Mark Jacobs & Family, Early Jewish Pioneers of San Diego, San Bernardino & Tucson

Mark Jacobs & Family

Values Codes I – E – L – P


Mark Israel Jacobs was born in 1816 in Poland.

His family migrated to Manchester, England, in 1828.

Mark operated a clothing shop in the early 1840’s.


Along the way . . . 

In 1844, Mark Jacobs was faced with impending bankruptcy and a robbery of questionable circumstances causing him to come under suspicion.

He narrowly escaped to Baltimore, Maryland.

By 1851, the Jacobs family was settled in San Diego, California.


San Diego

In San Diego, Mark Jacobs, with a Jewish partner, Charles A. Fletcher, ran a general merchandise store, La Tienda Barata (cheap store).

In the mid-1850’s, Jacobs opened a “newspaper and periodical depot.”



In the fall of 1851, Mark Jacobs, Charles Fletcher, and Lewis A. Franklin, another English-born resident, met together at the latter’s home to worship for the High Holy Days.

This is the first recorded Jewish religious observance in Southern California. (Two years earlier, Franklin led Jewish services in San Francisco, the first in Northern California.)



In November 1856, Mark Jacobs ran for the office of Justice of the Peace in San Diego, but was defeated.


San Bernardino

In 1857, Mark Jacobs and his family moved to San Bernardino, where his daughter, Leah, and her husband resided.

There, Mark and Hannah Jacobs became proprietors of a store and hotel.



In 1868, Mark Jacobs, with his sons-in-law Marcus Katz and Maurice A. Franklin, established the San Bernardino Hebrew and English Academy to meet the education needs of their children.

This Jewish day school, the first such institution in the West, provided a full range of general and religious studies.


San Francisco

Mark Jacobs and his family moved to San Francisco eight years later.

In San Francisco, Mark remained as active in Jewish life as he had been in San Diego and San Bernardino.

He was elected vice-president of Congregation Ohabai Shalome in 1873.

This traditional (proto-Conservative) congregation was established in 1864.


Arizona Territory

In 1867, Mark Jacobs sent his sons Lionel and Barron, relocated to Tucson, Arizona, where they established the Mark I. Jacobs Company, a general merchandise firm.

By 1875, the Jacobs firm had expanded to become one of the largest mercantile establishments in Arizona Territory. It was renamed Lionel M. Jacobs & Co.

The firm expanded to include a profitable exchange business and a loan business.

Lionel Jacobs, Son of Mark & Hannah Jacobs, Tucson, #WS1250

Lionel Jacobs, son of Mark & Hannah Jacobs, Tucson, AZ, #WS1250

In 1879, Lionel and Barron Jacobs established the Pima County Bank — the first banking institution in Tucson.

Today, this bank is known as the Valley National Bank.



Lionel Jacobs, who had been secretary of the San Diego Lyceum and Debating Club in 1856, was active, together with Barron, in the formation of the Tucson Literary Society in 1873.

Lionel was appointed to the Pima County Board of Supervisors in 1871.

He was also elected to the Seventh Territorial Legislature and served on the Tucson City Council.

Both brothers served terms as Territorial Treasurer.



Mark Jacobs was in his early thirties when he married Hannah Solomon, who had been born in England.

They had twelve children.

Leah Jacobs, the oldest of the Mark I. Jacobs children, married Marcus Katz in San Diego in 1853. This is believed to be the first Jewish wedding conducted in Southern California.

Barron Jacobs, Son of Mark & Hannah Jacobs, Tucson, AZ, #WS1249

Barron Jacobs, son of Mark & Hannah Jacobs, Tucson, AZ, #WS1249

Marcus Katz served as San Bernardino County Treasurer from 1858 to 1865, and also served as San Bernardino Wells Fargo Agent from 1858 to 1874.

Marcus Katz had a stationary store in San Bernardino and was a notary public.


Hannah Jacobs died in 1872, in San Francisco.

Mark Jacobs died in 1894.

They are buried in the family plot in the Hills of Eternity Cemetery in Colma, California, south of San Francisco.






  • ” Jacobs Brothers: Arizona Bankers, 1890,” Western States Jewish History 19/1.
  • Richard L. & Arlene A. Golden, “Mark I. Jacobs Family: A Discursive Overview,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 13/2.
  • Norton B. Stern, “Mark Israel Jacobs and his Successful Family: California and Arizona, 1816-1894,” Western States Jewish History 41/1.
Tombstone of Mark Jacobs. #WS1591

Tombstone of Mark Jacobs, #WS1591

Stan Schwartz is curator for this Jacobs Family exhibit.