Keeping up with the Joneses, Part 2: Charles writes from Texas

Behold, Anna Collins’s handiwork: the binder of letters from the Jones brothers. (I know, the Jones brothers actually wrote the letters. But great-great Aunt Anna saved them, and I feel I have to thank her constantly, because I have heard from my parents and grandma that she could be JUDGY, and you didn’t want to cross her. Anyway.)

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“Letters from Jones Brothers” (Anna MacGregor Collins’s handwriting). Binder compiled in late 1960s or so

The letters are from or to Charles, Ezra, Lucius, Alonzo, and William, and the dates range from 1848 to the early 1880s. I’m slowly going through and scanning and transcribing these, and you, dear blog readers, are my excuse for getting through them in a timely fashion.

But first I’m going to cheat a little and offer up a letter that has already been transcribed, because Anna Jones MacGregor (my second great-grandmother and Judgy Anna’s mother) sent it off to be printed in a Texas newspapers sometime in the late 30s or early 40s (I’m guessing.) Here’s a PDF of the clipping—appears to have been from a Hebbronville newspaper, but not sure which one. I’m running it because it’s sort of a nice intro to the Jones siblings (and also I’m lazy).

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Intro to letter. Mrs. W.W. MacGregor = Anna Jones MacGregor.

The letter is from Charles Jones, whom we met last week. (I know, the letter intro says it’s Anna Jones MacG’s grandfather, who was also named Charles, but he died in 1843, so it’s clearly a typo). Since it was written to “the folks back home in old New England” and addressed to a brother, I’m guessing the recipient was either William or Ezra up in Boston or maybe New Hampshire.

To summarize the letter: Charles, who would have recently graduated from Dartmouth (at the age of 32?), was traveling with his younger brother Alonzo, then a teenager, down to Texas. They sailed from New York to Galveston on a fifteen-day journey, took a steamboat to Houston, and then traveled some sixty miles north by wagon to Grimes County (not far from Montgomery, where he wound up living and practicing law), noting plenty of traffic along the way, probably from immigrant settlers who were streaming into Texas at the time. 

“The road goes where the wagons are pleased to drive, and there is so much travel that there are sometimes eight or ten parallel tracks, and we could sometimes see twenty teams at once, with four to six yolk of oxen to each, and from ten to twelve oxen. The drivers carry their own snack and whiskey, and the cattle are turned loose to feed. Farmers make money here.”

Was he looking to buy land? For most of the letter he’s talking about the money involved in growing cotton or raising livestock (“A man may keep as many [sheep] as he pleases,” he writes) and the rising price of land, but there’s also no indication that he was more than an observer. He and his brother appear to have known where they were headed, since he mentions they were expecting letters upon their arrival. Was Charles looking for opportunities in Texas, or was he on his way to begin a specific job? And who the heck was Sam?

But never mind. In the newspaper the clipping is followed by this note, which has some delightfully specific information about two other Jones brothers. There’s Alonzo, who we already knew worked for the railroad; and then Lucius (called “Lu” in this and other letters), who was the chaplain in a Confederate brigade that fought in one of the few Civil War skirmishes in New Mexico, and who met with a tragic (and ironic) death:

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Some choice bits of info about Lucius Jones and Alzonzo Jones.

Yeah, so THAT happened. We’ll find out a little more about Lu’s life and death in the Jones letters. Until then…

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Keeping up with the Joneses, Part 1: Charles Jones

Oh, those Joneses, with their ubiquitous surname and their tendency to disperse all over the damn place. I’m trying to find out more about Anna Jones’s father Charles Jones (my 3rd great-grandfather) and his sprawl of siblings with whom he exchanged letters in the 1850s and 1860s. I have about a dozen of these letters (saved by Charles’s granddaughter, good old Anna Collins), and at the moment they are the strongest evidence I have that these Joneses ever existed.

But let’s start with Charles. Here’s one of a few portraits I have of him:

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Charles Jones, father of Anna Jones, grandfather of Mary and the other MacGregor sisters, and great-grandfather to my grandpa Mac (Got it?).

And here’s what I’m pretty sure is his grave, as it appears on Find A Grave:

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Charles Jones, born in Claremont N.H. Jan. 31, 1820, died in Montgomery, Texas, Sept. 29, 1871 (Photo by findagrave.com user Janet Beltram)

Man, that headstone is a genealogists’ dream. Except I also can’t help but stare at that empty space at the bottom of the stone and think about WHAT MORE COULD HAVE GONE THERE. Like the cause of Charles’s death, or why he came down to Texas in the first place, neither of which I know. But I am fairly certain that this Charles Jones is our Charles Jones based on a few bits of evidence:

One is his Dartmouth diploma, which we somehow managed to keep all these years:

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“Carolum Jones” graduated from “Collegii Dartmuthensis” in “millesimo octigentesimo quingentesimo secundo.”

