David Jacks (businessman)

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David Jack
Bearded, portly man from 1880s
David Jack[1]

(1822-04-18)April 18, 1822
DiedJanuary 11, 1909(1909-01-11) (aged 86)
NationalityScottish, American
OccupationLand speculator, developer, businessman, university trustee
Known forMonterey Jack cheese
Spouse(s)Maria Cristina Soledad Romie
ChildrenJane, Louise L., William, Mary R., Margarete A., Romie C., and Vida G.[2]

David Jack (18 April 1822 – 11 January 1909) was a powerful Californian landowner, developer, and businessman. Born in Scotland, he emigrated to California during the 1849 Gold Rush, and soon acquired several thousand acres in and around Monterey, shaping the history of Monterey County in the first decades of American possession. He is also credited as being the first to market and popularize Monterey Jack cheese.[1][3] He was born David Jack, but took to using David Jacks once in California.[1][4]

Early life[edit]

David Jack was born in Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland, the sixth of nine children of William Jack and the first of three William had by his second wife Janet McEwan. Little is known of Jack's early life, though he may have worked at handloom weaving. In 1841 he migrated to America to join two older brothers on Long Island.

Move to California[edit]

After several years working as an army contractor in Brooklyn, where he is reputed to have met Captain Robert E. Lee, Jack read about the 1848 finding of gold in the Sierra Nevada. In November of that year he sailed with an artillery regiment to California, arriving in San Francisco in April 1849. Jack invested in guns and made a $4,000 profit on revolvers upon landing in San Francisco, and then took up a job at the city's Customs House.

In 1850 Jack moved to Monterey, initially taking up a job in the store of a fellow Scotsman, James McKinlay. By 1852 Jack had been elected Treasurer of Monterey County and began purchasing land in the area.

A controversial landowner[edit]

Jack soon involved himself in the settlement of Mexican land claims in the new State of California, a process that would lead to his becoming Monterey's dominant landowner. In 1853 the Pueblo of Monterey contracted Delos Rodeyn Ashley to help legalize its title to some 30,000 acres (120 km²) of land on the Monterey Peninsula. Ashley was successful, and billed the city nearly $1,000 for his services. When the city could not pay, he suggested the city auction some of its land. They advertised the auction in a newspaper, as legally required, but in Santa Cruz. They were the only two bidders and purchased the entire tract underlying the city for $1002.50 on 9 February 1859.

The sale was controversial, and the city of Monterey filed suit against Jack claiming the sale was illegitimate. The case eventually reached the US Supreme Court in 1903, which ruled in favor of Jack. In 1869 Ashley turned his interest in the land over to Jack, who now owned the tract outright. Included in this tract are what is now the cities of Monterey, Pacific Grove, Seaside, and Del Rey Oaks along with the Del Monte Forest (better known as Pebble Beach), and Fort Ord, now the home of California State University, Monterey Bay.

Jack's business practices created a great deal of antipathy in the community. Jack was a willing lender of money and of mortgages to those living on his land, but also was quick to foreclose. As a result, animosity toward him ran high, and it has been claimed he had to travel with bodyguards anywhere he went in Monterey County. The author Robert Louis Stevenson, after visiting Monterey, claimed that famed San Francisco orator Denis Kearney had suggested the residents should deal with Jack by having him hanged.[4]

Jack was also involved in land development. In 1875, he donated land on the Monterey Peninsula to a Methodist retreat group, which founded the town of Pacific Grove. In 1874 he helped found the Monterey and Salinas Railroad to compete with the dominant Southern Pacific Railroad, though Jack eventually had to sell the line to the SP.

Monterey Jack Cheese[edit]

David Jack has been credited with the popularization of what is today known as Monterey Jack cheese. A dairy Jack owned along the Salinas River produced a cheese originally known as Queso Blanco, first made by the Franciscan friars at the nearby Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. As Jack's dairy went into partnership with other regional dairies, the cheese was mass marketed, which came to be known at first as "Jack's Cheese", and eventually "Monterey Jack".

There are competing claims to the origin of the name "Monterey Jack" cheese, including one by Domingo Pedrazzi of Carmel Valley, who argued that his use of a pressure jack gave the cheese its name.[5] There are also claims that "Monterey Jack" cheese originated from the Victorine Ranch, south of Malpaso Creek in Carmel Highlands.

Later life[edit]

A devout Presbyterian, Jack donated a great deal of money to religious causes later in life, including support of missionary work, as well as helping to found the Pacific Grove retreat. He was on the board of trustees of the University of the Pacific and helped to keep the school financially afloat in its early years.

Jack helped to found what is now the community of Del Monte Forest, also known as Pebble Beach. In the 1880s he sold a large tract of land between Carmel and Pacific Grove to the Pacific Improvement Company, a company controlled by the so-called "Big Four" California railroad barons - Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, and Collis P. Huntington. In 1919 F. B. Morse became manager of the Pacific Improvement Company, and formed the Del Monte Properties Company which finally developed Pebble Beach and the surrounding resorts.

In 1907 Jack retired from the landowning business, turning his holdings over to a corporation controlled by his children. He died on January 11, 1909 in Monterey.[6]


David Jack married Maria Soledad de Romie on April 20, 1861 and produced nine children, with only seven surviving childhood. His last surviving heir, Margaret Anna Jack, died in April 1962, and the remainder of his estate passed to various colleges and universities in California. The gift to Stanford University was the largest at the time since the founding grant, with two endowed professorships and a building in the main quad named for the family.[7]

Along with Monterey Jack cheese, many landmarks in and around Monterey are named for David Jack. These include Don Dahvee Park and Jacks Peak, the highest point on the Monterey Peninsula, in Jacks Peak Park.


  1. ^ a b c Bakken, Gordon Morris; Kindell, Alexandra (2006). Encyclopedia of Immigration and Migration in the American West. SAGE. pp. 345–346. ISBN 9781412905503.
  2. ^ A Memorial and Biographical History of the Coast Counties of Central California p 246
  3. ^ "DAVID JACKS, WELL KNOWN CALIFORNIAN, DIES IN NORTH" (olume 36, Number 103). Los Angeles Herald. 12 January 1909. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b Land King: The Story of David Jack
  5. ^ The "True" Story of Monterey Jack Cheese, Monterey County Historical Society
  6. ^ "DAVID JACKS COMPANY CAPITALIZED AT $840,000". cdnc.ucr.edu. Morning Press. 16 August 1907. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Margaret Jacks Hall Dedication" (PDF). Stanford University. June 20, 1980. Retrieved December 23, 2016.

External links[edit]