Andrew Johnson: Plebeian and Patriot

By Robert W. Winston | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
RUNAWAY APPRENTICE

At the beginning of the last century, there stood in the town of Raleigh, North Carolina, a spacious, ramshackled building called Casso's Inn. Within the hotel yard a small cottage for the use of employees of the establishment had been provided, and there, on December 29, 1808, Andrew, second son of Jacob Johnson and Mary McDonough his wife, was born.1

This inn was a noted place in its day. Located on two highways, one running north and south and the other east and west, and just across the street from the State House, it boasted of "a stable equal to any on the continent, sufficient to contain from thirty to forty head of horses," and of a bar unexcelled for its brands of foreign and domestic liquors. During festive occasions the townspeople would come together at Casso's and celebrate with round dances and the cotillion, with bountiful feasts, and with the ever-flowing bowl. And Peter Casso, the landlord, was well fitted for the position of host. Having been a soldier in the Revolutionary War, he was a man of the world; his wife was received into the best circles, and their daughter, "pretty Peggy," as Colonel William Polk once named her in a gracious toast, was a general favorite. But the popularity of the inn was not more due to the Casso family than to their porter, Jacob Johnson, and to "Polly," his faithful wife.2

Now the occasion of Andy Johnson's birth is well remembered. That particular night, it being Christmas week, with seven days of frolic and merrymaking, a ball was going on at the inn. Soon after the ball, it became known that a son had

____________________
1
R. H. Battle, Library Southern Literature, Vol. VI, p. 2719.
2
David L. Swain, Early Times in Raleigh, 1867; Memorial Address on Jacob Johnson, by the same.

-3-

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