ALFRED HANBY JONES.
When a man has been active in so many fields and has reached as high a pinnacle of success in each one of them as has Alfred Hanby Jones, his deeds are usually allowed to speak for themselves, but attention must be drawn to some of the facts concerning him with the hope that his life might be an inspiration to some of the young men just starting out for themselves who may read this account. His only asset when he started out in life was a good education, and with this as a foundation he first built up a prosperous law business, then attained a wide-spread reputation as an honest and trustworthy politician, a paradox it would seem but, occasionally, truths are paradoxical. Later the scientific side of his nature was permitted to develop, and with his appointment as state food commissioner, he began his years of service along these lines. He became a recognized authority on the subject of food and dairy products, and was honored by the presidency of the National Association of the State Food and Dairy Departments. After the time that he spent in his professional, political and scientific work, he yet had time to spare for commercial pursuits, being one of the first men in this section to discover the wealth that lies in the old fields of the county. How could one man be so versatile is the natural question that comes into the reader's mind. Versatility is a gift, and not to be acquired, but how he became successful in all these lines is another matter. He did not have more opportunities than the average man, but he never allowed one to slip past, and no matter how small it was he did his level best, so that he never failed to leave behind him an impression of faithfulness to details. He was a keen observer and learned through his varied interests to estimate a man very closely, and never to allow the most insignificant detail to pass from his mind unconsidered. He has now passed his three score, but his strenuous life does not seem to have exhausted either his mental or physical vigor, and if a young business man desires wise counsel or advice, let him sit at the feet of Mr. Jones.
Alfred Hanby Jones was born at Flat Rock, Crawford county, Illinois, on the 4th of July, 1850, his middle name “Hanby” having been given him in the hope that he would emulate the worthy bishop of the United Brethren for whom he was named. The family of which he is a member was founded in this country during the early part of the eighteenth century by his great-grandfather, Moses Jones, who was a native of Wales. This old pioneer settled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and there acquired a large estate, which at his death
passed into the hands of his eldest son, Moses. Five other sons were born to him, and Aaron and two of his brothers decided to try their fortunes in the wilderness to the westward. Aaron, who was born in 1776, went first to southern Pennsylvania in 1798, and there he remained for four years. In 1802 he moved still further west, settling down on the banks of the Little Miami river at Clough, Ohio, and in 1810 again moved, this time to a farm in Butler county, Ohio. He had married about the time he left Virginia, his wife being Mary Shepherd, and by this time he had a large family of children, among whom was John M., father of Alfred. When the former was a boy of seventeen, in 1832, his father made what was destined to be his last move, when he took his wife and ten children to Crawford county, Illinois, and located upon the land that is known to-day as the Aaron Jones farm. He entered this claim, paying $1.25 per acre, the holding consisting altogether of one hundred and twenty acres. This was the first claim entered west of the road known as the Range road, running from Chicago to Cairo, and was nothing but the uncleared wilderness, so the father and his eight sons had days of felling trees and clearing away brushwood before the land began to approach a fit condition for planting. On this original farm, which is now owned by William J. Jones, the great-grandson of Aaron Jones, lies the old burying ground where most of the Jones family are interred. Aaron and Mary Jones passed the remainder of their lives here, both dying in 1847. This courageous couple by the hardest of labor and careful self-denial succeeding in educating each of their sons, and the father was able to enter in the name of each one of them, save John, a fine farm of eighty acres. John, unfortunately, was not yet of age at the period of his father's prosperity.
