Land King: The Story of David Jack

by Kenneth C. Jack


I was aware that my family had been native to Crieff, Perthshire for many years. My father had been born in the town in 1927 so even through him I had been a 'Crieffite' of some years standing. At the same time, I was also aware that my grandfather and Great Grandfather were born and bred in Crieff. I did not know how far back my family went so I made enquiry at New Register House in Edinburgh and confirmed that my branch of the Jack family went back several generations in Crieff.

One June day in 1985 I arrived in Crieff to visit my parents. It was a tradition with me during such visits, and still is, to read that week's copy of the local rag, The Strathearn Herald. Immediately on my arrival, being aware of my interest in Jack family history my father threw me a copy of that week's paper suggesting that there was something in it that might interest me. I opened it and soon found the headline "Crieff Had a Multi-Millionaire!" I read on and learned that the Multi-millionaire in question was one David Jack. David Jack was a young man of humble parentage who left Crieff in 1841 and sailed to America where he eventually made a fortune, through land speculation. This is what I had always hoped to find. That one of the Jack family from Crieff had not only immigrated to a foreign land, but had become rich and famous as well. The ultimate rags to riches story. The American dream writ large. Although he would only be a boy of about 11 years at this time, and a long time away from his own American dream in Star Wars, film star and fellow Crieffite, Ewan McGregor, was clearly not the first person from the small Scottish town to make it big on the other side of the "pond."

In any event this article piqued my interest in not only Jack family history, but in the history of this man who had made his fortune in the United States of America around the time that "Billy the Kid" and "Jesse James" were roaming the range. Throughout the next 15 years or so I obtained information on what appears to have been a remarkable character. He was a generous benefactor to many, but to others he was an unscrupulous land grabber. The truth probably lies somewhere between the two. I would like to share with you the details of the life of a man, who if he was nothing else, was a larger than life character who helped open up America in the true pioneer spirit of his time. As The Strathearn Herald of 1985 said, "Isn't it great to know that a Crieff man, of humble beginnings, made it, just wish he'd left the recipe behind."

Kenneth C. Jack - December, 1999

Chapter 1 - Crieff

Crieff is a small market town situated at the Southern end of the Tramping Mountains and is often referred to as the "Gateway to Perthshire." It has a population of approximately 8,000 people of all age groups and considers itself to be a holiday town. It probably is a holiday town, but does not seem to have the appeal of other towns with a similar claim. The reason for this is probably due to the fact that Crieff has a significant percentage of "dyed in the wool" locals, and is therefore not disproportionately geared towards tourism, which some similar towns are often criticized for.

Indicative or not, Crieff today has the outward appearance of a town in economic decline, testified to, by the large number of shops which appear to close down after a short period of time, their windows boarded up, like some frontier town, for which the good times have dried up and the townsfolk moved on to pastures new.

This comparison with frontier towns is not entirely inappropriate as back in the 1700s Crieff was like the frontier towns of the Old West, where Highlanders, as Cowboys would later do in the United States of America, drove their herds of cattle Southward to the large markets known as Trysts, which were regularly held in Crieff and Falkirk.

This was illustrated in the Hollywood film, Rob Roy which starred Liam Neeson in the title role. In a scene from the movie, which was filmed largely around the Crieff area, Rob Roy is seen herding his cattle to the market at Crieff, during which time Crieff is given prominent mention.

Due to the large influx of Highlanders with money to burn from the sale of their cattle, Crieff apparently had no fewer rowdies than it's American counterparts in that drunkenness and wild behavior was commonplace. Indeed, Crieff has been referred to in these times as the "Dodge City" of its day in Scotland.

It follows from this that Crieff probably enjoyed a lengthy period of relative prosperity and in the 1800s the town appears to have been heavily industrialized.

Maps of the time show that there was a large amount of mills throughout Crieff, among them Saw Mills, Lint Mills, and Flax Mills. A large area situated to the South of the town, known as Bleachfield was so named because of the large Bleachworks which occupied that site, in an area known today as Turretbank.

A flavor of these industrial times can be found in this extract from The History of Crieff by Alexander Poreous.

Principal and oldest mill in Crieff is the mill at Milnab built in 1748 by Mr. John Caw. About 1831, Mr. Daniel Jack erected a meal mill at Dalvreck, which carried on an extensive and well-known business manufacturing oat and barley meal and also flour meal. At one time it had a mill for pot barley. It had extensive granaries and other outhouses and for many years did a large trade. It has burned down a few years ago, the tenant at the time being Mr. Robert Taylor who had also a large meal mill at South Bridgend.
Whether the entrepreneurial Mr. Daniel Jack was related to the subject of this work is not known, but the similarities are there.

