(written about 1985)
His picture hung in our living room, and though I never knew the man, I was always fascinated by his eyes, they seemed to follow me about the room every day and I was very curious about him. His name was John Thompson Jacks, my father’s father. We were not allowed to question any further because it made Grandma Jacks sad and moody. She would stay alone in her room for days, but then she was seventy-five when I was born, so she was pretty old and old people could do things like that.
In 1926 we were visited by my father’s younger sister from L.A. California (Fannie Jacks Votaw) prior to the family moving from Driftwood to San Marcos, where my mother (Nannie Dement Jacks) was to be County Clerk for Hays County. Father, Aunt Fannie and I went to their “old home” place for a last look. Standing by the fence, uphill from Onion Creek, Father explained the steel cable rigged to the fence and leading two hundred feet or so to the creek; “Pa put that up so the girls could draw water from the creek without leaving the yard”. Then, pulling a branding iron from a fence post, he said “I remember when this was made Pa said they’d have a hard time using a running iron on it, but I guess we’ll have no use for it now” and he stuck it back in the fence.
Another evening during Aunt Fannie’s visit, I was standing between Father’s knees in front of the fireplace and Aunt Fannie, sitting on our right, said “Well Dave, what are you going to do about it?” He spoke slowly while still in thought, “I have two boys and I’m blind — so all I could do would be to start a feud — nothing I guess.” A work party of men had that day just moved Grandpa Jacks’ grave from Tom Corbett’s small pasture cemetery down to the Driftwood Cemetery. He had first been buried in 1882, when Father was just four years old and Aunt Fannie was two. That was a very young and short period of knowing their father.
About 1984 or ’85, my sister, Davey Fay Jacks and I drove to “The Salt Lick”, adjacent to Camp Ben McCulloch for some barbecue. We were having “old home week” type conversation with Thurmond Roberts (owner-proprietor) and mentioned the moving of Grandpa Jacks’ body. He said, “I remember that — I was there — when they had uncovered the skeleton, one of the men said ‘Yep there’s a bullet hole in the forehead, he was shot’ and Mr. Dave said ‘hand me the skull, I’ve got to know’. The men placed the skull in Mr. Dave’s hands and he put his right thumb in the hole — almost dead center — he handed it back, stood up and Dad (Bill Roberts) walked away with him.
In the summer of 1942, while I was visiting Aunt Fannie in Los Angeles, she told me how her father had gotten a small hand-gun for each of the five older girls, to always have with them when they left the house. This was at the time when J. T. Jacks as constable, had arrested five men for rustling. Two men were sent to the pen and three were turned loose. During this period, there was reportedly circulated, among an “unlawful” group, a reward poster offering $100 to anyone who could ruin one of the Jacks girls. Later, when Aunt Fannie was almost grown up, my father had gotten her a small hand-gun and taught her to use it. She still had it and showed it to me. I remember it was a small repeater type and had ivory grips.
John Thompson Jacks was reportedly killed by falling, or being pushed from a cliff on 29 April 1882, and is buried in the Driftwood, Texas Cemetery. The San Marcos Free Press, San Marcos, Texas, May 4, 1882 included the following:
“A Fatal Fall: We learn that a Mr. Jack lost his life a few days since by falling from a cliff on Onion Creek, near Speed’s crossing in this county. He was herding goats, and is supposed to have fallen over, the precipice was about 100 ft. high. A stake rope which was around his body caught a limb before he reached the bottom, leaving him suspended, but he had received fatal injuries before he reached that point.”
The following is taken from a letter written by Fannie Jacks Votaw, about 1957:
“As for the circumstances of my father’s death, I feel sure I have the correct information as I have heard the old timers who were his and mother’s friends express themselves.
There was no proof (legal) that Felix Burcher and a friend Will Haynes – or Hains – murdered him. In tracing a cattle thief – I don’t mean a regular “cattle rustler”, but one who was periodically stealing a beef small or large – they caught Burcher in the act and father was shocked to find his next door neighbor the guilty one. Burcher served 2 years in the “pen” and father helped the neighbors to take care of his family while he was gone. He had a nice wife – a good woman –. There are still some of her relatives in that country I think, and nice people. We were always taught to do no talking or gossiping – and we didn’t, but Laurel Hall and his wife, the present Mrs. L. F. Hall Sr., told me in 1926 that Burcher confessed to his wife on his deathbed to the murder. When he served his term and came home, father one day met Burcher and another man on the country road – they were on horseback, he in a wagon. Father had a rifle handy but not in sight. When Burcher started to draw his gun father pulled his first and no one was hurt but Burcher told him he would kill him if he ever caught him unarmed and he did. If you knew that bluff – hill – as well as I did, you or anyone else would know he never fell from it, and one of the old time friends, Mr. Echols, father of J. Echols of Driftwood, told mother he had seen those two men running their horses full speed from where father’s body was found. He asked what was the hurry and they said they were after a maverick, but never checked their speed. Mr. Echols led the men to where he had seen those two and there they found him. When in after years the remains were transferred to Driftwood Cemetery, some of the neighbor men told brother, Dave, that there was a bullet hole in his skull. Dave told me that himself.”
John Thompson Jacks was born in Tennessee, 21 June 1837. While he was quite young , he ran off to Texas. He was married in 1865 to Leah Abigail McGonagill in Lavaca County, Texas. During the Civil War, he was in the Confederate Army. His record of service as shown by the records of the State of Texas is as follows:
“J. T. Jacks, private, enlisted August 6, 1861 at Sweet Home, Lavaca County, Texas is Capt. Frederick J. Malone’s Cavalry Company, 24th Brigade, Texas State Troops. The company had no arms of an approved style; offered to serve as Cavalry or Infantry, but preferred Cavalry.”
The Adjutant General of the U.S. Army furnished the following record:
“J. T. Jacks, private, Company A, 12th Regiment Texas Infantry (Young’s Regiment – 8th Regiment Texas Infantry), enlisted 4 November 1861, at Halletsville, age 23 years, also shown as 25 years. The company muster roll for Jan. and Feb. 1864, last on file, shows him transferred to Division Engineer Corps January 1, 1864.”