John Miller Jones was born on the 25th of December, 1815, at Oxford, Ohio, and received three months of schooling in that state. The school to which he was sent was a subscription school, and he was taught to read, but he did not learn to write until he was a grown man. On the 19th of November, 1837, he was married to Elizabeth Ford, a daughter of John Ford, who came to Illinois from Kentucky in 1832 and settled on the Allison Prairie. At that time the country was infested by Indians, and it was almost certain death to attempt to live on their holding, so for two or three years the Ford family, with many others, lived in a fort known as Fort Allison, which was surrounded by a strong stockade, expecting at any moment the blood-chilling whoop of Indians on the war-path. Elizabeth was born on the 25th of December, 1818, at Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the life and scenes of her girlhood made her the worthy wife of a pioneer. She was willing to marry John M. Jones knowing that his two hands were all that stood between her and starvation, and her trust was more than rewarded. Immediately after their marriage the young husband bought an ox on credit, and hired himself out to cut cord wood. During that first winter they saved fifty dollars, enough to enter twenty acres of land. Here he built his home and toiled, as few men have toiled, to rear and educate his family of children. His wife was well versed in all the ways of thrift and economy and with her help he saved enough to buy more land, until at one time he owned eight hundred acress, all within four miles of his home. Having been forced to content himself with a very meager education, he was determined that his sons should not suffer. To that end he and his wife endured real suffering and privation in order that the boys might go through the common schools, and later that they might go to college, though in the education of their later years they were all able to help themselves to some extent. The family
of Mr. and Mrs. Jones consisted of four sons and two daughters, a modest number compared with his own brothers and sisters, who numbered fifteen, he himself being the eleventh and a twin. The eldest of Mr. and Mrs. Jones' children is J. William Jones, who is a farmer residing near the old farm; Absalom W., Alvira and Cynthia A. are deceased; Alfred Hanby will receive further notice; and Henry F. is a physician at Flat Rock, Illinois. The father of this family was a Republican in his political beliefs, and held various township offices. Both he and his wife were members of the United Brethren church. Mrs. Jones died in 1885, at the age of sixty-seven, and he survived her only a few years, dying in 1887.
Alfred Hanby Jones spent his early life on his father's farm, attending the common schools until he was sixteen. He then was sent to a United Brethren school, Westfield College by name, situated at Westfield, Illinois. Here he remained for a period of three years, and then went to Lebanon Normal College at Lebanon, Ohio. In 1870 he received the degree of B. S. from this institution, and put his education to immediate use by entering upon the career of a school teacher. He had no intention of making this his life work, but used it solely as a means to earn enough money to take up the study of law. After one year spent in Saint Mary 's, Kansas, as superintendent of schools, he returtied to Illinois. In 1872 he came to Robinson and began to read law in the offices of Callahan and Jones, at that time the leading firm of lawyers in that part of the country. Under the tutelage of two members of the profession, whose legal knowledge and experience were unexcelled, Mr. Jones made rapid strides in his studies and was soon ready for his bar examination. He was admitted in 1875, and his ability was soon recognized by his appointment as state's attorney in 1876, to fill the unexpired term caused by the death of Colonel Alexander. In 1886 he was elected to the state legislature from his district, and served one term, but has never cared to accept an elective position of this kind since.
His interest in political affairs has always been of the keenest, and he seems to enter as enthusiastically into local politics as into state and national matters. For eight years he was city attorney and member of the city council, and it was during this period that Robinson was raised from the status of a village to that of a city. For thirty-two years Mr. Jones was a member and chairman of the Republican county committee, not a break having occurred in this long term of service. For ten years he was a member of the Republican state central committee and he has twice been a delegate to the national convention, participating in the nominations of William McKinley and President Taft.
He has been very active in public work in educational matters, having served for fifteen years as a member of the school board for his city. In 1898 he was appointed president of the board of trustees of the Illinois Eastern Normal School, and served in this capacity until 1899, when he was appointed state food commissioner. The duties of this office take up a large share of his time, and, as has been mentioned, he has been president of the National Association of State Food and Dairy Departments, which is composed of all the state food commissioners from every state as well as the national food officials.
Many of Mr. Jones' business investments have been made in the oil and gas region, and he has also been much interested in railroad affairs throughout his district. He has been the attorney for the “Big Four” Railroad and its predecessors for twenty-five years. When the Paris and Danville Railroad was to be built he did the contracting for
the work, and when it was rebuilt about five years ago he secured the right of way for the new road. This road was the Danville and Indiana, and is now a part of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway system. In his religious affiliations Mr. Jones is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, being a trustee of the church and was chairman of the building committee that built the new Methodist Episcopal church.
Mr. Jones' first marriage was the result of a love affair in which his wife was little more than a school girl. She was Ella M. Thompson, and he married her at Greenhill Seminary on the day of her graduation. She only lived three years, and on her death left a son, Gustavus Adolphus, who is now assistant cashier in the First National Bank of Robinson. Mr. Jones was again married in 1878, to Catherine A. Beals, a daughter of William G. Beals, of Pickerington, Ohio. She likewise is a member of an old pioneer family, her grandfather having been one of the early settlers in that state. Mr. and Mrs. Jones have no children living.