Thirty days will have passed since the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States when we celebrate Presidents Day 2017 in Highlands NC. On Feb. 20, the nation commemorates the birthdays of the first president, George Washington, and the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.
May Washington’s words provide a prelude to the country’s future: “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” Washington would have marked his 285th birthday Feb. 20 and Lincoln his 208th on Feb. 12.
3 Presidents Came From North Carolina
While we at The Park on Main®, the luxury pet-friendly hotel in Highlands, North Carolina in the midst of beautiful Southern Appalachia, salute the nation’s great leaders, we especially take note of three in particular: Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson.
Although we’re quite certain the three had the great misfortune of not staying at The Park on Main®, they do trace their roots in or through the Tar Heel State. (Some historians believe the state obtained its nickname from tar, pitch and turpentine from its forests’ pines that became one of North Carolina’s top exports.)
Practicing Law in North Carolina
Jackson was reportedly born near North Carolina’s border in South Carolina. However, Jackson, who became the seventh president, studied law in North Carolina and was admitted to the state’s bar. He moved to Tennessee in 1788 and became president in 1829, long before the construction of this elegant abode. Jackson was considered the founder of the Democratic Party.
James K. Polk, who became the 11th president of the United States, was born and raised 133 miles due east of Highlands in Mecklenburg County, a three-day ride by horse and carriage in the frontier days. Polk, the only president to also have served as Speaker of the U.S. House, later moved to Tennessee where he became a U.S. representative. Polk was a Democrat.
Johnson Held Office Just Prior to Highlands’ Founding
The 17th president, Andrew Johnson, was probably the most fortunate – at least in our historical minds at The Park on Main®. As a native North Carolinian, Johnson held the White House from 1865 to 1869, less than a decade before the founding of Highlands by Samuel Truman Kelsey and Clinton Carter Hutchinson.
As a couple of enterprising businessmen, Kelsey and Hutchinson believed Highlands (in a literal sense, quite high at 4,118 feet above sea level) would serve as a great stopover between Chicago and Savannah, Georgia and between New York City and New Orleans.
Alas, Johnson fell prey to the same wanderlust spirit as his predecessors. Having served as a tailor’s apprentice in Raleigh, North Carolina, he moved to Tennessee when he was 18.
Vice Presidential North Carolinians
We should mention William Rufus King, the other vice president from North Carolina. Johnson, the first, served under President Abraham Lincoln, who wasn’t from North Carolina.
King was born in Sampson County, North Carolina. Its county seat is Clinton, which is 363 miles due east of Highlands, more than a week by horse and carriage. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He later became a member of the North Carolina House of Commons and helped form the Alabama state government.
King only served six weeks as vice president. He died of tuberculosis.
Enjoying History at The Park on Main®
Here are some upcoming cultural events for you to enjoy at The Bascom, a Center for the Visual Arts in Highlands, 323 Franklin Road:
- Community artist exhibit by Kristina Baker.
- The Western Carolina University Master of Fine Arts Exhibition will be on display in the Bunzi Gallery.
- The Sotheby’s Exhibit features work by regional college students.
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