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Augustus Jones

General Augustus Jones
Sketch of his Life and Character

[Dubuque (Iowa) Daily Telegraph]

The following is a brief sketch of the life and character of Gen. Augustus Jones, late of Columbus, Texas, deceased, intelligence of whose death, at the advanced age of ninety years and six months, at that place, on the 14th ult., of pneumonia, has been received in this city by his brother, Gen. Geo. W. Jones, and the family of his son, Hon. Wm. Ashley Jones. Deceased visited Dubuque on 1874, and has many relations and friends here and throughout the United States to lament his death.
Gen August Jones was the third eldest son and child of Hon. John Rise Jones and Mary Barger, and was born in the old French town of KasKaskia, now in Illinois, but then in the Northwestern territory, August 18, 1796. He was partially educated in Roman Catholic schools in his native place and in Vincennes (now in Indiana) and partially at Transylvania university, Lexington, Kentucky. He removed to St. Louis, Mo., in 1810 with his father’s family, and for many years thereafter was more or less extensively interested in mining, smelting, mercantile, milling and planting operations in that section of the State, where he became a wealthy land and slave owner. He at one time was the sole owner of the celebrated Iron Mountain and realizing the great value of its contents, endeavored to form a syndicate of capitalists for the development of its riches and the construction of a railroad from there to St. Louis, but he failed to make others see as he did. He subsequently sold with other lands this valuable property, which if kept possession of would have made him a millionaire, as it in time did others.

In early life he was deputy sheriff of Washington county, Mo., and I believe later represented that county in the State Legislature. An esteemed personal friend of Gen. Andrew Jackson (as his father was of Jefferson who appointed that father a Untied States Judge for the Indiana Territory), he was United States Marshal of Missouri during both terms of President Jackson’s administration. During the period of his Marshalship he was the hero of many daring raids and encounters with various gangs of horse thieves, counterfeiters, fugitive criminals and other outlaws who infested that section of the country and so valuable were his services in thinning the numbers of such desperate law-breakers in his jurisdiction that Congress felt called upon to publicly and formally recognize them by votes of thanks. He became famous throughout Missouri and adjoining States for his wonderful nerve and daring, and accomplished arrests of desperate characters and dispersion of nefarious organizations that very few men could have effected. Such indeed was the awe his name and fame inspired in the minds of desperadoes, that during this period and years afterwards he was often solicited by local authorities in Arkansas and even in far off Texas, then asylums for outlaws of every description, to assist in the capture of particularly bad characters. He knew no such thing as fear, never shrank from the performance of the most perilous undertakings, and was never intimidated or quelled by any man or men, either in the rigid discharge of official duties or in personal or private affairs. He loved the excitement of a life of dangerous adventure, and a history of his many remarkable exploits would fill a volume and read more like fiction than somber narrative of actual occurrences. Such a spirit would naturally delight in military life and matters and at a very early age his bent in this direction practically manifested itself. The breaking out of the war with England in 1812 developed the latent martial passion in the boy’s breast, and despite strongest opposition on the part of his father and friends of the family, he entered the regular service as a volunteer private soldier at the age of sixteen, and served till the end of the year, mostly against the Indian allies of the British in the Northwest. During late years of reduced circumstances, brought about by a too lavishly generous hand that recklessly bestowed a fortune in money and lands upon those who had no claim upon his bounty, he received from the Untied States government for his services in this war, a monthly pension as a compliment from a grateful country for his aid in defending it against its enemies well on toward a century ago. In the early spring of 1847, declining to accept from the governor of Missouri a commission of Major General of Missouri volunteers (the commission actually and without his solicitation having been duly made out and forwarded him from the capital), he raised a company of friends, kindred spirits all, and as their captain entered and served throughout the Mexican war. At first, he was immediately under Gen. Kearney, whose well-known adventurous and dare-devil character undoubtedly attracted Capt. Jones to him, and upon the capture of Santa Fe, Gen. Kearney complimented him with the appointment of Military Governor of that city. In command of his company, he subsequently entered Mexico as a part of the invading army under Gen. Scott, and took part in the battle of Contreras, Churubusoo and other engagements participated in by that commander in his operations across the Rio Grande. At the close of hostilities, Capt. Jones returned to his home in Missouri and to his private business so long neglected for his country’s sake. He was for years Major-General of the State militia of Missouri, and it was from this position he acquired his military title of General.

In 1844 he was a candidate on the Democratic ticket for Representative of his district in Congress, but was defeated; not because his personal character was not universally respected or his abilities recognized nor because his district was not largely Democratic, but because his party in that State was at the time (through the malign influence of Thos. H. Benton), split up into rival and bitterly antagonistic factions, which enabled the Whigs to triumph as they never could have done against united Democratic opposition. Gen. Jones was never ambitious of civil preferment and repeatedly declined nomination for important and highly honorable offices. The tedium of Legislative duties and the tameness and constraint of the more strictly civil offices, possessed no charm for one of his active temperament and restless and adventurous disposition, with which the dangers, vicissitudes and variety of the soldier’s life or the excitement incident to civo-martial positions better harmonized. This temperament always characterized him, and he early became and always remained known as a “fighting man.” Peaceable and far from quarrelsome, he was always the courteous gentleman, but he never swallowed the slightest insult no allowed the least affront, no matter by whom offered, to go unresented. In a country where everybody was quick to take offense and equally ready to fight, he became involved in his younger days in many personal difficulties, resulting in either a physical encounter on the spot or in some form of the more formal affair of honor, the duel, with pistols or other deadly weapons. And as, though in stature small and in build slight, he was extraordinarily athletic and quick, and also, well trained in the manly art of self defense and in the use of weapons, he rarely or never failed to come out best man. Space will not allow particulars of any of these personal affairs, some of which were fatal and all highly interesting in their way.

