Jesse Henry Jones, son of Rev. Charles and Alvira Holmes Jones, was born in Bellevilla, Upper Canada, March 29, 1836. His parents were both of New England stock. His father, a cousin of Thoreau’s mother, belonged to the Jones family of Williamstown, Mass. His paternal grandmother was a Foote, belonging to the same family as Admiral Foote, Horatio Foote, and the mother of Henry Ward Beecher. His mother belonged to that branch of the Holmes family who, early in the last century, came from Connecticut and settled in the Mohawk Valley country of New York state.
His father, the Rev. Charles Jones had taken a partial course of study at Williams College and Union College, taught a school at Penn Yan, and studied theology at Union Seminary, and Yale Divinity School. He devoted much of his time to evangelistic labors, and had several successful pastorates. His last years were spent at North Abington, where he is remembered as a very gracious and dignified old gentleman. His occasional sermons were able, earnest, and helpful. Rev. Jesse H. Jones’s mother, who died when he was only three years old, is said to have been a Sas well. Sometime later, a new mother came into the home, and she, too, was a woman of rare personal charms, and great dignity of mien, and she devoted herself to her family with great fidelity and affection. Such were the home influences under which the author of this work was reared.
At a very early age, Henry, as he was known in the family, evinced a marked interest in books. At eleven years of age he read with delight the complete works of Charles G. Finney, and united with the church when he was twelve. He often said in later life that at that time his theological ideas were well set. At fourteen, he entered Falley’s Seminary, at Fulton, N. Y. He was in this school about two years.
In 1853 he entered Hamilton College as a sophomore; at the close of this year his father went West, and desiring Henry to come under the influence of Mark Hopkins, sent him for junior year to Williams College, where he was in the class with James A. Garfield. This year was a hard one for him, as his finances were very low, and he was subjected to some hardships, such as boarding himself, etc. This was humiliating to his pride, but his strong sense of independence enabled him to maintain a manly carriage. The next year his father became pastor at Cambridge, Mass., and at the age of nineteen, he entered the senior class at Harvard College with some conditions. He at once took a leading position in the college, and graduated tenth in his class. His commencement theme was a poem “Youth” from Cole’s picture “Voyage of Life.”
For two years now he was at home in New York state, working on the farm and regaining his health which had been considerably broken. In 1859 he entered Andover Theological Seminary. These were the days when Professors Park and Phelps were in their prime. As has been said his theological ideas were already well set, and to quote his own words, as to the relations between Professor Park and himself, “It was a theological tilt all the while.” To Professor Phelps, however, he ever attributed the greatest respect and gratitude. In April, 1861, before he would have graduated in June, he went to war. He received a commission as Chaplain of the First Massachusetts Regiment of three months men, but soon returned to St. Lawrence County, N. Y., and organized Co. I, 60th N. Y. Infantry, and for two years and four months served as Captain. He was in the battles of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, Rindgold, Chattanooga, and perhaps some others. September 15, 1862, he married Miss Clara Dodge, of Oswego County, N. Y. At this time the 12th army Corps was transferred from the Army of the Potomac to the Army of the Cumberland, and while the bridal couple were spending two weeks at Baltimore, the Battle of Antietam was fought. Mr. Jones felt very badly that he was not at the battle, while the bride was very glad.
Captain Jones resigned his commission in January, 1864, and went to Williamsburg, N. Y., where he spent a year and a half writing his book, “Know the Truth, A Critique on the Hamiltonian Theory of Limitation, including some Strictures upon the Theories of Rev. Henry L. Mansel and Mr. Herbert Spencer.”
In May, 1865, he received a call to the pastorate of the Congregational church at Antwerp, N. Y., a small country church. Here he was pastor for four years. In connection with his work he gave a course of lectures at Watertown, on some reform ideas. While pastor, this church was greatly prospered. At one time over forty united with it. Improvements were made on the property, the church reorganized. Early in 1869, Wendell Phillips came to lecture in Watertown. Mr. Jones attended, and Mr. Phillips invited him to come to Boston “Anniversary Week” (the third week in May), and speak at Tremont Temple, as the champion of orthodoxy, at the Free Religionists’ platform. The invitation was accepted, and an opportunity was also found to supply a Sunday at Natick, which resulted in a call to the pastorate of the church in that place. Vice-president Henry Wilson, a member, was a prime mover in securing this energetic young minister.
