Jackson Dennis is a self-made man who without any extraordinary family or educational advantages at the commencement of life has battled earnestly and energetically, and by indomitable courage and integrity has achieved both character and fortune. By sheer force of will and untiring effort he has worked his way upward and is today one of the most prominent businessmen of Sutter Creek.
Born on the 1st of November, 1852, in Audrain County, Missouri, he is a son of James Dennis, whose birth occurred in Missouri in 1815. His father was a farmer and for many years was a leading citizen of his community, holding the office of district judge. He was married in his native state to Miss Mary A. Donavan, whose birth occurred in Linn County, Missouri, and in that state they became the parents of five children, who in 1853 accompanied them on their journey across the plains to California. The father was the captain of the company which made the trip at that time. They secured their outfits at St. Joseph, Missouri, and in the party were one hundred and twenty men, women and children, their equipments consisting of twenty-three wagons, drawn by ox teams. They were harassed by savages and had several hard fights with the red men, four of their number being killed, while a considerable amount of their stock was captured and driven away. Mr. Dennis, with a squad of men, followed the Indians, and when they overtook them, punished them severely and recaptured most of the cattle. On the Platte River they succeeded in purchasing more cattle, and were thus enabled to make their way over the plains to the land of gold. They crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains and came down the old Volcano road to Ione, Amador County, where Mr. Dennis followed his trade of carpentering.
For some years he carried on contracting and building, after which he became the proprietor of the Arcade Hotel, which he conducted successfully for a considerable period. Then he left Ione and engaged in copper mining near what is now the Newtown mine in Amador County, but in that venture he lost much money and was obliged to resume his work as a contractor. He assisted in building the towns of Shingle Springs and Latrobe, in El Dorado County, and followed his chosen vocation until his eyesight began to fail, when he was forced to retire from active business. He then came to Sutter Creek, which place he continued to make his home until his death, which occurred on the 4th of March, 1897, when he had attained the age of eighty-two years. He was an upright, honorable man, and in politics a life-long Republican, supporting the Union cause during the Civil War. His wife survived him until the 16th of November, 1899, when she too passed to the home beyond. Two children were added to their family in California, making seven in all, and of that number five at yet living, namely: John D., who is a druggist in San Luis Obispo; Henry, a telegraph operator and station agent for the Valley Road; Maggie, the wife of William Land; Louise, the wife of A. Adams, of Sacramento; and Jackson, the subject of this sketch.
The last mentioned was only a year old when brought by his parents to California. He was educated in the public schools of Ione, Latrobe and Shingle, and when his literary course was completed he began reading medicine under the direction of Dr. J. A. Brown, of Sutter Creek, and subsequently took a course in the medical department of the Cooper School of San Francisco. On leaving that institution he accepted a clerkship in his brother’s store, which was subsequently sold to the firm of Dunlap & Walker, and at a later day Mr. Dennis purchased the interest of Mr. Walker, the firm then being Dunlap & Dennis, which relationship was retained for eight years, when Mr. Dennis bought out his partner, becoming sole proprietor. Through the succeeding years he has conducted the leading drug store at Sutter Creek, having nearly all the trade in his line in the town. He carries a large and complete stock of everything found in a first-class establishment of the kind, and his commendable business methods, reasonable prices and honorable dealing have secured to him a large patronage.
Mr. Dennis has always been an active factor in the life of Sutter Creek in every way. For over thirty years he held the position of postmaster, being appointed by President Grant and serving in the office until after the inauguration of President McKinley, when he resigned in order to give more undivided attention to his commercial interests. His long retention in office indicated his fidelity and his promptness in the administering of the affairs of the office. He is also a representative of the Western Union Telegraph Company, the Wells-Fargo Express Company and has the agency for the Sunset Telegraph Company, which has recently been extended to the town. He is an expert telegraph operator and an able representative of the corporations mentioned. He owns the brick business block in which his drug store and the post office are located, and in all his business affairs he has prospered. On the 26th of March, 1900, Mr. Dennis organized a bank, the only one in Sutter Creek. He expected it would have a steady growth and build up a banking business in a gradual manner; but on the first day of opening he was rushed with deposits doing a ten-thousand-dollar business! The first three months’ business aggregated what he expected to do in a year’s time. So encouraging is his success that a building must be erected expressly for his bank.
On the 30th of January, 1872, Mr. Dennis wedded Miss Frances Ricard, and to them have been born the following named children: Wilfred, who is the superintendent of the Free American Quartz Mining Company and the principal stockholder; Harry S., who enlisted in the heavy artillery at the breaking out of the Spanish-American War and was stationed at Fort Canby until after the close of hostilities, when he received an honorable discharge. He next enlisted in the Third Cavalry and is now engaged in the pursuit of Aguinaldo in the Philippines. Hazel, the daughter of the family, is at home with her parents, who occupy a very pleasant residence adjoining Sutter Creek, where Mr. Dennis owns forty acres of valuable land. He is a member of the blue lodge and chapter of the Masonic fraternity and has filled all the offices in both branches of the Odd Fellows Society; and is also a member of the Independent Order of Foresters and of the Chosen Friends. His wife is a valued member of the Methodist Church. He contributes liberally to all enterprises and an interest calculated to prove a public benefit and is one of the valued residents of his community. His official conduct was that of an upright, honorable businessman, who retired from office as he had entered, with the confidence, respect and esteem of his fellow citizens.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.