Monday, September 29, 2014

Where there is a WILL, there is a way (The story of Julia Jackson)

Every summer, mom and dad would drive from Long Island, NY down to South Carolina to see the family. I would stay up all for most of the 16 hour trip just to make sure we stopped at South of the Border. I had to get my fireworks from Pedro for the Fourth of July! That was always the highlight of the trip for me but dad wanted us to get to know our kinfolk.

Dad really was the glue that kept all the family together. For 2 weeks dad would make sure we got to see almost all the branches of family scattered across the state. Last on the trip would be a visit to the countryside of Ritter in Colleton County. There resided the Jackson family. Julia Ann Murray Jackson (1889 - 1978) was my great-grandmother. I don't remember much about her because she died when I was young. Whenever I look at this photo of her, I tend to revert to a 5 year old, want to jump in her lap and listen to her tell me a story. I remember fig trees in her yard and fresh pecans in her kitchen. She had a big country farm full of cows, pigs and horses left to her by her husband, my great-grandfather George Jackson (1887 - 1967).

Peter Murray and his wife Rebecca Grant-Murray lived near the Jackson family. I had mentioned Peter's father Henry Murray in an earlier blog post. George married his neighbor Peter's daughter Julia in 1908 and were devoted Catholics. Life for them was blessed but sometimes chaotic. George received plenty of farm land in Ritter by his father Frank Jackson.  George worked at the local saw mill by day and was a bootlegger by night. He was literally two different people. His nickname was TUNK. That's what you called him when you wanted to buy some alcohol. During the time of prohibition, you could make a fortune on corn liquor. He would bring his shotgun to church on Sunday just in case he had to run out to protect his still. The still was located deep in the woods near his house but was within running distance of St. James the Greater Church at Catholic Hill in case the police showed up. I remember seeing what was left of the still back in the 70s but I didn't have a clue what went on there. Back then, kids were seen and not heard. And what went on in the family, STAYED in the family.  I guess we had our own version of Boardwalk Empire going on back then.

Rumor has it that George and Julia had 20 children. Unfortunately, the Jackson family descendants only remember 17 of them. Three must have been stillborn or died very young.

I have a copy of my great-grandfather's Last Will and Testament dated October 18, 1965. George Jackson owned 108 acres of land in Catholic Hill, near the community of Ritter, in Blake Township, Colleton County, South Carolina. The estate included three homes (George's, Harold's and Henrietta's) and land was valued at $35K (equivalent to $261K in 2014). The will only listed 10 surviving children. All of the property and estate went to Julia. Before she died, she prepared a will that left everything to her surviving children and their descendants. Julia Jackson died on January 15, 1978 and was buried alongside her husband at St. James the Greater Cemetery in Catholic Hill. The Jackson property was to be distributed in tenths to coincide with those children mentioned in the will. Approximately 10.8 acres were to go to each child.

George and Julia's children were:

Frances Jackson: She died in 1956. Her share (1/10) of the estate was split evenly between the 5 children by her husband James Young Sr.

Frank Jackson: He received one tenth of the estate. He is pictured below. He was married to Evelyn Jackson and had no children. It was rumored that he had one son out of wedlock.

Mary Jackson: She received one tenth of the estate. She had one daughter out of wedlock.

Georgia Jackson: She married Terry Griffin. They had no children before she died. She received one tenth of the estate.

James "Bubba" Jackson: He died young with no children.

Earnestine Jackson: She died young with no children.

Harold Jackson: He was married to Queen Hairston. He received one tenth of the estate. They had 2 children. He also had 3 children out of wedlock with Rosemary Radcliff. 

Henrietta Jackson: She received one tenth of the estate. She had 1 child. Henrietta took care of her mother until she died. She is pictured below with Julia's great grandchildren Karen Radcliff-Ferguson, George Jackson III, Harold Radcliff and Mary Frances Jackson-Holmes. Her home is pictured in the background.

Lee Jackson: He married Evelyn A. Johnson. He received one tenth of the estate. They had 2 children.

Cornelia Jackson: She was the wife of Anderson Chisolm Sr.. She received one tenth of the estate. They had 4 children.

George Jackson Jr.: He died young with no children.

Minnie Jackson: She was the wife of Harley Magwood. She received one tenth of the estate. They had 2 children.

Dorothy Jackson: She died young with no children.

Bell Jackson: She died young with no children.

Wesley Jackson: He died young with no children.

William Jackson: He died young with no children.

Louise Jackson: She married Oliver Bartholomew from Grenada. She received one tenth of the estate. They had 3 children together. Louise had one son prior to this marriage.

Unfortunately the harmony within this family did not last. After Julia's death, the surviving siblings fought to gain control of majority share of the property. Henrietta produced a third will appeared that stated the land wasn't divided evenly. She felt she deserved more for taking care of  Julia in her final years. The children of Frances Jackson-Young received only 0.93 acres each!  This caused a major rift between the Youngs and Jacksons. Henrietta died shortly after her mother and then Frank assumed control of the land. The legal battle went on for nearly 20 years until all of the original Jackson siblings died off in the 1990s.

Now there are more descendants and the property has been divided even further with a bit sold off. Our ancestral homes are no longer there but some of the land is still ours. So in order to restore peace, several of us plan to hold a Jackson Family Reunion on the old homestead within the next year or two.

It was hard but my great-grandmother showed that she loved all her children EVENLY. I hope that this reunion will settle her spirit and bring the family back together as one.


  1. I pray that it will Wayne. Great Story!

  2. Excellent write-up! I pray that "peace" will be restored in your family.


  3. Oh Wayne, this is an incredibly beautiful and well written post! I hope and pray that the reunion settles things in the family.

  4. I pray it goes well with your family. Disagreement about inheritance is all to common within families.

  5. My husband used to work with the Emergency Land Fund in SC to try and save black farmland. This is what has happened to so much of our land that what farm land is left is miniscule. Sad, especially when you think about how hard it was for the original family members to get hold of that land.

    I've got a land dispute that split my family several generations ago. I still can't find any of the other branches.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you can bring them back together!