Alva Mead Jackson was awarded in 1998 a medal of honor by the State of Washington. He earned this honor by becoming the only police officer to die in the line of duty in the Columbia Basin city of Pasco, passing away only after successfully subduing bare-handed a deranged boy who had shot to death his father and badly-injured his grandfather on April Fool’s Day 1955.
The policeman’s story of heroism is hardly surprising, though, when you shed light on his family tree. His family name was Jackson, but his ancestry included such notable figures as Sir Henry Williams, alias Cromwell, the grandfather of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland. As a result of this direct descent, Officer Jackson was the first cousin of Lord Protector Cromwell, 11 generations removed.
This story intends to trace the descent of Officer Jackson from Oliver Cromwell’s grandfather, introducing the characters that make up the lineage to Sir Henry Williams alias Cromwell.
Alva Mead Jackson was born on June 8, 1916, in Boulder, Colorado. He was the eldest of two children born to John Alva Jackson and Alice Thomas Jackson. His father was the second of two generation of miners who worked in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains until October 1918, when the Spanish Influenza pandemic took the both him and his wife within two days of each other in Laramie, Wyoming.
His father, John Alva Jackson, was born April 17, 1895, in Kansas, the youngest of seven children of the westward traveling Burrel Andrew Jackson and Sarah Alice Barker Jackson. The Jackson family had passed through Indiana in the early 1800s, and during that period became very strong supporters of President Andrew Jackson. Indeed, after Burrel, it was rumored that the Jackson family had in fact descended from the president. This, of course, was impossible as President Jackson had sired no children himself – he merely acted as guardian for nine children related to his wife Rachel and a family friend named Edward Butler. Most likely, the rumor started when one of John Alva’s sisters would jokingly describe herself as a “daughter of Andrew Jackson” (more accurately, Burrel “Andrew” Jackson).
However, it was Officer Jackson’s grandmother, rather than Burrel, who carried the Cromwell lineage at this point. Sarah Alice Barker was born the third of four children on May 21, 1856, in the farming community of Chariton, the seat of Lucas County, Iowa. A decade later, the town would become known for “high quality watchmaking,” but while they were there, the Barkers were farmers. Sarah’s grandparents were the second family of European descent to settle in Wayne County, Iowa, and were part of the most recent generation of Quakers to be part of Officer Jackson’s ancestry. Their son, Reuben, who after traveling west from North Carolina with his parents, went off to seek adventure and fortune in the California Gold Rush in his early 20s, and then broke off from his parents’ pacifist religion and went to fight the American Civil War while in his late 30s. He served as a corporal in the 4th Iowa Regiment, fighting at Pea Ridge (Missouri), the Siege of Vicksburg (Mississippi), Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge (Tennessee), and Atlanta (Georgia) before mustering out at nearby Jonesboro. He served 3 years, 1 month, and 1 week in the Union Army, and then never moved out of Iowa again, eventually dying in Delphos in 1907.
Officer Jackson’s Cromwell lineage follows no further along his Barker ancestry, but rather extends into the family of Corporal Reuben’s wife, Margaret Jane Finley. She was born around 1828 in Blount County, Tennessee, the second of nine children born to John and Edith Saffel Finley. Her family migrated westward from Tennessee before the Civil War, reaching Lee County, Iowa, by 1856. The generations of Finleys before this one likely held black slaves, but they would have been prohibited from doing so in mid-1850s Iowa. That Margaret Jane would be taken with a young Quaker in 1845 is somewhat telling of how the Finley family might have viewed the whole slave-holding question, even before leaving Tennessee. John and Edith’s new son-in-law would be religiously opposed to the practice.
John Finley’s parents were Robert Finley and Sarah Breckenridge Finley, both Virginians. They married after the start of the Revolutionary War in 1777 in the western hills of Augusta County, where Robert served in the Revolutionary War militia (he would be fined for refusing to leave his wife and home to serve on the frontier as directed a year later). In 1782, Sarah gave birth to John (their fifth child out of 10) a year before Robert was recorded for the last time in Virginia while making a survey in his home county of Augusta. After the war ended in 1783, the next verifiable record of Robert Finley shows him across the Appalachians in Blount County in 1796. What happened with the family in the intervening 13 years is anyone’s guess.
Of Robert’s two parents, the one with Officer Jackson’s connection to the Cromwells is Sarah Breckenridge Finley. Born the third child in 1744 when her parents, George and Ann Doak Breckenridge, moved from away from Augusta County across the border to Albemarle County in the British colony of Virginia, Sarah spent four happy years tagging behind her mother. Then, one cruel day, when late winter began to turn to spring in 1748, the mother passed away and the little girl was left with her Irish-born father, three brothers, and younger sister. The father moved all the children back with family in Augusta County as he himself began tilling a new farm south of Augusta’s new county seat of Stanton. George never remarried, and as the Revolutionary War broke out, the kids left either to fight or be married off to soldiers. Most eventually relocated to Kentucky by the time that George passed away in the Commonwealth of Virginia on 29 September 1790.