Once I figured out that he graduated in 1852 (the internet is nothing if not a giant decoder ring for old documents in Latin!), a couple of Dartmouth alumni directories found in Google Books turned up short bios of Charles that matched the headstone as well as other scraps of family info I have. And then everything corroborated with the census information for his family. In 1870, his wife and three daughters were living in Montgomery, Texas, with Charles, a lawyer, listed as head of household, but he’s not in the 1880 census—by then his widow and the girls were living in Corpus Christi.

I don’t think he fought in the Civil War: he would have been in his 40s then, and there’s no indication from his grave that he was a veteran, but who knows. (Looking up Civil War stuff is still overwhelming, with no Sam-Waterston-narrating-Ken-Burns-documentary voice to talk me through it.)  But apparently at least one of his brothers fought on the Confederate side.

Which brings me to these siblings: between the letters and the scanty information I’ve found on Ancestry, I’ve managed to identify these possible brothers and sisters of Charles Jones:

William, who lived in Boston

Ezra, an Episcopal clergyman

Lucius, aka, L.H., also a clergyman, and later chaplain with a Confederate brigade that fought in New Mexico (where he was wounded in battle and later died of his injuries)

Alonzo, a railroad ticket agent in Boston

Sarah, who wound up in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Anna (YET ANOTHER ANNA), who I found census records listed as Sarah’s sister

So that is seven Joneses. Kind of a lot of Joneses! And from what I’ve glanced so far in the online research, quite a range of ages. Are they really all from the same parents? I haven’t found a family tree on Ancestry or elsewhere that lists more than two of them together, though going this far back it’s probably easy to lose track of ancestor siblings who didn’t have descendants of their own.

But I also have letters from some of the siblings, and I’m hoping that in transcribing them (oh, the 19th-century handwriting) I can find details to link them to online records, and find evidence of their relationships to one another. I’m hoping as well that somewhere in the few boxes left back in Albuquerque, Anna Collins drew up or found a Jones family tree while doing her DAR genealogy, but until I can get the hell back there in November, I’ll plug away on going the letters, in all their spidery-script glory, and will periodically post a transcription for us to pore over obsessively.

Sound like fun? I’ll try to get one up next week, then maybe switch to posting stuff from the Jameson side for awhile. Until then, keep jonesing. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE)

Wellesley girls gone (slightly) wild: Anna Jones at college, 1882

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My great-great grandmother Anna Jones, likely during her college days (back of picture has name of a Boston photographers’ studio)

In 1882, Anna Jones was 20 and attending Wellesley College, a long way from Corpus Christi, Texas. I suspect her Jones relations had something to do with her going to school up near Boston, since her father’s family had some New England roots. One of Anna’s uncles, Alonzo Jones, was a ticket agent for the Old Colony railroad, and appears to have made some of her travel arrangements (at least from what I can make of his letters to her, which isn’t much on account of his CRAZY handwriting), but other than that, I haven’t uncovered much about those Wellesley years. Did she graduate? Did she live in the dormitories? (I’m guessing she didn’t live with Uncle Alonzo, since the 1880 census shows him living in a boarding house.)

However, I did find three of Anna’s notebooks from her time at school. Two are academic, and oneus  a “commonplace book” full of quotes and verses she wanted to remember. It’s marked 1882 and “Private.” (134 years later, we are totally snooping.)

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Anna’s literature and botany notebooks (Botany dated 1881)

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Anna’s commonplace book, 1882

In each page of her commonplace book, Anna drew a line down the left margin with her pen and ruler, creating a tidy column for citations. On the very first page she began with quoting a lot of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. (Oh, college.) On subsequent pages she quoted Byron, Lowell, Longfellow, Pope, Shelley, and then went on a Shakespeare kick for about two pages, occasionally making little x‘s over the verse lines to figure out the scansion. She tended to nerd out on passages about art, books, eternal truths, death. As one does at twenty.

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Anna digging Raleigh, Goethe, Bacon

Halfway through the notebook the material starts to get a little more eclectic. Anna left off quoting the (mostly male) classic literary canon for awhile in order to transcribe a popular poem by Mary Torrans Lathrap, a women’s suffragist and temperance activist. “A Woman’s Answer to a Man’s Question,” has fun lines like A loving woman finds heaven or hell/ on the day she is made a bride and takes the view that a woman’s love is too valuable to be wasted on jerks who only want someone to cook and clean for them. Respect!

