Saturday, June 19, 2004

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson Biography from the North Carolina Encyclopedia. Johnson was born in NC, though he moved to Tennessee early in life.

From the site:

Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1808, and like the previous North Carolina born presidents, Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk, he was elected to office from Tennessee. Although a native of the South, Johnson was a firm supporter of the Union. During the desperate days of the Civil War, he served as the military governor of Tennessee and finally as vice-president under the second term of Abraham Lincoln. After Lincoln's assassination, the heavy task of restoring a nation after the ravages of a civil war fell to the tailor from North Carolina.

Andrew Johnson began his life in a small wooden house which is still preserved in Raleigh at the Mordecai Historic Park. His parents, Jacob and Mary Johnson, maintained the home by working for Casso's Inn, a popular inn and stable. The Johnson home stood on the property of the inn. Both of Andrew's parents worked there--Mary as a weaver, Jacob as the hostler, while Jacob also acted as janitor for the State Capitol. Andrew was the younger of two sons born into the Johnson family. Jacob Johnson rescued two or three friends (recollections were unclear) from drowning in 1812, but the effort cost him his health, and he died within a year, leaving Mary to raise Andrew and his brother William. In an effort to provide a trade for her sons, Mary Johnson apprenticed her sons to a tailor in Raleigh when Andrew was fourteen.

Andrew Johnson never attended school. He began his informal education while serving as an apprentice. Frequent customers would read to Johnson from books of oratory while he worked, and occasionally gave him books. Johnson taught himself to read. Two years after beginning his apprenticeship, Johnson and his friends threw rocks at a tradesman's house out of mischief. When the occupant of the house threatened to call the police, Johnson left town and abandoned his apprentice work at the tailor shop of John J. Selby. Johnson fled to Carthage, North Carolina sixty miles from Raleigh. He found a market for his tailoring skills in Carthage but moved to Laurens, South Carolina to distance himself further from the trouble in Raleigh. After a year in Laurens, Johnson returned to Raleigh and sought to complete his apprenticeship under John Selby. Selby, however, no longer owned the tailor shop and had no need of an apprentice. With no available employment in Raleigh, Johnson led his mother, brother, and stepfather to Tennessee in 1826.

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