The Jacksons of Newton
Massachusetts Family History
The Jacksons and Their
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.
Jackson Family Stories, by Louisa Bell Paushter
Given at the Jackson Family Reunion, July 22, 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".
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.
The second story: How Charity Begins at Home
This story is a wonderful example of how one
person can make a difference. I would like to read you the story as Ellen
Jackson told it:
"In a household where the heads of the family
were both generous and kind, there could not fail to be a constant daily
charity to those needing it. But in 1878 was began a large and continued
philanthropic work, organized and kept in motion by the continuous and
systematic efforts of Mouse [Ellen’s sister Cornelia}. It is called the
Santa Claus Agency, and is at its height at Christmas. Like most great
enterprises, it had a small beginning. A few weeks before Christmas, in
1878, she was walking in a part of Newton where the people are mostly poor,
and found one family of many children who looked not forward with any
pleasure to Christmas, as Santa Claus had never found them. Mouse wrote an
article for the Newton Journal appealing to those children who would be
[overwhelmed] with gifts to send some of their abundance they already had,
that these and many other poor children might not be forgotten, and she
would be Santa Claus agent.
Her appeal was heeded, and she had many gifts
to gladden the hearts of the little people. She then wrote a cute story of
Santa Claus’ visits to the children." The next year it was printed in a
pamphlet and sent out, resulting in a generous contribution for the poor.
"The nursery of the homestead was given up to the toys and comforts that
might come in for the poor, and it is always filled to overflowing by
Christmas. Two days before, six or eight young lady friends come in and pack
them all in baskets, labeled for the family to which they are to go. Beside
the toys, there are stockings, mittens, hoods, clothes, candy, nuts, fancy
crackers, in lace bags. The day before Christmas, the Expressman takes them
to their destination, making glad more than one hundred poor children. A few
years after this joyful charity was begun, Mrs. Charles Lord commenced the
excellent charity of furnishing shoes for the poor, collecting them from
those who had an abundance, and also a sum of money to have them repaired.
She soon joined her good work to Mouse, and the week after Christmas all the
poor children would come to the "homestead" to be fitted to shoes there were
besides the second-hand shoes, cases of new ones and rubbers. Ten or a dozen
ladies would be gathered in the large old kitchen to fit the children, and
many a heart-rendering case would be there."
"Report for Christmas, 1897:
108 children made happy by receiving toys,
books, candy, clothing, etc.
138 prs. Of boots given
113 pairs of stockings given
96 articles [of] wearing apparel
During the year 39 families have been helped with clothing, fuel, and
294 articles of clothing
113 prs. of boots."
Story Three: A Compilation of Three Abolition Tales
My first tale is about the Underground
We often talk of the Homestead as being a
stop on the Underground Railroad. Because it was too dangerous to write down
anything about the railroad, it is unusual to have any documentation about
the stations. Our Homestead is lucky that Ellen wrote down one story that I
would like to share with you.
"One night, between twelve and one o’clock, I
well remember, father was awakened by pebbles thrown against his window. He
rose, asked what was wanted. Mr. Bowditch replied, it was he with a runaway
slave whom he wished father to hide until morning, and then help him on his
way to Canada, for his master was in Boston looking for him. Father took him
in and next morning carried him fifteen miles to a Station where he could
take a car for Canada. He could not have safely left by any Boston station."
At that time, many slaves were escaping into
Canada. When they arrived at the Homestead, they were destitute. A sewing
circle used to meet at the Homestead to make clothes for them. Some of the
cloth that these women sewed was used in draping the public buildings in
Boston at the funeral ceremonies of the late President Lincoln. Ellen was
the first President of the sewing circle, which became the Freedman’s Aid
Society. Ellen was the representative of the Society at the graduation
exercises at Hampton Institute in 1878. She formed a firm friendship with
General Armstrong, President of Hampton Institute, and with Booker T.
Washington, President of Tuskegee, both of whom were entertained at the
Homestead more than once".
My second tale is the story of Ellen’s
brother Edward who was involved in the first year of the Civil War.
