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Biography of Jackson McCracken

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Jackson McCracken, a member of the Walker Party, served in the First Legislative Assembly of Arizona Territory in 1861, as a member of the lower house from Yavapai County. He was born in South Carolina in 1828. After his arrival in the territory with the Walker Party, he spent his time in mining and prospecting. Evidently, he was not very fastidious as to dress or personal appearance, for the following story is told of him: After his election, some of his constituents went to him and told him that he was now a member of the First Legislature of the great Territory of Arizona, and he should be dressed and equipped in keeping with the dignity of the office. He replied: “I am in the hands of my constituents.” For answer they said: “All right Jack, we’ll attend to you.” So they formed a committee, took Jack down to Granite Creek, where they had a tub made from the end of a whiskey barrel, filled with water and soap. They gave him a good wash, scrubbed him down with a horse brush, wiped him off well, dressed him up with clean underclothing and a hand me down suit; took him to a barber and had his whiskers and hair trimmed properly, and turned him over to the Legislature, a man of the people, a thoroughly clean and Progressive Democrat.

McCracken was an indefatigable prospector. With few advantages in early life he became a wanderer in the west, prospecting through Colorado and New Mexico until finally he reached Arizona. He discovered the Del Pasco mine, and also the McCracken mine, both of which are well known in Northern Arizona. He blazed the trail for others to follow and was among the first to set foot upon the soil where Prescott now stands. He went to San Francisco late in the seventies, and, on the 28th of December, 1882, was married to Mrs. Josephine Clifford, whose former husband had been an army officer stationed in Arizona, where she had a sad and varied experience. Immediately after their marriage McCracken and his wife located the Monte Paraiso ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, and invested their money in clearing the land, setting out vineyards and orchards, building roads, etc. The ranch was located about three miles above the station at Wrights in a redwood forest. It was, indeed, a paradise; a home surrounded with orchards and vineyards, gardens and groves, and an abundance of water, fountains and reservoirs. The house was the finest in the mountains, and Mrs. McCracken, being of literary taste, at one time associated with the old Pioneer Monthly Magazine as one of its editors, their home became a place of resort for men like Ambrose Bierce, Bret Harte and others, who always found there a hearty welcome.

In 1899 a forest fire swept over that portion of the Santa Cruz Mountains, destroying their home and ranch and the forest. McCracken came near losing his life because he had ventured into the forty acre timber tract trying to save the forest by backfiring. His hair and long beard were singed and the boots on his feet were burned before he got out. “This forest fire,” says his wife, “was remarkable as wine had been used to extinguish the flames when they reached the Meyer winery building.”

They created an indebtedness in rebuilding their home, which filled McCracken with worry and anxiety, under the strain of which his health failed and his life came to a close on December 14th, 1904, at the age of 80 years. He was buried on the ranch in a spot he had selected for himself long before. The accompanying picture shows him and his favorite dog on the Picture Rock. To the right, as you look at the picture, a little forward, is his grave. This rock was his favorite resting place, and he wanted to be buried at the foot of it. Standing by the grave a group of young firs rises behind you, and you look through an avenue of olives out on the Bay of Monterey.

His wife, now over seventy years of age, is engaged as a reporter for a daily newspaper in Santa Cruz, California.

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