Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Andrew William Jackson

At times we read accounts of early settlers in Union County and learn of their subsequent adventures. We wonder how they lived through some of their exploits. Truth often looms larger than fiction. The story of Andrew William Jackson and his wife Margaret Minerva Goforth Jackson falls into the category of "truth stranger than fiction." I am grateful to Watson Benjamin Dyer and Belle Jackson Maury (she was a granddaughter of Andrew William Jackson) for this account of Andrew William Jackson. I have edited the account for structure, chronology and flow, but have kept to the facts as presented by Belle Jackson Maury.

Andrew William Jackson was born in 1835 in Choestoe District, Union County. His father was William Jackson (b. abt. 1798 in NC, died July 27, 1859, Choestoe, GA) and Nancy Owenby Stanley Jackson (b. ca 1793 in NC, died 1861, Choestoe, GA). They were in Union County when it was formed in 1832.

Andrew was the youngest of eight known children. The others were Rebecca who married Jonathan Cook; Armelia who married William Neely; Johile who married Jane Duckworth; Susan who married John W. Duckworth; Kimsey who married Lucinda Thomas; Mira who married Jehu Wimpey; and William Marion who married Minerva Goforth.

William and Nancy Jackson moved from Rutherford County, NC where they were married December 14, 1814. From there they went to Habersham County, Georgia and then to Union County near Bald Mountain. William and Nancy Jackson were early members--perhaps charter members--of Choestoe Baptist Church. Seeing the list of their children and their spouses indicates that there is a rich family history in each of the children and their descendants, many of whom still live in the vicinity. But the focus of this article will be upon Andrew William Jackson, the youngest of the children.

When the Jacksons were settling onto their Choestoe acres, there was much unrest in the nation. The majority of settlers in Union County were not slave holders and they did not want to participate in the Civil War. Many had Union leanings and went to Tennessee to join the U. S. (Northern) Army. Among these were Marion Jackson (Andrew's brother) and John Hunter, a Choestoe neighbor. Some in opposition to the South hid out in the mountains evading conscription. In the daytime deep caves were their hiding places. They ventured out at night and by the light of the moon worked their crops. Times were hard and fear was rampant.

Andrew William Jackson and Margaret Minerva Goforth were married on November 9, 1855, with the Rev. William Pruitt, Minister of the Gospel, performing the ceremony. When the war was declared, Andrew was in the vicinity of Atlanta. He was conscripted for the Confederate Army but did not like it and deserted.

The story is told that at one time when his pursuers were looking for him, he climbed up into the chimney of their home to hide. Minerva and her little children tried to be calm while the search went on. The men left the home and Andrew stayed several hours in the chimney before he came down. He and sixteen other deserters were captured and sent to a jail in Birmingham, Alabama.

Evidently Andrew found a way to get a message to Minerva. He asked her to visit him at the Birmingham jail and to bring the horses, hiding them out near the jail. The men planned to escape that night. Imagine the bravery of this young woman (about 23 at the time--she was born in 1840) to go across the mountains of Georgia into Alabama to a Confederate prison to assist her husband to escape.

One of the men imprisoned with Andrew Jackson had lost a leg and walked with a wooden leg. Andrew asked him for his wooden leg so he could fashion a key to unlock the jail. The man, at first reluctant, said, "If I don't have my leg, I can't walk out."

The story goes that Andrew Jackson told him, "It's either your wooden leg or we'll be shot to death in the morning." How he had that knowledge is an untold part of the story. Andrew did take the wooden leg and carved a sort of key that worked to open the lock. Evidently the guards were asleep or not aware of what was going on within the jail. Andrew was successful with springing the lock and the men walked out. They set fire to the stockade and burned it down, escaping through the woods.

There in the woods was Minerva with the two horses and their children, waiting for her husband. They made their way from Birmingham northward to the old Jackson homeplace in Choestoe. Minerva and the children rode the horses and Andrew walked in the woods, trying to keep himself hidden. They miraculously made the long trip to Choestoe safely.

Just what year Andrew and Minerva and their by then four children decided to leave Choestoe is not certain. But evidently the unrest of the war years was still upon the land. They packed up their meager belongings and set out with their young family heading west. They had great difficulties along the way. Andrew still had to hide out because he was wanted for having escaped the Confederate jail. When they crossed the Mississippi River and arrived in Kansas, they felt safer because they were again among Union sympathizers who helped the young family to find food and provisions and temporary work for Andrew.

It was a sad journey. The two middle children died on the journey and were buried along the route. Their names are unknown to this writer. Milton Bert and Dicie survived the trip. The Jackson family arrived at the San Louis Obispo Valley, sometimes called the Creasy Plains, of California, and there they began farming. They were ready for a new life and gave themselves to it with a passion. There Minnie Matilda, their last child, was born on August 7, 1879.

Milton Bert was given the responsibility of herding sheep. He took the sheep to open range on the mountains near where they lived. The lad was only fourteen when he began this herdsman's job. Andrew went every week to take Bert food and to check on him. The lad did a good job of warding off wild animals and caring for the sheep.

Andrew liked seclusion. When other settlers began to move onto the Creasy Plains and get too close, Andrew would stake out another claim in a less-populated area. He did not like to talk of his Civil War experiences or of the hardships the family endured. One day Bert saw a large scar on his father's side and asked how he got it. Andrew told his son, "It's none of your business."

One day a group of men with winded, exhausted horses rode onto the Jackson ranch. They asked Andrew for his horses, as theirs were spent. He knew they would take them by force if he did not let them go willingly. They promised to send his horses back in a few days and quickly rode away.

Soon afterward, a sheriff's posse came by looking for the men. Noticing the many horse tracks near Andrew's barn, they wanted to know why. Ever the man of few words, Andrew told the sheriff that a lot of riding had been going on there the last few days. The sheriff explained that the Dalton Gang had robbed the bank the day before and the posse was trailing them.

A few days later, Andrew's tired horses reappeared at the ranch. He took off their saddles, and there under the blanket were fastened several $50 gold pieces. Whether Andrew kept the gold or turned it over to the authorities is unknown. Maybe he went by the old adage, "Finders, keepers."

Andrew and Minerva Goforth Jackson did not return to Georgia. They remained in California where their last place of residence was at Cholame. Andrew died there in 1917 and Minerva died in 1915. They were buried at San Louis Obisbo. Their adventures bespeak the independent spirit and work ethic so tightly woven into the character of early Union County, Georgia people.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published March 25, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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