Two Jacobs Brothers, Pioneer Merchants, Were First Tucson Bankers

From the Tucson Daily Citizen, Sunday, October 27, 1929, p 9

Two Jacobs Brothers, Pioneer Merchants, Were First Tucson Bankers

Barron M. Jacobs, an organizer and first president of the Consolidated Bank of Tucson, now the Consolidated National Bank, and his brother, Lionel M. Jacobs, were Tucson's pioneer bankers. It was they who organized the Pima County Bank, the first banking institution of Tucson. The brothers were also pioneers in merchandising, having first come to Tucson in 1869, from San Bernardino, Calif., bringing with them a wagon load of commodities. The bulk of their provisions were canned goods, which in those days sold in Tucson for $1 a can. There was always a ready market for the empty cans, which sold for 25 cents each for use as drinking cups.

The Jacob brothers were both young men when they came to Tucson, and both were unmarried. The trip from San Bernardino had taken nearly two months.

In 1871 they opened a store which was at first conducted under the name of M. I. Jacobs & Co.. M. I. Jacobs, the father of the two young men who had remained in San Bernardino, held the controlling interest in the Tucson business and shipped stocks of goods here from that place. Two years later the elder Jacobs retired from the business, and the name of the firm was changed to L. M. Jacobs & Co. At that time Leopold Wolf, who is well remembered by old-timers, became a member of the firm. A. M. Franklin, president of the Citizens Building and Loan Association, a nephew of the Jacobs brothers, was stock man at the store for years. In those days, Mr. Franklin recalls, San Francisco was the wholesale market for Tucson and goods sent from there were usually required three months and frequently longer to reach there. These shipments were brought by steamer from San Francisco to the mouth of the Colorado River, where transfer was made to scows or flat bottomed steam boats, stern paddle-wheels, by which they were transported to either Ehrenberg or Yuma.

Came Down Colorado

These river trips were rarely made on schedule for the reason that the frequent changing of the channel would create new sand bars in the path of the freighting boats, that usually delayed further progress until nature again asserted itself by reopening the channel to transportation. Captain I. N. Polhemis was the river pilot who supervised these journeys up the frequently changing course of the Colorado.

At Ehrenberg, was the firm of David, Neahr and Company and, at Yuma, W. B. Hooper and Company, forwarding agents, who saw that the load was considered fast time and the arrival of one of the heavy freight trains was an important event in the life of the Old Pueblo.

The tolling of one of these long 20-mule teams was an inspiring sight, Mr. Franklin said, and the modus operandi of negotiating a sharp turn in the narrow caliche roadways of Tucson is here described by him:

Great Caravans Formed

"As the 10 spans of mules with their wagon and two trailers would approach the corner where, say a turn to the left was to be made, the leaders and first three spans in the swing would pull sharply to the left, while the wheel team and the preceding three spans would pull sharply to the right. By the time the wheelers would straighten out and give a pull that would carry the three heavy freight wagons around the turn in skillful manner. It was necessary that the street and sidewalk be entirely unobstructed, however."

Until the railroads from the east reached as far west as El Moro and La Junta, Colorado, no merchandise could be shipped to Tucson from the eastern markets, and the Jacobs brothers, together with other merchants were compelled to patronize San Francisco exclusively. When rail transportation did become available to these points, however, a large volume of commodities were purchased in the eastern marts. The contract time on fast freight with mule drawn freight was four months, while by ox-teams this was lengthened out to six months or more. At times grass along the distant trail would become scarce, on which occasion the freighters would stop at points where grazing was afforded from one to four weeks, to permit their underfed oxen to rest and renew their strength. Freight rates usually ranged from five and a half to nine cents a pound, although a flat rate of 10 cents was paid when the trip was made by the fast four-month haul.

Sugar Was High

At times there would be a scarcity of sugar, kerosene and like commodities, and it was a policy with some local merchants who had a large stock on hand to hold up the sale of their merchandise until the stocks of other merchants were exhausted and then charge inflated prices, Mr. Franklin said. At such times sugar would go to three pounds for $1 and kerosene to $2.50 a gallon. Coffee was the one inexpensive commodity and sold for less in those days than at present.

It was in later years that the Jacobs brothers organized Tucson's first bank, the Pima County Bank. Some time later Sam Hughes, a leading pioneer, and a group of associates organized the Santa Cruz Valley bank, which later merged with the bank of the Jacobs, of Tucson. At about the same time Safford, Hudson and Company organized a bank, which was later purchased by D. Henderson, through the failure of Lord and Williams, leading Tucson firm of wholesalers and post traders. Lord and Williams had been directly connected with the Safford, Hudson bank. D. Henderson was one of the triumverate which was later to organize the Consolidated Bank of Tucson. The other two men were B. M. Jacobs and M. P. Freeman. Lionel W. Jacobs was at one time a director in the Consolidated Bank.

Henderson, having gained control of Safford, Hudson and Company's interests, together with Messrs. Jacobs and Freeman, first organized the First National Bank, which later changed its corporate name to the Arizona National Bank. This bank a few years ago was absorbed by the Consolidated National. The Consolidated Bank of Tucson, now grown to be the strongest banking institution in Arizona, resulted from the mergers of all the earlier banks of Tucson.