By Brett Nolan
Built in 1887, this residence was first owned by John Henry Jacks and his family. In this part one of the story, we are going back in time to look at the history leading up to John Henry Jacks and his family building their home in Mandarin.
Originally living with his mother, stepfather, and two sisters — Francis and Letitia — in what is now downtown Jacksonville, hardships fell on the Jacks family during the 1860s. A census during that time shows both his mother and stepfather listed; however, by the time the 1870 census was conducted, the two heads of family were not found. The eldest sister, Francis, was listed as a domestic servant in a household just outside of Jacksonville, in the suburb of LaVilla. Oral history from descendants of the Jacks family tells of Francis making great efforts to try and hold the family together, supporting it after the death of their parents.
To avoid the dangers of the Civil War, Francis took it upon herself to relocate John Henry, who was 16 at the time, and their 19 year old sister to Mandarin, where they resided in the household of a family friend, John Hagan, another prominent Mandarin name. In fact, Francis even carried a matchbox-sized box with a piece of paper inside, a pledge of allegiance to the United States that she signed, in order to pass through Union Army areas of Jacksonville when getting to work. During the Civil War, Jacksonville and the surrounding parts of Duval County constantly went back and forth between Union and Confederate hands.
Francis died young, presumably from tuberculosis, never getting married or having children; her sole mission on this Earth having been solemnly placed as a caregiver for her younger brother and sister. Many descendants of this family would be named after her in honor. Meanwhile, back in Mandarin, John Henry would go on to marry Ella Eaton of Long Island, N.Y. Letitia married William Monson of St. Augustine.
Monson served in Company D, Tenth Regiment of the Florida Volunteer Infantry, taking part in the largest battle in Florida during the Civil War — the Battle of Olustee — as well as some military actions in Petersburg, Va. Upon returning home after the war, he was engaged in the lumber industry and moved to Mandarin in 1868. He, like his father from Norway, was a skilled carpenter who is credited with having built several homes, buildings, and churches in the Mandarin and Loretto areas. Only a handful of Monson structures still stand today including the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church (1891 – 1912), the Winton estate – Jubilee Hall (1887), the Mandarin Store and Post Office (1911), and, finally, the home of John Henry Jacks.
(Note: The research collected for this article came from William and Anne Morrow, descendants of the Jacks family, and the Designation Application Report for the John Henry Jacks Residence. City Bill Number: 1088, 2000).
Brett Nolan is a volunteer with the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society., Visit www.mandarinmuseum.net for more information about Mandarin’s history.
(Editor’s Note: Check back next month for Part 2 of the history of the John Henry Jacks House.)
Photo courtesy Tracey Arpen
The John Henry Jacks House