A Visit to the Ancestral Homestead

When I  first set up our genealogical wiki,  I just had a list of names. Some of them with dates, parents, spouses, and children. To make sure they were really related to us, I searched for each one online. One of them, Edward Jackson,  was mentioned in a Wikipedia article.I was thrilled to find that his house, built in the 17th century, has been preserved as a historic landmark. Since  I was going to be in Boston for my class reunion, I started making arrangements  to visit the house with my brother Steven, who is also a descendant.Our line of descent, according to my records, is from Edward Jackson to his daughter Hannah Jackson Ward, to her son Jonathan Ward, to his daughter Remember Ward Richardson, to her son David Richardson, to his daughter Hannah Richardson Moore; to her son Jonathan Moore, to his daughter, Sarah Grey Dennett Moore, to her daughter Emma Augusta  Moore, who lived to be over 100, and who lived with my grandparents, so my father grew up knowing her.

G and S Jackson Homestead

It’s an amazing feeling to walk into a house where your six-times-great ancestors lived and played .  We got to look at one of the most precious exhibits: a handwritten diary by one of the daughters, Ellen, who titled it “Annals from The Old Homestead“, dated 1895.  It provides documentary evidence that the house was a stop on the Underground Railway.

A diagram on the wall showed slaveholding homes and Underground Railway houses in the neighborhood. Steven noted with poignancy that some of the slaves could easily have slipped away from their owners in the night. But what Jackson was doing was illegal. And if too many took advantage of it, it would be discovered.

In colonial times, John Eliot was held in high honor as “apostle to the Indians” (Puritan missionary) He was a peacemaker between Indians and colonists. Edward Jackson was one of his strongest supporters. Eliot began his mission to “civilize and Christianize” the Nonantum Indians on October 28, 1646.   In 1896, the town of Newton appropriated $250  for a commemorative 250th anniversary celebration of Eliot’s mission. The program for the event and the transcripts of the addresses show a sectarianism that would  have the ACLU tearing its hair out today.



2 thoughts on “A Visit to the Ancestral Homestead

  1. After this visit I began to wonder what the chronology of slavery in Massachusetts was. Was there still slavery after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850? According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_slavery_in_Massachusetts, “The Massachusetts Supreme Court decisions in Walker v. Jennison [1781] and Commonwealth v. Jennison [1783] established the basis for ending slavery in Massachusetts on constitutional grounds, but no law or amendment to the state constitution was passed.” The map of slaveholding and abolitionist households, then, is an anachronism: it presents those households as if they were all present in Newton at the same time. I concluded they they were not.

    Thinking about the timeline of slavery, I realized that there were still freed American slaves alive when I was a child. Not only that; in Salvador, Brazil, in 1978, I heard a former slave speak. In Brazil emancipation was not official until May 1888. Not only was he born into slavery, but he claimed that he was raised for breeding, so he must have reached adolescence by 1888. He would have had to be a few years over 100 when I heard him.


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