Handloom weaving was another industry, which was common in Crieff, and these occupations as well as agricultural work were the most common occupations of the time.

Crieff has always been regarded as a divided town in that there is an apparent demarcation line between what are referred to as the "haves" and the "have nots." This line is generally considered to be the High Street. Those people residing above this line occupy the large Mansion type houses, and below this line are the council type dwellings.

For many people over the years, moving house from below this line to above it, was a sure sign of economic improvement, and "upward" mobility in more than just the geographic sense. This particular form of class snobbery was captured in a recent biography of the Crieff born film star Ewan McGregor when the author points out just such a class leap by the McGregor family during the actor's youth. Anyhow, by this, or any other measure, the future multi-millionaire David Jack was born into the "wrong" side of Crieff's economic and class divide.

In point of fact, this was not the case in the 1700 and 1800s as many of the poorest people of the town lived in Hill Street, which is situated North of the High Street, near to the present day, exclusive boarding school, Morrison's Academy. Some of the houses in that area were once referred to as "bad as the worst Glasgow hovels."

It was into early 1800s Crieff that William Jack brought his family.

Chapter 2 - William Jack and Family

William Jack was born in 1776 in the Parish of Muthill. Muthill (pronounced Mew-thill) is a small village situated two miles east of Crieff. The Parish of Muthill however, took in the surrounding areas, which included the small village of Braco (pronounced Brake - o). The Jack family had been in the Braco area for some considerable time and were small farmers in the area. William's brother, Robert, is known to have farmed at Silverton Farm situated just outside Braco on the Braco to Kinbuck Road. Records of the Commissariat of Dunblane for the years 1539-1800 show Jacks in the Braco area over a lengthy period of time. In 1657 a James Jack is shown at "Silvertoune." In 1749 a William Jack is shown living at "Silvertown," Parish of Muthill. The records of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Perth, show that a Robert Jack, died on 4, February 1864 aged 12 years. He died in "a field about 30 yards distant from the farm of Silverton." Cause of death is shown as "killed by the bursting of a gun."

The oldest Jack recorded in this Commissariat, however, is a Patrick Jack, a Slater, described as "son to umquhile Hew Jack in Doning" (nowadays Dunning), in 1623. Dunning is situated a few miles from Braco.

Braco today is a very small village, and back in these days must have been smaller still, yet it is believed that at one time as many as nine families of Jacks lived there. These people are undoubtedly relatives of our William Jack.

William Jack's father was Alexander Jack and his mother Margaret McEwan. Little is known of this man other than he was a working class man, who spent his life engaged in manual work, whether it be working on the many farms in the Strathearn area, or in the Mills which were predominant at the time. He married Elizabeth Christie in 1803 and by this union had six children, Alexander, James, Robert, John, Elizabeth and Peter. The first named, Alexander, is the author's great, great, great grandfather.

William Jack arrived in Crieff from the Braco area in 1815, along with his family. He made his home in the Burrell Street area of Crieff in a one-story house on the West side of the street, known at some point as "Lorne Cottage." He took up various types of manual labor in the town, including a spell running a saw mill. It is not known what happened to Elizabeth Christie but at some point William married Janet McEwan. However, it is likely that she died at an early age, as divorce in these days was frowned upon. To his wife Janet McEwan, William had the future millionaire David, and daughters Margaret, who died when only a child, and Christian.

It seems that the family were of humble means and were known to have resorted to renting an acre of land behind their house, on which they kept a cow to supplement their slender income.

William Jack lived out the remainder of his life at Burrell Street, dying there on 12, April 1855 aged 78 years. He was buried within the grounds of the Old Muthill Church (now an Ancient Monument). His headstone, "Erected by his son David Jack" is still seen to this day. By the time of his father's death, David was living in America, and on his way to becoming a rich land baron.

Chapter 3 - David Jack and America

William's son David was born in Crieff on April, 18, 1822. In his early years he was said to be a somewhat solitary youth who had few friends. This may have been an indication of his independence and singlemindedness that would reveal itself in later years.

Little is known about his early life in Crieff, but he did work for a while in one of the handloom weaving shops, which existed in Crieff at the time. David clearly had aspirations, which he probably felt he could not achieve in Crieff at that time, and by the age of 19 or 20 years, he decided to emigrate to America, which was fairly common practice in those days. Indeed, David's brothers, Peter, James, and John had emigrated a number of years before him, although Peter returned to Scotland a short time after. James and John however, settled in the Long Island area of New York and became successful storekeepers.

