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:

Charles Jones

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)