without consulting him, for the Presidency and so ran him through the race, in which he polled only 300,000 votes, but enough to defeat Gen. Cass and to elect Gen. Taylor, the Whig candidate.  The next General Assembly of the state changed the name of Van Buren county to Cass County.

     Mr. Van Buren's popularity began to wane while he was in the Presidency -- and without any fault on his part.  Camden County, Mo., was originally named Kinderhook (Indian word for "Children's Point"), the name of Van Buren's birthplace in New York.  The Missouri Legislature changed the name from Kinderhook to Camden.

     In Jackson County there was never any deflection from Mr. Van Buren; here is a noble memorial to his name, Van Buren Township in the Southeast corner of the county.

     Carroll County was organized and named in a dramatic manner.  A bill was pending in the Missouri Legislature for a new county to be named Wakenda, an Indian word meaning "worshiped."  News came that Charles Carroll had died, last signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Instantly the law-making body of the state was thrilled  with patriotic fervor.  A motion was made and carried to substitute the name Carroll for Wakenda.  We have no record of the oratory on that occasion, but no doubt it was recalled that when Charles Carroll attached his signature to the Declaration of Independence, a colleague remarked that the English might hang the wrong Carroll for this deed, whereupon the patriot amended the signature to read, "Charles Carroll of Carrollton."

     In 1824 Marquis de Lafayette visited the United States, and while in the country came to Missouri.  The State Legislature, ever disposed to honor great men in the usual way, changed the name of Lillard County to Lafayette.  The first name had been conferred in honor of a popular member of the Legislature, but Mr. Lillard, notwithstanding the honors accorded him in Missouri, finally returned to live at his old home in Kentucky.  His leaving the state was regarded as very ungracious if not actually treasonable.  The Legislature welcomed the opportunity of administering condign punishment.  Lafayette's visit afforded the delightful occasion.  At the same time the proposed new county of Jackson was attached to Lafayette County for administrative and military purposes.

     In December, 1834, the Legislature created a new county and named it Rives in honor of William C. Rives of Virginia, but in 1841 Mr. Rives abandoned the Democratic Party and became a Whig; the Legislature, in order to confer honor only where honor was due, changed the name of Rives to Henry County, for Patrick Henry, the patriotic Virginia orator.

     There was but one honor that approached the honor of having one's name given to a county and that was to have one's name given to a steamboat.

     Note:  Vernon County was  named in 1851 for Miles Vernon, who fought under Jackson at New Orleans.

     In 1857 Blue Mills, the original port of entry for Independence, was designated as the terminus of a railroad out from Independence, a distance of six miles.  The name was changed from Blue Mills to Livingstone, in honor of Edward Livingstone, who had been President Jackson's Secretary of State.


The Centennial History of Independence


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