Mr. Jones had been ordained at Cambridge in 1861, and was now installed at Natick with a salary of $2,000 a year. It was during this pastorate that “The Kingdom of Heaven” was written, and the remarkable Thanksgiving Day sermon preached. Mr. Jones’s social views did not accord with those of some people. As one expressed it “He plowed too deep, and it hurt, and they wanted a different man.” After two years’ service he closed his work here and accepted a call to the Congregational church at Rockland, at the same salary. This church had heard previously ninety-four candidates. This pastorate continued from 1871 to 1873. Mr. Jones was very active in social affairs, became a member of the Boston Eight-Hour League at this time, had Dr. Dio Lewis come and lecture on food, and advocated the general use of the cereals. At that time oatmeal was sold by the druggists, instead of the grocers as at present. He also published a pamphlet of over sixty pages, “The Bible Plan for the Abolition of Poverty” (1878). He left this place in June, 1878.
He then began his work at North Abington, supplying the church for some months, and then proposed to the church that he continue to preach and that he would accept what they chose to give him. He was a prime mover in starting the Union store at the North Corner, served as Road Commissioner one year, represented the town in the Legislature in 187~77, published “Equity, a Journal of Christian Labor Reform,” in 1874-75,—a monthly folio. In 1877-78, “The Labor Balance,” a small quarterly, was published.
The pastorate at North Abington closed in 1880, and Mr. Jones engaged for one year to work for the Massachusetts Labor Bureau, under Carrol D. Wright. In this work he visited many manufacturing establishments in western Massachusetts, Connecticut, and eastern New York.
Now came the call to Schroon, N. Y., and a fifteen-months’ pastorate that was one of the happiest periods the family ever had in their home and pastoral life. In the spring of 1882 Carroll D. Wright sent for Mr. Jones to come to Boston to a hearing at the Legislature. In his report of the previous year, Mr. Jones had said, “With some exceptions, the Canadian French are the Chinese of the eastern States.” Mr. Jones has left this record: “This report was, to human sight, by far the most effective work I ever did. It is not too much to say that what refers to the Canadian French changed the course of life of that people in this country permanently for the better. It disturbed them so deeply that they held a number of public meetings, and passed resolutions vigorously denying the statements. Yet when the hearings were given them they presented another side covered by the phrase, “with some exceptions;” but they did not deny one of these statements, and if they had I was there to have proved every one of them.”
While on this visit he went to North Abington, preached at the North church, and was solicited by leading men to become pastor again. The call was accepted to the great disappointment of the people at Schroon, who loved their pastor very much. In March, 1884, Mr. Jones was one of the foremost in establishing the Knights of Labor at North Abington, and continued active in the Order after it had disbanded in his locality. In 1882 he became the editor of the “North Abington Public,” which appeared on the last page of the “Rockland Standard.” This was continued until 1896. All the while he was active in reform work of whatever name, especially, woman suffrage, temperance, labor. He also strove to teach the right way of life in the family.
The second pastorate at North Abington closed in the spring of 1890. At this time he wrote to the writer of this sketch, “Perhaps in all the land there is not a pulpit open to me.” His farewell sermon to an audience which packed the church was from the text: “And they cast him out.”
For the next seven years he continued to live in the house next to the church, attended its services when there was no opportunity to supply elsewhere, taught in its Sunday School for a good part of the time, edited the “Public,” served on the school board, and prepared several articles for the press. Not a little of his livelihood he made from farming.
From November, 1897, till he fell asleep on April 19, 1904, he was pastor of the Congregational church at Halifax, situated about a dozen miles from North Abington. In many ways these were happy years. He still wrote for the press, prepared the “History of the Holmes Family,” served as president of the Wendell Phillips Association, and gathered together the manuscript for Joshua Davidson. All the while many associations at Rockland and North Abington were kept up, and frequently he was called to deliver an address, minister in some home, or attend the sessions of the Grand Army of the Republic, of which at the last he was senior vice-commander. This institution was “next to the church” in his regards, and his last appearance in public, which was on the day of his death, was to attend a camp-fire at Middleboro. Perhaps the happiest feature in the last years was the recognition he received in the Plymouth County Neighborhood Convention meetings. Here he was regarded as a father, and there was comparatively little opposition to much of his teachings. This was partly because times had changed, and partly because he was less antagonistic in his methods of presentation.
The life work of Mr. Jones was greatly assisted by the gracious woman who shared his service. We often termed her “an ideal minister’s wife.” Highly intellectual, gifted in public address, sparkling with a wit that never cut and a humor that ever pleased, the sweetness of her presence was always welcome.
