The Jacobs house, the first permanent residential structure In Albany, county seat of Shackelford County, Texas is located on land first owned by the state and set aside for the Blind Asylum and was purchased by Henry C. Jacobs. In October, 1875 Mr. Jacobs posted a bond of $500 on the area of land now known as "Original Town", and the house site was part of this area (1). In April of the following year the patent was approved. Mr. A.T. Baker purchased the structure and lot from Jacobs In 1890, and holding it for only a few months, sold it to Arthur Quill. Quill then sold it to Eli Meyer a month later. Meyer kept the property for two years before selling it to E.E. Whitney (2). Approximately ten other owners held the land before Mrs. Beulah Ledbetter Sanders acquired it with the intention of clearing off the small old house and building a new larger one. While in the process of demolishing the structure, the small rock front was uncovered which aroused the curiosity of Albany playwright, Robert E. Nail, a Shackelford County historian.
Learning the story behind the house. Nail agreed to purchase the lot and house from Mrs. Sanders for the price of a lot for her new home in another location. The sum of $2,500 was paid by Nail on March 4, 1964, and Lot No. 6 and the s/4 of Lot No. 7 Block 36, Original Town, Albany, Texas became another of Nail's projects (3).
The most logical assumption as to the date of construction of the Jacobs House is 1875 with some indication of an even earlier date. Documentation leading to this assumption is found in the June 2, 1883 edition of the Albany Echo newspaper which states that when the first term of the old 34th Judicial District Court was held in Albany on Nov. 15, 1875, the only buildings in Albany were the residence of Henry C. Jacobs, Sheriff and the courthouse (of picket construction).; "not only were they the only houses in town, but for several miles around." George Robson was the owner and editor of the Echo at that time and presumably wrote the article stating that he could "vividly contrast the Albany of that time with the Albany of today." (4).
It is certain that Hattie Mae Jacobs, Henry Jacobs' first child, was born in their house on Nov., 1876. Mrs. A.A. Clarke had knowledge of her birth from Mr. Henry Herron who came to Shackelford County in 18 and personally knew of the birth of Hattie (Herron was requested to sign an affidavit in 1943 to acquire a birth certificate for Hattie) (5).
Henry Herron's descendents, Mrs. A. W. Reynolds (daughter). and Glenn Reynolds (grandson). both remember Mr. Herron stating that he helped construct the house hauling rock for $1.00 per day (6). Since Jacobs married in Jan., 1876, it seems likely that the residence was finished in time to receive his bride (7).
Having signed the petition dated August 15, 1874 to organize the county (8)., Jacobs was interested in the land of central Shackelford County upon which he hoped to found a town. Although a temporary county seat was set up at Fort Griffin, in Nov., 1874 an election decided to place the county seat in the center of the county (9). Location was in the N/E 1/4, Section, Blind Asylum Survey, on the North Prong of Hubbard Creek, and on the 26th of Jan., 1875, Henry Jacobs gave the land for a courthouse as well as 1/2 of 88 business lots 25' x 150' and 1/2 of 76 residence lots 50' x 200'. He also specified the main streets of Albany were to be 100' wide and the alleys 20' wide (10). The site of Albany was located on the Western Cattle Trail (from South Texas to Dodge City, Kansas). There is reason to speculate that Henry Jacobs believed the railroad would, eventually come to Albany, which it did in 1881.
The Jacobs House was built by Henry Carter Jacobs who was born in Greenup County, Kentucky on Oct. 22, 1842, (11). the son of Jackson and Jane Russell Jacobs, both natives of Kentucky (12). Henry Jacobs served in the Civil War as a Pvt., Co. B, 22nd Regular Kentucky Volunteer Infantry (13). In the early 1870s he came to Texas, purchasing a Ft. Griffin town lot for $12.00 from D. M. Dowell (14). He signed
the petition for the organization of Shackelford County and was elected the first sheriff in Sept., 1874 (15). After having married Mary Josephine Whatley from Troy, Alabama on Jan. 27. 1876, (16). he was defeated by John Larn in an election for sheriff. Henry and "Josie" as his wife was called had five children - Hattle, Walter, Clarence, Lois, and Ruth. Only Hattie and Lois were born in Albany; Walter and Clarence in the Blanco Canyon vicinity, and Ruth In Oklahoma. At the time of their marriage he was 33 years of age, and she was nineteen (17).
About 18 78 Henry Jacobs acquired a business interest in the form of a store at the head of Mount Blanco Canyon near the present town of Crosbyton in Crosby County (18). But, he returned to Albany in 1879 or '80 for it is known that he was definitely in Albany In Feb. 22, 1880, when he helped to establish a Presbyterian Church of which he and his wife were two of seven charter members (19). Then in the spring of 1881 Jacobs formed a partnership with J.L. Fisher and opened a land office (20). By July he had purchased a newspaper from W. W. Sammons named the Western Sun and changed the name to The Albany Sun (21). On the 4th of January, 1882 Mr. Jacobs gave the land for the Presbyterian church building (22).