George’s parents, Alexander and Jane Preston Breckenridge, brought the family to the New World from Irish Ulster around 1728. Part of a second wave of a drought-induced Scot-Irish migration, they passed through Pennsylvania on their way to Virginia. In keeping with the observation that “no Scot-Irish family would feel comfortable until it had moved twice,” the Breckenridges settled only after a decade in the New World, finally arriving in Virginia’s Orange County, predecessor to Augusta County, by February 1738. Alexander, said to have been born in Ayrshire in Scotland, married the Preston girl in the north of Ireland and worked plantations in County Cavan before deciding that his family’s fortunes would be better suited in the New World.
Of the Breckenridge immigrants, Jane Preston carried the Cromwell ancestry. Said to be of the same Prestons that spawned the Valleyfield Preston baronetcy in Perthshire, Scotland, Jane’s branch of the family had been in Ireland since at least 1672, when her father, Archibald (or Phineas) Preston was born in the Ardsallagh Townlands below the sacred Hill of Tara. Archibald would find his wife in the daughter of the recently deceased Viscount of Montjoy (one of 8,000 killed at Steenkerke), Mary Stewart, the product of Protestant Ulster landowners firmly affixed in County Tyrone. After Jane’s birth, the couple spent a good 11 years together farming in Ulster until he died in 1703. Three years later, the widowed Mary would wed again, this time to the eligible future admiral Viscount of Granard, then a ship captain assigned to the Baltic Sea. Jane, as eldest child, went through her teen years awaiting news of the success of her stepfather before finally meeting George Breckenridge and marrying in 1714, just three years before the great drought first set in.
Archibald Preston’s parents were Phineas and Letitia Hammond Preston, a Protestant couple born of families that were clearly anti-Royalist. In the Cavalier era, that time that featured the return of the Stuart Prince of Wales Charles II to the English throne following the death of Oliver Cromwell, both Prestons and Hammonds, the latter of which included a “regicide” (an official found guilty of helping to orchestrate the execution of King Charles I in 1649), suffered. Possibly coincidental, but within a year of the departure of the Prestons for the plantations of Ireland, King Charles II attempted in 1672, with overwhelming protests from his parliament, to remove laws that punished religious dissent. The pro-Stuart Anglican backlash against both Protestant and Catholic dissenters no doubt left many Puritans still in England uneasy, and it was said that the family had originally left England because of religious persecution.
Archibald’s mother Letitia, or Lettice, was born in 1650, the first of three children born from Colonel Robert and Mary Hampden Hammond, a couple who married sometime around the time of King Charles I’s execution, the act that set in motion the rise of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. Colonel Hammond played a major role in the earlier English Civil Wars, first as a military leader in Cromwell’s New Model Army, then as the gaoler of the King between November 1647 and November 1648. For denying the king the chance to escape the Isle of Wight, Robert was considered after his death in 1654 one of 20 deceased regicides whose lands were confiscated and never restored by King Charles II after the restoration. Despite this, his three girls by his second wife, Mary Hampden, were allowed to retain Willen Manor in Buckinghamshire, which remained in the family until they sold the estate in 1673 and fled the country.
Despite the high profile role of Colonel Hammond, his wife’s father played an even higher profile role. Mary was the daughter of Elizabeth Simeon and John Hampden, an early and much-celebrated leader of the rebellions that would bring down the Stuart king. As a parliamentarian, he fought skillfully in organizing his fellows against illegal taxes and forced loans imposed by Charles upon his subjects. In 1637, when his daughter Mary was perhaps 7 years old, he personally rose up against the hated ship-money tax (a levy originally intended to preserve England from an invading fleet, but which had been misused that year to raise money for the king’s personal causes), and though in this test case he would lose against the Crown, his defiance in court was seen as a moral victory. By 1643, after Parliament had taken over London and set about contesting King Charles for the rest of the country, John Hampden sought to use his tactical skills on the battlefield. At Chalgrove, he met his fate, and as Officer Jackson had after his last act of service, died from a mortal wound six days later at the nearby village of Thame.
John Hampden was the first cousin of Oliver Cromwell. Hampden’s early bravery inspired his Cambridgeshire cousin to the great fetes later that would propel him to the role of Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland. John’s mother, Elizabeth, was the younger sister of Robert Cromwell of Huntingdon, who fathered Oliver. Both siblings were raised by Sir Henry Williams, better known by his alias of Cromwell, the family name of his grandmother. In his late 20s, he rose to greatness when he valiantly served King Henry VIII in suppressing the Pilgrimage of Grace, the pro-Catholic rebellion against the creation of a Protestant Church of England. The success of Henry and his father gave rise to the branch of the Cromwells that ultimately led to Oliver’s rise as Lord Protector.
Officer Jackson’s valor in suppressing Richard Douglas Petersen by hand was the last of his noble acts showcasing how much he valued human life, and his confidence in the potential of troubled young men – he had been instrumental in straightening out the lives of several problematic teenagers living in the area where he apprehended the boy. His courage, documented by Columbia Basin news reporter Ron Taylor in the officer’s final hours on duty, provided the gift of a second chance to a large blond-haired kid who could have just as easily died from the better gun skills that came from Alva’s World War II service and years as a policeman. The value of that second chance, compared to what it cost him and his family, has been frequently questioned, particularly by the family members who lost the most in his passing away – his wife and young daughters. But when looking back at his ancestry, it is easy to conclude that perhaps the bravery of his last act as a Pasco police officer was unavoidable. He was 38.