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Delaware County, Iowa

 Biography Directory


David W. Jones


Delaware Township



DAVID W. JONES is a native of Great Britain, having been born in Llandissyl, Cardiganshire, South Wales. He is a son of William and Rachel Jones, who were natives of the same place, always lived there and there also died, the father in 1861, at the age of sixty-four, and the mother in 1874, at the age of seventy-six. The father was a machinist by trade and a manufacturer of woolen goods, an upright, industrious, useful citizen, who devoted his entire energies to those pursuits in which he was best qualified to succeed both by nature and training. The mother was an industrious, frugal housewife, skilled in all the economies of the household and greatly devoted to her family. These, William and Rachel Jones, were the parents of twelve children, of whom the subject of this notice was the second in point of age, the others being John, Thomas, Mary (who died young), Stephen, an infant that died unnamed, Evan, Elizabeth, Mary (now wife of George Buck, of Delaware county), James, William and Ann. Of these, seven are living, five deceased. Only two are living in the United States, the subject of this notice and Mrs. Buck, the rest residing in their native country.

  David W. Jones was born September 27, 1821. He was reared in his native place, being brought up to his father's trade, that of machinist and manufacturer of woolen goods. He married in 1842 on the twenty-first anniversary of his birthday. In the spring of the following year he came to America, he and his young wife crossing the Atlantic on the sailing vessel, "Caledonia," and reaching New York city after a sea voyage of three weeks. After paying his passage and getting his wife and worldly effects out of the ship Mr. Jones relates that

he had even $73 in money with which to begin life in the new world. His first step was to seek employment, and taking his wife he went directly to Philadelphia, where he placed her in comfortable quarters, and then went to Montgomery county, near there, where he went to work as a farm hand by the month. He remained in and about Philadelphia, mostly engaged at farm labor for about a year. Then in April, 1844, he started for the further West. He moved to Newton Falls, Trumbull county, Ohio, where, with the proceeds of his previous year's labor he bought fifty-seven acres of land, settled on it and began work at his trade in the woolen mills at that place. He continued there so engaged for about ten years varying his labors in the woolen mills with agricultural pursuits on a small scale. In 1854 having heard much of the great prairies of the trans Mississippi country, and seeing a family of children growing up around him for whom he was desirous of providing in an adequate manner, he joined the immense tide of home-seekers that was steadily streaming towards the West and came to Iowa, making his first stop in this, Delaware county.

       Here he entered a tract of three hundred acres of government land in section 16, now Delaware township. He shortly afterwards returned to Ohio and resumed work in the woolen mills at Newton Falls. He worked there and bought horses at intervals for shipment to different points in Illinois and Wisconsin for the next two years. Then, in the fall of 1857 he moved permanently to this county, bringing his family and settling on his place, two miles north of Manchester. He engaged at once in agricultural pursuits, and was so engaged for the following seven or eight years. In the meantime he purchased a tract of two hundred acres of land near his first purchase and lying on Honey creek, on part of which, in the spring of 1865, he began the erection of the Manchester woolen mill. As this mill has grown to be one of the chief industries of Delaware county, and the first and only enterprise of the kind ever attempted in the county, a short notice of it is worth being made in this connection. The building, located on Honey creek two miles north of Manchester, was put up in the summer of 1865, and, as originally erected, was 30x40 feet in size and three stories high. In it were set up one set of cards, one set of custom cards and a spinning-jack. In 1867 Mr. Jones added thirty feet to the length of the building, and more than doubled the manufacturing capacity of the mill by adding a large set of cards, and has continued to add new machinery from year to year, as his business has grown and an increased capacity has been demanded. In the fall of 1876 Mr. Jones built another factory about half a mile below his first one, the dimensions of which are 48x80 feet and three and a half stories high, not including the basement. The new factory does nothing but spinning and weaving, the dyeing, fulling and teaseling being done at the upper factory. The new factory contains three full sets of cards and three self-acting mules. In these two establishments are manufactured all kinds of fancy cassimeres, three grades of beaver for overcoats, tricots, doeskins, jeans, different grades of blankets and all kinds of yarns. From thirty to forty hands are employed in the factories, and the goods are sold from wagons, and occasionally from samples by traveling salesmen, from six to seven wagons being kept on the road all the time, and traveling salesmen being sent out at certain seasons of the year to look after the merchants' trade. These factories, and the business they have built up, represent long years of patient toil, and are in every sense the best fruits of Mr. Jones' intelligent and well directed industry and splendid mechanical skill during those years. He is a practical workman and personally superintended the erection of both factories and has personally superintended the putting in of every piece of machinery that has entered into the makeup of the mills. What has been done in this line has been well done, and the practical efficiency of the mills as well as the superiority of the goods they turn out are due in no small measure to this fact. Mr. Jones has been ably assisted in his labors, especially in the management of the business affairs connected with the factories, by his two sons, William B. and Josiah S. These continue with him and give to the details of the two establishments their strict personal attention.

