|Memorial Marker for Col. Jack Hays at Mountain View Cemetery|
Jack Hays was a Tennessee native whose father and grandfather had fought with Andrew Jackson. The second of seven children, he was orphaned at fifteen and struck out on his own that same year of 1832.
After Hays served some time as a surveyor in Mississippi, he headed for Texas around 1837 and volunteered as a Texas Ranger to fight for independence from Mexico. Hays played a critical role with the Rangers while still in his 20’s.
|Col. Jack Hays|
After twelve years with the Texas Rangers he left in June, 1849, to lead an expedition along the Gila River in an attempt to find a practical southern route to California. He arrived in San Francisco in 1850 at the age of 33 with the intention of heading for the gold fields. However, when the San Franciscans learned they had a Texas Ranger in their midst, they quickly persuaded him to become their sheriff. All this was during the Vigilante period of 1850-1851, a chaotic time for a lawman.
In his role as an officer of the court, Hays met Vicente Peralta with whom he and four associates negotiated the acquisition of the Oakland portion of the Rancho San Antonio.
Although Hays was elected to a second term as sheriff of San Francisco he left the job in 1853 to fill the federal post of Surveyor General for California during the presidency of Franklin Pierce. During his trip to Washington for Pierce’s inauguration Hays was treated as a major celebrity. One news account stated, “Amid the countless multitude attracted to Washington...during the last few weeks...no man was the object of deeper interest than Col. Jack Hays, the world-renowned Texas Ranger. It may be safely asserted that no man in America since the great John Smith explored the primeval forests of Virginia....has run a career of such boldness, daring and adventure. His frontier defense of the Texan Republic constitutes one of the most remarkable pages in the history of the American character.”
|Col Jack Hays' Fernwood Estate|
His estate in lower Montclair was called “Fernwood” and was described as “one of the most beautiful of the State....located at the base of verdure-clad hills of the Coast Range, in a quiet nook....lordly oaks....a handsome building and exquisite area. Indescribable views in every direction.” Hays arranged for the grading and construction of a road from Oakland to his property, known at the time as Hays Canyon Road --- now Moraga Avenue.
Another of Hays’ interests was the College of California; in 1855 he was one of the petitioners to the state for the granting of a charter to the College, the institution which would later become the University of California.
He devoted much of the rest of his life to acquiring and developing property in Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda, and what was to become Piedmont. When Jack Hays died at his home on April 21, 1883, newspapers were filled with accounts of his passing. The funeral procession wound its way out Broadway with crowds lining the streets all the way to Mountain View. Fernwood was destroyed by fire in 1899, but a stone foundation along Thornhill Drive and Mountain Boulevard remains today as a reminder of a once-great estate.
(Extracted, in part, from notes taken by Docent Chris Patillo in 1996 from Oakland Heritage Alliance News, Spring 1993).