I hadn’t really noticed until just recently, but four of the first five Presidents of the United States were Virginians. The Culpeper Minute Men and the Virginia Society, Sons of the American Revolution recognized each of their birthdays over the past few months. February 22 was George Washington’s 289th birthday. March 16 was James Madison’s 270th birthday, April 13 was Thomas Jefferson’s 278th birthday and April 24 was James Monroe’s 263rd birthday. It’s no wonder that Virginia is called the Mother of Presidents. While that was certainly true early on in the republic, let’s take a look now that we’ve inaugurated our 46th.
Going by birthplace, Virginia is the winner with eight of its native sons holding the country’s highest office. Ohio can lay claim to eight with deep roots in the Buckeye state: William Henry Harrison, Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William Mckinley, William Taft and Warren Harding. However, only seven of these Presidents were actually born in Ohio. In contrast to these top breeding grounds for Oval Office occupants, a number of states have yet to send anyone to the White House. To date only 21 states have been the birthplace of a commander in chief and just 18 states can lay claim to presidents based on primary state affiliation.
While Virginia has produced the most presidents, all but one of them served prior to the Civil War. Also, Virginia hasn’t sent anyone to the White House in over 100 years. Who are the sons of Virginia who have held the highest office in the land?
The first is the father of our country George Washington. He was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, although his childhood home was Ferry Farm in Stafford. He died at his home in Mount Vernon in 1799. It was said that no one walked away from power with more dignity or did more to assure the prosperous society we have today.
The second is Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president. He was born in Albemarle county, and his childhood home from age 2-9 was Tuckahoe Plantation. Thomas Jefferson was known for authoring many important documents outlining the American thoughts on a number of different topics, and of course was also the author of the Declaration of Independence.
The third is James Madison, our fourth president, who was born at Belle Grove Plantation in King George county and had his main home at Montpelier. He was the father of our Constitution and wrote the Bill of Rights.
The fourth is James Monroe, our fifth president who was born in Westmoreland County. His birthplace near Oak Grove, Virginia has been refurbished. He lived in his home, Highland, in Charlottesville when he became President. He is the only president to run unopposed, aside from Washington and the last of the Founding Fathers.
The fifth is William Henry Harrison, our ninth president who was born at Berkeley Plantation in Charles City County Virginia in 1773. He was schooled at Hampden Sydney, served and resigned from the Army in 1798, then became the governor of the Indiana territory in 1800. He then rejoined the Army as Maj. General in 1812, resigning again in 1814. He then settled on a farm in North Bend, Ohio. His father was Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and three-term governor of Virginia. His grandson Benjamin Harrison would become the 23rd president.
The sixth is John Tyler, the 10th President. He was born in Greenway, Charles City County in 1790, and was the Chancellor at William and Mary College. His ascension to the presidency set the standard for succession after the death of William Henry Harrison.
The seventh is Zachary Taylor, the 12th president, who was born in Monticello, Orange County in 1784. He was a career military officer for 40 years and was a hero of the Mexican-American War. He directly descended from Pilgrims who arrived aboard the Mayflower.
The eighth and last is Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president, who was born in Staunton. in 1856. He was the first president to receive a PhD in political science from John Hopkins University. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919.
You may have noticed that the fifth President to come from Virginia, William Henry Harrison, is also listed along with Presidents from Ohio. While he was a longtime resident of Ohio, I like to think it was just to get around the Constitutional requirement that the president and vice president on a party ticket cannot be a resident of the same state. President Harrison was clearly a son of Virginia.
Interestingly enough, some of President Harrison’s family have shown relation to me and other Jameson descendants through DNA. So I’ve got special interest in not losing this one to Ohio. President Harrison’s birthplace, the Berkeley Plantation, is listed as one of the earliest plantations in America. It is now owned by Malcolm (Jamie) Jamieson. His grandfather John Jamieson served as a drummer boy in the Union Army. He remembered being encamped on the James River with Gen. George McCellan in 1862. He returned 45 years later in 1907, when he saw the plantation was for sale. He rushed down from New York to purchase it. It is said that Berkeley is the most historic Plantation lying on the James River between Richmond and Williamsburg. The Jamieson’s on the Berkeley website state they believe that Black Americans, Indigenous People and their descendants deserve justice, respect and support as they have suffered unimaginable tragedies and losses through enslavement and genocide at the foundation of America. They believe that everyone in Virginia can come together and utilize history to facilitate empathy, education and healing.