"He (Edward d1882) was one of the home guard
of St. Louis. One Sabbath day, he saw three soldiers harassing and abusing a
colored man. He ordered them to desist; when one of them caught up a stick
and struck him on the head, crushing his skull and nearly killing him. He
was ever after blind in one eye, lost his sense of smelling, - also at times
he lost consciousness."
My third abolition tale is well documented in
the Abolition Room in the Children’s Gallery.
It is about Francis Jackson, brother of
William Jackson, and Lewis Hayden, a former slave living in Boston. Francis
was treasurer of the Vigilance Committee. Lewis Hayden was a committee
member and a friend of Francis’. Hayden let fugitives who were being hunted
stay in his house. He kept two kegs of gunpowder in the basement and said he
would blow up the building if any slave-owner tried to kidnap a fugitive
hiding there. Francis Jackson bought their house in 1853, possibly to help
cover up Hayden’s underground activities.
Story Four: The Revolutionary War: If you don’t
succeed, try, try again.
Timothy, William’s father, fought in the
Revolutionary War. He was one of the minutemen who fought off the British in
Lexington and Concord. In 1776, he sailed out from Salem. The British
attacked and he was wounded in the neck by a musket ball. The British
captured his boat and he was put in a prison ship in NY harbor. After six
month of torture, his captors put him, and nine other prisoners, on a
thirty-six-man crew of an armed English ship convoy guarding ships to
England and back. In London he was put on a ship in the Thames and then
transferred to a whip bound for Lisbon. When he returned from Lisbon, he was
put on a ship bound for the West Indies. He was treated cruelly and was
determined to escape.
During a rainy night in Antigua, he escaped
by swimming ashore in a storm and tried to return to Boston on a ship. The
first ship changed its course to Ireland and he ended up on a pilot boat,
which took him to North Carolina. On the ship he took from there to Boston,
he was captured again and taken to New York to be put in a prison ship, and
escaped again. He almost reached American lines when he was captured by
Hessian troops and sent to a New York prison for another grueling six
months. Later that year he was exchanged and passed over to the American
army in a state of destitution. He was two hundred miles from home, without
any money. Luckily he ran into a man from Newton who lent him enough money
to get him home. He arrived home after trying and trying to escape and being
gone for almost two years. He spent a few months in the army in Rhode Island
and then settled as a farmer at the Homestead.
As an aside to this story… While Timothy was
trying to get home, his sisters raised sheep, spun yarn, wove cloth and ran
the farm while he was in the war. Lucy Jackson, his oldest sister, has a
chapter of the DAR named after her located in Newton.
My fifth story is about Women’s Rights. It is called:
Tragedy Leads to Activism.
Francis was an ardent supporter of women’s
rights. His daughter, Eliza Eddy, had lost her children when her husband
seized their two young daughters and took them to Europe without her
consent. This episode prompted Jackson to support women’s rights. His first
action was an anonymous gift of $5,000 to the women’s rights cause and other
He primarily showed his support through
financial gifts in his will. The first thing he did was to give 1/3 of
residue of his estate to Edmund in trust for his daughter. He stated, "The
whole net income there of shall be paid semi-annually to my daughter, Eliza
Eddy, during her natural life, for her sole and separate use, free from the
control or interference of any husband she may have."
The second gift was $5,000 to Wendell
Phillips, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony. It was "to secure passage of
laws granting women, whether married or unmarried, the right to vote, to
hold office, to hold, manage and devise property, and all other civil rights
enjoyed by men…My desire is that they may become a permanent organization,
until the rights of women shall be established equal with those of men". He
would be distressed to know that his will was contested by his heirs and the
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 1867 that since "women’s
rights" were not an organized charity, the will was void and the $5,000
should go to the heirs.
As an aside, Francis wrote a complete, very
valuable, History of Newton, including a survey of deeds, homeownership, and
biographies. It was so accurate that people who have confirmed his research
have only found one error. Without it, we would know much less about Newton.
The Homestead has his notebooks that he used for his research.
