The First Story: How the Suppression of Alcohol Led to
the Development of the Rail Road in Newton.
William Jackson lived in the Homestead from
1820 until his death in 1855. You can see his photo in the Jackson Room.
William was President of the Newton Female Academy. He was also on the Board
of Selectmen, on the School Committee, Deacon of two churches, and a member
of the Board of Congress.
A good part of William’s biography is spent
on the formation of his Temperance Society. In 1812 he attended the first
meeting of the formation of a Society for the suppression of Intemperance.
Now, you may not know what that means. Well, the principal object of the
Society was the Reformation of Drunkards. However, it did not require
abstinence among its members, and it did not work.
Around the same time, he was Chairman of the
Board of Selectmen of Newton. Among his duties was to approve persons who
were to be licensed to sell alcohol, otherwise known as Ardent Spirits. Each
year an approval form had to be signed by the Selectmen. This form licensed
all of the drinking establishments that had been licensed the previous year,
saying that they conformed to the laws. Before he signed, he diligently
inspected all the establishments and found that all were in daily violation
of the laws! William refused to sign. So no license was obtained! People
were incensed because every other year the approval form had been signed,
without any inspection, including by his own father. Never the less, the
Selectmen authorized William to go to Concord to ask the Court to make an
alteration in the approval form.
The Court said that if he would say that the
establishments conformed with the laws that they would grant the license.
But he could not say that because he had already told the Court that it was
false, and he could not lie. So, that year no drinking establishments were
licensed in Newton. Needless to say, people were not happy.
William ended up calling a meeting of all the
people in Newton who did not drink, a total of 4 people. They formed a
Temperance Society, that strictly enforced abstaining from alcohol, and
distributed fliers to every head of family in Newton. The meetings grew, but
they were met with sneers, rebukes and condemnation. William made a
convincing speech and then held monthly meetings for the town. In an odd
turn of events, soon the majority of the voters were voting with them!
Rummies and Rumsellers were ashamed and did not do well in their business.
At one meeting, William convinced the men
that they needed to put their money somewhere, since they were not spending
it on alcohol. They voted that a Savings Institution be instituted. William
was President of this Bank for much of his life.
They found that after a year there was not
enough to say about Temperance every month, so they converted their society
into a Lyceum making Temperance the leading subject, but opening it up to
other discussion, including the survey for a Rail Road from Boston to
Albany, New York. William had the foresight to take this on as well, and
made a convincing speech which he says made "pretty thorough Rail Road men
of all the members of our Society". He gave several speeches and wrote
articles for many Massachusetts newspapers. He ended up appointed to the
General Agency of the railroad and totally got out of his candle business.
There was much discussion of putting the railroad through our neighboring
town of Waltham. William used his influence to put it right in front of his
house, and to introduce a regular and frequent passenger service between
Boston and Newton in 1844. He was among the first to anticipate the effect
of this on land values and real estate development in Newton. Newton became
one of the first rail road suburbs. He and his brother timothy built several
subdivisions, including one right behind the homestead. They always included
parks, making Newton the green city that it is today.
As you can see, William’s interest in the
railroad was brought about by an accident. Because his organization against
drinking expanded their topics of interest, he happened to develop interest
in railroads, and strongly affected what Newton is today.