Judge Levi Jackson

By: Renee Beets

The first judge of Laurel County is probably one of the most recognized names in the county due to a local park being named in his honor. Levi Jackson was born March 17, 1816, in Tennessee to Laurel County pioneers Reuben Jackson and Mary Elizabeth Houston. He died July 17, 1879, and is buried at the Levi Jackson Cemetery where his wife and seven of his ten children are also buried. This cemetery is located in the park on the east side of Highway 229 on a hill.

​"On November 13, 1837 he married Rebecca Freeman (May 31, 1818 - January 4, 1897), daughter of pioneers John Freeman and Rebecca Reid. Freeman was a Revolutionary War Soldier, tavern operator and owner of a 1000 acre farm on the Wilderness Road (which ran through their land about two miles) just south of London. Rebecca Freeman Jackson inherited the historic homestead section, which is now a part of Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park, from her father who was grated this tract of land for war services." (Laurel County Historical Society Jackson Files)

When the 1850 Kentucky Constitution established the office of County Judge, Levi Jackson became the first judge of Laurel County and served two consecutive terms from approximately 1852 -1858. He then served another term from 1870 -1874.

"Judge Jackson is remembered as the Democratic judge who succeeded in beating his Republican opponent, Andrew Black, by just twenty votes. At that time there was no newspaper in the county, but Dr. Smith had a printing press and allowed the candidates to print circulars of vituperation against each other." (Russell Dyche's History of Laurel County, page 64)

"Two of the Jackson's sons were Lieutenants in the Union Army. His favorite slave, Moses, also served in that army. Regardless of this, Jackson was arrested as a "Rebel Sympathizer" by Colonel Mundy, a personal friend who permitted him to occupy his own tent while under arrest. Levi's son Lieutenant William H. Jackson was Quartermaster in Colonel (later General) T.T. Garrard's regiment. William reportedly complained to their Commanding General who said, "If Mundy does not turn Jackson loose. I shall attack his force and take Jackson away from him." This secured Levi's immediate release. Incidentally after the war, Moses returned to and remained with Jackson as a faithful servant until his death. His grave, properly marked, is in the row of Jackson's own children in the private family grave yard." (Jackson Files)

"Levi Jackson remained active in the county affairs until his death. He also operated a general store and the Laurel River Post Office in Connection with his tavern. (The Historical Society Library has a copy of a ledger used in Levi Jackson's store.) He brought the first cook stove to the county." (files) "He became a county commissioner in 1848." (Dr. Thomas Clark's History of Laurel County, page 143)

Using the following excerpts from The Mountain Echo one can glean some interesting information about the life of Judge Jackson. In claims presented to the Laurel County Court, Levi Jackson was paid $40 as commissioner for the jail. (November 1, 1875) "Mrs. D.H. Colyer of Madison County is visiting her father Levi Jackson at Laurel Bridge. (June 2, 1876) Levi Jackson and his daughter Miss Lucy had gone to Hot Springs, Arkansas." (September 15, 1876) "Judge Levi Jackson and wife who have been making quite an extended trip to Texas, returned home Friday. The Judge thinks Texas a very good state for young people but inclines to the belief that old and middle aged men had better stay where they are." (January 18, 1878) "The post office at Laurel Bridge has been reestablished with Judge Levi Jackson as postmaster" (January 10, 1879)

"Judge Levi Jackson is very ill and has telegraphed to his son, Dr. J.W. Jackson of Texas, to come home immediately. The Judge has been in very delicate health for several years and has several very severe strokes of paralysis, consequently his illness is rendering more alarming." (January 31, 1879) "Dr. J.W. Jackson arrived at his father's last Monday night. His father is yet in very delicate health and only seemed to be somewhat enlivened and encouraged by the arrival of the Doctor." (February 7, 1879) "Judge Jackson who has been confined to his bed for several weeks with paralysis has improved very much recently and is now able to walk about the house. We are very glad to learn of the judge's improvement and hope he will soon permanently recover" (March 21, 1879) "As we go to press we learn that Judge Levi Jackson of this county, who has been sick for several months, died yesterday evening." (July 18, 1879)

In 1931 Levi Jackson's two surviving children Colonel Garrett Jackson of Eustis, Florida and Miss Ella Jackson gave the first 307 acres to the state and named the park for their father and the Wilderness Road which had meant so much to their father and to them. In 2019 the state transferred ownership of the park to the city of London. There is now 896 acres within the boundary of the Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park. (levijacksonpark.com)


Children of Levi and Rebecca Freeman Jackson

1. William H. Jackson born August 26, 1838 died December 28, 1867
buried Jackson Family Cemetery never married.

2. Christopher Columbus "CC." "Bum" Jackson born June 11, 1840 died January 16, 1910
married Ella Adams July 3, 1866. This family moved to Sherman, Texas.

3. Lucy Ann Jackson born June 21, 1842 died July 23, 1924 in Jacksonville, Florida
buried in Jackson Family Cemetery never married.

4. Sarah Catherine Jackson born June 20, 1844 died November 6, 1862
buried in the Jackson Family Cemetery never married.

5. Dr. James Westerfield Jackson born February 12, 1847 died August 24, 1905 in Texas
buried in the Jackson Family Cemetery married Nellie Potter, no children.

6. Garrard/Garrette David Jackson born may 28, 1849, died 1930's,
married Lily M. Brown December 25, 1884. Lived in Texas.

7. Nancy Jane "Nannie" Jackson born December 23, 1851 died August 24, 1930
married David A. Colyer January 28, 1873. This family lived in Missouri.

8. John Stephen Jackson born May 4, 1854 died December 25, 1918
married Cordelia B. Mathews December 31, 1885. This family moved to Texas.

9. George M. Jackson born January 28, 1857 died January 31, 1857.

10. Mary Ellen "Ella" Jackson born 1860 died December 23, 1943 in ancestral home
never married.


Genealogical information compiled from Laurel County Historical Society's Jackson files, Southeast Laurel County Cemeteries, Volume1, page 162, and Russell Dyche's History of Laurel County. Most of this information was copied as written in files and not verified. There are no known descendants of Levi and Rebecca Jackson living in Laurel County today.

Renee Beets
Director - LCHS