Photos from the Vault

Stories about the Jack family, from horse thieves to Cadillacs

Nellie Hollister Jack, seated, and probably Mary Hollister Banning, kneeling, under a California fan palm in front of the carriage house, Jack Garden, late 1880s.
Nellie Hollister Jack, seated, and probably Mary Hollister Banning, kneeling, under a California fan palm in front of the carriage house, Jack Garden, late 1880s. Jack House Collection

One of the gems of San Luis Obispo is the Jack House on Marsh Street.

A recent rediscovery of the accompanying photograph has led to an amended application to include the garden with the house in the National Register of Historic Places.

Built by Robert Edgar Jack and donated to the city by his son Howard, the house and gardens are now a museum and host events such as weddings and civic gatherings.

A previous article offered a history of R.E. Jack, Cholame rancher, real estate developer and banker. recently digitized and indexed early issues of the Tribune, allowing easy access to early copies of the Tribune and Telegram. Here are articles that offer a window into life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

San Luis Obispo Tribune. Aug. 3, 1878

“Mr. Pattison, of the firm Pattison & Hanson, had a narrow escape from death last Saturday at the building of R.E. Jack on Marsh street. Whilst doing some tin work on the roof, he inadvertently stepped on to the laths in the ceiling, which gave way with his weight, but in falling his jaw struck the joist and held him there until he released himself.”

San Luis Obispo Tribune. Nov. 9, 1878

“On Thursday afternoon, between three and four o’clock, an unknown individual unhitched the horse of Mr. R.E. Jack, from the post by the bank, where it was tied. The thief did the job with the utmost nonchalance, for withal its being broad daylight, he rode the horse on a trot across the Court Street bridge, promenaded him around town for quite a while before taking him off. Marshal Bump and W.L. Stephens started in pursuit of the thief in the evening, and overtook him in company with two other persons near the Ranch Quemado, when they took to the chaparral. The pursuers then procured saddle-horses and searched for them all night, but with no success.”

San Luis Obispo Tribune. Nov. 16, 1878

“The boy who stole R.E. Jack’s horse from in front of the bank, on Thursday last, was captured at Guadalupe, on Saturday by Sheriff Oaks. The lad’s name is Ed. Hughes. He is about 17 years of age, and is more a fool than knave. He was examined before Judge Preston on Monday and committed to prison to await the action of the grand jury. He appears to be simple-minded and is undoubtedly a kleptomaniac.”

San Luis Obispo Tribune. Dec. 7, 1878

“On Friday evening between eight and nine o’clock, two horses were stolen from within a stone’s throw of the courthouse in this city. One of the animals belonged to Mr. R.E. Jack and was the same one that was stolen some three or four weeks ago from in front of the bank. The other belonged to District Attorney McMurtry. The thieves were two Spanish boys. The name of one is Rodulfo Abelardo that of the other is unknown. After taking the horses they started up the Cuesta road. On reaching the old mill a mile or two from town they concluded that McMurtry’s horse was not speedy enough, and so exchanged for a better one belonging to Mr Sumner, but in their haste neglected to mention the matter to the owner.”

San Luis Obispo Tribune. June 1, 1883

The newspaper took note of an elegant reception for about 60 people held at the Jack House and, though a representative of the newspaper was not there, it did note that several people who attended said the event was a “complete success.” The party was exclusive, only unmarried young ladies and gentlemen were invited.

“The large and handsome house was complete in all arrangements for the comfort and pleasure of all.”

Success was attributed to Mrs. Jack, “an accomplished hostess.”

San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram. Sept. 14, 1908

An ad that showed up frequently:

“WANTED—A good cook. Mrs. R.E. Jack, Marsh Street.”

San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram. Aug. 12, 1909

Horses were making way for a new mode of transportation in the first decade of the 20th century.

“R.E. Jack recently purchased a Cadillac automobile and it has proven to be a great acquisition to Mr. Jack in visiting his ranch, over 70 miles from the county seat. Mr. Jack is now enabled to make the trip to the ranch in three hours. The machine is a dandy and rides particularly easy up and down hills and over rough roads.”

San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram. Aug. 17, 1912

“The first Oakland car reached San Luis Obispo this week, coming to R.E. Jack. The car is of fifty horse power and is fitted for seven passengers. While the Oakland is new in this section its popularity is already evident in the bay cities and Los Angeles. The new Jack car will be used in San Luis while the old machine will serve on the ranch for country work.”

Cadillacs from that era sell for between $75,000 to $95,000 today. Hard to imagine that the 1909 model finished its life as a ranch utility vehicle.

David Middlecamp: 805-781-7942, @DavidMiddlecamp