Keeping up with the Joneses

Posted 10/1/19

Long ago, West and Martha Jones had three young sons; West, Gus, and Adam, born in that order. They must have all been born into slavery, because family history says that the baby, Adam, was born during the days of slavery but was too young to work on the plantation. Both parents died, leaving the boys orphans. Their mother’s sister, Aunt Celia, raised them, at least partly in San Jacinto County. The boys learned to farm.

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Keeping up with the Joneses

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Long ago, West and Martha Jones had three young sons; West, Gus, and Adam, born in that order. They must have all been born into slavery, because family history says that the baby, Adam, was born during the days of slavery but was too young to work on the plantation. Both parents died, leaving the boys orphans. Their mother’s sister, Aunt Celia, raised them, at least partly in San Jacinto County. The boys learned to farm.

West, the eldest, went to Louisiana when he reached maturity and the family lost connections with him. About the same time, Gus and Adam heard that good land was for sale in Madison County, so when the harvest was completed, they migrated here. They both bought land in the Midway area and raised crops, livestock, and families.

The first year Gus was there, he met and married an attractive young woman named Sarah Ellen Perminta (1863-1952). The couple had twelve children -- five boys and seven girls -- but two girls died young. They trained each of their children to live a Christian life, do an honest day’s work, get an education, set goals, and work towards those goals.

Gus was successful as both a farmer and merchant, owning and operating a farm and store in Midway. He taught his sons farming and merchandising. At one time, he sold some of the Midway farmland and moved to Oklahoma where he owned and operated stores in Purcell and Okmulgee. His oldest son, Orlean, remained in the Midway area, farmed, and managed the property.

The family was happy for a while in Oklahoma, but ultimately typhoid fever claimed the lives of two daughters and left another seriously ill. At the behest of heartbroken mother Sarah, the family returned to the old home place in Midway. Gus began purchasing more farmland and cattle. His goal was to own a hundred acres for each of his children, and during his lifetime, he purchased over a thousand acres.

All the Jones children who lived to adulthood attended school. That’s more than was common in those days. Gus wanted them to get the education that he had not had available to him. He knew of Prairie View A&M College and wanted his children to attend. Most of them attended that college and in addition went on to study at others afterwards. The oldest son, Orlean, was the first to enter college, and Gus went along and watched proudly as his son enrolled.

Siblings followed Orlean’s lead and started at Prairie View, but then went elsewhere afterwards. The second son, Napoleon, graduated from Prairie View and attended Meharry Medical School in Tennessee until he became ill and did not return. General Cornelius went on to Hampton Institute after graduating. Daughter Armye attended Columbia University next. Gus Junior went to Colorado State after P.V. Sarah Lee added to her P.V. degree with extension courses in Louisiana. Erna Beatrice finished at P.V. and followed up at Colorado State, Iowa State, and Cornell University. Willie Ann seems to have passed up Prairie View for school in Colorado. I did not find information about school for other offspring.

Several of the Joneses taught school in Texas and other states as well, except Armye, who stayed in Texas, mainly Madison County. She served as an elementary school teacher, principal, teacher of Prairie View Extension School both in Madisonville and Huntsville, and later became supervisor of public schools in Madison County.

While working as supervisor of schools here, Armye organized a Community Health and Recreation Program for Negroes in Madison County. She was successful in getting state VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) workers involved in that community program. After she retired, she worked full-time toward the further development of the Center, which still operates and has since been reorganized to serve all citizens of the county.

Armye Jones lived 100 years, 1894-1994! Besides working to prepare folks for better lives and futures, she was interested in the past. She wrote her family history to be included in A History of Madison County, Volume 1, pages 298-299. And that’s where I found the material for this and my next column.

The two volumes of local history, put together by the Madison County Historical Commission, contain a wealth of information which I truly appreciate for enabling me to garner information from the past to share with you.

The website Findagrave (www.findagrave.com) does the same. It would be great if I had time to go lots of interviews with living, breathing folks, but I don’t, and if any of you will do that, I’ll love you for it. The bad part about Findagrave and those two books is that information has to have been entered into them, and lots of family history is being lost.

We need a new book written, and I can’t do it alone. Findagrave needs entries and links so that your descendants can later look back and see who your parents, grandparents, and so on were and what they did. Contact me if you want more information.

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, TX, opens to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Museum Curator Jane Day Reynolds welcomes your visit. If you’d like to share a story, call the Museum, 936-348-5230. If the answering machine picks up, leave your name, number, and message, and someone will call you back.

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