It has been written elsewhere that Jack left Crieff in 1841 following the death of his father, in order to lessen the burden of his widowed mother. This clearly is inaccurate as his father lived until 1855. After following his brothers out to America, David worked for seven years for an army contractor in Williamsburg, Virginia, and then in Fort Hamilton, New York. One of the regular visitors to his store at that time was one Robert E. Lee who visited the store to inspect "caisson wheels." Lee of course went on to become General Lee, a famous leader during the American Civil War. Jack got to know him well and is said to have liked him.

In 1848 Jack read of great wealth to be found in California around the time of the California gold rush. Like most men of his age at that time, he decided to go there and give it a try. Before he left, he invested his total savings of $1,400 dollars in revolvers which he intended to sell to law-abiding and lawless alike, thinking that both would pay a handsome price for such items at that time in Californian history. He arrived in San Francisco in April, 1849 where he sold his entire investment in revolvers for $4,000 dollars in the first 48 hours, making a 286% profit in the process. He immediately made his way to the gold mines, but found little success. Returning to San Francisco he gained employment as an Inspector in the Custom House earning $100 a month. His capital of $4,000 dollars was put to good use. He lent portions of it at an interest of 2% a month.

In 1850 a business trip took him to Monterey, then a small town with a population of less than 1,000. He saw potential in the town however, and moved there the following year. At first Jack was employed by Joseph Boston, who operated a general store on Olivier Street. Jack also boarded with Boston at his residence on Van Buren Street. Jack very much admired Boston and his position in the community. Boston's house was a wonderful old house with a history of its own and Jack vowed that one day he would own the property which he eventually did.

Next, Jack clerked for two years for another Scots pioneer James McKinley who owned a dry goods store in Monterey. At the same time, Jack who was very ambitious carried out various farming enterprises, hiring men to cultivate land for him. He became involved in the growing of potatoes which he felt sure would be successful. However, a combination of a falling market and being ripped off by schemers and speculators led to this enterprise petering out. An example of his failure around this time is when he was forced to sell hogs he had purchased for about $3,000 for $50 dollars.

Following the death of his father, Jack returned home to Crieff in 1856 to visit his family, perhaps feeling pangs of homesickness. He left his meagre holdings in the hands of agents and went to Scotland for a year during which time he raised the headstone in memory of his father at his grave in Muthill Churchyard. He returned to California in 1857.

About this time, the chapter in David Jack's life which led to his becoming one of the country's largest and richest landowners was about to occur. David Jack was about to engage in an enterprise, along with his partner, attorney, Delos Ashley which would result in him becoming a landowner far beyond the wildest dreams of any Scottish laird, but which would lead to his being reviled by some.

In 1830, the Mexican government had granted 30,000 acres of land to the City of Monterey. When California became a state and the United States took provenance of the town, a problem facing the new governor was how to settle the land claims of the former Mexican province. Under Mexican law there were three main dispositions of land; first, the large "ranchos," countless acres of land granted to the early Spanish settlers and their descendants, second the mission properties including the church, its gardens and outbuildings with additional acreage to be held in trust for the Indian neophytes; third the pueblo lands which were allotted for use of the community and its citizens.

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, at the conclusion of the Mexican-American war, a board of three commissioners was appointed to hear the cases within a period of two years. This would prove very difficult for those who had to provide funds for the legal action and travel necessary for the hearings. Because of the confusion, delay, and appeals, it was nearly ten years before the appeals were settled.

In 1853, the "pueblo" of Monterey hired attorney Delos Rodeyn Ashley to legitimize its claims to 29,698.53 acres of land before the United States Land Claims Commission in San Francisco. He was successful and presented a bill of $991.50 to the city fathers. However, the treasury cupboards were bare. The State Legislature therefore passed a bill which allowed the Monterey city government to auction off its town lands in order to pay off the debt owed to Ashley. The auction took place at 5 PM on February 9, 1859 on the steps of the Colton Hall. All 29,698.53 acres of Monterey pueblo lands were auctioned off. The sole bidders at this auction were David Jack and Delos Ashley. The total selling price was $1,002.50 all of which was given to Ashley. Ashley sold his interest to Jack a number of years later.

Many have speculated since that Jack and Ashley engineered the entire purchase, from the start. Therefore Jack came to own 30,000 acres of magnificent, scenic countryside surrounding Monterey as well as the town itself.

The City of Monterey tried twice, unsuccessfully to reclaim its lost lands. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which eventually ruled in Jack's favor. This event became known locally as "The Rape of Monterey."

