Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sarah Yorke Jackson

My guessing game from earlier this week was Rachel Jackson, who was the daughter of Andrew Jackson, Jr. and Sarah Yorke Jackson. Andrew Jackson, Jr., was the adopted son of President Andrew Jackson. President Jackson and his wife, Rachel, never had any of their own children, there were numerous children who lived at The Herimtage:
Although Andrew and Rachel Jackson never had any children of their own, children always lived at The Hermitage. In 1808, they took in an infant; one of a set of twins, of Rachel’s brother Severn Donelson and his wife Elizabeth and raised him as their own. They named him Andrew Jackson Junior (1808-1865). Although some accounts suggest they took the child because of the mother’s ill health and inability to care for her children, the reasons for the adoption are not clear. Andrew Junior and his twin, Thomas Jefferson Donelson, remained close all of their lives. Andrew Junior attended school at Davidson Academy and the University of Nashville. When Andrew Jackson became President, Andrew Junior assumed management of the Hermitage farm. Andrew Junior married Sarah Yorke of Philadelphia on November 24, 1831. Although Junior’s financial woes brought Jackson grief in later years, he was always a devoted father.

In addition, Andrew Jackson served as guardian for numerous children although not all of them lived with the Jacksons. In the early nineteenth century, if a child’s father died, the courts appointed a guardian to supervise the child’s interests, even if the child’s mother still lived. Revolutionary War General Edward Butler named Jackson as guardian for his children Caroline, Eliza, Edward, and Anthony. These children did not always live at The Hermitage. Jackson served as guardian for Rachel’s brother Samuel’s sons when Samuel Donelson died in 1804. The boys, John Samuel, Andrew Jackson, and Daniel did live part time at The Hermitage. Jackson took a strong interest in all of these children, but Andrew Jackson Donelson (1799-1871) became his protégé. Jackson saw that he received an appointment to West Point and that he studied law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Donelson served Jackson as personal secretary during his presidency.

In 1813, Jackson sent home an Indian child found on battlefield with his dead mother. This boy, Lyncoya, (c1811-1828) may have originally been intended as kind of a pet and companion for Andrew Junior, but Jackson soon took a strong interest in him. He was educated with Andrew Junior and Jackson had aspirations of sending him to West Point. Political circumstances made that impossible, and Lyncoya went to train as a saddle maker in Nashville. He died of tuberculosis in 1828. The last of Rachel’s children was Andrew Jackson Hutchings (1812-1841), the grandson of one of Rachel’s sisters and the son of a former business partner of Jackson’s. Both of his parents died by the time he was five and in 1817, little Hutchings, as the family called him, came to live permanently at The Hermitage. He attended school with Andrew Junior and Lyncoya and then attended colleges in Washington and Virginia while Jackson was president. In 1833, he married Mary Coffee, daughter of Jackson's friend John Coffee and the young couple moved to Alabama. Hutchings died in 1841.

The next generation of Hermitage children included Andrew Jackson Junior’s children as well as the sons of Sarah Jackson’s sister Marion. Andrew and Sarah had five children: Rachel, Andrew, Samuel, Thomas, and Robert, but last two died as infants. Marion Yorke Adams came to live at The Hermitage after the death of her husband in 1837. She had three sons, John, Andrew, and William. This made a lively household in Jackson’s retirement years since John Adams; the oldest of all these children was only eight when he came to live at The Hermitage.

Rachel Jackson died shortly before her husband became president (after he was elected, before he was inaugurated) and so Rachel's niece, Emily Donelson, and their daugther-in-law, Sarah Yorke Jackson, served as Jackson's White Houses hostesses. I thought I'd share some information on Sarah Jackson today:
While Emily Donelson served as Andrew Jackson's hostess in the White House, it was originally intended that his daughter-in-law, Sarah Yorke Jackson, the wife of his adopted son would supervise the management of the Hermitage. A fire at the Hermitage, however, brought Sarah Yorke Jackson to the White House for lengthier stays and so she and Emily Donelson essentially served as co-hostesses, a unique situation in White House history.

