When Gen. Andrew Jackson was the president of the United States, some of his adversaries called him “King Andrew" because they thought he acted more like a king than like a president. Had kings indeed been in vogue on the Western Frontier, Andrew Jackson would have very likely been chosen “King of Missouri.”
That’s how popular he was with the early settlers of this great state. In fact, you would have thought Jackson to be a Missouri native; however he wasn’t, he hailed from Nashville, Tenn. As it was, Missouri did name two counties after the hero of New Orleans, and three county seats - honors without parallel across the United States.
Nearly 4,000 counties in America have offered the opportunity for honoring local and national heroes. Across this great nation there are 21 Jackson counties, 28 Washington counties, 23 Jefferson counties, 19 Madison counties, and four Van Buren counties.
In 1824, General Jackson lost his first bid for president to John Quincy Adams. The following year, the Great Osage Nation signed a treaty relinquishing the western edge of the state of Missouri, a 24-mile wide strip extending from the Missouri River south to the Arkansas River. The Missouri Legislature immediately enacted that the newly acquired Indian land, when organized, should be named for their hero, General Jackson. The county was indeed organized the following year and was so named Jackson County. In fact, the county seat was named Independence in 1827, supposedly in recognition of General Jackson’s “independence of character.”
The first chance he got, Jackson ran for office again and this time was elected the seventh president of the United States; and Jackson County residents rejoiced in the new president and in its own fortuitous name.
After Jackson’s two terms in office, his popularity continued without impairment here in Missouri. In February 1845, Missouri conferred further honors on the man. A new county was organized out of parts of Benton and Polk Counties and named Hickory after Jackson’s nickname “Old Hickory.” The county seat of Hickory is “Hermitage”, named for Jackson’s country home back in Tennessee. Neither Jackson County nor Independence was named for the president, but rather “Gen. Andrew Jackson”.
Toward the close of Jackson’s second presidential term it became fairly evident that his vice president, Martin Van Buren, was destined to take his place. Jackson threw his mighty influence and support behind Van Buren and that was enough for Missouri, if Jackson wanted him, then Missouri wanted him. Jackson had been elected president shortly after we named the county for him, so, the same palladium should work a second time around. To render the charm more potent, they broke off the southern half of Jackson County for a new county and named it Van Buren County.
In 1848, U.S. Sen. Lewis Cass of Minnesota was a candidate for president and as part of his platform he endorsed the Wilmot Proviso, Van Buren stood against it.
The Wilmot Proviso was one of the major events leading to the American Civil War, and would have banned slavery in any territory acquired from the Mexican War. Cass lost the election, but worse than that, Van Buren lost popularity across Missouri. The Missouri Legislature changed the name of Van Buren County to Cass County in honor of Sen. Lewis Cass, but here in Jackson County we were still worshiping Jackson and named a township after his defrocked vice president. Van Buren Township in Nevada is the county seat of Vernon County, another feather for Jackson’s cap. The county was named for Col. Miles Vernon, a Missouri farmer and a crony of Jackson’s in the Battle of New Orleans.
When Harry Truman was county judge, he commissioned two bronze statues of General Jackson on horseback.
• Reference: “The Centennial History of Independence,” Missouri by W.L. Webb
Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school groups.
To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 816-252-9909.