Welcome to the Andrew Jackson Centre in Boneybefore.
Boneybefore was a small village outside Carrickfergus where a family by the name of Donaldson had a 40 acre farm making butter, cheese, selling milk. The thatched cottage, built in 1750, is where the Donaldson family lived until the 1970’s when the last Donaldson passed away and Carrickfergus Borough Council bought it with a view to turning it into a museum. About 200 yards down the road where the blue plaque is, a family by the name of Jackson lived in a small two room cottage.
Andrew (Sr.) and Elizabeth Jackson lived in the small cottage with their sons, Hugh and Robert. With them living so close to the Donaldson’s, we think they may have worked on their farm.
When visitors come in for a tour of The Cottage one of the first questions asked is “Was Andrew Jackson, the President of the U.S., born here?” The answer is always “No”.
In 1760 the French invaded Carrickfergus and Andrew Dobbs, the mayor of Carrickfergus at the time, went to England to ask for help to get rid of them. The English obliged and did indeed rid Ireland of the French and for his patriotism Andrew Dobbs was given 200,000 acres in the Carolinas in America by the crown.
Dobbs needed people to work his land. so he took over 250,000 people from Ulster to the Carolinas for a new start and the Jackson family was willing to go. While there, the Jacksons cut down trees, made a log cabin and got the land ready for farming. Unfortunately Andrew, Sr. died of exhaustion, leaving his two sons and his wife who was eight months pregnant with Andrew.
Elizabeth had to give up the land and went to live with her sister, Jane Crawford. Andrew was born in the Waxhaus area, of what is now South Carolina in 1767 and, as he grew up, his mother would tell him stories of faraway Carrickfergus.
The War of Independence broke out in America, the Americans wanting to cut ties with the crown in England and at the age of 13 Andrew enlisted with his two brothers into the fledgling American army. At one point, Andrew was given as a slave to a British officer who ordered him to shine his boots. Andrew said “No” and was rewarded with a slash across the chest from the officer’s sword. He carried the scar all his life and was the first of many scars and battle wounds would receive.
During the war for American independence, young Hugh died of heat exhaustion. Andrew and his brother Robert were later captured and put in a British prisoner of war camp where they contracted small pox. Their mother soon bought her way in to nurse them. Unfortunately, Robert was too far gone and he passed away.
Andrew was bought out of the camp, something that could be done back then by those with money, by his mother. He got his health back, but his mother stayed in the hospital ships to nurse the sick where she died of cholera.
Andrew was alone now but fortunately, he received £400, equivalent to about £40,000 today, from his paternal grandfather in Carrickfergus who had heard of his plight. After sowing a few wild oats, Andrew then invested the remainder of his money into becoming a lawyer. He then got into politics and became a senator, becoming very involved in the government.
He met and fell in love with Rachel Donelson who also had Ulster roots. They married, but unfortunately never had children.
Jackson was a great soldier, being called Old Hickory by his troops. He was staunch, hard and took no flack from anyone. He led his troops into battle against the British, and on to victory in New Orleans, in 1815. From that, he and Rachel adopted two young Creek Indian boys and one of her nephews.
Jackson decided to run for the presidency. He won the race for the Whitehouse in 1829 but sadly Rachel died of a heart attack six weeks before he was inaugurated.
Jackson was the 7th president and the first to have been born in America, and when he stepped down after two terms he left America with a zero debt. One of his main strategies was closing banks that were taking extra interest for the bank’s owners.
Andrew Jackson retired to The Hermitage, his plantation in Tennessee, but died in 1845 at the age of 78 from lead poisoning – lead that came from the bullets in his body from the various battles he had been involved in.
The Andrew Jackson Centre is now decorated in the style of the time when his family lived that short distance away, before they moved to America. It, and the adjoining museum to the US Rangers, are still owned and operated by Carrickfergus Borough Council. Admission is free and opening hours can be found on their website.
Article by : Joni Buckner Wilson and Kevin Wilson