The property on which the Dixon-Jackson House sits (on the northeast side of Lancaster Pike, just north of Valley Road) was originally purchased from Letitia Penn in 1726 by Henry Dixon (1692-1742), the son of an Irish Quaker. Although there is no direct evidence to know for sure, it's likely that Henry, who was a founding member of the Hockessin Friends Meeting, built the first part of the house, a one room log home, not long after he bought the land. After his death in 1742, the house went next to his son Samuel Dixon (1725-1804), who sold it in 1771. Although some members of the Dixon family remained in the area, Samuel moved west after selling his property, ending up in far southwest Pennsylvania's Fayette County (where hopefully he didn't get caught up in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794).
With the 1771 sale came into the area probably the most prominent Hockessin family of the 19th century, the Jacksons. James Jackson (1736-1817) purchased from Dixon 200 acres surrounding the intersection of the main road from Lancaster to Wilmington and the Hockessin Road (Valley Road). Included in the tract was the small log house built by Henry Dixon, along with possibly a mill, as Jackson operated a saw mill as well as farming the land. The house we see today was constructed in four stages, with the log house being the first. The second stage was built by James Jackson sometime between 1771 and 1798. To the old log house Jackson added a two story (with basement) stone addition, which is present today as the front, right (north) parlor. The front door was located where the middle, right window is now, and the winder stairs now on the interior wall were then on the north exterior wall. During this period (either before or after the renovation), local lore states that the house was used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War. There might be some truth to this, as apparently a twentieth century owner unearthed a grave in the front yard containing the remains of British and American soldiers.
|Plan of first floor, showing periods of construction|
Sometime before 1849 (judging by a map), ownership of the house passed to Thomas' oldest son, James C. Jackson (1816-1907). There is not much information around about James C., outside of the mention that he was a farmer, primarily a fruit-grower. In his family and in history, he was far overshadowed by his brother John G. Jackson, who I know will be the subject of a future post. Most mentions I found about James don't say anything about him after 1868, some even implying or outright speculating that he died about that time. In fact, he did sell the house on Lancaster Pike in 1868, but did not die until much later. Here is the only evidence I can find of James after 1868 -- record of a grave in a cemetery near Swarthmore in Ridley Township, PA. I'm confident that this is the same man, because, A) I know his daughter Alice attended Swarthmore College and later taught at an adjoining school, and B) his wife Amelia is interred at the same cemetery. So, apparently after selling the house, James moved his family to Pennsylvania. One other note on the house during this period, local lore suggests that the house and barn (which I think was located along the road just beyond the current parking lot) were used as a stop along the Underground Railroad. Since the house is just south of the state line, and the Jacksons were Quakers, I think it's very possible that this legend has some truth to it.
The history of the house gets a bit foggy after 1868, but it looks like Jackson sold the house to John McGovern, which is lent credence by the fact that the next road past the property is McGovern Rd. From 1875 to 1926, the house was owned by members of the Garrett family, who operated the Snuff Mill just to the east in Yorklyn. The final alterations to the house were made in the first few decades of the 20th century, either by Garretts or later owners. This last phase consisted of the addition of a porch on the north gable end and the insertion of a door to the porch (which then necessitated the moving of the winder stairs to the opposite wall), and later on the enlarging of the porch and a small expansion of the kitchen wing. Today, the house serves as an example of something I've run across more in cities than rural areas -- old houses being preserved and used as commercial space. The Dixon-Jackson House is currently being used as a chiropractic office. Of the many who drive by or enter this beautiful old home each day, I'm sure few are fully aware of the property's long history, stretching back almost 300 years.
|Rear of the house, showing parking lot and |
entrance for chiropractic office