Biography of John W. Jacks

The value of the local newspaper in the upbuilding of the best interests of any community is universally conceded. The rule is that good papers are found in good towns, inferior journals in towns of stunted growth and uncertain future. It is not so much a matter of size as excellence and of adaptability to the needs of its locality. These conditions given, in an appreciative and progressive community, the size of the paper will take care of itself in a way mutually satisfactory to publishers and patrons. Montgomery City is fortunate in having the Standard as its local instrument. This paper is owned, edited and published by John W. Jacks and is conducted upon only the highest and most honorable principles.

John W. Jacks was born five miles north of Paris, in Monroe county, Missouri, on the 1st of September, 1845, a son of John Richmond Jacks. His father was born to Kentucky in 1815 and came with his parents to Missouri when twelve years of age. The first pair of shoes John R. Jacks ever owned he made himself. In Missouri he engaged in farming and the mercantile business and was a prominent man in the community in which he resided. He was the first marshal of the Court of Common Pleas of Sturgeon, Boone county, and was a man of the highest integrity and personal worth. His father was William Milton Jacks, a native of North Carolina, who married Miss Nancy White in Kentucky and moved to Missouri in 1827. The mother of John W. Jacks was Sarah Keithley. She was born in Pike county, a daughter of Joseph Keithley, a farmer of that county. Her death occurred in Moberly, Missouri, in 1872.

John W. Jacks attended the common schools, first in Pike and then in Boone county. When he was ten years of age his father moved from Pike to Boone county and subsequently to Sturgeon in that county, where he attended school a short time. At fourteen years of age he entered the printing office of the Sturgeon Independent in Sturgeon on the basis of six months’ work without remuneration and ten dollars a month for the next six months-which he has not yet received. He learned typesetting and printing and after his apprentice year attended school again for a time. When the Civil war was raging his father was forced to leave the country because of his sympathy with the Confederate cause and the hostility of the Missouri militia. In 1864 John W. Jacks was in Mound City, Illinois, where for a time he worked for a printing office for 11. J. Moudy. From Mound City he went to St. Louis and became a compositor on the Republican, afterwards the Republic, and in this capacity he remained until after the surrender of General Lee and the assassination of Lincoln. He returned to Sturgeon and with a friend, Bell Croswhite, opened a photograph gallery. Neither of them ever having had any previous experience in this line of work, within a short time the business went to pieces. Soon after this misfortune Mr. Jacks was offered a situation on a newspaper in Mexico, Missouri, which was just being started by W. W. Davenport, with whom was associated Captain J. D. Macfarlane. This paper was the Mexico Messenger and Mr. Jacks helped get out the first number. For several months Mr. Jacks worked on this paper and finally became foreman. When the time for the county fair approached, some of his Mexico friends suggested that he get out a daily paper during the fair. By an arrangement with Mr. Davenport he issued such daily, thus publishing the first daily paper ever published in Mexico. This daily was issued during the several days of the county fair and while Mr. Jacks was still an employe of the Messenger. When Mr. Davenport sold the Messenger, in 1868, Mr. Jacks went to work for J. T. Brooks on the Mexico Ledger and was foreman on that paper for about six months when the old foreman returned and he resigned. He secured a position as compositor on the Statesman in Columbia, edited by Colonel W. F. Switzler, and remained about a year when he returned to Sturgeon and worked for several months in his father’s mercantile store. The call of the newspaper made him seek further work along this line, however, and he went to work in Jefferson City in the Tribune office, accepting a position as foreman of the job and bill department. He remained in that capacity until the legislature adjourned. His work there was more than satisfactory.

