Samuel Randall Jackson’s life seems right out of a Horatio Alger rags-to-riches story. Born in Canterbury, NH, in 1803, he grew up in a log cabin on a Vermont farm where his family barely eked out a living. At age thirteen, he left home and settled in Topsham, Maine, working as a “chore-boy.” Three years later, the teen went to work in George F. Richardson’s grocery and variety store, where he stayed for five years.
Jackson credits his emulation of Richardson’s “example of honesty, justice, economy, perseverance and industry” with shaping him into a man who was able to create his own success. Jackson would have ample need of that perseverance and industry to overcome adversity that might cause others to crumble.
Twice as a young man he had to start over after fires. The first fire, at Richardson’s store, destroyed everything Jackson owned and left him with frostbitten feet. The second was at his own store, which he rented from Richardson. After the $4000 loss, Jackson’s partner, Major Nahum Perkins, left the business, but Jackson persevered. He took on Major Frost as his partner and began anew.
In 1830 he married Jane Fulton Winchell of Topsham. They relocated to Worcester, Mass., where he spent the next seven years in the lumber business. Samuel and Jane Jackson settled into married life, beginning their family and joining Worcester’s Methodist Episcopal Church to support their quest for lives of honesty and justice.
Unfortunately, their church didn’t share the family’s anti-slavery views. Unwilling to compromise their moral beliefs, the Jacksons and several other families seceded. They then became members of the ‘True Wesleyan church’ which followed the teachings of early Methodist leader and abolitionist, John Wesley.
Twenty years after leaving Maine, the family embarked on a new adventure. In 1850 Jane Jackson, daughters Susan and Sarah, and son Osceola, relocated to Topsham. Samuel left for California where he spent two years selling coal for his business, Jackson and Sterry Coal Co. The trip was not without danger. The Brunswick Telegraph reported in Jackson’s obituary:
…he was cast away on the coast of Oregon, in the schooner “Harriett”, the vessel being loaded with lumber from the Columbia river, and bound for San Francisco. The schooner was dismasted and driven by the gale, into an arm of the sea; unable to escape, as the trade winds were contrary, the people were obliged to remain on short allowance of provisions, and in momentary fear of being captured by the Indians and massacred by them. Mr. Jackson with several other passengers, accepted the guidance of an Indian of friendly aspect, and by journeying across the country, they reached the Columbia river, where they took a steamer for San Francisco. The word received by paper, “Seen dismasted and in distress, the sea making a clean breach over her decks by Brig Venezuela,” gave his friends reason to suppose that he was lost. An obituary of him appeared in the columns of the “Wesleyan” by Rev. W. H. Brewster.
After this near disaster he returned to his family in Maine. They settled in Brunswick, remaining there for the next twenty-two years. Jackson was active in business and politics, serving two terms in the State Legislature, and was president of Maine Bank and its successor 1st National Bank. He was a director of the Brunswick Gas Light Co. and a stockholder of the Androscoggin Pulp Co. Not surprisingly after his high seas adventure, he organized a marine insurance company, as well. In 1874, Jackson, by then a wealthy man, chose to retire to Plainfield, New Jersey, with wife Jane and daughter Sarah.
But Jackson’s wanderlust got the better of him. He, his wife, and their daughter returned to Brunswick in 1886.
When Samuel Randall Jackson died in 1892, the Brunswick Telegraph printed:
In many hearts is he here remembered and revered for his kindly acts of helpfulness and sympathy for the unfortunate and distressed. In this connection we may refer to his donation in 1891 of $1000 to the Public Library. An unexpected favor at one time was shown one of his family by a stranger. Upon expressing surprise, the stranger answered, “I am always glad to be able to do anything in my power for any one belonging to Mr. Jackson; he was my friend when I was in my sorest need, and with his help, so freely and kindly given, I was saved from disgrace.”
Jackson was buried in Riverside Cemetery.
It’s not Jackson’s bootstrap success and sterling character we remember today. It’s the four properties that Samuel R. Jackson, Gentleman, bought on the Androscoggin River at the corner of Pleasant St. and River Rd. in 1873.
That year the Brunswick Telegraph wrote:
New Cemetery. S. R. Jackson, Esq., has recently purchased the lot of land, comprising 12 acres, more or less, lying at the intersection, on the north side of Pleasant Street or Portland Road, and the road leading to Rocky Hill. This land he will lay out for a public cemetery, and work is to be immediately commenced in the way of general improvement and the assignment of lots. The land lies upon the river’s bank and is favorably located for the purpose designed;–with trees set out and walks and driveway tastefully arranged the place may become highly ornamental to that part of the village.
Despite his harrowing experiences at sea, Jackson’s headstone on the cemetery’s highest point faces the Androscoggin River rather than the cemetery that extends below.
Next Blog: Sins of the Father
Osceola Jackson was probably named for Mount Osceola in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
- Ancestry.com: United States Federal Censuses
- Brunswick Telegraph, April 7, 1892
- Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, 25 Pearl St., Portland, Maine and https://me.uslandrecords.com/ME/Cumberland/D/Default.aspx
- The Horatio Alger Society, http://www.horatioalgersociety.net/100_biography.html, © Francis Rodgers, 2011
- History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Abel Stevens, Digital by Edition by Holiness Data Ministry http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyctr/books/0201-0300/stevens/
- The Wesleyan Church, https://www.wesleyan.org/beliefs
- History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878