Jacobs' entire immediate family died while he was a young child and he grew up poor and alone.
He converted to Christianity about 1827 and became an interpreter for Methodist missionaries to the Mississauga people, eventually becoming a full-fledged missionary himself in 1836, among the Canadian Ojibwa. He went to England in 1842 to be ordained and then returned to Canada where he continued to work until 1858. He later came into conflict with the church, leading to poverty and alcoholism. Two of his children also became missionaries.
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