Being both socially and musically inclined, he played B flat horn in the Albany Cornet Band (23), and in 1883 the Albany Fair Association was organized with the charter applied for in the office of Jacobs and Fisher (24). Dances and parties were held in this office regularly. The Albany newspapers noted that the Henry Jacobs family went north for the summer months to Michigan in 1883 and '84 (25). Clearly Jacobs was very involved with business and civic duties for he resigned as county surveyor in Nov., 1883 (26). and was elected a director of the Norman Horse Co. the next month (27). This step proved to be his financial undoing (28).
The Albany News states that on Feb. 2, 1884 the Norman Horse Co. leased 11,000 acres of land just north of Albany and later that month the charter of the Norman Horse Co. was forwarded to the Secretary of State increasing the capital stock of the company from $150,000 to $250,000 (29).
Shackelford County range land was discovered to be excellent for the development of horse flesh. Its limestone studded pastures were declared by many horse breeders to be exceeded only by the blue grass country of Kentucky in ability to impart vigor and sturdy growth to horses. Henry Jacobs, being from the State of Kentucky, recognized good horse country when he saw it. This discerning eye invested in the formation of the most ambitious horse operation ever attempted in this part of Texas. Its idea was to import Norman stallions of fine blood lines from France and from Illinois and to run them on the Shackelford County range with brood mares. The Norman breed of horse was a draft animal, originally from France, of tremendous size and strength. Jacobs vision was to have plenty of good draft animals available to sell the settlers who were pouring into this area because of the cheap land and the newly arrived railroad. These new people would need horses in transforming much of the grazing range of West Texas into farming land. It would seem even now that his foresight and business acumen were excellent.
In 1885 the Norman Horse Company purchased nine stallions In Illinois and brought them back to Albany and turned them loose on the range (30). This company was very active in raising fine horses, sending eight animals to the New Orleans Exposition on Sept. 26, 1884 (31). They operated on a large scale as indicated by the sale of 500 mares over 2 yrs. old to Thomas Sterett and Sons on Sept. 26, 1884 (32). Will Cureton, range manager for the company, reported the shipment of eight car loads to St. Louis (33), and a herd of 1000 head of horses went up the trail from Albany to Dodge City (34). It was not unusual for one of their stallions to bring as much as $3000 (35), and orders were received from as far away as New York and Nova Scotia (36).
The architect and contractor for the house was undoubtedly Henry himself. The house is of native stone construction and is built over a basement. The main room is 18x16 ft. and has a fireplace recessed on the north wall. A shed roof type back room on the west side served as a kitchen and measures 18x10 ft. A stairwell to the basement is on the south side of this room. Across the east side of the house runs a shed roof open porch with the front door opening onto this porch. A shingle roof of simple hip design covers the main part of the house. In the back yard approximately 30' west of the house is a dry well walled with stone. The outside measurements of the little house are 21x31 ft., and there are two windows on the east side of the main room, one on either side of the front door opening to the porch. On the south side of the house are two more windows, one in the main room and one in the kitchen area over the stairwell. The rock walls are quite thick measuring 19 1/2 inches at the front door and about 18 in. at the back door, located in the middle of the west wall of the kitchen. A door separates the two rooms. Another small window is on the north wall of the kitchen.
The main material used in construction of the house was native limestone, gathered from outcroppings nearby, probably from a ledge exposed in the bed of the North Prong of Hubbard Creek, located 1/4 mile south of the house site. The mortar was slaked lime and native sand, and all wood trim and framing were done simply. In the late 1920s major alterations were made to this residence. Two frame rooms, a hall, and a new open front porch were added to the front of the structure. The old porch was enclosed and changed into a bathroom, short hall, and small storage area. Another alteration was made in 1935 - the removal of enough of the south rock wall of the main room to admit a bank of three windows and sashes. This undoubtedly was done to allow more light to enter the main room, as the two windows formerly opening onto the porch had been sealed up in the previous alteration. The rock removed on the south was put into the old well (37).
On a November evening in 1968 Robert Nail died suddenly at his Albany home, and the Jacob's property was given by his nephew Mr. Reilly Nail of New York to the Robert E. Nail Foundation of Albany. A group of people concerned about the fixture of the little house set about to restore it in 1973, and the majority of the work was completed by June of that year. The house has been put into its original condition as nearly as could be determined. Its current condition in 1974 is excellent, and the Robert Nail Foundation is responsible for the structure's upkeep with the local D.A.R. chapter furnishing the house and the Albany Garden Club landscaping the yard. It will be used in the future as a community facility for all types of historically oriented gatherings. Since it is furnished with period furniture typical of the time of its construction, in its restored state it creates for the viewer the atmosphere of earliest Albany.
