Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cincinnati in 1840

From the previous post, we know that Lillian wrote in her family history that "I think Alexander Jones worked on boats that sailed down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, but what his job was, I forgot to ask mother."  For a long time, I interpreted this comment to mean that my gg-grandfather literally worked on the boats as a member of the crew.

It wasn't until I looked for Alexander in the Cincinnati City Directories that I realized that I may have misinterpreted Lillian's statement.  After all, she got her information from her grandmother Elizabeth, Alexander's daughter.  Elizabeth was only two years old when her father died.

Alexander is first listed in the City Directory in 1843.  His occupation is listed as "carpenter," and he is living on Race between 14th and 15th Streets.  By 1856, the family has relocated to 592 E. Front Street (later known as Eastern Ave. and now known as Riverside).  Throughout his life, Alexander is a carpenter.  This was a time when one of the main occupations in Cincinnati was boatbuilding -- steamboats in particular.  It occurred to me that Alexander was in all probability a boatbuilder, using his skills as a carpenter.  It certainly fits with the family record which states that he "worked on boats."

Cincinnati's Public Landing, 1833

The 1891 Sanford Fire Insurance Map shows a frame house located at 592 E. Front Street (highlighted in red). This street was literally located on what was then the riverfront. The house is located just west of Collard Street.

Alexander died in 1862. Lillian was told that he died of "inflammation of the bowels." Given the reality of the times with drinking water often taken directly from the Ohio River, this really should come as no surprise. Cholera was an all too commonplace illness of the time.  Since Alexander died just as the Civil War was gearing up, I wonder what impact, if any, the war had on his business interests and his young family.

Note:  The two pictures of the early Cincinnati Riverfront are "From the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County."  They are used with their written permission.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The First Jones "River Rats" in Cincinnati - Alexander and Elizabeth

Alexander Jones
Elizabeth Kinley Jones

As mentioned in the previous post, our family is lucky to have in its possession a letter describing our family's history.  It was written by Lillian Mears who was the granddaughter of Alexander and Elizabeth.  From this letter, we know the following:
  • Alexander and Elizabeth were married on July 6, 1840.
  • Alexander and Elizabeth were the parents of six children:  William, Martha, Charles Henry, Johnny, Tom and Elizabeth.
  • Alexander was about 20 years old and Elizabeth was 16 1/2 when they were married in Aberdeen, Ohio.
Lillian's mother, also named Elizabeth, was only two years old when when her father, Alexander, died at the age of 43.  Her mother was now a 40-year old widow, illiterate, and the mother of six. So what do we know about their lives in Cincinnati?  Lillian's letter provides us with some clues:

When Elizabeth Kinley was 16 or 17 years old, she always wore a sunbonnet.  She was blonde, and I suppose sunburned easily.  Alex Jones said, "I think I'd like to go with that Miss Kinley, but I never get a chance to see her face under the bonnet."  Evidently he finally got a peek at her and liked what he saw.  He was very dark, according to his picture.  With his beard, he looked like Lincoln.
 What brought them to Cincinnati?  The letter goes on to say:
I think Alexander Jones worked on boats that sailed down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, but what his job was, I forgot to ask mother.  She was only two when he died.
And there we have it -- the first Jones in Cincinnati connected to the river.  But the evidence gets even better.  Check out the next post to see what I discovered.

Monday, September 19, 2011

In the Beginning . . .

The Jones Family and the Ohio River

Mural Painted on Flood Wall in Maysville, KY as it was in 1850

As far as I know, my first Jones ancestor in Cincinnati was my gg-grandfather, Alexander Jones.  The first documented evidence I have of him in the Cincinnati area was his marriage to Elizabeth Kinley on July 6, 1840.  They were married in Aberdeen, Ohio, across the river from Maysville, Kentucky.   According to a letter written by Lillian Mears,* Alexander was born in Chillicothe, Ohio and Elizabeth was "Pennsylvania Dutch."  She believes that Alexander's father emigrated from Wales -- something that requires further research.
View of the Maysville Riverfront in 2009

I do not know where Alexander and Elizabeth lived at the time of their marriage.  A later Census document says that their first-born son, William, was born in Kentucky.  The earliest I can prove that they were in Cincinnati is 1843 when Alexander was listed in the Cincinnati City Directory.

So what brought them to Cincinnati"  Alexander's occupation is listed as "carpenter" in every Census.  The steamboat-building business in Cincinnati in the 1840s was booming.  Cincinnati, the "Queen City of the West," was rapidly gaining population.  It had to seem like the place to be.

We will follow the Jones Family journey and its relationship to the Ohio River for six generations and counting. 
* Lillian Mears was the first cousin of my grandfather, Charles Fred Jones.  She wrote the letter summarizing our family history to my aunt, Edith Jones Breving in February of 1978. You can read more about Lillian and the letter here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Joneses in Cincinnati

Last year I attended an event sponsored by the Hamilton County Genealogical Society.  They had a guest speaker who encouraged us to write.  He suggested that we examine the information we have on our family and identify a theme that ties the family together.  For quite a while, I realized that for our family it had to be our legacy along the Ohio River in Cincinnati and our relationship with boats.

I want to thank my brothers and sister for helping me gather together the pictures that document our family and our love of boating.  I hope the end product will be something that all of us can enjoy that will bring back memories of growing up as River Rats in Cincinnati.