JONES & SON ST0RY"
SOUTHERN WEST VIRGINIA PIONEER COAL BARONS
|JENKIN JONES - The names of southern West Virginia coal camps often appear somewhat unusual to outsiders, but the name Jenkin Jones holds a special meaning to a family from Caerphilly, a small community in eastern Mid Glamorgan, South Wales, United Kingdom.|
Welsh woman traces roots to coal baron Jenkin Jones
( A story By Bill Archer from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph - 25 March 2001. )
Helen Nedahl, shown above with her daughter Leah and partner Paul, has been searching for information about her famous ancestor, Jenkin Jones.
JENKIN JONES - The names of southern West Virginia coal camps often appear somewhat unusual to outsiders, but the name Jenkin Jones holds a special meaning to a family from Caerphilly, a small community in eastern Mid Glamorgan, South Wales, United Kingdom. For the past 14 months, Helen Nedahl, a hospital clerical officer, has been searching for clues into the life of one of her relatives who traveled to "Big America," and made a fortune in a coal mine. "He was very poetic," Nedahl said in a telephone interview. "He was just a darlin'. That's what my grandmother used to say about him. But some of the stories that my grandmother told were so fantastic, you couldn't tell what was real and what had been romanticized." Nedahl's grandmother was Bertha Llewela. Her husband's first cousin was Jenkin Jones. "I don't know much about him, only that he was penniless when he left for America," she said. "He wrote frequently to my grandmother, but all those letters are gone now." Another relative who was fastidious about cleanliness, had thrown the letters out when cleaning Llewela's home following her death. Since January of 2000, Nedahl, 34, has pieced together the story of her illustrious ancestor's life. "So many people have been so fantastic," Nedahl said with an unmistakable Welsh accent. "It's all coming together. I'm still hoping to find some descendants of his family living in the United States." Jenkin Jones was born at Glyn Neath, Wales on Sept. 25, 1839, according to his front page obituary in the Dec. 20, 1916 edition of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1863, and found work in the anthracite coalfields of eastern Pennsylvania. Jones remained in Pennsylvania until 1872, when he relocated to Clifton Forge, Va., for work as an iron ore miner. Four years later, he moved to Fayette County where he developed coal mines along the New River. In 1884, he sold his interest in the New River coalfields, and traveled to Bramwell at the beginning of the Flat Top or Pocahontas coalfields. He formed a partnership with John Freeman, and together they opened the Caswell Creek Coal and Coke Company Mine near Simmons - the third large scale mine to be opened in the Pocahontas Coalfield. "He inherits, in a large degree, the characteristic love of the Welsh people for melody, and is the author of a number of poems which show decided merit, though as yet, the general public has had little opportunity to judge his talent in this direction, his personal friends being the only ones to whom his productions have thus far been accessible," according to the Daily Telegraph's 1896 "Industrial Edition." Jones was among the first coal operators to recognize the potential wealth that awaited developers of McDowell County coalfields. The coal mine that bore his name, Jenkinjones, was among the most prolific coal mines in the Pocahontas coalfields. It operated well into the 1980s. "He was so poor when he left, he had to work for his passage on the ship," Nedahl said. "He was so highly thought of by his family. They were always sorry he didn't come back to this country." In her quest to learn more about the man Jenkin Jones, Nedahl has discovered that the coal camp, Jenkinjones, has fallen on hard times in recent years. "South Wales was a big coal mining area as well, but you can't hardly find a coal mine around here any more," she said. "There is one local coal mine that was taken over and is now being run by the coal miners. It's doing quite well, actually. But stories like that are rare." On Thursday evening, Nedahl was busy being fitted for her wedding gown. She and her partner, Paul, are planning to be married Aug. 6, in the Dominican Republic. "With all the travel for the wedding, I don't think we'll be able to come to West Virginia this year. Maybe next." Nedahl handed the telephone to her mother, Christine. "We used to hear such a tremendous lot about him," Christine Nedahl said about Jenkin Jones. "We thought it couldn't be true. It's quite lovely now that Helen's worked so hard to find out what actually happened to him." Christine Nedahl said the family heard that Jones named the home he built in Simmons, Uwch Y Niwl. "That translates as 'Above the Mist' in English," she said. Jones' son, James Elwood Jones, became one of the most powerful coal operators in southern West Virginia. His mansion in Switchback is now the Blair House bed and breakfast owned by Keystone Mayor Billie Cherry. Nedahl has been in contact with Eve Cooper Murphy of Bramwell who is also a descendant of an early coal baron. Her grandfather John Cooper established the Mill Creek Mine that also opened in 1884. She said she is looking forward to coming to West Virginia and searching for her American relatives. "For me, that would be a dream come true," she said. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
**Correction: According to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph Newspaper:
Jenkin Jones was born at Glyn Neath, Wales on Sept. 25, 1839. He came to the U. S. in 1863, and worked as a coal miner in Pennsylvania before moving to West Virginia, where he developed coal mines. Jones and John Freeman formed a partnership which opened the Caswell Creek Coal and Coke Co. and later, with Isaac T. Mann, they operated Pocahontas Consolidated Coal Co.