Sarah Yorke Jackson was born into great wealth in July of 1805 in Philadelphia, the exact date unrecorded. Descendant of English Quakers, her great-great-grandfather had been a judge and officer of crown of England before immigrating to Pennsylvania, and she was also related to many of Philadelphia's wealthiest and most powerful families. Her father Peter Yorke was a sea captain, as had been his father, and amassed great wealth through his diverse mercantile enterprises; he had spent most of his business career on the sea and was familiar with a wide variety of cultures, having traded in ports through Europe, Africa, and Asia. He died in 1815. His wife, the former Mary Haines, on a trip to New Orleans, died in that city in 1820, thus leaving Sarah Yorke Jackson orphaned by age 15 and in the care of two parental aunts, a Mrs. George Farquhar and Mrs. Mordecai Wetherill. Throughout her life she remained close to her two sisters, Jane and Marian.

It is not clear how Sarah Yorke met Andrew Jackson, Jr. President Jackson was unable to attend their November 24, 1831 wedding at the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, but he sent the portrait painter and family friend Ralph Earl to represent him and present the bride with the gift of a pearl ring which contained a locket of the President's hair. The couple proceeded immediately to the White House, where the President stood on the front steps with open arms to greet her. He showed immediate affection to his daughter-in-law and they remained close until his death. The President held a number of parties in her honor, including a dinner to which the Cabinet and Diplomatic Corps were invited and she wore her wedding gown at the series of events. She and her husband remained at the White House through the holiday season of 1831 and the social season of 1832. She arrived at the Hermitage in late spring of 1832 to assume the management with her husband of the plantation. She gave birth there to her first child, named for the president's late wife, Rachel, in November. Sarah Jackson's cousin Emma Yorke Farquhar accompanied her to the White House and the Hermitage and married there one of Andrew Jackson, Jr.'s brothers, Thomas Jefferson Donelson on 17 September, 1832. Sarah Yorke Jackson returned to the White House in February of 1833 for the second Jackson Inauguration. She remained there through the summer when she and her family joined the president at his seaside vacation in Virginia. She returned to the Hermitage in August. Her second child, Andrew, was born there in April 1834.

During that stay, however, a fire partially destroyed the Hermitage and required rebuilding. Thus, Sarah Yorke Jackson once again returned to the White House, arriving on 26 November 1834. She was accompanied by Emily Donelson and to avoid any questions of who took precedence as the President's official hostess, Jackson declared Sarah Jackson to be "mistress of the Hermitage," and implied that he view ed that as more personally dear to him; there is no evidence of any rivalry between the two women who then essentially functioned as co-hostesses. In February 1835, however, Sarah Yorke Jackson made an extended visit with her children to relatives in Philadelphia and did not rejoin the presidential household until that summer when she was part of the family again vacationing in Virginia and from there she returned to Philadelphia for a month. Part of her time in that city was spent ordering new furnishings for the Hermitage. She and Emily Donelson helped to host a large Christmas party for the children of the family in the White House, in December of 1835. She once again returned to the Hermitage in the spring of 1836 and then for one last time came back to Washington in the fall of 1836. She visited with her Philadelphia relatives before overseeing the packing and shipping of Jackson's eight years worth of possessions in the White House as he prepared to retire in March of 1837.

Upon Jackson's retirement, Sarah Jackson and her family returned with him to the Hermitage, and she resumed charge of his household. Three more children - Samuel, Thomas, and Robert - would be born to SarahYorkeJackson at the Hermitage. Shortly thereafter, Sarah's widowed sister Marion Adams came to live there as well, with her three sons, John, Andrew, and William. After the death of the former President in 1845, debt-ridden Andrew and Sarah Jackson struggled to maintain their lifestyle on their plantation. Sometime between 1858 and 1860 they relocated to Mississippi, turning over the maintenance of the estate to two of the property's most trusted slaves, Hannah and Aaron. The state of Tennessee later purchased the property, intending to prepare it as an historic site, but permitted Sarah Jackson to live out her life there. She died at the Hermitage on August 23, 1887.

Hope you enjoyed learning about one of the White House hostesses! I'll post on Emily Donelson soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting story. My great grandmother was named Sara Marie Jackson. She was the great niece of Andrew Jackson but I am unsure who her parents were. Would you be able to help me. My grandmother is no longer living so I am unable to ask her. My email is kntesta@aol.com. I would greatly appreciate it if you could email me with any information. Thanks. Kim