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Jackson Homestead

Photograph courtesy of the Newton History Musuem at the Jackson Homestead
The Jackson Homestead is a well-preserved Federal-style house in Newton, Massachusetts. Corroborating written reminiscences and oral tradition provide evidence that the house served as a station on the Underground Railroad. Timothy Jackson (1756-1814) built the family homestead in 1809 after serving in the Revolutionary War and returning to Newton to farm his family's land. His son William Jackson (1783-1855) moved to the house in 1820, and established a soap and candle factory on the property while also engaging in an impressive public career. William was a member of the Massachusetts General Court from 1832 to 1833, a member of the 22nd and 23rd United States Congress and, as a general agent for the Boston and Worcester Railroad, was largely responsible for routing the line through Newton. Locally, he headed the Temperance Society, was founder of the Newton Savings Bank, the Eliot Church and the Newton Female Academy.

Like his brother Francis Jackson, Treasurer of the Vigilance Committee in Boston, William was an abolitionist and offered his home as a safehaven on the Underground Railroad. William's role in the Underground Railroad was recounted by his daughter Ellen, who recalled a night when William Bowditch of Brookline brought a runaway slave to the Homestead, where he stayed until he could be taken to freedom. Ellen wrote that

"the Homestead's doors stood ever open with a welcome to any of the workers against slavery for as often and as long as suited their convenience or pleasure. The Homestead was one of the Stations of the "Under Ground Rail Road" which was continually helping runaway Slaves from the South to Canada. One night between 12 and one o'clock, I well remember father was awakened by pebbles thrown against his window. He rose asked what was wanted? Bowditch replied it was he, with a runaway slave whom he wished father to hide till 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 15 miles to a Station where he could take a car for Canada. He could not have safely left by any Boston Station."

After William Jackson's death in 1855, his widow Mary Bennett Jackson and three unmarried daughters were left in reduced circumstances, but continued to play a role in the life of the community. In 1865, Ellen helped to found the Freedman's Aid Society in Newton and served as its President until her death in 1902. Contributions of bedding, clothing and books sent to the black universities of Hampton and Tuskeege Institutes are recorded in the Society's minute book. In 1906, after the death of the last daughter Caroline, the house was refurbished and subsequently occupied by William's descendants until 1932, when it was rented. Further record of the oral tradition of fugitives being harbored at the Homestead was based on an interview with William Jackson's granddaughter, Louise Jackson Keith, who was one of the last Jackson descendants to live at the Jackson Homestead before it was given to the City of Newton in 1949. The Netwon History Musuem was established here in 1950, and offers a wide range of public programs and exhibitions including interpretive ongoing and annual programs on the Underground Railroad and abolition.

The Jackson Homestead is located at 527 Washington St., in Newton, Massachusetts. Now the home of the Newton History Museum, the house is open Tuesday-Friday, 11:00am to 5:00pm, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5:00pm. There is a fee for admission. For further information visit the museum's website or call 617-796-1450.

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