James Addison Jones I: early married life, part I

I am continuing on posts from a family history written in December 1960 by Minnie B. Jones Ussery, about my great-great grandfather, James Addison Jones I. In the previous posts (here and here), you learned how he grew up on a farm in Cotton Grove, North Carolina, but wanted to get experience and start a new life in ‘the big city’ of Lexington, North Carolina…

According to Edwin (WWJ note: my great-great uncle – my grandfather’s uncle), Dad’s first work as an eighteen year old country boy was making brick from clay for Mr. (David K) Cecil on the site of this cotton mill in Charlotte. He was paid twenty-five cents a day and allowed to stay in a rough cabin on the building site. He worked hard, learned all he could by watching, and was soon given the opportunity to work with the brickmasons. He made the mortar and carried it to them, earning fifty cents a day. From laborer he advanced soon to mason’s apprentice, working from sun~up until sun-down, even during the longest hottest days. He had energy and a lot of ambition to get ahead, and he must have been quick to learn. By the time he was twenty years old, he was earning two dollars a day and had the reputation in Charlotte of being one of the best brickmasons anywhere around there. When only twenty-one he became a brickmason foreman and then superintendent, earning probably from three, to three dollars and fifty cents a day.

As he felt able to support a wife then, he persuaded Mary Jane Hooper to marry him. Berryman (WWJ note: another great-great uncle – my grandfather’s uncle) described the courtship as follows: “Some few months after moving to Charlotte to find work, Dad met our mother, Mary Jane Hooper, and soon fell in love with her. At first she refused to date him, for she had other admirers. Dad’s hair was naturally blonde; in fact, it was almost white. Mary Jane, better known as ‘Minnie’, made fun of Dad’s blonde locks and told him emphatically she would never marry a blonde-haired man. Taking her at her word, he persuaded a barber friend to dye his hair black before attempting to see ‘Minnie’ again. (When I recalled hearing about this incident, I thought it referred to my father having only his mustache dyed. I can see him now, laughing as he told the story, enjoying how he must have looked with part of his hair dyed and the other part not.)

{source: Jones Family archives; note the typo of her name}
“Minnie” could not resist Dad’s perseverance and persuasive manner; so she consented to marry him. They were married in the Hooper home on West Seventh Street, September 15, 1890. James Jones was twenty one years old then and Mary Jane or ‘Minnie’ was eighteen. (There is some discrepancy about his birthdate as he often said he was twenty-two years old when he married.)

Edwin supplied this information: “When winter weather arrived several months later, brick work stopped. So Papa and Mamma moved from their boarding house back to the home of her parents, the Hoopers, in the 400 block on West Seventh Street and stayed there until I was born on June 10, 1891, when they rented a small house around the corner from the Hoopers, on North Pine Street, just South of Seventh Street. They lived there several years; then he bought one of the first homes built in Dilworth {costing perhaps $1,500) and paid for it with small monthly payments. It was a small, four-room cottage, not even a bungalow, containing a hall down the middle with two rooms on either side. It had no running water, electricity, gas or telephone. It did have a well off the back porch with a wooden windlass.

This house on a street then called Commonwealth, but later changed to was South Caldwell Street. It was the second house South from the corner of South Caldwell and Lexington Avenue (then Oak Street), and was on the East side of the street. All the homes in the neighborhood were owned by street-car conductors, policemen, plumbers, or building-trade mechanics, such as was James Addison

{source: Piedmont and Western Railroad Club and Old Rock School Railway Museum}
Mary Jane Hooper’s parents were English. Grandpa Hooper came to America from England first. Grandma Hooper, with the surname Berryman, arrived in America later, coming with a brother. The Hoopers were married in New Jersey, where Mary Jane was born. Soon after that, they moved South, first to Lincolnton, North Carolina, where Grandpa Hooper worked as Superintendent of the tin mine just opened by some English investors. Later, they moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where Grandpa Hooper was foreman in several gold mines.

{source: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission}
This work ended for him when his health failed. The Hoopers then sold their home on West Seventh Street and bought a small cottage on South Tryon Street; with a small grocery store adjacent to it. For the rest of their lives, Grandpa and Grandma Hooper ran a small neighborhood grocery store, with Grandma Hooper doing most of the work, as Grandpa Hooper’s health was bad. In later life he sold his store and bought a home on Euclid Avenue in Dilworth which he and Grandma Hooper occupied until their deaths.

The Hoopers were staunch Methodists and were members of the Tryon Street Methodist Church in Charlotte, later becoming charter members of Trinity Church at Second and South Tryon Streets. According to Edwin, Grandpa Hooper was a “licensed lay preacher” and an “exhorter” and a “Methodist Class Leader”. From Berryman I learned that Dad had been raised as a boy in a church little known at that time, the “Hard-Shell” Baptist Church. Edwin added this: “I have often heard Papa say that on his first Sunday in Charlotte he went to the First Baptist Church. No one spoke to him or made him welcome. The next Sunday he went to Tryon Street Methodist Church, was welcomed warmly, and put his membership there.” And there it was that he became acquainted with ‘Minnie’ Hooper and decided to marry her.

{source: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission}
James and “Minnie” Jones first put their membership in the old Tryon Street Methodist Church but soon moved it to a newer church, The Trinity Methodist Church at the corner of South Tryon Street and Second Street where the Federal Reserve Bank is now located. Dad and all the family attended this church until it was merged about 1925 with Tryon Street Church to form First Methodist Church. Then he and the family went with the group that joined the Dilworth Methodist Church, which he supported wholeheartedly until his death.

{source: Dilworth UMC of Charlotte}
The Reverend Dr. Howard P. Powell, in paying tribute to my father after his death, said that he often related two personal experiences that caused his lifelong devotion to the Methodist Church. One of these was that he felt that the Methodist Church gave him the right-hand of fellowship that he failed to find elsewhere, and the other reason was that the Church gave him encouragement and companionship that he badly needed as a young man. From then on he began to feel a sense of indebtedness that made him in later life to become a large benefactor of the Methodist Church and related institutions.

{source: Dilworth UMC of Charlotte}
Jim Jones had to work hard, not only to support a wife and a growing family, but also to get ahead, to learn all he could from other workmen in the building trade. Berryman reported, “He found the opportunity as a young man to learn how to read blue-prints on the job he was working on. It wasn’t long before he decided to get other workmen, brickmasons, and laborers to work for him. Then he got his first job as a brickmason contractor, bidding on brick work to be done in a particular job. He soon found he could make some money at this. So he decided he would no longer work for the other fellow on a day or hour basis, but would bid on what brick work he could get to do. As he was successful in this, his confidence increased and he soon decided to go into the general contracting work, bidding on small jobs that he could work on himself, along with a smal1 crew of workmen.

By consistently hard work, perseverance, initiative, vision of better days to come, a love for the kind of work he was doing, confidence in his own ability to make good in his chosen field of work, little by little Dad began to succeed as a general contractor and soon became known in his trade as J. A. Jones, General Contractor.

Posted by

Virginia based lifestyle blogger Whitney of WorthyStyle shares her beauty, fashion, gluten free cooking, family life, and more. Follow along!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.