Jack embarked on what appears to have been an almost obsessive taste for land acquisition. He soon learned that the Californians in the Salinas area were more adept in their saddles than they were in business, many of them hard pressed for money because of dry years when they had been forced to sacrifice cattle, and they were lax in the matter of taxes. Jack began to pay overdue taxes on good land, allegedly without troubling to notify the owners. When the inevitable showdown came, he simply pointed out that he was within his legal rights, and that if they paid him with interest they could have their land back. He also foreclosed on defaulted mortgages. This, he again allegedly did, by pinning foreclosure notices on outlying reaches of the respective properties. If English speaking, the notices were posted in Mexican and vice-versa. Piece by piece was added to his holdings through mortgage and tax sales and other shrewd practices. At his height Jack was said to own around 100,000 acres of Monterey County Lands.

Due to these practices however, Jack incurred the enmity of the native peoples and others. Indeed the locals are said to have placed a curse on he and his family that they should have no issue who would benefit from what they considered to be his ill-gotten gains. Those who lost their lands to Jack considered him a land thief, but Jack considered them to be "squatters" on his property. This led to the formation of an organization calling themselves "The Squatters League of Monterey County." In 1872 the League wrote to Jack:

You have been the cause of unnecessary annoyance and expense to the settlers now if you don't make that account of damages to each and every one of us within ten days, you son of a bitch, we will suspend your animation between daylight and hell.
Around this time the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson was visiting California and heard the stories surrounding Jack and his land acquisitions. In his book Across the Plains, Stevenson wrote;
In the meantime however, the Americans rule in Monterey County. The new county seat Salinas City, in the bald, corn bearing, plain under the Gaelano Peak, is a town of purely American character. The land is held, for the most part, in those enormous tracts which are another legacy of Mexican days, and form the present chief danger and disgrace of California; and the holders are mostly of American or British birth; We have here in England no idea of the troubles and inconveniences which flow from the existence of these large landholders, - land thieves, land sharks, or land grabbers, they are more commonly and plainly called. Thus the town lands of Monterey are all in the hands of a single man. How they came there is an obscure, vexatious question, and rightly, or wrongly, the man is hated with a great hatred. His life has been repeatedly in danger. Not very long ago, I was told the stage was stopped three evenings in succession by disguised horsemen thirsting for his blood. A certain house on the Salinas road, they say, he always passes in his buggy at full speed, for the squatter sent him warning long ago. But a year since he was publicly pointed out for death by no less a man than Mr. Dennis Kearney. Kearney is a man too well known in California, but a word of explanation is required for English readers. Originally an Irish dairyman, he rose, by his command of bad language, to almost dictatorial authority in the state; throned it there for six months or so, his mouth full of oaths, gallowses, and conflagrations; was first snuffed out last winter by Mr. Coleman, backed by his San Francisco vigilantes and three battling guns; completed his own ruin by throwing in his lot with the grotesque green backer party; and had at last to be rescued by his old enemies, the Police, out of the hands of his rebellious followers. It was while he was at the top of his fortune that Kearney visited Monterey with his battle cry against Chinese labor, the railroad monopolists, and the land thieves; and his one articulate counsel to the Montereyans was "to hang David Jack." Had the town been American, in my private opinion this would have been done years ago. Land is a subject on which there is no jesting in the West, and I have seen my friend the lawyer drive out of Monterey to adjust a competition of titles with the face of a captain going into battle and his Smith and Wesson convenient to his hand.
All the hassle generated from the purchase of the pueblo lands seems to have been too much for Jack's partner Ashley and in 1869 he left Monterey after selling off his holdings to Jack. His reasons for leaving are probably best summed up in a letter that he wrote to Jack as early as 1862, when he wrote; "Why don't you leave Monterey for a place where a man can have a dollar and not be envied."

However, Jack stayed on in Monterey and continued to amass land. The pueblo lands alone consisted of some of the richest and most valuable property in all California consisting as it did of the present day cities of Pacific Grove, Del Rey Oaks, and Seaside, the Del Monte Forest, Fort Ord, and the spectacular coastline of 17 Mile Drive. His land also comprised the area of Pebble Beach best known nowadays, of course, for it's championship golf course. Jack owned many of the historic Spanish, and Mexican adobes of Monterey as well as properties extending far into the inland valleys behind the Monterey coast. The highest point of the Monterey peninsula stood on his land and is still known as "Jack's Peak." Indeed, there is "Jacks Peak County Park" which overlooks the spectacular Monterey Peninsula and is located about two miles from scenic Highway 68. A natural reserve, the park's 525 acres of ridge top is set amidst native Monterey pines. The abundance of trees, flowers, and wildlife, found at Jack's Peak make it the destination for any nature enthusiast. Linda Larson, a guide with the Department of Parks and Recreation, Monterey, is in no doubt how history should remember David Jack. She states;

