James Addison Jones I: early married life, part II

Today’s post is another from a family history written in December 1960 by Minnie B. Jones Ussery, about my great-great grandfather, James Addison Jones I. This section continues on from the one started yesterday, about his early married life. These posts will be broken up into several parts, as this section is one of the largest in the story.

{Minnie Beatrice Jones Ussery’s UNC-G 1927 yearbook photo}

One of these first jobs that he got was the brick work for the express office (referred to as a dining-car job, in some write-ups), an addition to the Southern Railway Station. He had two white workers and two African-American workers and no capital. They had the foundation walls up when suddenly a flash flood swooped down and flattened the walls. In those days construction work was a battle for survival. Facing financial ruin and of being wiped out of business, he did not give up nor admit defeat. He rallied his African-American helpers who pitched in with him and worked very hard to help him rebuild the walls, but his white workers were indifferent. To the end of his days, Dad always remembered the support given him by those African-American men then, and by others many times after that. He was always kind to them personally and his African-American workers showed love as well as respect for the “big boss” or “the capt’n”, as they called him.

This first building built by Jim Jones, which he completed on ‘less than a shoestring’, still stands today – a monument to his philosophy of always building soundly and of never giving up {WWJ note: Demolished in 1962}. This proved a turning point in his career. The crisis, met head-on and overcome, helped to mold his philosophy that has guided the J. A. Jones Construction Company through the years, “Finish the Job”. While working on this addition for the Southern Railway, Jim Jones attracted the attention of the officials. According to Edwin,

“They recognized his energy and ability and good judgment, and his ability to handle men even though he was actually a very young man. He was offered and took the job of Superintendent of Maintenance-of-Way for the Southern Railroad. His job actually consisted of travelling from Tocca, Georgia, to Monroe, Virginia, and repairing washouts, or wrecks, and in the main restoring traffic after wrecks. This meant living in a work train and going from almost one end of the main line of the Southern Railroad to the other constantly. Soon he saw the possibility of doing contract work for the Southern Railroad, gave up his salaried job, and took several contracts, building large culverts and bridges for the new double-tracking work of the Southern Railroad in the mountains of Georgia.”

When he finished this work, about 1894, he returned to Charlotte and went into general construction work for himself. He was probably twenty-five, not over twenty-six years old, with a growing family to support; yet he had unbounded faith in himself, in his good judgment, and in his ability to secure a profitable contract and to carry it through successfully. In those first years he had no office and no permanent help. When he got a job he hired a crew and went to it. The construction business then was a continual gamble with the elements, competition, and rule-of-thumb methods. The weak fell by the wayside; the survivors grew strong. J.A. Jones, without any family or business connections of any sort, survived and his business grew. What he accomplished, he achieved with his own ability, character, and energy.

All was not smooth sailing for the young couple, by any means. Their second son, Bobby, died in infancy {WWJ note: his given name was Robert Jones, but they had wanted to call him Bobbie. He was born in 1893 and died when only several days old}. Money was always “tight” in that home and thrift necessary. Yet Jim Jones was always a generous contributor to the church, giving often more than some thought he could afford. Once he pledged $84 to be paid by the following Sunday, when he did not even have that much. The next day he got a small job and was able to realize during the week a profit of $85 and to pay his pledge when Sunday arrived.

As his business grew, his family grew, too, so much so that Jim Jones had a struggle to meet their needs. And many children made a larger home necessary. So he bought, about 1900, several vacant lots at 1011 South Tryon Street and there built a two-story, brick home consisting of ten rooms and a basement. A few years later, he added a third floor, to meet the needs of his expanding family. The names and years of birth of the twelve children born to James Addison Jones and Mary Jane Hooper Jones are as follows: Edwin Lee, 1891; Bobbie, died in infancy; Raymond Allen, 1894 {WWJ note: my great-grandfather}; Hannibal Berryman, 1897; Frances Elizabeth, 1900; James Addison Jr., 1902; Johnie Hooper, 1904; Minnie Beatrice, 1906; William Franklin, 1908; Dorothy May, 19!0; Paul Stewart, 1912; Helen Estelle, 1914.

{From L to R: Raymond Allen Jones (my great-grandfather), Frances Elizabeth Jones, Hannibal Berryman Jones, James Addison Jones, Jr.}

In addition to their own children, Jim and “Minnie” Jones took into their large family a niece, Etta Jones, a daughter of John Jones, my father’s oldest brother. Etta joined the family when she was very young, having been orphaned by the death of her parents. She was accepted into this large family as one of them and lived with them through her high school years and two years as a day student in college, until she was married in 1915.

In 1912, the oldest son, Edwin, graduated from Trinity College, now Duke University, and shortly afterwards entered the onstruction business with our father. Jim and “Minnie” Jones watched their son’s graduation with pride, but also with a young baby, Paul, in their arms. {WWJ note: I previously shared a letter from JAJ I to Edwin Sr. on this event at this link. Note Edwin’s Duke University/Trinity College yearbook photo above.}

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