Information concerning the family and birthplace of Jacobo de Ugarte y Loyola is not available, but circumstantial evidence suggests that he was a descendant of Basque nobility. If we may believe his own recollections, on April 5, 1732, Ugarte answered a military calling by enlisting as an underage cadet in a regiment of Spanish infantry guards. He first entered royal service in 1740 and attained the rank of colonel on January 11, 1767. In his early military career he had campaigned in Italy, where he was twice wounded, and in Portugal. Shortly after his promotion to the rank of colonel, Ugarte received appointment as the governor of Coahuila, and he served in that capacity from December 1769 to December 1777. At the conclusion of his tenure Ugarte was commissioned military governor of Sonora, where he was promoted to the rank of brigadier on June 15, 1779. In the mid 1780s Ugarte served briefly as governor of Puebla, before being transferred to Mexico City in January of 1786 to receive a new assignment from Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez. And when the Provincias Internas was divided into three sectors (August 26, 1786), the two easternmost provinces were made subordinate except in purely military matters to the commandant general of the Western Provinces, Jacobo de Ugarte y Loyola. Ugarte, himself, had immediate jurisdiction over the two Californias and Sonora. Division of the Provincias Internas into three sectors lasted for only fifteen months. In 1787 the Interior Provinces were reorganized into two divisions, and they remained under that arrangement when Ugarte as replaced by Pedro de Nava on March 12, 1790. In that same year Ugarte was reassigned to the intendancy of New Galicia, where he was to serve as president and commandant general. But before he could assume that post, Viceroy Conde de Revilla Gigedo II sent him to Monclova to arrange peace with the Lipan Apaches. In January 1791 Ugarte left the northern frontier for the last time and took up residence in Guadalajara. He died on August 19, 1798, having completed fifty-eight years in the active service of the crown.
While serving as governor of Coahuila, Jacobo de Ugarte had set forth a "final solution" to problems posed by Lipan Apaches in the northern provinces. He insisted that the only acceptable remedy was to deport the offending natives to an overseas province. As commandant general of the Interior Provinces, Ugarte implemented a policy that was consistent with his hatred of the Apaches. He favored a general peace treaty with the Comanches, negotiated at the expense of the Lipans by Governor Domingo Cabello y Robles in Texas.