He was indeed a controversial figure, but, as far as we know, broke no laws. It is very important I believe, to be very careful about passing judgement on people such as he who came from a different time and a different culture. He is certainly not atypical of the high-powered businessmen of his day. He also contributed a great deal to this area as did his children.
One of Jack's other business interests was a dairy, which he owned on the Salinas River. It was here that Jack produced a cheese which origins can be traced to the Spanish Franciscan fathers who came north to California from Mexico during the early days of the missions. The fathers proved that necessity is the mother of invention. Left with an oversupply of fresh milk, they devised a way of preserving the milk by converting it to cheese. The result was a soft, creamy, light delicacy, which became known as "Queso blanco pais" the country peasant cheese and "Queso blanco" the white cheese. "Queso Blanco" became a staple diet of the Spanish-speaking settlers. Jack eventually had a partnership in 14 dairies, with Spanish and Portuguese dairymen. Together they dominated North Californian dairy farming. Jack suffered from the same problems of surplus milk. He solved this problem in a similar manner to the Franciscans and produced his own cheese marketing it as "Jacks Cheese." It became very popular on the West Coast and people began asking for it by name and "Monterey Jack" became synonymous with this white, creamy cheese. To this day the cheese is very popular and can be found in most large supermarkets. It is also a staple ingredient in various Mexican dishes and in pizzas. The Sonoma Cheese Factory in California alone produces some 10,000 pounds of jack cheese daily, and the cheese accounts for about 10 per cent of all cheese production in California.

However, like so much else in David Jack's life, the question of who put the "Jack" in Monterey Jack cheese is not devoid of controversy. A debate has raged on in California for many years into this question. A number of other persons manufactured similar cheeses before David Jack, one of whom was a Domingo Pedrazzi of Carmel Valley, California. He manufactured a cheese, which apparently required "the application of pressure." This "pressure" was brought to bear by means of a "house jack." hence "Jack Cheese." Pedrazzi's cheese became known as "Pedrazzi's Jack Cheese." What is not in doubt is that David Jack was the first person to commercially manufacture the cheese in a large scale and successful way. [See another story on the origins of "Jack" cheese here]

One thing, which may have contributed to the controversy, is that David Jack was known in California as David Jacks. Quite why or when the "s" was added to his surname is not known, although there is no reason to believe it has any sinister connotations. After all, if one wanted to change one's name for any reason, one would do more than simply add an "s".

The author is inclined to believe that the "s" was added through common usage. Jack owned so much land and property, and with Jacks being a more possessive sounding name, people would often refer to property or places owned by him, such as "David Jack's Church," "Jack's Peak," "Jack's Cheese" and so on. It does not therefore require a large leap of imagination to understand why people started using the extra "s". Perhaps David Jack got to like the name in such form, or believed it to be more American sounding, and therefore adopted it. For the purposes of this biography however, the author is inclined to refer to Jack (and his family) by his given birth name, the name he appears quite content to have used whilst home in Scotland.

Members of his own family commented upon Jack's surname change in 1929. At that time a Mr. J.V. Thompson was researching Jack family history and during the course of this visited another immigrant from Scotland, William Jack, at his home at 70, Moore Street, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.

William Jack was a nephew of David Jack and was able to relate to Thompson some of his family history. Thompson wrote down details of his research into what is now the "JV Thompson Journals," and what he learned from William Jack is contained within Volume 22. On page 405 he writes;

Mr. Jack said that the article about his Uncle David Jacks said that he had a lawsuit about some land in California which was in the courts for 30 years, but the Scotsman David, finally won the suit. Apparently a similar case to that of Stephen Girard who likewise acquired his Penna lands by foreclosure. Mr. Jack said all their people in Scotland spelled the name "Jack" and none of them spelled it Jacks, and he said David put the "s" to the end of his name after he came to America.
Although many people viewed Jack in a negative fashion, he had friends during his lifetime as well, both amongst the historians of the day, and from the people who undoubtedly benefited from his generosity. The renowned historian Hubert Howe Bancroft stated:
It seems paradoxical that it should be the fate of most good men to have enemies whose deeds and successes are a reflection on the indolence of others will always be a subject of diatribe.
Jack was apparently a deeply religious man, and although some of his business actions were considered in some quarters to be immoral he was deeply self-conscious about breaching the laws of society and morality. On April 20, 1861, Jack married Marie Christina Soledad Romie whose parents were German immigrants to Mexico. She was born in Oajaca, Mexico in 1837 and came to Monterey with her family when she was four years old. She and Jack had nine children, seven of whom survived into adulthood, five daughters and two sons. As a young Scottish lad of indifferent schooling Jack saw the value in a proper education and his children were encouraged to pursue their own educational goals and all went on to attain a high level of academic attainment at various colleges and universities.

