Jackson, Joseph Daniel (1861–1943)

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 25, 2019

Joseph Daniel Jackson, civic leader, rancher, and merchant, known as "the father of Sul Ross State College," was born on January 6, 1861, in Bell County, the son of Jacob and Jane Jackson. He had six sisters and at least one older brother, J. W.; at the age of eight Joseph began caring for J. W.'s cattle on the Tom Lane ranch near the site of present Taylor. Jackson first came to West Texas in 1879 on a trail drive with cattlemen Sol and Ike West. From 1879 to 1882 he ranched on his own in Tom Green County, but when he saw an opportunity to return to West Texas he took it. In 1882 he joined Company B of the Texas Rangers, which was assigned to protect the railroad crews in West Texas. On August 16, 1885, after the company had disbanded, Jackson settled in what was then Presidio County, near the site of present Alpine (then known as Murphyville). He ranched alone for four years and in 1889 formed the Jackson-Harmon ranching partnership with Sam D. Harmon. Eventually the Jackson-Harmon concern owned 85,000 acres in various parts of Brewster County, although the operation was based in the northeastern part of the county. At one point they had 8,000 cattle, mostly Shorthorns and Herefords, and were said to have shipped more cattle to market than any other ranchers in the Big Bend. Jackson and Harmon also operated a general store, market, and livery stable in Alpine. Jackson became one of the leading citizens of Alpine. On June 8, 1890, the town's first Christian Church was organized in his home; for years he was the principal financial supporter of the First Christian Church, which moved into its own building in 1905, and he later served on the board of trustees of Randolph College in Cisco and as president of the Twelfth District, Christian Churches of Texas. In 1907 Jackson helped organize the Alpine Commercial Club, of which he was president for many years, and the Alpine Independent School District, on the board of which he served for more than twenty years. He was also active in the organization of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, of which he was the first vice president. During his two terms as the association's president, in 1913 and in 1916, he helped reduce freight rates on cattle in transit and helped establish the state quarantine line. He also helped bring the Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Railway to Alpine and served on the line's board of directors. He served on the Brewster County Democratic Committee and in 1916 was a delegate to the national Democratic convention in St. Louis, which nominated Woodrow Wilson for president. He himself never ran for political office, although in 1918 he was mentioned as a potential candidate for governor of Texas. Despite all these activities, however, Jackson is probably best remembered locally for his role in the establishment of the institution now known as Sul Ross State University. Jackson and George W. Page believed that Alpine was a natural spot for a summer normal school; the result of their efforts was the Alpine Summer Normal, the forerunner of Sul Ross, which opened in 1910. The Sul Ross baseball field, built in 1922, was later named Jackson Field in his honor. Jackson served as a member of the board of regents of the Texas State Teachers Colleges from 1935 to 1941. Jackson married the former Dorcas Ford on December 24, 1889. They had two children. Jackson died on January 17, 1943, in Alpine.

Alpine Avalanche, June 28, 1962. Clifford B. Casey, Mirages, Mysteries and Reality: Brewster County, Texas, the Big Bend of the Rio Grande (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1972). J. D. Jackson and Family Papers, Archives of the Big Bend, Sul Ross State University.

  • Education
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Business
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Martin Donell Kohout, “Jackson, Joseph Daniel,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 07, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/jackson-joseph-daniel.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 25, 2019