On leaving this job he again returned to Sturgeon and in 1870 established the Sturgeon Leader, having purchased new equipment. He borrowed some money for this enterprise at one per cent a month, and in two months’ time he paid off this debt, and paid all of his other bills within a short time. This venture was successful and be conducted the paper from September, 1870, until December, 1872. In the meantime he and Colonel John E. Hutton, afterward a member of congress, had bought the Mexico Ledger and changed the name to the Intelligencer. Air. Jacks practically managed both papers until he discontinued the Leader. He sold the Sturgeon paper to Thomas S. Carter in 1873 and remained with Colonel Hutton until 1875, when he sold his interest in the Intelligencer to Colonel Hutton and bought a half interest in a job printing office in St. Louis from William S. Bryan. He was in this line of business during 1877 and 1878, and during that period he printed the Central Baptist and some other papers, also several books, notably “Noted Guerillas,” by Major John N. Edwards, and “To the East by Way of the West,” by the noted Methodist, Bishop Marvin. His next purchase was the Washington Observer in Franklin county, which he published for some little time more than one year. On the 1st of May, 18811, he came to Montgomery City and bought the Standard, which was founded in 1866, and has owned, edited and published this paper ever since.

Mr. Jacks became a member of the Missouri Press Association in 1871 and was secretary of the Association from 1884 to 1890. In 1894 he was elected president of the Association and presided during the 1895 session. At the close of the session he was presented with a gold-headed ebony cane and his wife received a diamond ring. Mr. Jacks was also a member of the National Editorial Association for several years and a member of the Southwest Missouri Press Association. He served as president of the Northeast Alissouri Press Association for two or three terms. He has traveled from Boston to San Francisco, from Duluth to New Orleans and from Mexico to Florida with the editorial excursions and is now ready for another trip.

On the 15th of October, 1871, Mr. Jacks was united in marriage to Miss Burbridge Hulen, a daughter of John C. Hulen, a Boone county farmer. Her father was a native of Kentucky. Mr. and Mrs. Jacks have become parents of four children: Mabel is now the wife of Albert E. Kemper, president of the First National Bank at Montgomery; Richmond Keith Jacks is making his home in New Orleans and is married. He is in the advertising department of the New Orleans Item; Harry Summers Jacks is district manager in the vocational educational service of the United States at Kansas City. He married Miss Lucille Washington, of Montgomery county, and they have become the parents of two children, Kemper and Jeannette; Kenneth Berry Jacks passed away at the age of twenty years.

Mr. Jacks has always been a stanch supporter of the democratic party and the principles for which it stands. His paper became prominent in democratic politics in 1884, when the fight for the nomination to congress in his district was at its height, and became so bitter it resulted in the district being dubbed the “Bloody Seventh.” Hon. A. H. Buckner, who had been a member of congress from this district for many years, declined to become a candidate for reelection, and candidates sprang up in every county in the district. Montgomery county’s candidate was not supported heartily and the race became one between Judge Elijah Robinson of Pike county and Hon. R. H. Norton of Lincoln county. Colonel J. E. Hutton of Audrain county also was a candidate. The Robinson and Norton factions became so embittered that either side would nave preferred any other man than his opponent. And neither side could win without Audrain county. Here Colonel Hutton came in. He realized that he was not the choice of the convention, but he knew each of the two factions preferred him to the other, and if the Audrain delegation stayed with him, he was bound to be the nominee. Mr. Jacks espoused the cause of Colonel Hutton, his former partner in the Intelligencer at Mexico. The nominating convention was held in Montgomery and continued in session for a week. Mr. Jacks was secretary. At the end of the week the convention adjourned to meet at New London in two weeks. In the convention in Montgomery four hundred and seventy-seven ballots were cast without an election, an unprecedented number at that time. At the New London convention Colonel Hutton’s tactics prevailed. He was nominated. Two years later the same conditions existed and again finally was Colonel Hutton nominated. At the close of his term Hon. Champ Clark appeared on the scene. He was in favor of primary elections and by the primaries he was finally nominated. He had a hard fight against Hon. R.H. Norton. Colonel Norton was elected to congress and served two terms before Mr. Clark was nominated. Mr. Jacks had a prominent part in all these contests and fought Mr. Clark with great energy until he became the nominee. After Clark’s nomination they became good friends and Mr. Jacks gave him a hearty support. Afterward, during the time Mr. Clark was speaker of the last democratic house in congress, he appointed Mr. Jacks journal clerk of the house, where he served till the close of the session. Both Senators Cockrell and William Joel Stone, two of the great senators from Missouri, selected Mr. Jacks as a member of one of their conference committees during some of their contests for the senatorial toga. Mr. Jacks was not ambitious for political preferment and was a candidate only once, when he was persuaded to try for the nomination as state senator. He was defeated for the nomination.