David Jack was a devout Presbyterian, but supported the Methodist and Episcopal Churches as well. He taught Sunday school for many years, and, in fact, was supposed to have fallen in love with his future wife when she was a student in one of his classes. A story existed, told by Louis Sanchez, whose mother was Nellie Vandergrift Sanchez, sister of Fannie Osbourne Stevenson, and therefore a nephew of Robert Louis Stevenson:

He and several of his boyhood friends would attend Sunday school on the second floor of the Pacific House, which was owned by Mr. Jack. After dutiful recitation of the catechism, the boys would line up at the door and receive a coveted nickel from Mr. Jack, and then after sedately walking to the end of the block, would "run like hell" to the church to hear Mass. He also remembered that the poor could depend on a basket of food when they knocked on the door of the house at Van Buren Street. Another early resident of Monterey, Mrs. Millie Birks, remembered that at Christmas time, the Jack home was always open and there was an abundance of good things to eat, candy, fruit, and other treats for anyone who came. She also remembered Mrs. Jack as a "very kind and lovable person."
Jack was also a major contributor to the Presbyterian Church in Monterey, sometimes referred to as "David Jack's Church." Another instance of his charity was his support of the religious retreat known as Pacific Grove. Pacific Grove was situated on Jack's land, Punta De Pinos. Jack invited Mr. and Mrs. W.S. Ross to live on this property. After a summer of wonderful weather, their health was recuperated. On hearing of this, a group of religious leaders assembled to form the "Pacific Grove Retreat Association." Jack sold them 100 acres of ocean front land, only charging them $1 an acre to legalize the transaction and donated $30,000 to the association to make internal improvements. Pacific Grove soon became a world renowned retreat considered by many to be more popular than San Francisco.

Jack also instigated an idea of leasing land on shares, a scheme that helped his farm tenants survive through periods of drought and famine. His treatment of Asian emigrants was fair and his ideas in this regard were more enlightened than many other landowners. In 1874 the Monterey and Salinas Valley Railroad, a narrow gauge line, was built between the two towns by Monterey business men and landowners. The total cost of this enterprise was $360,000 of which Jack contributed $75,000, borrowed on his Ranchos, Chualar and Zanjones. He also acted as unpaid treasurer. He sank over $40,000 in this road, which was finally sold to the Southern Pacific Company from which Jack received little or no profit.

Barrows and Ingersoll, who wrote a biographical history of the coast counties of California, said of Jack:

Of course the lands which Mr. Jack bought, or had to take, or was besought to take many years, are much more valuable now than they were then. But it should be remembered that money at interest at the rates current in earlier times, would have doubled many times over in the last thirty or forty years.
His friend, the author, Hubert Howe Bancroft stated:
Mr. Jack came into possession of his estates, on the whole, by fair dealing, through force of that good fortune, business judgement and character which are very generally admitted to be the birthright of the Scots.
He further stated:
It may be true to say, though not miserly, he was fond of money, and that it was his strongest ambition to purchase every rod of land to which he could see his wayŠwe are quite willing to admit, that Mr. Jack like most mortals, is susceptible of flattery to no inconsiderable extentŠ There may be times when his charity to the foolish and erring was not as liberal as people would have expected.
Despite his successful business dealings in the United States it seems that Jack did not forsake his family back in Scotland, and he regularly contributed financially during times of hardship as the letters from home indicate.

Perthshire Scotland
Braco village March 3, 1876
Dear Brother,
I duly received your letter of the 5 Feb on the 27th at 11am and I was glad to see it, I went to Crieff on the following day and transacted your business which you will see by the receipts. Dear brother you speak of paying me for doing so, I think I have been well paid for all the trouble it was to me, your two old women was very glad to see me, I come now to speak personally of your old friends. I do not think that Betty Law will need another £10,000 from you, she is very poorly I do not think she be able to go to Crieff, get her bill cashed, she told me that you was not to give her share to Mrs. McNaughton as you had the full power to do what you please with it. She would rather anyone get it, nor her, but I see myself that are at enmity the one with the other and what the reason is, I know not, my time was short with them. The next is Mrs. McNaughton; she is well in health but has lost a cow and calf, valued £18 about a week ago. All she had to say was that she would like to have the money about the New Year. She went to the bank with me, I cashed her bill of which you will see that I am a witness, she told me that she had two daughters in America that was very kind to her, she was very anxious to know if I got any money from you but she was none the wiser for asking. I was hearing that Miss Buchan of Aranbank was going to get married shortly but I have not heard the exact time. It is to a clergyman not far from Aranbank. His father is some small farmer, the name is Bryce, they have been selling a great deal of property this some time past. I hear that her sister is coming home from India but whether her sister and husband will be going live in Aranbank after Louisa leaves is a thing I do not know; when I was at Gilmertown I had not time to make a call. Dear brother I come now to speak of myself I thank you very kindly for the money you have sent time after time and I hope it will be a blessing to you and me, it has been a great benefit to me and the family, there is none of them able to keep themselves yet, and there is none of it foolishly spent. I am writing this letter for the post as I know you will be anxious until you receive it, and when you receive it you will send an answer and let me know if you are satisfied with the way I have settled your business. Please send a paper also, give myself and wives best respects to sister D. McEwan. Dear brother may god's blessing rest and abide on you and me and all belonging to us (adieu).
Peter Jack

Peter Jack died in Braco on 26.6.1886 aged 73 years.