Some idea of Mr. Jones’s range of thinking will be gathered from the following list of articles which will also be valuable for reference: “The Williams Quarterly,” June, 1856, “Lord Byron;” “The New Englander,” May, 1859, “The Sepoy Mutiny;” “The University Quarterly,” July, 1860, “Mrs. Stowe and Her Critics,” Art. 1; July, 1861, Art. II; “The New Englander,” April, 1865, “The Foundation of Moral Obligation;” “International Review,” July, 1880; “The Labor Problem;” “The Harvard Register,” April-July, 1881, “In Opposition to the Metric System;” “Annual Report of the Massachusetts Labor Bureau,” 1881, “Report on the Uniform Hours of Labor;” “Were they Miracles,” a booklet; “Journal of Science,” December, 1882, Saratoga Papers, “Ten Hours;” a seventy-paged article not located, “Sunday Labor;” “Seventeenth Annual Report of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor,” A Memorial, “Henry Kemble Oliver;” “Chautanquan,” April, 1889, “Sunday Labor;” “The Social Economist,” January, 1892, “Money and Currency;” “Homiletical Review,” April, 1895, “The Order of Events on the Resurrection Morning;” “Social Economist,” October, 1895, “The Greenback Issue is Returning;” “Gunton’s Magazine,” March, 1897, “How to Obtain the Eight Hour Day” (Articles 1, 3, 4,5, of the five preceding were quoted in “Public Opinion” to the extent of half a page); a sermon, “The Eternal Life;” a Minority Report of the School Committee of the Town of Abington, 1895; “A Speech of Wendell Phillips, compiled and commented upon,” 1897; a pamphlet, “The Issues of the War for the Union,” 1898; a pamphlet, “The Bible Plan for the Abolition of Poverty,” second edition, rewritten; “Bibliotheca Sacra,” April, 1902, “Jehovah-Jesus-Messiah,” printed without the author’s name; a pamphlet, “Religion and the Family,” September, 1893 (3,000 of these were “Sown” into the Parliament of Religions); “Purity Journal,” December, 1901, “The Cure of the Social Evil;” “Scientific Marriage,” a fifty-page booklet, October, 1887; a pamphlet, twenty pages, “The Perfect Good in Wedlock;” a pamphlet, “Sweet Sixteen.” He also made a revision of the “Shorter Catechism” in 1885. For his own use he made a translation of the four gospels and made a combination of the different narrative into what he called “The Woven Gospel.” This type-written copy he bequeathed to the editor of these pages. The work was completed in 1896. In the preface he says: “In doing this I discovered the order of the events of the resurrection morning; that Jesus was crucified on Thursday; that there was but one rejection at Nazareth, and that that was at the time given by Matthew and Mark; and that they also give the right time for the feast at Bethany,—Tuesday evening.”
The fairest estimate I ever heard passed on Mr. Jones was made to me personally by the late Prof. John Wesley Churchill of Andover. He and Mr. Jones had been friends for many years, and he said, “I have always regarded Mr. Jones as a man who had a mind of the first order, but he is a man who has done much of his thinking outside of the usual lines of thought.” Mr. Jones had the faculty of saying things in a very effective way. The people at Natick have said, “We never had a minister who was quoted as much as Mr. Jones.”
He was as natural and simple as a child. There was no guile in his make-up, and this fact together with the other fact that he had little sense of humor, and little power to adapt himself to small conditions, all combined to give many of those traits that obscured the real man, and went a long way to make many antagonists. Then, too, he was a very sensitive man. He was so honest and earnest, that the flings of the press as to the things he said and did, cut him to the quick, and tended to make him a lonely man,
He often said that his life had been a failure. “Certain constitutional traits, make all that I try to do and say, almost completely of none effect.” In this, of course he was largely mistaken. He was, however, greatly disappointed. He started in life fully expecting a distinguished career. Rev. Joseph Cook, who was pastor at Rockland before Mr. Jones took up the work, said: “Mr. Jones is the most promising young man of whom I know.” But there came a day when a great decision had to be made. Should he preach that portion of the gospel of Christ which people were accustomed to hear, and be the acceptable pastor of the popular church; or should he declare the “whole gospel” as it had been revealed to him, and take the reproach, and the poverty, or whatever might come. The choice was made deliberately, and in all the years that followed, he never faltered. As the man was really known, he won our love and our confidence. Of course, he made mistakes of judgment, and bitter antagonism did not make them seem less faulty, or the less strange. It was his great hope that this story-form might enable him to present his views as a whole, and so win for them a hearing and a place.
His signature, “Faithfully yours,” was an earnest index to the character of the man. His place among the pioneer reformers will be recognized, and perhaps his claim to a prophet’s forecast of the times, granted. We used to say that he was “Fifty years ahead of his times,” and perhaps the saying was true.
-- Located by Adam Seaman