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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Hon. Evan Willard Jones

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 300-304 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Portrait of Hon. Evan Willard Jones

Portrait: Hon. Evan Willard Jones

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Hon. Evan Willard Jones, surrogate of Oneida county, prominent member of the bar for many years and a highly esteemed citizen of Utica, departed this life on the 21st of September, 1924, when sixty years of age. His birth occurred in Remsen, Oneida county, New York, on the 18th of May, 1864, his parents being Griffith O. and Ann (Jones) Jones, who moved to the town of Trenton with their children many years ago. Griffith O. Jones served as member of the assembly for his district at one time. Both parents have passed away.

Evan Willard Jones, the only one of seven children who grew to manhood, was educated in what is now the Holland Patent high school, and in the New York State College for Teachers at Albany, being graduated from the latter institution with the class of 1886. Subsequently he taught for several years in the New York Institute for the Blind in New York city. In connection with that work he studied law in the law department of New York University and there received the degree of LL. B. on the completion of his course in 1890. Later he spent some time in California, but in 1894 returned to Oneida county, New York, and resumed the study of law in the office of the late Edwin H. Risley. He was admitted to the bar in 1896. In 1904, in Utica, he became associated with Milton E. Robinson as Robinson & Jones, and later they admitted Richard R. Martin, under the firm name of Robinson, Martin & Jones, which partnership was maintained until the demise of Mr. Robinson in 1909, when Messrs. Martin and Jones continued practice under the style of Martin & Jones. The latter partnership continued for about ten years, on the expiration of which period Mr. Jones assumed the duties of surrogate, on the 1st of January, 1919, having been elected to the position for a term of six years. Nomination therefor came to him from the republican party, with which he had always been affiliated, and he received a large vote in all parts of the county. His conduct of the office was most acceptable to the members of the bar and all other citizens alike. Nomination for a second term was accorded him a short time prior to his death, by the republicans of Oneida county, without question. He proved himself a judicial officer of exceptional capability and made a most creditable and commendable record for legal learning of a high order. His advice and counsel were sought by many of the most prominent attorneys of the locality. Judge Jones held membership in the Oneida County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association. In addition to his professional activity he served as a director and vice president of the First National Bank of Holland Patent and as president of the Oneida County Rural Telephone Company.

On the 19th of August, 1896, Judge Jones was united in marriage to Miss Fanny S. White of Holland Patent, daughter of George and Millicent (Hamlin) White. She was called to the home beyond on the 3d of March, 1915. Prior to the year 1922, when he took up his abode in Utica, Judge Jones had resided in Holland Patent. In the northerly part of the county, particularly, he long enjoyed a very wide acquaintance. He attended for many years the First Presbyterian church of Holland Patent, of which he was an elder and a trustee. Several years before his demise he went to the Presbyterian General Assembly as a commissioner from Utica Presbytery. He was a member of the First Presbyterian church of Utica. After taking up his residence in this city he became a member of Utica Lodge No. 33 of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. He also belonged to Remsen Lodge No. 677, F. & A. M., and was a charter member of Stittville Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. His name was likewise on the membership rolls of the Fort Schuyler Club and the Republican Club.

The following is an excerpt from a review of his career which appeared in a local paper under date of September 22, 1924:

"Mr. Jones will be greatly missed by an unusually wide circle of personal friends, by members of the bar of Oneida county, who had for him the highest esteem, and by many citizens who regarded him as a surrogate of exceptional qualifications, both of mind and heart."

Warnick J. Kernan, president of the Oneida County Bar Association, paid the following tribute:

"The loss to the profession in the death of Surrogate Jones is overshadowed by the larger loss to the community. In addition to sound legal knowledge, the office which he held called for integrity, broad sympathy and a keen human understanding. Each of these qualities he had in a preeminent degree. There was no judicial office within the gift of the people which he could not have held to their satisfaction and with credit to himself."

It was said editorially:

"The people of Oneida county will read with surprise and regret the announcement of the death of Surrogate E. Willard Jones. Those who knew him intimately will feel that they have sustained a grievous personal loss. By sheer force of character, integrity and ability, he had won a position of confidence and respect. Without self-seeking, without forcing himself upon public attention, for he was a modest man, he was singled out for political office solely on the basis of his fitness to perform its duties. The recognition he thus received was a personal tribute, as well as a demonstration that the instincts of the people, when opportunity affords, leads them right. Mr. Jones will always be remembered as one of the best surrogates Oneida county has ever had. He regarded his duties as a sacred trust and brought to their performance excellent knowledge of the law, a judicial mind, a sense of fairness and human understanding. Those who appeared in his court trusted him implicitly. His aim was to safeguard the rights of the people, and this was so evident in his work and conduct that he won the respect of lawyers as well as the general public. He was renominated for a second term without opposition and there is no question that he would have been reelected by the force of the same conviction as brought him forward as a candidate for his first term. The same traits that characterized him in the performance of his duties as surrogate were manifest in his other relations. In Holland Patent, where he resided until a few years ago, although he had practiced his profession in Utica for many years, he was regarded as one of the first citizens of the community, having the trust and confidence of his neighbors and friends to a remarkable degree. He could always be counted upon to give his aid and support to every good cause, and that in no perfunctory manner. In demeanor he was calm and quiet and not given to many words, but the qualities of his mind and heart shone forth in his personality and thus to see him was to trust and respect him. The high and the noble, the pure and true appealed to him. Throughout his life he had taken part in politics and in so-called political fights, but none knew E. Willard Jones as other than an honorable man in all his political relations, and he typified the best in public service. Had his life been spared there is probably no doubt that he would have been advanced further in the judiciary of the county and state. Personally, he was the true friend, considerate of the feelings of his fellows, charitable of their foibles, and always the same refined, cultured gentleman, loved by those who knew him best and respected and admired by all. It is too trite to say, as customary, that his death is a loss to the county, but it could not be said with more truth of any man."

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