This, from Peter's wife,

Stirling Oct 16, 1891
6 Lower Bridge St
To David Jack Esq.
Monterey, California

Dear Brother in Law,
Just a few lines to let you know how we are all getting on. I was to have wrote to you long ago but I have been in very bad health all summer. Since ever I had the rose in my head it has been very bad sometimes, times it was like to make mad, it all broke out and a trained nurse came every day for four months to drip it and then I got a cleaved bone take out of it and she came every day for two months more but thank god it is much better now, but I have to very careful of it yet. Louisa is much stronger, this season nor she was last one and she has had a great deal to do with me being so bad. The rest of the family is all well as far as I know; the two that went to American never write to me. I have had no word from them for two years. We have had a very warm summer in Scotland this year and I hear there has been a very good crop of all cereals. The potatoes is very cheap at present, but I am never outside. I hope this will find you and your family all well and that your and Mrs. Jack is keeping well, for like me you are getting up in years. We cannot to be so well as when we was younger. I hope that you have had a better crop this nor the last three seasons. I am sorry to have to ask you for a little help again, for my rent is due on eleventh of November and I am not able to meet it, it is very hard living in Stirling nor it was in Braco. I had leave the house at No. 8 and am staying in No. 6, now it is just the same house only downstairs. We have very close wet weather here at present. Old Mr. Brydie in Silverton has died about two months ago, that is yon old man we was taken to when we was up at Uncle Robert's old place, when you was home. He was in his ninety year, so that is the last friend we had had at Silverton. Give my love to Mrs. Jack and all the family, not forgetting yourself and aunty Kirsty when you see her and thank you for your great kindness and for all that you have done for us in the past and I will be very grateful if you could send me a little help at present for help. This place is not like Braco at all. Hoping god will bless you and prosper you all is the earnest wish and prayer of yours faithful.

Isabell Jack
Louisa also sends her love to you all.

This from his niece Louisa Jack;
6 Lower Bridge St
2 March 1903
Dear Uncle and Aunt,
I now take the pleasure to write you according to my promise. But I am very sorry to inform you that mother is not improving much and is still confined to her bed. The doctor is still attending her and he says she is very feeble and requires as much nourishment as we can give her that is the only thing to keep her up.

Mother hopes that you have had a happy and pleasant winter and that you are all enjoying the best of health. Business here in Stirling is very dull, nearly all the works are on short time and there are an awful lot of men going about idle. I think that the very bad weather that we have had here had something to with it. We have scarcely had any frost or snow this winter at all, nearly every day has been wet and very stormy.

Dear uncle I am sending a paper with this mail. I hope you will get it all right, with best love to all.

I remain your affectionate niece.
Louisa Jack
PS I will let you know how mother is keeping

Jack's family back home in Crieff were no less concerned for him than he was for them. An excerpt from a letter from his sister Christian, 14 February 1861 states; My dear brother I feel very uneasy about you on account of this coming warfare, will it affect you, you must write and tell me the real truth what you think about it. David Jack is known to have visited Crieff as a millionaire businessman. He apparently received a cordial welcome from older residents who knew him before he left for America. Among a number of local luminaries who met him at this time was a former Provost of Crieff, Mr. Macrosty, who later had a local park named after him. Macrosty made repeated suggestions to Jack that he may wish to remember his hometown in some tangible manner. He did not take him up on this suggestion perhaps believing the town had done little for he or his family, which would deserve such charitable reciprocation.

Chapter Four - David Jack's Family

David Jack and his wife Marie had a total of nine children seven of who survived namely their five daughters, Jane, Lee, Mary, Vida and Margaret, and two sons, William and Romie. Because of Jack's financial success none of his children suffered from the same disadvantages as Jack and his family back home in Scotland did. Their father's money paved the way for success in any profession they chose to enter. As stated earlier, Jack placed a great emphasis on education and Mary and Lee both attended Mills College, an exclusive university in America from which they both graduated in 1887.