Story 6: Social
Life/Personalities at the Homestead
As you walk around the Homestead, you may try
to picture what daily life was like living here, and what the people were
like. I would like to share with you some of Ellen’s descriptions of the
people and activities. She says,
"You will have already surmised that the
Homestead was exceedingly hospitable, notwithstanding the large family and
mother’s delicate health. The house was overrun with visitors, and parties,
tea drinkings, and dinner parties were often given. Many distinguished
people have been familiar within its doors, so that associations glad, as
well as sad, crowd its rooms." She notes that there were nine weddings,
parties given in honor of in-coming Governors Briggs and Boutwell, Christmas
parties, birthdays, nine births, one baptism, and many deaths in the
Mary Bennet, Ellen’s mother, died in 1867.
Ellen states that the death left "a vacancy made in home and hearts that
could never be filled…Though more than thirty years as an invalid, she was
always cheerful and in every way a most superior woman. With an
affectionate, warm heart, wholly unselfish. Notwithstanding her many
children and cares, she at different times took to her home and care three
children who needed homes."
Frances, Ellen’s sister "died in consumption,
leaving 3 daughters and a baby boy, an incomparable loss to her family. Ever
after, some of the children had a home in the "old homestead" first one then
another, whichever needed the most brooding and care; and all of them always
found a welcome and comfort; and they in return, kept the house lively,
bringing their young friends around them."
Ellen calls Timothy "a handsome man, quiet,
intelligent and refined."
She describes Sarah as "handsome, gentle,
intelligent, religious, highly educated, writing much for periodicals and
papers, and published several books."
William, she says, is "fine looking, fresh
and hearty, a most affectionate father, husband and son"
Edward, the man who was beaten for defending
an African American man, was a "wholly unselfish, affectionate man, his hand
ever ready to help, genial and earnest, tall and commanding and full of
She also shows their inner strength with this
After William’s death in 1855, the family was
left penniless. "From a life of luxury, they were obliged in any and every
way that came to them (Mother and three unmarried daughters) to earn money
for their support. Mother sewed, Caroline gave music lessons, and also sang
in the choir of Park, St. Church, Boston. Ellen gave lessons in painting and
sold pictures, and Mouse taught school. The house was filled with boarders,
mostly young gentlemen, so an entire change came over their lives and the
ways of the ‘old homestead’." The women did what they had to do.
I hope that from these stories, you now know
more about your ancestors, and feel some kinship to them, maybe even seeing
yourself in some of them. They were achievers of their time. From
anti-slavery to women’s rights, from the Revolutionary War to the railroad
to charity organizations, they contributed greatly to their community.
I think all the Jacksons who have lived here
would be very happy about this gathering, and probably surprised about all
the stories I have told. They lived their lives doing the best they could,
probably not thinking they were so special. Well, we think they were.
I would like to conclude by sharing some
excerpts of a poem called "Jackson Homestead" by Frederick Stanwood
Jackson. He was Timothy’s youngest son and wrote it in 1876 at 36 years of
age when he was in business in New York.
I Love to remember and let my thoughts wander
To the Days of my boyhood; it seems but a
To the joys of my youth, to the old Jackson
To the place which so oft with our voices has
To the orchard behind and the garden before
(No garden to my eyes has since looked so
The green, creeping vine, and the porch that
did bear it,
They help make the picture on which I would
The old house itself, how it thrills me with
When I think of its halls through which I
Its nooks and its corners, every one I will
There’s no other such "homestead," no, not in
The ivy still clings to the old "Jackson
In the rooms where we gathered on bright
It still remains green, as though it had
I love the "old homestead," and never will
The old-fashioned furniture, the odd-looking
The different quaint things brought from
The dread we all had of the quiet old attic,
Where together we children had many good
And the songs that we sung that through the
The games that we played, shall we ever
Tough things are now plain at which we then
Green are the memories of those pleasant
The children I met there are now men and
Some we shall see no more, they are dead.
But all were made better by pains that were
To make us all happy at "Jackson Homestead"
So long may you stand, thou time-honored
A landmark for future ages to see;
Tell the man of the future, while you saw his
This was the home of true nobility."