The life of Henry Carter Jacobs is a storybook example of a true saga of the American frontier - a young man from Kentucky who left the sanctuary of home and kin to go adventuring on the wild Texas frontier. There, in that vigorous environment, he developed into a man other men were drawn to. He was elected sheriff of one of the toughest areas of the west, Ft. Griffin, Texas, and became a surveyor, helping to organize a county and lay out a town. He founded a church, owned a newspaper, was instrumental in bringing in a railroad, operated several successful businesses, married, and raised a family. From newspaper items and records he left behind, Jacobs always enjoyed the trust, confidence, and esteem of his contemporaries for he was industrious, gregarious, and intelligent, that we know, but most of all, Henry Jacobs was a builder. For one who truly had a hand in taming the wild and getting the west in a manner in keeping with the finest traditions of our heritage, we feel it only fitting that we preserve this story by commemorating his house, the first permanent residence in Albany, the town that Henry Jacobs visualized and established.
Researched and written by Mr. James Robert Green and Mrs. Clifton Caldwell, Albany, Texas, 76430
(1) The Albany Abstract Co., Helen Lieb, owner.
(2) The Albany Abstract Co., Helen Lieb.
(3) The Albany Abstract Co. card file, Helen Lieb.
(4) The Albany Echo, June 2, 1883, "Description of Shackelford County"
(5) Letter to Hattie May Jacobs from Mrs. A. A. Clarke dated July 29, 1943.
(6) Bob Green conversation with Glenn Reynolds and Mrs. A.W. Reynolds, June 1973.
(7) Marriage Records, County Clerk Office, Shackelford County Courthouse, Albany, Texas.
(8) Original County Petition, Robert Nail Collection, ASCS Office, Albany, Texas.
(9) Commissioner's Court Minutes, County Clerk Office, Shackelford County Courthouse, Sept. and November, 1874
(10) Ibid, Jan. 26, 1875.
(11) Gravestone in Pawnee Cemetery, Pawnee, Oklahoma.
(12) Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans, Vol. 5, 1916, pg. 2424.
(13) Op.Cit, Gravestone.
(14) Deeds Records, County Clerk Office, Shackelford County Courthouse, 1874.
(15) Record of Bonds Book, No. 1 Pg. 21, County Clerk Ofc. Shackelford County Courthouse.
(16) Op.Cit., Marriage Records.
(17) Letter to Mrs. Clifton Caldwell for Mrs. Pauline Bellieu, May 3, 1974.
(18) Fort Griffin Echo, April 3, 1879, "Highwaymen on Rampage".
(19) Pioneer Edition of Albany News, 1937, "Presbyterian Church Organized in 1880" by Berta Hart Nance.
(20) Albany Echo. July 7, 1883.
(21) Fort Griffin Echo, July 2, 1881.
(22) Op. Cit., Pioneer Edition.
(23) Albany Star, Dec., 1882.
(24) Ibid., March 9, 1883.
(25) Op.Cit., Echo, June 23, 1883, Star, June 15, 1883.
(26) Op. Cit., Echo, Nov. 24, 1883.
(27) Ibid., Dec. 22, 1883.
(28)Letter to Louise Reece from Lois Jacobs Phillips, Feb. 4, 1960.
(29) Albany News, Feb. 2, 1884, March 28, 1884.
(30) Ibid., Oct. 31, 1884.
(31) Ibid., Sept. 5, 1884.
(32) Ibid., Sept. 26, 1884.
(33) Ibid., July 11, 1884.
(34) Ibid., May 16, 1884.
(35) Ibid., Feb. 6, 1885.
(36) Ibid., March 21, 1884.
(37) J. B. White conversation with Bob Green, June 6, 1974
The Albany Echo, June, July, and Nov., 1883, and Dec. 1883.
Fort Griffin Echo, April, 1879, July, 1881.
The Albany Star, Dec., 1882, March, 1883, June, 1883.
The Albany News, Feb., Mar., May, July, Sept., Oct., 1884, Feb., 1885
Marriage Records, County Clerk Office, Shackelford County Courthouse.
Commissioner's Court Minutes, County Clerk Office, Shackelford County Courthouse, Sept, Nov., 1874, and Jan., 1875.
Deeds Records, County Clerk Office, Shackelford County Courthouse, 1874
Record of Bonds Book, County Clerk Office, Shackelford County Courthouse,1874, No. 1.
The Albany Abstract Co., Helen Lieb, owner.
Robert Nail Collection, Original County Petition, Albany, Texas.
Mrs. A.A. Clarke letter to Hattie Hay Jacobs, July 29, 1943 (will be placed with Robert Nail Collection).
Mrs. Pauline Bellieu letter to Mrs. Clifton Caldwell, May 3, 1974 (will be placed with Robert Nail Collection).
Lois Jacobs Phillips letter to Louise Reece, Feb. 4, 1960, (will be placed with Robert Nail Collection).
Gravestone as viewed by granddaughter, Mrs. Pauline Bellieu, Oklahoma. City, Oklahoma.
Bob Green conversations with Mrs. A. W. and Glenn Reynolds, 1973, and Mr. J. B. White of Albany, Tex., 1974.
Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans, John Claud Jacobs, Vol. 5. 1916