Written by on February 28, 2014

Jack of all trades: Revealing history in Special Collections and Archives


Indenture transferring the ownership of patent to Steele Bros., Abbott, and Jack, 1881 (Jack Family Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, 014_spc_000018)

Derrick Usher is a communication studies major (Fall ’14) completing an internship in Special Collections and Archives. He is working on a project to organize the papers of the Jack Family of San Luis Obispo.

This is the second in a series of blog posts in which he shares his experiences processing the Jack Family Papers and some of the stories that he uncovers.

R.E. Jack: The Entrepreneur

Over the past few weeks I have inventoried thirty-two years of the Jack Family Papers, spanning from 1861-1893. The majority of the papers consist of receipts, business correspondence, and a series of documents regarding Nellie and R.E. Jack’s  property and land taxes. While I know R.E. Jack and his extended family were prominent in California I had no idea the magnitude of their landholdings.

According to Myron Angel’s History of San Luis Obispo County, California (1883), by 1883 R.E. Jack owned 30,000 acres of land in San Luis Obispo County. Part of this acreage was the Cholame Ranch, which also included more than 9,000 acres in Monterey County, California. R.E. Jack also continued to expand his holdings in Santa Barbara County, Kern County, Kings County, Tulare County, and Monterey County.


Shareholder R.E. Jack’s stock certificate for shares of the County Bank of San Luis Obispo, 1896 (Jack Family Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, 014_spc_000019)

It only seems logical that after acquiring a substantial amount of land and the revenues that came from it, R.E. Jack would explore entrepreneurial endeavors. For instance, he subdivided some of his holdings in Rancho Lompoc, now the city of Lompoc, and sold them. He also bought an interest in a series of mines throughout California, purchased the patent for a type of mortar piping, and held various positions in a series of local banks. He and Isaac Goldtree founded the bank of Jack, Goldtree, and Co.. R.E. Jack was also one of four people who founded the Bank of Santa Maria.


Master Elect Jack
R.E. Jack became “Master Elect” of King David’s Masonic Lodge in 1893. Although I don’t know what being a “Master Elect” at a Masonic Temple entails, I do feel confident in presuming that R.E. Jack was a member of the Masonic Order. Admittedly knowing little about Freemasonry, what I have heard leads me to believe that it is a secretive organization that allows for the networking of prominent community members. For example, the man who corresponded with R.E. Jack about his “Master Elect” status was John L. Howard, the Vice President of Pacific Coast Railway Company at the time. While I’m not sure how R.E. Jack and John L. Howard knew each other, I find their mutual connection to the King David’s Lodge, at the least, highly intriguing.

Political Affiliations

In The House That R. Jack Built, Marilyn Darnell mentions that R.E. Jack became the equivalent of Mayor, and in 1888 he was a delegate to the Republican Presidential Convention. As discovered in the Jack Family Papers, R.E. Jack corresponded multiple times with H.H. Haight, the 10th Governor of California, also known for signing into effect the University of California. I also found correspondence from Senator Leland Stanford (the 8th Governor of California and founder of Stanford University) to R.E. Jack, requesting assistance contacting the US Ambassador to Guatemala, Romauldo Pacheco (also a former governor of California).


A letter addressed to R.E. Jack, 1891 (Jack Family Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, 014_spc_000016_002)


A letter enclosed with Jack’s letter, from Senator Stanford to U.S. Minister Pacheco (Jack Family Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, 014_spc_000017_002)

Read more on Jack Family, Jack Family Papers, and san luis obispo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.