Jackson County

Biography - JAMES M. JONES

James M. Jones has been actively identified with affairs in Coulterville for over half a century. He has been a positive factor in its business life and has contributed of his capital and his energy toward the substantial development of the community. It was his initiative that developed the first real industry of the place during and upon the heels of the Civil war. It was his yearning for achievement that prompted his burrowing down into the vitals of the earth in search of coal, and which resulted in uncovering a mineral deposit which gives Coulterville its real life throb today, and in a myriad of other minor ways he has become a powerful influence in the life of his locality.

Mr. Jones was born in Jackson county, Illinois, on the 16th of February, 1839. While he was still a babe in arms his parents moved to old Eden, Randolph county, and there in the healthy atmosphere of country life he spent his youth. His father, Andrew Jones, was born in Randolph county, Illinois, in 1815, the son of an Andrew Jones, who had migrated to this part of the country during the early years of 1800.

Andrew Jones, Sr., was a native of South Carolina, the date of his birth being near the close of the Revolution. He evidently had some education, for he served as justice of the peace, and his appointment by the Government as one of the commissioners to select a location in the west for the Cherokee reservation indicates clearly that he was a man of standing in the community and that he had an unusual knowledge of the country both geographically and economically. On first coming to Illinois the savagery of the Indians forced him to make his home in the old "block house" near Steeleville. While living here he held the relations of a trader with the tribes, learning their language, fighting them with both strategy and fire arms, able to don the dress and play the part of the red man when occasion demanded. His long and active life, came to a close during the Civil war.

Among the children of this brave old fighter was his son Andrew. Like his father, the son was a tiller of the soil, and he also resembled him in his knowledge of the habits of the Indians. His wife was Martha Marshall, whose father, William Marshall, had braved the unknown dangers of the broad Ohio and had brought his family down the river in a box boat to Shawneetown, not knowing at what moment the uncertain craft might be caught in a fatal current or sunk on a hidden snag. On making a safe landing at last the father brought his family across the country to the old Eden locality. The mother of these brave pioneers was Martha Marshall.

His intimate knowledge of Indian lore made Andrew Jones a valuable soldier during the campaign of the Black Hawk war. The campaign of 1832 proved to be fatal to him, for he died in 1842 from the effects of an arrow wound received during that year. His children numbered three. The eldest, Paul Jones, was captain of Company A, of the Eighteenth Illinois Infantry, during the Civil war. He had been a blacksmith during the years previous to the war, and after its close he returned to his forge in Tilden, where he later died, leaving two sons. The second son went to Texas in the early part of 1861, and is there believed to have lost his life in conflict with the Southern forces. The youngest was James M. After the death of Andrew Jones his widow married George Brown, who was a native of South Carolina and had fought through the Revolution. His death occurred several years before the Civil war, and his widow continued to live in Coulterville until her death, in 1895.

Because of the unsettled condition of public affairs and for domestic reasons James M. Jones' education was very limited. He was early in life selected for a blacksmith and was bound to one Joseph Bates. He subsequently had a disagreement with his master and left him, later going to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where he had a thorough training in his trade while working in an edge tool factory. No sooner did he find himself equipped for the struggle with life than the outbreak of the Civil war called him back to Illinois to enlist in the ranks of the Blue. With others he was soon ordered discharged, but was later drafted into a regiment that was sent into Missouri in pursuit of General Price's army, which was then making one of its famous raids into that state. After some months his service ended and he returned to his trade at Coulterville.

The trade of a blacksmith was a very profitable one during the years following, for the demand for war materials and later for the tools with which to again start the pursuits of peace made his shop pay from the start, and he was soon employing a force of assistants. He foretold the demand for plows and erected a small factory for their manufacture. He foresaw the demand for wagons and began their manufacture. He brought the first lathe for turning iron to Coulterville, and, endeavoring to meet the demands made upon him, equipped his factory, located upon the corner of his block, with the most modern tools of his craft. Until 1870 he did a thriving business, but at this time he was forced into competition with the capitalized interests and with the installation of costly machinery, and these factors necessitated the closing of his shop.

In 1872 Mr. Jones turned his attention to the mineral field. He and Hugh Kennedy, his father-in-law and a prosperous farmer, sank a shaft just east of Coulterville and found coal at the depth of about three hundred feet. With his partner, Hugh Kennedy, he worked the mine and became an operator of note in this district. After the death of Hugh Kennedy, J. Qi Nesbit bought his interest; when the Consolidated Coal Company, of St. Louis, made overtures for purchasing the plant they sold out to them, and Mr. Jones then bought a farm of two hundred acres west of Coulterville, where he sank a shaft. Since that time he has been a mine owner and operator. He is also interested in agriculture, owning several farms adjacent to his town, but he is a farmer only by proxy.

As has been pointed out, James M. Jones has led a busy and strenuous life. His success as a financier has commended him to the public as a safe and sane executor of public affairs, yet he has refrained from mixing in official matters, save for his service as justice of the peace. He has been three times elected to that minor office but has permitted his colleague to perform the bulk of the work coming before a magistrate.

He was married west of Coulterville, Illinois, on the 8th of August, 1861, to Miss Margaret J. Kennedy, a daughter of Hugh Kennedy. Their only son is Lewis Jones, manager of the Jones mining property. He married Miss Lizzie Dickey on January 22, 1896.

In his spiritual beliefs Mr. James M. Jones is not orthodox. His fathers were of the strict Covenanter faith; but he found it impossible to conform to the tenets of their creed and his practices and professions have deviated from the "straight and narrow way." In politics he is a Republican. He believes. in the survival of the fittest, as applied to men in the industries and the trades, and is jealous of no man because of his honorable business achievements. Whatever a man produces by his own skill or by his own capital is yielded to him for his own enjoyment and no human legislation should attempt to deprive him of its use. There is no temporizing with socialism, a mild form of anarchy with James M. Jones, and his doctrines are calculated to restore confidence among men, stifle the spirit of unrest in the ranks of labor and place the whole business fabric of the country upon a sound and healthy basis. Mr. and Mrs. James M. Jones celebrated their golden wedding anniversary August 8, 1911. They have lived in Coulterville over fifty years, and have the distinction of being the only couple who have lived continuously in the city for over half a century. They are highly esteemed by their acquaintances.

Extracted from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, by George W. Smith, volume 2, page 966.

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