He has served as clerk of different activities in the legislature. He was clerk of the committee on criminal jurisprudence in the house of representatives in the legislature of Missouri, when Hon. Sol. Hughlett was chairman of that committee. When the session was drawing to a close, the calendar from which the bills were taken in regular order for passage did not seem to please some of the members who said their bills did not appear in their proper order, whereupon some member without the knowledge or consent of Mr. Jacks offered a resolution appointing him calendar clerk for the remainder of the session, remarking that there would then be no juggling with the calendar order thereafter. The resolution passed, Mr. Jacks accepted the position and there was no further complaint that session. Mr. Jacks was engrossing clerk in the state senate in 1889. At the close of the session a resolution of thanks from the senate for the accuracy of his work, in a session in which the duties of his office had been unprecedentedly heavy, not a single mistake being found, was adopted. In 1893 he was elected chief clerk of the house of representatives and at the close of the session was presented with a beautiful gold watch by his force.

Mr. Jacks was active in the fight to establish terms of the circuit court in Montgomery City and he is more responsible than any other one man for the present condition of the court question in Montgomery county. The idea of having separate courts held in Montgomery City was promulgated by him. The county seat of Montgomery county is Danville, a small village five miles from the railroad. Montgomery City is the largest town in the county, is on a railroad and is near the center of the county. Many attempts to move the county seat to Montgomery had failed, the law requiring a two-thirds majority vote to move it, and after several attempts there was much bitterness engendered between the opposing factions. Mr. Jacks conceived the idea of having terms of court established in Montgomery City so that each faction could have court service where they wanted it. The idea took like wildfire and then another fight was on. But the legislature in 1889 enacted the law to hold terms of court in Montgomery City. The people then built a fine courthouse and the courts are yet held in Montgomery City. Danville is the official county seat, but the circuit court, probate court and county courts are held in Montgomery City, where all the county offices except that of treasurer are located.

Mr. Jacks is a member of the Masonic fraternity, holding membership in Sturgeon Lodge, No. 174, A. F. & A. AI. He had been secretary of this lodge nearly two years when he left Sturgeon. His religious faith is that of the Christian church, of which he has been a member since November, 1884. He was elected superintendent of the Sunday school two months after he became a member of the congregation and was reelected annually thereafter till he had served in that capacity for twenty-eight years. He was also elected a deacon at the same time and is still serving in that office. He has been one of the trustees of his church for many years. He was president of the County Sunday School Association of Montgomery county for two years.

The true measure of success is determined by what one has accomplished and as taken in contradistinction to the old adage that a prophet is not without. honor save in his own country, there is particular interest attaching to the career of the subject of this review, since he has so directed his ability and efforts as to gain recognition as one of the foremost citizens of Montgomery City. In molding public opinion the power of the newspaper cannot be estimated, but at all events its influence is greater than that of any other single agency.



Stevens, Walter B. Centennial History of Missouri (The Center State) One Hundred Years In The Union 1820-1921 Vol 6. St. Louis-Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. 1921.

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1 thought on “Biography of John W. Jacks”

  1. Are you aware of the letter allegedly sent from Mr. Jacks to Florence Balgarnie? I am trying to prove the existence of this letter. It is often referred to as the “Jacks Letter.”

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