Joint Effort Uncovers Robert H. Jackson Birthsite
A joint effort has uncovered the birthsite of one of the region’s most famous sons — Robert H. Jackson.
Best known as chief prosecutor for the U.S. at the Nuremberg trials and associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, Jackson was born in a Spring Creek farmhouse in 1895.
The home was demolished nearly 50 years ago but Mercyhurst University, the Robert H. Jackson Center, the property owner, and others have come together to study the birthsite of one of the most influential people of the 20th century.
And that effort culminated on Saturday with a senior thesis presentation held at the Spring Creek Fire Hall.
Greg Peterson, a co-founder of the Jackson Center, described Saturday’s event as the “culmination of activities that have occurred over the last year,” and the “result of an ongoing relationship with Mercyhurst University.”
“This doesn’t happen without the people that own the property,” he added, also crediting Arthur Stewart, saying that “if he doesn’t clear the site, we have no site to look at to actually study.”
The thesis was offered by Rose Pregler, a senior at Mercyhurst and a former Jackson Center intern.
She said her focus was on the remains — primarily the foundation — of the farmhouse and that students in field school this summer would survey the barn area.
“(There’s) a lot more to discover,” she said, explaining that she completed a “pedestrian survey” of the site which revealed “primarily glass, metal, and ceramic, which is consistent with most historical sites,” and identified a brick concentration which matched historical photos of the house.
She also noted that a specific type of porcelain that was primarily made between 1890 and 1910 was located.
In addition to the archeological work, Pregler also presented a “historical narrative of the Jackson farmstead,” noting that most of the information available on the house is in “disparate biographies” and other sources, such as oral archives.
Her work included interviews with two Jackson family members as well as someone who lived in the area when the home was demolished.
She explained that Jackson returned to the site in the 1920s and 1930s as the “family partook in annual summer trips to Jamestown, N.Y., and Spring Creek,” and that it was a “popular retreat” and an “opportunity for Jackson to get away from the madness in Washington.”
Pregler detailed that Jackson’s daughter, Mary, brought her family back to the area. They built a getaway up on Turner Hill.
Pregler said the farmstead “critically forms family identity” for the Jackson family. “The family feels (their) roots are in Spring Creek…”
She noted that interest in Jackson’s legacy exists and expressed optimism that interest in the Spring Creek site was “recently revived.
“For a scattered family, ties to ancestral lands binds them together.”
Craighill spoke and said Pregler’s presentation “encapsulated a lot of the sentiment that we have as a family about Spring Creek.
“I never met my grandfather. He died three years before I was born at an age just one year older than I am now,” she said. “As I look back on this… how much he accomplished in such a short amount of time, I can say one thing absolutely for certain… Robert H. Jackson loved Spring Creek.
“This was a place that really shaped his character (and) also gave him solace and rejuvenation throughout his life.”