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Amherst Historical Society , “Henry Jackson Home, Railroad Street, formerly Jackson Street,” Amherst Historic, accessed February 27, 2024, https://amhersthistoric.org/items/show/24.
- Henry Jackson.
50 Railroad Street. Henry Jackson Home. Henry Jackson was born in North Amherst in 1818, and attended school in East Amherst as best he could while laboring stagecoach stables during much of the year. He eventually opened his own business, advertising himself as a truckman, a hauler of whatever needs to be hauled. He married twice and had one son. Throughout the 19th century, Henry Jackson was an important figure. Before the railroad came to town in the 1850s, Jackson trucked goods up and down the valley for farmers and businesses. The palm leaf hat business which began to thrive in Amherst owed a great deal to Jackson who would pick up the raw material in Palmer at the railroad station and bring them back to Amherst. He would then take the finished products back to this or other depots for shipment throughout the US. He also provided an invaluable service to local businesses who needed to make bank deposits in Northampton or Greenfield as Amherst didn’t have its own bank until 1860. Jackson, along with William Jennings and Lewis Frazier got wind of a plan that the Shaw family of Belchertown was going to sell a young girl, Angeline Palmer, into bondage in the south.
Angeline Palmer was a freeborn African American raised in the Amherst alms-house. Her mother died of smallpox in 1831 when Angeline was about two years old. Her father, Solomon Palmer, does not appear in town records after 1834. Angeline was considered a ward of the town and, as was customary in those days, the Amherst selectmen hired out Angeline as a servant to defray the cost to the town. She was “bound out” to Mason and Susanna (Dwight) Shaw of Belchertown, Massachusetts. A scheme in the Shaw family was hatched to bring the ten-year-old Angeline into Georgia where she could be sold as a slave for about $600 for her. Although Massachusetts laws protected the freedom of all its residents, the laws of Georgia did not allow free blacks to live within the state, without legislative sanction. Servants in the house overheard the letter being read aloud and immediately raised the alarm with the African American community in Amherst. The Amherst selectmen were still legal guardians of the girl. Angeline Palmer’s half-brother was twenty-year-old Lewis Frazier and he and his friends Henry Jackson, 23, and William Jennings, 27, appealed to the selectmen to take action. The selectmen refused to get involved, leaving few options available.
After a confusing journey by coach back to Belchertown, the three men finally found Angeline back at the Shaw home. Frazier entered the Park Street home in search of his sister, while Jackson and Jennings waited in the wagon. A commotion erupted in the house, where Mrs. Shaw and a neighbor had Frazier – with Angeline in his arms – trapped in an upstairs room. Responding to their friend’s call for assistance, Jackson and Jennings forced their way into the house and up the stairs. They pushed Mrs. Shaw aside and opened the door and the three men led Angeline down the stairs, past a crowd that was assembling, and into the buggy and brought her to Colrain, to stay with the family of Charles Green, a black free person.
Published on Mar 1, 2022. Last updated on Apr 15, 2022.