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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
John H. Jones

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 580-584 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]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 John H. Jones

Portrait: John H. Jones

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Utica lost one of its loved and venerable citizens when Adjutant John H. Jones, as he was familiarly known, was called to the home beyond, on the 16th of July, 1924, at the age of eighty-one years. Among the Civil war veterans of Oneida county no one enjoyed a wider acquaintance nor was better liked than Adjutant Jones, drummer of the Twenty-sixth New York Volunteer Infantry during the period of the conflict between the north and the south. In business circles he won a gratifying degree of success as a grocery merchant, so that he was enabled to spend the evening of his life in well earned retirement. His birth occurred in Utica, on the 23d of July, 1843, his parents being Mr. and Mrs. John Owen Jones, whose two surviving children are: Millard F., a resident of Seattle, Washington; and Mrs. Edwin E. Jones, living in Utica. The father, who departed this life on October 17, 1898, was for many years at the head of the grocery house of John O. Jones & Sons, conducting what was not only one of the oldest firms in Utica, but in central New York as well. George, Henry and John H. Jones, the three sons of John O. Jones who were associated with him in the grocery business, are all deceased.

John H. Jones was educated in the Advanced School and was a youth of thirteen when in 1856 he secured employment in the grocery store of John T. Stevens, at the corner of Plant and Genesee streets. A year later he entered the service of M. M. Northrup on Liberty street, while subsequently he went to work for Colonel Alvin White, who conducted a grocery where Woolworth's five and ten cent store is now located. When Colonel White went out of business, Mr. Jones obtained employment with Alonzo Rowley, at Pearl and Genesee streets.

Mr. Jones had served as torch boy in five company, and was also a member of the Johnson Guards. This was an independent military company, most of whose members enlisted in Company B of the Fourteenth Regiment and went to the front under Captain Brazee. Mr. Jones went with them as far as Albany, but did not enlist at that time. He had friends who were going in another regiment, so he waited until May 3, 1861, when he enlisted in Company C of the Twenty-sixth New York Volunteer Infantry, with Charles F. Cleveland and others. Mr. Jones was under Captain John Fairbanks and he served as a private for five months, carrying a musket. He was then detailed in the Drum Corps and served in this three months, when he was made drum major and had charge of the Drum Corps from that time until the close of his term of service. He was responsible for the whole corps, made the details of its men and proved himself very capable and efficient. On account of his youth he was known as the drummer boy of the Twenty-sixth, not only during the service but for many years after the war. He came home with the regiment in 1863. He had taken part in all the battles of the regiment at Cedar Mountain, Rappahannock Station, Gaines Mills, Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At the battle of Bull Run, Jimmie Richardson, one of his drummers, was killed by his side.

Returning from the army, Mr. Jones worked for a short time for Lewis Lawrence, at his lumberyard on Seneca street. That fall he attended the Utica Business College and graduated during the winter. Then he went to work for Lewis Lawrence at Maple Hill, just outside of Williamstown. Mr. Lawrence had bought here a large tract of timber, which he cut and shipped to Utica, and Mr. Jones was his bookkeeper and also conducted a store. He served there until the fall of 1865, when he went into business with his father at the corner of Genesee and Pearl streets. The grocery establishment of John O. Jones & Sons was carried on for many years at the original site and after 1885 at No. 226 Genesee street. From about 1895 until his retirement in the spring of 1912, John H. Jones conducted a prosperous business as a dealer in fine family groceries in association with his son, Fred O. Jones. He became well known to the grocery trade throughout central New York and he joined the Grocers Protective Association at the time it was formed.

In politics Mr. Jones was a republican and an earnest supporter of his party. He did not care for office, but was usually a delegate in republican city conventions and had a hand in shaping their affairs. He served as a member of the board of health from 1880 until 1883. At one time he was a member of the Knights of Pythias but later withdrew from that organization. It was in military circles, however, that Mr. Jones was best known among the old veterans. Soon after the close of the war and his return from Williamstown, there was formed in Utica a Soldiers' and Sailors' Union, which antedated the Grand Army of the Republic. It had rooms in Franklin Square and when it went out of existence, part of its members joined the Grand Army of the Republic and another part joined the Utica Veteran Zouaves, which was a company of state militia, composed of veterans, commanded by Captain E. O. Jones. Adjutant Jones, as he was familiarly known, joined both organizations. He was in the Utica Veteran Zouaves about fifteen years, in various capacities. He was promoted to the position of battalion quartermaster of the Twenty-sixth regiment, with rank of lieutenant, and later was appointed captain of rifle practice, with a captain's commission. In this he served two years. Next he was made adjutant of the battalion, with the rank of first lieutenant, and when the battalion was mustered out he was made supernumerary on Colonel Bulger's staff. John H. Peattie was major and Mr. Jones was adjutant when mustered out and was so carried on the rolls. In 1869 this company went to Ogdensburg to be present at the laying of the corner stone of the national monument. It had the right of line as being the crack company which participated there. A militia company composed entirely of veteran soldiers was something of a novelty even at that time. In the same company were Thelwin Jones, Eli Cone, John Peattie and many others well known among the ranks of veterans. Adjutant Jones was a member of the Society of the Army of the Potomac and also of the Twenty-sixth Regiment Veterans Association from the time it was organized. He had served as president of this organization and never missed a meeting. One feature of its annual reunions was the salute to the battle flags, in which Adjutant Jones was always present and beat the drum which he had carried through the war. This he prized as highly as any of his earthly possessions and it is still in a good state of preservation. He was made commander of Bacon Post No. 53 of the Grand Army of the Republic. The following is an excerpt from a review of his career which appeared in one of the local papers at the time of his death:

"At the Memorial Day services in 1924 at the soldier's monument on Oneida Square, he beat taps at the close, using the drum which he had carried through years of army service. It was the last time, for he has answered final roll call… Mr. Jones was a man of good address, methodical and careful in business, industrious and prudent. He was of a social temperament and had a high esteem for all old soldiers. When he returned from the war he was scarcely more than a boy himself, and in the open air concerts which were given in Franklin Square he always beat the drum and won the admiration of all the boys in the neiehborhood… Mr. Jones was one of the solid, substantial citizens of Utica who had the confidence and esteem of all who knew him."

He belonged to Westminster church for many years and from 1898 until his demise was a member of the First Presbyterian church. For quite a number of years he spent the summer seasons in the province of Ontario, Canada.

In 1866 Mr. Jones was united in marriage to Jennie Jones, daughter of William A. Jones of Remsen, Oneida county, New York. She passed away on January 26, 1893. On the 20th of October, 1897, Mr. Jones was married to Miss Catherine M. E. Steele of Finch, Ontario, who survives him. His children are as follows: Dr. William H. Jones of Clinton, New York; Fred O., business manager for Field & Start, Incorporated; Sarah E., the wife of Frank E. Kellogg of Utica; Gertrude Laura, the wife of Edward English of Utica; and Catherine Irene, who is the wife of Cornelius A. Cole of Hackensack, New Jersey. There are also six grandchildren.

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