The Jackson family associated
with the Homestead on Washington Street is one of several who can trace
their descent back to two brothers who were among the first settlers on the
south side of the Charles River in Cambridge: John, who bought his first
piece of land near the Brighton line in 1639, and Edward, who followed three
years later. It is with Edward's descendants through his son, Sebas, that we
trace the history of the Jackson family in Newton, which was once a part of
Cambridge, and the Jackson Homestead.
Edward was born in the East End of London and, like his father before him,
was a nail-maker. He amassed a substantial fortune so that soon after
arriving in New England he as able to buy a house with several acres of land
in what is now Newton Corner. This was the first of many transactions that
would, in time, make him the largest land owner in the town.
Edward was married twice: to Frances, who apparently died shortly after they
arrived, and to the widow Elizabeth Oliver. Sebas was Edward's last child by
Frances, and is said to have been born on the journey out, hence his name, a
corruption of "Seaborn." Edward gave much of his property to his children
during his life time. Among these gifts, which were confirmed in his will,
was one of a house and 150 acres to Sebas.
According to Francis Jackson's History of Newton (1854)
That house was eighteen feet by twenty-two,
with two stories, and stood on the same spot now occupied by the mansion
of William Jackson Esq., a cold water man, who continues to draw from the
old well, a pure fountain, which has served seven generations, and is not
the worse for wear. The old house was built about 1670, and enlarged
before 1690, which increased its length to thirty-nine feet. It was
demolished in 1809, having withstood the tempest of about one hundred and
It was Major Timothy Jackson (1756--1814),
the great-grandson of Sebas, who demolished the old house and built what is
known today as The Jackson Homestead. After Timothy's death, his son William
(1783-1855) and second wife Mary Bennett, came to live in the Homestead. The
last of their fourteen children died in 1906. Descendants lived there
through the 1920s after which the house was rented for a number of years to
a dentist, Dr. Roland Barrette. In December 1949, Frances Hatch Middendorf,
one of William's granddaughters, gave the house to the City of Newton and
with the help of the City and the devotion of generations of volunteers, the
Homestead became a museum. Accredited by the American Association of Museums
in 1992, it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in the year 2000.
One of the best things about spending time at
the Homestead has been learning about the lives of my ancestors. Today, I
will share six of the most interesting stories I’ve learned. They are about
many facets of the Jacksons’ lives, including the rail road, abolition,
charity, women’s rights, the Revolutionary War, and temperance. I think
you’ll find that our ancestors were middle class folks of their times, doing
their best to do what was right.
One of my main sources of information is the
"Annals of the Homestead," written by Ellen Jackson in 1894. She says she
wanted future generations to know "part of the interesting events, and
memories that cling around the Old Homestead, like mosses on an old tree".