James E. Mack, Public Administrator of San Bernardino County, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in November 1848, and resided there until twelve years of age. At the breaking out of the war in 1861 he enlisted in the Fourteenth Massachusetts Infantry, serving ninety days as drummer boy. On the expiration of his term he re-enlisted in the Twenty-seventh Massachusetts Infantry for three years, but his mother prevented him being mustered in. In the fervor of his youthful patriotism he determined to try again, and enlisted in the United States Naval Marine Corps, but was again prevented from entering the service by maternal interference.
In March, 1865, he entered Mount Pleasant Institute at Amherst, Massachusetts; in September, 1867, he entered Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, remaining two years, when he left school and started out to engage in the battle of life. Possessing an innate love of travel, Mr. Mack gratified his desire to rove by visiting many of the principal places in the New England, Middle and Western States, during which time he was employed at various vocations, and learned three different trades, namely: shirt-cutting, butter-tub making, and making ladies’ hats and bonnet frames. He could apply himself with equal facility to either of these trades, and when in a section of the country where neither availed him he turned his attention to farming or some other business with true Yankee ingenuity.
In 1875 he came to California and for a time worked in a sawmill in El Dorado County, then went to San Francisco, but, not being able to obtain employment at his trade, went to Arizona in February 1876. Was engaged for a time in the restaurant business at Yuma, then taught Government school at Camp McDowell, and then came to San Bernardino in January, 1877. He first engaged in farming here, and then spent a year in the mines.
In 1881-’82 he carried on a general store in El Dorado Cañon, Nevada; upon returning to San Bernardino County, he was foreman of the Colton Cannery for one year and then accepted the position of Assistant Postmaster in the post office, which position he filled three years, when, failing in health from excessive work and close confinement, he was compelled to resign. In the fall of 1885, Mr. Mack laid off and founded the town of Perris, five miles below the San Bernardino County line in San Diego County, on the California Southern Railroad. He built a depot and dug a well, and the railroad company put in a sidetrack and a water tank, moving them from Pinicate, a mile and a half below. Mr. Mack named the new town in honor of Mr. Fred T. Perris, the chief engineer of the Santa Fe Railway system in California; and that portion of the San Jacinto plains in the vicinity took the name of the town and is known as Perris Valley. The town consisted of 160 acres, to which two additions have since been made. There are now 160 voters in that district. Mr. Mack disposed of all his town lots, but he and his partner, T. H. Paler, have considerable land interests in Perris Valley.
In July 1887, Mr. Mack in company with others incorporated the Citrus Water Works, who own 7,000 acres of choice land in the valley of the Gila River, near Gila Bend in Maricopa County, Arizona. They have constructed a canal over nineteen miles in length, with a capacity of 20,000 inches of water with which to irrigate their tract. An actual test shows the land to be well adapted to the production of raisin grapes and deciduous fruits. Mr. Mack was one of the projectors of the Mentone and Great Bear Valley toll road, which, when completed, will be an improvement of immense value to San Bernardino County, as Bear Valley is destined to become one of the greatest summer resorts on the Pacific coast, when it is rendered accessible by a good wagon road. Six stockholders comprise the company, of which Mr. Mack is president and his partner, Mr. Palmer, is secretary. It is estimated that from $12,000 to $14,000, of which several thousand is already paid in, will complete the road. Considerable work has been done on this end of the road, and the project only awaits sufficient capital to be pushed to completion.
Mr. Mack is a pronounced Republican and a zealous worker in behalf of the party, but has preferred to see his friends, rather than himself, elected to office. But at the urgent request of the local party leaders, he became a candidate for the office of Public Administrator; in the fall of 1888 he was nominated by 103 of the 120 votes in the convention, and was elected by 625 majority to the office in which he is now serving with great efficiency. He takes an active interest in military matters; is special aid-de-camp to the department commander of the G. A. R., and Commander of the W. R. Cornman Post of San Bernardino, and is First Lieu-tenant and Quartermaster of the Ninth Regiment National Guard of California. He is a member of the Ancient Order of United
Work-men, has passed through all the local official chairs, and is Grand Lieutenant Commander of the Select Knights of the order for California.
Mr. Mack was married to Emma L. Sargeant, a native of Maine, in the city of Boston, in October 1874. Four children, two boys and two girls, comprise their family. The youngest son and daughter, twins, were born February 12, 1889.
Messrs. Mack and Palmer are among the leading and most active in the general insurance business in this city, representing a number of strong companies, whose aggregate capital is $30,000,000.