Lewis Jacobs, President of the Bank of San Bernardino, and one of the oldest residents and most successful business men of Southern California, was born in Prussia, Europe, in 1831; immigrated to America at the age of twenty years, and a year later, in 1852, came to California, and to what is now San Bernardino County, then a part of Los Angeles County, before the town of San Bernardino was laid off.
Being entirely dependent upon his own resources of brain and muscle, he started out to earn a living with a pack on his back, selling goods from door to door. By industry and economy he was soon enabled to establish himself in the mercantile business, as the proprietor of a general store in the young town of San Bernardino. The settlers were all struggling to obtain homes, and there was literally no money in the country, and business had to be carried on entirely by barter and exchange. Mr. Jacobs would sell his customers goods and take their eggs, butter and produce in payment. These he had to haul to Los Angeles, generally with ox-teams, and sell them there for money. As the county and city grew in wealth and population, his business steadily increased in volume and prosperity, until the beginning of 1875, when he sold out his store and opened the first bank in the county, which he has conducted with marked success ever since. While, with the true instincts of a banker, Mr. Jacobs has carefully guarded the interests of his depositors, pursuing a conservative policy in the management of the bank, he has also exhibited a spirit of true loyalty to the county’s welfare and progress, by assisting with his money and influence enterprises tending to develop its marvelous resources and demonstrate its wonderful productive qualities. In the trying days of the Riverside colonists, when the founders of that grandest horticultural experiment and success of modern times needed material aid and encouragement, Mr. Jacobs assisted them with both goods and money until they began to exchange the golden spheres for golden coin, and were thereby enabled to repay. His assistance, in the way of cash and credit was a primary factor in the construction of the Bear Valley reservoir improvements, which have made the Redlands of today and the future possible. In each of these cases Mr. Jacobs had the opportunity to make a fortune for himself, but was content in helping others to lay the foundations of fortunes, he receiving but a moderate interest on the moneys he had furnished.
Mr. Jacobs has invested considerable capital in citrus fruit lands and improvements in San Bernardino County. On the final settlement with the Riverside Company they tendered him four blocks of land of two and a half acres each, as a contribution in recognition of favors received at his hands, but he declined all but one. This he has highly improved and has been offered $13,000 for it. He also has a fine young orange orchard of twenty-five acres in Redlands, which cannot be bought for $1,000 an acre. The subject of this memoir is a living example of what well-directed energy, industry and economy can accomplish under favorable circumstances.