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David Claypoole Johnston:
Exhibition of Cabinet Pictures: Satire on Andrew Jackson (19th century)

" … this swirl of stories constitutes adequate justification …"

I've long wondered why two of my great-grandfathers were named Andrew Jackson Mayfield. What must have moved the senior AJ's father, James Emsley Mayfield, to name his firstborn after that future President? What experience could have been so significant to move that son to name one of his sons similarly?  The answer might lie in where AJ senior's grandfather, James M. Mayfield, my fifth Great-grandfather, settled after he slipped over the Cumberland Gap and into Indian Reserve territory sometime before 1780.

Mary Carter's book Fifteen Southern Families states, "The Mayfield family all seemed to have been of the caliber of Daniel Boone, David Crockett, and other frontiersmen.
They seemed never to have been interested in holding public office or owning vast amounts of land; they were always where the fighting was. James Mayfield, the progenitor of the ones who came to Middle Tennessee from Virginia, and all five of his sons fought in the American Revolution. He later fought Indians in what is now Middle Tennessee."

James fought Indians with George Rodgers Clark on the Illinois Western Expedition. He was killed while defending Cumberland Settlement with his sons against Indians. He and his family moved to Montgomery County, Tennessee, and then to Davidson County, Tennessee. He was one of the first settlers of Davidson County and was among the 64 who stayed at the settlement to help hold the fort, while many others left due to Indian attacks. His name is on Davidson County's "Pioneer Roll of Honor."

James' death place is listed as Eatons Station, Davidson, Tennessee. My fourth great-grandfather, James Emsley, was born in Albemarle County, North Carolina, a few months after his father died. His mother, Eleanor (Connors), James' second wife, perhaps retreated to family back over The Cumberland Gap after losing her second husband. She would marry a third only to lose him to an Indian attack, too. Andrew Jackson Mayfield, the eldest son of James Emsley, was born in Maury, Tennessee, in 1811. He'd married a South Carolina native there a year earlier, a woman named Missouri Dicey Roberts, daughter of an Emsley Roberts of South Carolina. It's a small world, I guess.

One of James' older sons, Sutherland Mayfield, was also killed by Creeks in Tennessee about the same time James was killed. He'd earlier built a fort, which the Creeks quickly burned down. Sutherland then contracted with three others to build a larger second fort at the confluence of Mill Creek and The Cumberland River. A party of Creek happened upon them while they were clearing land and killed Sutherland and three others, including his eldest son, in August of 1780. They captured his younger son George, aged ten or so, and he lived with the natives for a decade or more, losing his English and becoming proficient in Creek. He returned, and though he claimed to prefer the Creek lifestyle, he agreed to stay with his family. He became a farmer but was drafted into service as a translator, fighter, and spy for Andrew Jackson during the Creek War (1813-14), taking a ball in the shoulder during one battle. During the treaty negotiations at the war's end, the Creek chiefs consigned a square mile of land to George for his bravery and service, even though he served their opponents. Congress later refused to perfect that grant.

I suspect that this swirl of stories constitutes adequate justification for naming two subsequent generations after Andrew Jackson. The elder AJ would not become an "Indian fighter" but a preacher called Deacon Jackson. He would die in Oregon, but only after a few more stories about this remarkable spoke of my mother's family's story.

©2024 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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