Did you ever notice the sidewalk/walkway on the southerly side of the Webb building, on Main Street, in Jackson? Chances are you walked on it, if for no other reason than to avoid cars heading for parking spaces behind Wells Fargo Bank.
Now, let your eye follow the sidewalk up to the top of the photo. See the old Safeway building beyond the highway and the sign, “Now Leasing?” Think it only coincidence that the walkway and the vacant store line up so?
Our answer goes back to Jackson’s beginnings, in the 1850s, when Welsh immigrants Thomas Jones and his wife, Eleanor, settled here. His itinerary to get to Jackson included an uneventful sail from an Eastern port, and a trying trek by land and water across the Nicaraguan isthmus. Worse came a harrowing sea voyage, shipwreck and jornada through Baja deserts to reach California. Surviving this ordeal with him was a fellow named James McClatchy, the same fellow who, in 1857, would found the Sacramento Bee.
After mining and settling here, Jones filed an exemption claim for ample acreage — probably 160 acres — adjacent to the new town on the left bank of Jackson Creek and rising into the hills beyond, accessed by French Bar Road. On the ranch near town, he built a large home. He also purchased a lot and frame store on the town’s Main Street, located where the pictured Webb building is now. He rebuilt it in 1854. Those frame stores were named the Miner’s House and renamed the Philadelphia House, a combined hotel and bakery.
In those days, merchants usually lived above or in back of their stores. A few lived in separate dwellings in the suburbs. Almost all walked to work. Tom Jones, wife Eleanor, and their sons and daughter thus walked from the ranch home where the empty Safeway is now, took a footbridge over the creek, and found a path between the frame stores to Main or to the back of their hotel and bakery. Tom also took the same hike to Jackson town meetings in the early 1850s as a town councilman.
As our 1927 family history of Amador states, “(Jones had) been very successful as a miner, and later in farming and teaming. For many years, he was employed in the (internal) revenue department of the government, with (his office) in Jackson.” I haven’t researched the whole title of the Main Street property, but my hunch is it remained with the extended Jones family.
Let’s advance the story to 1898. Richard Webb, a fearless and fiery publisher and editorialist of the Amador Ledger — one parent of this newspaper — had married the Jones’ daughter, Mary, and the Webbs or the family, that year, financed construction of the two-story brick building on two Main Street lots, the old Jones’ hotel site, and an adjoining one southerly.
This building’s northerly wall abutted and its second story was built over the livery stable, but, on the southerly side, he chose not to abut any other building or even build to his property line. That way, the family made certain that any owner south would never abut any building to his. Why? The extended Jones-Webb family wanted to make sure they had easement or right of way for the traditional pathway between buildings to facilitate reaching the family ranch.
About Jones, the 1927 history also said: “(He) owned and conducted the Philadelphia House where the Webb block, now owned by his grandsons, stands. His son, Harry Jones, and family (Mrs. Jones was Alice Peek) live on the old home ranch adjoining town. His daughter, Mrs. (Mary) Webb, died several years ago.”
While Logan doesn’t know when the sidewalk easement was last used by the family, it is still there, and probably will be, until such time as a new building rises one day and the owner has no need for an easement well over a century old.
Logan last wrote about the Jones saga in 1980, right after the death of 85-year old Wallace Jones, Harry and Alice’s son. Prized possessions from that are a thank you from widow Amelia Jones and family and also other letters from cousin Eleanor Underdown of Fresno. The writer informed her that a Jones relation still lived in town, and arranged a meeting of the two cousins.
He still recalls standing in the street in front of the Webb building and telling Underdown all about her forbear’s hotel and bakery and that “infernal revenuer, Tom Jones.” He doesn’t recall if he told her about the sidewalk easement that goes with the property. It’s still there, but Jones’ ranch house is long gone.
Editor’s note: Larry Cenotto has written numerous books and articles about Amador Coounty history under his pen name, Logan.