Would you expect to find the name Waxhaw or Waxhaws anywhere other than in Union County, NC or Lancaster County, SC?
The name originates from the Waxhaw Indians. A colonial settlement adopted the name and then the Town of Waxhaw, NC, in 1889.
However, the photo featured here is not in either North or South Carolina. This Waxhaw Road is about 700 miles away!
Why is a rural road in a different time zone named Waxhaw?
First, let’s begin with the Waxhaws Settlement which began in the 1750s with emigrants pouring into the region. Among these was John James Kirk (1751-1822) from Ireland. His son, John Kirk, Jr. (born 1790) was a “traveling” Methodist minister in the area. John Jr. married Mary Cousar (born 1791), the daughter of Richard Cousar. (Many descendants of Richard Cousar live in NC and SC now; including Blythes and McCorkles. Richard’s granddaughter, Mary Cousar McCorkle (1781-1836), is buried in the McCorkle Cemetery on Pine Oak Road in Waxhaw.) John Jr. and Mary had five children.
Two of John Jr., and Mary’s sons, John Cousar Kirk and Stephen Kirk, were in their 30s when gold was discovered in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill on the American River in California. John and Stephen headed west. They arrived in California by boat after journeying around South America. (They took the long way.)
The Kirk brothers found gold in California!
According to the research of Waxhaw Historian, Harry Gamble, “The Kirk brothers from the Waxhaws Settlement got what they went for, then, after some time, began their journey homeward. As their boat approached New Orleans, Stephen died of yellow fever and was buried at sea. The boat was quarantined. John Kirk, while waiting in New Orleans before continuing his journey to the Waxhaws decided to take a steamboat trip to Mississippi. While the boat was tied up at Concordia landing in Bolivar County, he walked around and observed the rich black soil beneath his feet. Doubtless, he thought back of his beloved Waxhaws – a basic red clay, with sandy stretches here and there. As he returned to New Orleans, his thoughts kept returning to the rich black soil he had seen. When he stepped off the boat in New Orleans, he had reached an important decision about his future. John Kirk cashed in his gold and started back to Bolivar County. He bought land, and then more land, and finally accumulated thousands of acres.”
John Cousar Kirk called his farm, Waxhaw Plantation, after his beloved childhood homeland.
Today, the land purchased by John Cousar Kirk, a native of the Waxhaws Settlement, bought with the gold he found in California remains farmland on Waxhaw Road in a farming community known as Waxhaw, MS.
Kris B. Morefield
Board Member, Museum of the Waxhaws