CASWELL CREEK COAL COMPANY- YR. 1931
The Caswell Creek Coal Company operated near Freeman, WV with a third company store also located in that community. The Caswell Creek Mine opened in 1884 by Jenkin Jones and John Freeman. Both these men were of foreign birth. Freeman was born in England and Jones in Wales. The company mine was also located on Simmons Creek near Freeman. Their equipment was orignally one mule, one mining car and a few pick and shovels. The tipple was a simple wooden structure. Both these men dug coal in the mine to get it started.They ran the business as a co-partnership until 1889, when the Caswell Creek Coal and Coke Company was organized to take over the property of the Simmons Creek Mine. In 1907 these companies were incorporated under one corporation: The Pocahontas Coal Company, Inc.
From Martha Jane Becker's book: "Bramwell .... The Diary of a Millionaire Coal Town":
Jenkin Jones was born in Wales in 1839. His educational opportunities were limited, owing to the fact that when he reached his eighth year, his father died and he was obliged to go to work in the mines with his elder brother, in order to contribute toward the support of the family. While thus occupied during the day, he attended night school long enough to acquire a rudimentary education and followed it up with a diligent application to hard study and to whatever facilities for further education were available. His first employment in the mines was that of trapper and for the next ten years he remained there, being promoted from time to time, as his strength and experience fitted him for more important duties. In 1863 he came to the United States locating in Scranton, Pennsylvania; afterward he moved to Trevorton, Northumberland County , in the same state where he remained until about the time the New River Coal Field on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad began to attract attention, when he came to West Virginia, locating at Quinnimont. He later spent some time at Clifton Forge, Virginia, where he engaged in ore mining returning later to the Fire Creek Coal Field on New River.
In July 1884, Jenkin Jones came to the Flat-Top Field and in connection with John Freeman leased a tract of 1400 acres from the Flat-Top Coal Association and started the operation of the Caswell Creek Coal and Coke Company, the third operation in the Great Flat-Top Field. Jenkin Jones married Martha Ellwood, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ellwood of Pennsylvania. They were the parents of three children, James Ellwood, Edward and Mary, better remembered as May Jones.
Mr. Jones was prominently identified with the business interests of the Southern West Virginia coal field and was one of the most active agents in forwarding the work of industrial development in many different lines, being actively associated with a number of important business enterprises in addition to mining operations. He inherited to a large degree the characteristics of the Welsh people for music. He was also the author of a number of poems which showed decided merit, although the public had little opportunity to judge these talents.There's one more small, rather sad anecdote about Jenkin Jones, worth the telling because it shows so much of the character of the man. He discovered, in his later years, that he had tuberculosis. He immediately took up his personal residence in a little structure in the backyard. There he kept entirely to himself, appearing only at meal time with his own plate, glass and eating utensils. He waited at the back door until his plate was served and then returned to his self-imposed solitude. When he died, he left instructions for the house and all the out buildings to be torn down, so that no other family would encroach on the close friends and relatives, the Bowens and Ellwoods, who had shared the hill with him and his family.
His daughter, May had married and gone to California. His son, Edward, who had married Elizabeth Bowen, was dead. His remaining son, James Ellwood Jones, who died in 1932 built a showplace in Switchback and moved there. The widow of James Ellwood Jones, Edith ( later Mrs. Breckenridge Payne ) died at the age of 100 in 1987.
JAMES ELWOOD JONES (1872 - 1932 )
James Ellwood Jones was born in Nov. 1872 and was the son of Jenkin Jones. He was often referred to as Colonel Jones, was the son of an immigrant from Wales who came to the United States in the mid-1800's, settled in southern Pennsylvania and became involved in the anthracite coal mining industry. It was In Pennsylvania that James Elwood Jones was born , His family move to southern West Virginia where he grew up in McDowell and Mercer counties.
He followed in the path that his father built his own coal empire. He became a coal baron and built a magnificent mansion on a mountain in Switchback, WV that was surrounded by his mines. He built a good community for his workers. He also became involved in the local government. He provided for college educations for many for the local residents.
James Elwood Jones and his wife, Edith had two children, Nancy and Jimmy. Nancy died a premature death and Mr. Jones suffered a fatal heart attack while playing cards with a good friend.
His house is a historic home located at Switchback, McDowell County, West Virginia. This circa 1890's mansion was designed and built by coal baron James Ellwood Jones, son of Jenkin Jones. It is a two story, frame dwelling with an irregular plan. This palatial estate features over 20 rooms. It is located on a very private and serene mountaintop on Powerhouse Hill Road. It features a classically detailed, pedimented porch, and stained glass windows. Also on the property are a contributing swimming pool dated to the 1920s, a detached covered patio, a circular fountain, terraced garden, and greenhouse. It was built for James Ellwood Jones, an influential leader in southern West Virginia's coal mining industry. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The trees that he imported from Europe are still flourishing and the fish in the pond are still swimming. With the designation of this property as a National Historical Site, Colonel James Elwood Jones's mansion continues to welcome guests and shines as a beacon of times past when "coal was king."This histroic mansion of a coal baron can be viewd at ME AND MR. JONES B&B under "photos". This house is now a magnificant Bed and Breakfast is located in Switchback, WV on RT. 52 near the Town of Bramwell. This is a southern premier Bed and Breakfast and ATV host.
JENKIN JONES FAMILY GRAVE SITE
LEARN MORE ABOUT JENKIN JONES AT THE GARY HOLLOW COMMUNITY WEB SITE
WV PIONEERS INDEX FILE