By Jan Sparkman
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Most written records of Jarvis Jackson portray him as a benevolent leader in Laurel County’s early days and a wise advisor in his older years. He may have had more to do with developing Laurel County than any other person of his era. Russell Dyche, whose family ran this newspaper for four generations, may be as important in chronicling history as Jackson was in making it.
In a booklet titled “Glimpses of London and Her People” written in 1895 and published by the then Mountain-Echo whose publisher was A.R. Dyche, Russell’s father, there appears a biographical sketch of Jarvis Jackson that we may assume gives reliable information about this early and dedicated public servant.
Dyche writes: “Gen. Jarvis Jackson was a native of Virginia; was born January 18, 1788. Together with his father’s family he came to Kentucky when but a youth. He served as a soldier during the War of 1812. When Laurel County was organized in 1826, the family lived in a house that stood between where the London Depot and the Riley Hotel now stand.
Gen. Jackson and his father donated some 25 or 30 acres for the location of the county seat of Laurel County, but afterwards by agreement the land was taken back and Gen. Jackson in consideration of it bore the expense of erecting the court house and jail, both of which have long since been replaced with other and better buildings.
Jarvis Jackson was an honest, truthful man, who always had many friends. He was known to be the special friend of the poor and needy, without regard to race or color. He served as a Representative in the Legislature and as Sheriff and Justice of the Peace. By energy and industry he acquired considerable real estate, all of which was inherited at his death by his only child, John C. Jackson.
When quite old he united with the Methodist Church and remained with them until his death, which occurred January 17, 1883, aged 95 years, less one day.”
I have not been able to verify that Jarvis Jackson was a general in the War of 1812, only that he is usually referred to as General Jackson. Possibly this was just an address of respect. No mention is made of the fact that Jackson was one of Laurel County’s biggest slave owners before the War Between the States. Though sentiment was mostly with the Union in southeastern Kentucky, that doesn’t seem to have affected Jarvis Jackson’s legacy. Of course, by the time Dyche wrote this piece, the war had been over for 30 years.
When the Swiss immigrants came to Laurel County in the early 1880s, many of them bought their land from Jackson. But that’s a story for another time.
Remember that the above sketch was written in 1895 and that the railroad through London at that time was located where the present Mill Street runs today. The London Depot spoken of in Dyche’s writing sat about where Justice Shamrock Glass Company is now.
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The Laurel County Historical Society is located at 310 W. 3rd St., London, (formerly the Laurel County Health Department). The library is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 12 noon. For further information, contact 606-864-0607 during library hours, or 606-224-3767 at other times. Visit the historical society’s website: http://www.laurelcountykyhistoricalsociety.org. Email the society at email@example.com or Jan Sparkman at firstname.lastname@example.org.