Then there’s THIS little gem called “Recipe for a Harvard-Man,” and which appears to have been something of an 1880s meme.

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Oh SNAP, Harvard guys!

“Take a lump of Egotism:
Add a slice of Skepticism;
Mix them well together with a ‘culchawed’ Boston drawl;
Add a little Darwnism,
Just a smack of Positivism
And flavor with the essence of unmitigated gall.”

I managed to find the rhyme in three or four college publications around the country in the 1880s, and I wonder how many girls’ notebooks it wound up in.

But by far the cutest/most embarrassing thing in Anna’s notebook is a poem attributed to “L.B.E,” and dedicated to “K.C.,” both of whom were almost certainly Anna’s schoolmates, and is about poor Kate (K.C., we presume), who sat in the front row of a concert and made mutual flirty-eyes with one of the male singers:

I sing not of war or of a hero
My subject is of our dear Kate,
Who to our everlasting sorrow
At the Concert met her sweet fate
She sat, an innocent victim,
Right down on the very front seat
When lo: before us he sing
A sweet warbler arose at her feet.
In a way that is now quite the craze,
But we could see in his sweet eye
As he looked & met her shy gaze
The words of Caesar veni, vedi, vici
We all know how sweet is our Kate
And to contradict it I do hate;
But often a fear has come of late
That to become more sweet is her fate.

So many questions! Who was L.B.E? Did Kate and the guy ever hook up? Was he from Harvard? Was rhyming eye with vici some kind of droll 1880s schoolgirl joke? Did Anna ever sit in the library with this notebook, copying all those lines? Did she remember them later?

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Mothers, verified and otherwise

Gallery

This gallery contains 10 photos.

In honor of Mother’s Day, all the mothers in my mother’s line whose photos I could find in the family collection, though the documentation on some of them is pretty scanty. See notes! Married names are in parentheses. Ann (or … Continue reading

A little more about Maggie and the Sad Death

Old Main, Sam Houston State Normal Institute, Huntsville, Texas 1928.preview

Where Maggie Jones was going to school, at least for a while.

The Corpus Christi public library came through and yesterday they sent me two newspaper items on my third great-aunt Maggie Jones’s death. If you’ll remember, this poor kid died of scarlet fever when she was just eighteen and away from home. The story we saw last week from the Laredo paper made it sound like she’d been attending school there, and I’d thought it was the boarding school there. Nope, it turns out she’d been at the “Normal Institute, Huntsville,” a teaching school (now I know: normal tends to mean teacher education) that would later become Sam Houston State University. Then apparently she stopped in Laredo on her way home to stay with her aunt and uncle and take an exam at the institute there (a teaching certification exam maybe), when illness struck.

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From the Corpus Christi Caller, August 3, 1884 (click to enlarge)

(This was an object lesson in interpreting primary sources. The Laredo paper had led me to believe Maggie was attending school there, but her hometown paper in Corpus Christi had the correct details.)

The “more extended notice” “from the pen of one who knew [Maggie] well” ran in the Caller a few days later. Here’s a PDF of the memorial, followed by a more legible transcription.  Don’t get too excited: it was written by Maggie’s pastor, who described her as being pious, and sweet, and, uh… pious. Typical passage:

The subject of this sketch entered into rest at the age of 18 years, 4 months, and 10 days. Physically she was frail, and from an early period she was impressed with the thought that her life would be short. This impression, however, never turned her aside from the duty of the present hour. To be useful, to be well furnished as to her mind, to keep her heart with diligence and to live the life of a Christian, was more to her than length of days and years. She often spoke of death, but it was as a release from the trials and ills of life. During her short illness, texts of scripture would come to her, which she had learned from her mother as being comforting in affliction. She was sensible of her approaching end, and once, after prayer had been offered at her request, she repeated with touching simplicity the prayer of innocent childhood—”Now I lay me down to sleep.”

Yeah, we get it: she was Beth March. Pretty much the only helpful information here is her exact age to the day when she died, which, if my backwards counting is correct, has her birthday as March 19, 1866. (She was a Pisces.)

Maggie is listed as having a “probable and possible” grave at Old Bayview Cemetery in Corpus Christi, the same cemetery where her grandfather, a former mayor of Corpus Christi, would be buried a few years later. So there’s a chance she could have been buried on family property, but Old Bayview was the most likely place she would have ended up.

Just for fun I searched on the name of the clergyman who performed the funeral service and possibly also wrote the memorial piece. I found this article, which seems to be the right guy. (Look at that beard! Are you going to buy anything that guy wrote about anyone?)

Rest in peace, Maggie, wherever you are.