David Russell Jack

David Russell Jack
David Russell Jack

David Russell Jack (editor, publisher, journalist, politician, and historiographer) was born 5 May 1864 in Saint John, New Brunswick, and died 2 December 1913. He lived on 87 Prince William St. in Saint John (“Jack” 571). He was a Liberal, a Presbyterian, and the only son of six children of Henry Jack and Anne Carmichael Johnston. He descended from both Scottish and Loyalist ancestry. One grandfather, David Jack, immigrated from Fifeshire to St. Andrews, New Brunswick, while the other, Hugh Johnston, came from Morayshire and settled in Saint John, New Brunswick. Both married into Loyalist families. Jack’s passion for history stems from his intrigue with his Loyalist background (Walker 279).

Russell Jack, as he was commonly referred, was educated at the Saint John Grammar School. He graduated in 1881. Only two years after, he achieved literary acclaim with his award-winning Centennial Prize Essay on the History of the City and County of St. John (1883). The essay earned him two hundred dollars (Walker 279). In his Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry, Francis C. Walker describes the essay as representing “a vast amount of research and is recognized as an authentic source of information on the subject” (279).

In 1884 Jack’s father died. As the only son, he immediately took over his father’s insurance business and assumed the elder’s position as Spanish vice-consul. In that capacity, he contributed greatly to the development of trade between Canada and Spain. Jack also assumed numerous public and political positions. He was a member of the Common Council in 1890s. He also served for seven years on the Board of School Trustees (Larocque). Some of Jack’s accomplishments in these fields include an important role in the transition from gas to electric street lighting and, in 1910, the installation of the Champlain Monument in Queen Square (Walker 279; Larocque).

The accomplishment for which Jack is mostly remembered, however, is his founding of the quarterly magazine Acadiensis. He served as editor and publisher, and he contributed many articles. It ran from January 1901 to October 1908. Its primary focus was the political, social, and cultural history of the Maritime provinces (Larocque). As Victoria Embree states in an entry in the New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia, Jack’s intention in publishing the magazine was to “promote the territory of Acadia” in order to “encourage regional pride” (Embree). Acadiensis also published book reviews, biographical pieces on important Maritimers, works of fiction, folklore, and drawings (Embree). The magazine was widely renowned for its high quality and professional presentation. Walker describes it as “one of the best and most important magazines of its kind ever produced in Canada” (279). It ceased publication because Jack could not sustain it financially.

Acadiensis and the 1883 essay, however, did not mark Jack’s sole endeavors in literary and historical writing. He served as a corresponding secretary for the New Brunswick Historical Society and as a corresponding member of both the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society and the Literary and the Historical Society of Quebec. Other organizations with which he was involved were the New Brunswick Loyalist Society, the Canadian Club, the St. Andrew’s Society, and the Saint John Art Club (Larocque). He also wrote occasionally for Montreal’s University Magazine and for Queen’s Quarterly, as well as for various Canadian and American newspapers as an international correspondent (Walker 279). His experiences abroad inspired Summer Tourists: A Manual for the New Brunswick Farmer, a limited-edition booklet focused on assisting rural dwellers in attracting summer boarders (Larocque).

Jack’s appreciation of the Maritime provinces and his pride in its local residents is a central focus in his writing. That pride inspired the remarkable thoroughness of the research undertaken to produce the essay on Saint John’s history. Jack also intended for Acadiensis to fortify regional pride. His reverence for New Brunswick, however, is perhaps best observed in Summer Tourists. In his foreword, he praises the farming people of New Brunswick as “honest, industrious, hospitable, cheerful and open hearted. If any stranger comes among them, seeking their hospitality, they will doubtless do their most in a rough and hearty sort of way to make him comfortable” (Foreword). He declares that the objective of the manual is “to smooth away some of the rough edges of country life, and make the way, perchance, a trifle easier for the summer tourist” (Foreword). In addition to facilitating tourism, the manual also offers advice on commonplace concerns. The following passage is an example:

If your house has been built for some years and is beginning to look a little shabby, buy a few pounds of paint and give it two coats all over when your other work is slack…If you have not a verandah to your house, build one and make it not less than six feet wide, so that you can sling a hammock in it in which the summer tourist may enjoy the summer breezes. If you can make it eight or ten feet wide, so much the better. (7)

Like the farmers he admires, Jack expresses his own forms of generosity and home-grown wisdom through writing.