For postgraduate work, Mary elected four more years of music study in Boston. Lee furthered her studies in languages and art in San Francisco, Oakland and New York. She joined Mary in Boston, where they took courses in business. Vida, the youngest child, was lame as a child and was educated privately before attending schools in Oakland and Berkeley, where she was found to be a bright student. Her teacher in Monterey was Lou Henry, the future wife of Herbert Hoover. Margaret attended, in turn, the Cole Grammar School in Oakland, the Boston Girls' Latin School, Cornell, where she graduated in 1895, and Radcliffe. She insisted in an advisory letter to her parents that her younger brother, sporty Romie come east for study to develop his backbone. She felt that he would be forced there to study harder. Janet and brothers William and Romie also benefited from an excellent education and all the family took part in the family business.

Lee and Mary both followed active careers in the family enterprise. They served as Administration Officers, including terms as Presidents of the family corporation known as the David Jack Foundation. They both handled their business competently, Lee especially showed shrewd administrative and business sense. Both sisters subsequently used their fortunes to assist further Mills students of the future who they could never know.

At the age of 85 years David Jack relinquished control of the family business to his wife. On July 5, 1907 she deeded all her real and personal property to the David Jack Corporation chartered two days earlier in Nevada. Exclusively the children operated the corporation. The corporation paid an income to Mr. and Mrs. Jack. David Jack died in 1909 and the San Francisco Call of Tuesday, January 12th had the following notice:

David Jack multi millionaire and the largest and richest landowner of Monterey County died at his home in Monterey at 12:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon (Jan 11th) at the age of 87 years. Born in Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland in 1822, Jack came to the United States in 1841, and in 1839 reached California settling a year later in Monterey.

His wife died in 1917.

William, the older brother served as the first President. At the same time he was President of the Monterey Board of Trustees from 1906 to 1911. Soon after his marriage to Bertha Wilcoxen of Salinas, he began an extended trip. He was not well. Mary Jack assumed his role in 1913 and in 1914 became the official president. Romie had been placed on salary earlier as manager of the corporation owned Abbott Hotel in Salinas. Janet, the oldest sister, sold her stock back to the corporation and withdrew as director in 1911. An honor graduate of the University of the Pacific, she had gone on immediately in 1886 to Cornell where she met Alan C. Balch an engineering student. They married in Oakland in 1891, and for a few years both were in the family business circle. Balch borrowed money from David Jack to become established in the electrical industry. He worked his way from the Pacific Northwest to the Los Angeles area; he was a pioneer in the development of power for pumping water and oil. He and Janet gave their time to philanthropy when he retired in 1927. He was President of the Board of the California Institute of Technology and died in 1943. Janet died soon after him.

The corporation was terminated in 1919, when its properties were divided equally among the six remaining shareholder. Merging their shares the three unmarried sisters formed the L. M. and V. Jack firm with Lee as President, Margaret Vice-President and Secretary-Treasurer.

Distributions from the estate of Mary Jack (Thomas), who died in 1955, were settled in 1986. Through her residual trust Mills received $2.5 million, approximately $1.3 million in 1986 and roughly $53,000 annually between 1962 and 1985. Lee arranged for most of her estate to be shared equally between the University of California, Stanford, and the California Institute of Technology. Indirectly, Mills also benefited from the estate through a bequest of $10,000 from Margaret for whom Lee left a lifetime trust. David Jack and his wife inculcated in their children, through guidance in religious education and social, economic, and ethical practices, a firm belief in excellent formal education and through the years both the parents and their children bequeathed millions of dollars to various educational establishments throughout the country.

Margaret Jack the last remaining member of the family died in 1962 and this brought to an end the 112 year Jack family business. All that remained of the family holdings, which were in her possession and care, went to Stanford University. The bequest was said to have been the largest since the University's founding.

Coincidentally or otherwise, none of Jack's children had children of their own and it seems that the curse placed on David Jack many years before may have been realized.


So, this is what I have learned so far about David Jack. I'm sure you will agree that he was an amazing character, one who deserves his story to be more widely known. Whatever view is take of David Jack, one cannot deny that he was a brilliant financial and legal mind, who through his immense land acquisitions, changed Monterey County irreversibly and in the process helped California develop into the vibrant and economically prosperous State that it now is. In the future I hope to learn even more about David Jack, and hopefully enlarge this volume of work.


About the Author

Kenneth C. Jack is a 40 year old Police Officer with 22 years Police Service. He is currently based in the small Perthshire tourist resort of Pitlochry. He and his wife Moira have been married for 20 years, and have 3 children, Bryan (19), Craig (16) and Kirsty (11). Kenneth was born and brought up in Crieff, Perthshire, David Jack's home town, where the Jack Family have resided for 150 years.

Copyright 2001 by Kenneth C. Jack
The moral right of the author has been asserted.

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