Robert H. Jackson Center

The Robert H. Jackson Center

An Independent Clan: The History of the Jackson Family

Robert H. Jackson was born and raised in two small towns in Northwestern Pennsylvania and Southwestern, New York. The fields, farms, streams, and back roads of these communities cradled his childhood. During these early years, the people and places he remembered later in life are credited with shaping his strengths and honing his values.

In celebration of Jackson’s birthday on February 13th, join us over the next two weeks for a special reflection on the life of Robert H. Jackson, told through his own words and presenting historical photos from the archives at the Jackson Center.


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Robert H. Jackson was born on February 13, 1892 in Spring Creek Pennsylvania

The families that make up my blood lines all had settled in Warren County, Pennsylvania, very early in its history. They are the Jacksons, the Eldreds, the Houghwouts, and the Gregorys.

All of these ancestors were hard-working people, with no patience for idlers. All of them seemed to enjoy work, or at least left that impression with me. None of them had any great ambition to get on in the world beyond the simple security of owning their farms. They had large families in general. The county of Warren is full of near and remote relatives--good, bad and indifferent--who have stayed in their own community and followed their simple lives.

They were thrifty. The women particularly were ingenious in making things, and in making a little do a great deal. They were all independent of the community life, in a sense, and never looked to others for support of even companionship. Yet they enjoyed good relations with neighbors and friends.

I think I omitted to say that all of the Houghwouts also were Democrats. They had no disposition to follow the community in their thinking, their habits, their ways of life. They were self-sufficient and self-reliant, believed that it was up to them to take care of themselves, sought no help and taught, insofar as they consciously taught anything, thrift, industry and self-reliance.


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Jackson was born in this house, built next to the Brokenstraw Creek in northwestern Pennsylvania by his great-grandfather Elijah Jackson. Jackson’s parents pose in the foreground of this old family photograph

Perhaps the first of the older Jacksons to influence me was my Grand Uncle William Miles. After my father married in 1884, William Miles, who was comfortably well-to-do and getting to be an old man, didn’t want to work the farm any longer himself. So he induced my father and mother to take the farm which they did, with the understanding that they would make a home for him while he lived. I was not born until 1892, some eight years after my father and mother were married, but Uncle William lived with the family until 1899 when he died, so that some seven years of my life he was a member of the household.

I remember the old man pretty distinctly. He was in a very real sense my baby sitter. He was a very active person, and walked a great deal. As soon as my legs would carry me I many times walked the old Spring Creek farm over with him. He pointed out various freaks such as a mound with a deep and regular depression in the center which he thought was built by the Indians. We went to the springs often to get a drink of water. He taught me the different kinds of trees, told me stories about the animals and Indians that were there when his family came, and generally was my first teacher and nurse. He has been long a justice of the peace and was frequently consulted by his neighbors, and knew some-thing of the workings of the law in that community. It was from him that I got my first vague ideas about laws, courts, arrests, trials, constables, as well as about the kind of people that got into trouble with the law.

Quotes taken from
The Reminiscences of Robert H. Jackson (1952) in the Columbia University Oral History Research Office Collection, Pg. 1, 10, 11, 28, 29


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Author Charles Shields

2015 Young Readers Program

The Robert H. Jackson Center is pleased to welcome Charles Shields author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee as the presenter for the 2015 Young Readers Program. The event will take place Wednesday May 13, 2015 with two scheduled presentations, 10 a.m. at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts and an afternoon session at 12:30 p.m. at the Robert H. Jackson Center. Find out more information about this program including the author event and essay contest....