Thomas G. Jackson served as Petrolia's Chief of Police from 1874 until his retirement in 1901.
Thomas G. Jackson
Petrolia’s Chief Constable
The history of policing in the Town
of Petrolia dates to the early days of the area’s oil boom. While Petrolia, for the most part, has always been a law-abiding town, the early oil drillers could be a rowdy and boisterous bunch and in those days drunken brawls and fist fights
in the streets were not uncommon
Consequently, in 1869 the village council deemed it necessary to pass a by-law to authorize the construction of a town lock-up on Pearl Street and the hiring of a town constable,
the first of which was James Ryan.
Since that time a number of distinguished and highly capable men have been charged with enforcing the rule of law in the Hard Oil Town. However, it can be justly said that
none were more respected- or feared, depending on one’s perspective - than was the late T.G. Jackson, who served as the town’s Chief Constable from 1874 to 1901.
Chief Jackson was a big imposing
man, more than six-feet in height and well over 200 pounds. His strength was legendary and was said to have been fearless when it came to wading into the midst of a brawl, clamping his iron grip on the instigators and lugging them off to jail.
As the Advertiser Topic noted, Petrolia, in its early days, was made up of many tough elements and it was a real man’s job to handle them. “In the performance of his duties Chief Jackson never faltered. He was
the strongest of the strong and as brave as the bravest,” it stated.
The article went on to note that on one occasion while attempting to stop a man from beating his wife, the ruffian stabbed him in the neck
and shoulder. While suffering from severe loss of blood, Jackson closed on his adversary and securing a terrific grip with his vice-like fingers on the man’s throat, pinned him to the ground until assistance arrived. Many such stories were told
about him, all pointing to his utter disregard of danger to himself while in the pursuit of performing his duties.
Thomas Grey Jackson was born May 19, 1843 in Northern Ireland. When just a boy of 17 he came to
Canada, settling in Oxford County where he met his wife, the former Mary Wilson of Derham Township.
In 1865 the couple moved to Petrolia, where for a number of years he was employed in the oil fields as an engine
In 1872, when the village’s fire department purchased its first steam-powered fire engine, Jackson was appointed to be its operator along with performing a number of other municipal duties. He was
found to be among the town’s most conscientious and dedicated employees.
Consequently, two years later when Chief James Ryan resigned from his position, Jackson was appointed to succeed him and continued in
that capacity until his retirement in 1901. In retirement however, he remained active as a night watchman and also served as a county magistrate until the time of his death.
While he and his wife had five children,
four died at a young age. At the time of his own death he was survived by one son, Samuel G. Jackson, who for many years was a successful and prominent hardware merchant in the Village of Oil Springs.
Chief Jackson was a Presbyterian. Fraternally, he was a member of Petrolia Masonic Lodge #194 as well as Friendship Lodge #65, Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
In his obituary it was noted that his death would
be received with regret and sorrow throughout the world wherever Petrolia boys were to be found. “For the Chief, during the many years he was in office, was not only a capable and conscientious official, but was a good friend of the public,” it
“Many a man who is today living an upright life can thank the old chief for the wholesome advice or the cuff on the ear he gave him at the time he was wavering at the crossroads of life, and started
him along the right path.”
Thomas G. Jackson died Sept. 15, 1925 and rests at Hillsdale Cemetery