Naturally associated with this spirit was a love fro field sports, in which he delighted. Few equaled him as an expert shot with rifle, pistol or gun. He was also a fine horseman, and with his own pack of blooded hounds, or those of neighbors, he often enjoyed with his friends the excitement of a fox hunt. His horses were of the best fine bred and trained Kentucky stock and their merits were frequently tested in competitive trials among themselves or with outside animals, over his own excellent course or some other track. Throughout the South in those days fine horses were a matter of great interest and pride to most gentlemen of means, and racing was a common amusement.

Reference having made to Gen. Jones remarkable physical muscularity and activity, it may be observed in corroboration thereof, that in his better days he could outrun and out jump any one in his section of country, and he far excelled any one of his weight in wrestling skill. Not exceeding five feet seven inches in height, and never weighing over 130 pounds, his strength and agility were wonderful. His complexion was dark, his eyes black and piercing and his hair (always worn long after the typical Southern fashion) was of raven blackness, and remained unmingled with grey up to his 65th year. His lips were thin and sternly compressed, except when pleasantly smiling, and his firm expression of face plainly denoted his marked force and determination of character. Chivalrous and gallant in the highest degree, he was under all circumstances the ready champion of the weaker sex; and with all his great masculinity of character, and love for field sports, he was in earlier life very fond of ladies’ society, of music and of social festivities. He was an accomplished and graceful dancer, and delighted in the pleasures of the ball-room. His manners and address were characterized by that dignified courtesy that distinguished gentlemen of the olden school, especially in the South. He in early life acquired a thorough knowledge of French, later of Spanish, and spoke both these languages as fluently as he did his mother tongue.

General Augustus Jones was thrice married, first to Miss Mary Rayburn, and secondly to her widowed sister, Mrs. Agnes Woods (Rayburn) Hunter, who were daughters of Joseph Rayburn, Esq., a Virginian by birth, a member of a highly respectable family, and a very wealthy planter in his native State and later in Missouri, Gen. Jones’ third wife is as also were his former wives, a native of Virginia. She was a Miss Hannah E. Elson, and survives her husband, in Texas, where he married her after his removal to that State in 1851. He had one son and several daughters by each wife, and all but two of the surviving children have married. Two of the sons are living, Rice Jones, by the third wife, and Wm. Ashley Jones, the first child by the first wife. The latter, Wm Ashley Jones, was long resident of Dubuque, but has for some years past been in Dakota. Mrs. Jones, his wife, with their daughter, Miss Hallie E. Jones and one son, S. J. Jones are residents of this city. Two other sons (grandsons of General August Jones) reside in Minnesota – Augustus Drysdale Jones at Villard, and W. A. Burt Jones at St. Paul.

For many years past Gen. Augustus Jones was a member of the Episcopal church, and died in that communion. Honorable and upright in all things throughout life, he had no fear of death or the hereafter, and sank peacefully to rest eternal, uttering the last words that fell from his lips, “I am going to sleep,” addressed to his wife and daughter, who knelt beside his dying bed, and upon whose bowed heads he placed his hands in final blessing.

The father of Gen. Jones was Hon. John Rice Jones, a native of Wales, a profound jurist, mathematician and linguist, who died, Justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri in 1842. His family of six sons all became men of distinction, among them our own eminent fellow-citizen, Gen. George Wallace Jones, with whose history most of our people are familiar.

The other sons were, first, Hon. Rice Jones, a regular graduate in both medicine and law, “a man of extraordinary brilliance of intellect and great promise,” says ex-Gov. Reynolds in his History of Illinois, and who at the time of his death at the early age of 28, was a member of the Territorial Legislature of Illinois and “the leader of his party in that Territory.” He fought a duel with ex-Gov. Bond in 1809, and was afterwards assassinated by Bonds second. Hon. John R. Jones who was Postmaster-General under the three forms of the Republic of Texas (provisional, _________, and __________), and a fellow patriot with and personal friend of Burnet, Houston, Lamar, Travis, Bowie, Crockett and other noted Texans. He was one of the two executors of Colonel Travis’ will – the other being ex-President Smith. Third, Hon. Myers Fisher Jones, who was a member of the Missouri legislature, and afterwards removing to Texas became there a noted Indian fighter. One of his sons, Oscar Perry Jones , was a soldier in the Mexican war, and another, Andrew Thompson Jones was a young officer in the Confederate army, and was thrice made a prisoner. Fourth, Wm. Powell Jones who at the time of his death from cholera, was a past mid-shipman in the Untied States Navy, and, as existing letters of prominent naval officers testify, a promising young officer. He had acted as Lieutenant, and shortly would have had that rank conferred upon him. There were only two sisters of these brothers. One married Hon. John Scott, a eminent lawyer, a State Senator of Missouri and afterwards a Untied States Senator from that State. Mr. Geo. D,. Scott, of this city is a son of his. One of his daughters is the wife of the eminent California lawyer, Hon. Samuel Montford Wilson, and among other descendants of his are the wife of Hon. J. Russell Jones, of Chicago, ex-Minister to Belgium, and the widow of the late Gen. O. E. Babcock. The other sister married Hon. Andrew Scott, a learned jurist, who for years was a United States Judge for Arkansas Territory. He has living many descendants, among whom are numbers of the most eminently respectable citizens and professional men of Arkansas.
Colorado Citizen, March 24, 1887
Transcribed by Judy Talkington


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