Architecture was another of Jack’s passions. His design for a proposed apartment complex is held in the New Brunswick Museum. He also wished to develop Bay Shore Beach into a resort for surf bathing, a common health remedy at the turn of the century (Larocque). A particular architectural endeavor that did come to fruition was his twenty-three acre resort known as Duck Cove. He bought the property in 1890 for $1,050 (Goss). It became a series of cottages that attracted hundreds of wealthy, high-profile Canadians and Americans every year, especially during the summer. As demand grew, more cottages were built. Duck Cove was even promoted in the back of certain issues of Acadiensis. In 1903, Jack changed the name from Duck Cove to Sans Souci on the Bay. It translates to “a place without worry.” Jack’s experiences of managing Sans Souci undoubtedly contributed to the knowledge of tourism that inspired Summer Tourists. His surviving sisters did not share in his passion for Sans Souci, however. It was broken into fifty-one parcels of land in 1924 (Goss).

Jack was a prominent figure in Saint John in his lifetime because of the variety of ways in which he contributed to his society. However, he was generally more respected than adored. As Walker establishes in his entry, Jack was not relaxed or charming in social situations. He often offended as a result of his blunt, sharp personality. The friendships he established through his correspondences were often warmer than his personal relationships (279-80). In his Telegraph-Journal article, David Goss explains Jack’s involvement in a series of controversial matters that became widespread news through the public press. In 1902, he challenged the City of Saint John’s orders that citizens be vaccinated. For this, Jack was fined five dollars. He eventually took the matter to the Supreme Court, where the ruling was not in his favour. This matter speaks to Jack’s astonishing tenacity, as it would have been a considerably costly affair. In June 1903, he was involved in a dispute with the Carpenter’s Union because he was not permitted to assist a union crew he had hired to build a cottage. His response to this was to form his own union—himself being the sole member. In 1905 he was once again in the news after the Saint John Star published a story involving a conflict between Jack and young boys loitering on Sans Souci. After two years of persistence and threats of legal action, the Saint John Star officially retracted the story on 24 August 1907. The reason behind Jack’s tenacity was ultimately to protect the reputation of Duck Cove (Goss).

Jack’s final achievement was History of Saint Andrew’s Church, Saint John, N.B. (1913). The church was Presbyterian; Jack served as a prominent member and official. The book discusses civic history, religious strife, controversy, customs, and high profile figures in Saint John (Walker 279). That same year, Jack was awarded membership in the Royal Colonial Institute in London. A few months after the publication of Saint Andrew’s Church, he died at age forty-nine on 2 November 1913 at a sanatorium in Clifton Springs, New York, where he was being treated for heart disease. He had no children and never married. At the time of his death, he had been composing a work on Loyalist history and ancestry (Larocque).

Thomas Murphy, Winter 2012
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Jack, David Russell. Acadien Magazines. Ottawa: J. Hope, 1903.

---. Biographical Data Relating to New Brunswick Families, Especially of Loyalist Descent. TS. Harriet Irving Library, Fredericton.

---. Centennial Prize Essay on the History of the City and County of St. John. Saint John: J. & A. MacMillan, 1883.

---. History of Saint Andrew’s Church, Saint John, N.B. Saint John: Barnes and Co., 1913.

---. Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Saint John: n.p., 1897.

---. Summer Tourists: A Manual for the New Brunswick Farmer. Saint John: n.p., 1900.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Embree, Victoria. “Acadiensis.” The New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia. Ed. Tony Tremblay. Fredericton: New Brunswick Studies Centre, 2011. 25 Nov. 2012

Goss, David. “A Place Without Worry; Lord Protector of Duck Cove; More Than 100 Years Ago The Rich Flocked to a Private Retreat Outside Saint John.” Telegraph-Journal [Saint John] 10 Aug. 2002. Brunswick News Inc. 25 Nov. 2012

“Jack, David Russell.” The Canadian Men and Women of the Time: A Handbook of Canadian Biography of Living Characters. Ed. Henry James Morgan. 2nd ed. Toronto: William Briggs, 1912. 571.

Larocque, Peter J. “Jack, David Russell.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 15. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1998. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2000. U of Toronto/U Laval. 26 June 2020

Walker, Francis C. “Jack, David Russell (1864–1913).” A Standard Dictionary of Canadian Biography: Canadian Who Was Who: 18751933. Ed. Charles G.D. Roberts and Arthur L. Tunnell. Vol. 1. Toronto: Trans-Canada Press, 1934. 279-80.