       Mr. Jones not only owns one of the pioneer manufacturing industries of the county but he is himself, as the dates already given will show, one of Delaware county's early settlers, and as such he knows much from actual experience of what befell the first settlers of the county in the way of hardships and privations. A single incident, though not happening in strictly pioneer times but still long enough to be called an early day incident, may be given to show how the citizens of those times had to battle even with the aggressive elements of nature to preserve their lives and property from destruction.  It occurred during the great flood of 1865.

      Mr. Jones was called from his bed about midnight on that well remembered night in June, when the Quaker Mills were washed away, to look after his horses, which from their exposed position were in momentary danger of being swept away by the fast rising waters. In the thick of the darkness and facing blinding sheets of water he made his way to where his horses were confined. He loosened them and placed them beyond the reach of danger, and then attempted to regain his house; but the rapidly rising waters cut off  his retreat by land and in attempting to swim back he was carried out into the current of the river and kept out in a hand to hand struggle with the waters for more than three hours, during which time, having on no clothes, he was chilled through and more than once came near being forced to succumb. He finally made his way, however, to a neighbor's, Mr. William DeLong's, reaching there about 3 o'clock in the morning, where he secured clothes and received aid which enabled him to get back home. The long seasons of toil, doubts and disappointments which Mr. Jones passed through it is not necessary to recapitulate here; for he endured them in common with all the old settlers. But it is believed that no one ever came so near giving up his life to the fury of the storms from which this country has suffered greatly as he did on the occasion above mentioned.

      As already noted, Mr. Jones married before he left his native country. The lady whom he took to share his fortunes, now nearly half a century ago, still abides with him, having borne him a faithful and affectionate companionship during all these years. She, too, was a native of South Wales, born in the same town as himself, her maiden name being Margaret Davis, a daughter of Dr. Benjamin Davis, for many years a physician and surgeon in the employment of his country. Mr. and Mrs. Jones have had born to them a family of eight children, five of whom are living, all being grown, and most of them married and themselves the heads of families.

      His eldest child is William B., now a member of the firm of D. W. Jones & Co., and the manager of one of the factories above mentioned. He was born in Philadelphia, Pa., July 9, 1843. He married Miss Jennie Tarbox, of Manchester, Iowa, and by that marriage has had eight children: Lettie, Lester, Charlie, Reese, Ralph and Elsie, living, and Maggie and Stephen, deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Jones' second child was a daughter, Mary Ann, who was born at Newton Falls, Ohio, December 15, 1845, and died, at the same place, December 22,1850. Their third child, John, was born at Palmyra, Ohio, April 23, 1848, and died at the same place, October 9, 1849. Their next was an infant, which was born April 17, 1850, and died unnamed. Eliza A. was born at Newton  Falls,  Ohio,  October 5,  1851, married James R. Russell, and now resides at Parkersburg, Iowa, the mother of one child, Allie.   The next, Josiah S., now associated with his father in business, was born at Newton Falls, Ohio, December 16, 1854. 


      June 6,  1876, he married Miss Harriet Adell Sly, who was born in Lorain county, Ohio, June 23, 1857, and is a daughter of John D. Sly, a former well known citizen of this county, a sketch of whom appears in this work.  To this union have been born six children:  Irene, John, Paul, Alice, Lloyd and Margaret.  Jo, as he is known to every one, is secretary and general manager of the business of D. W. Jones &  Co., and is  a man who needs no introduction  to the business public of Delaware and surrounding counties; Mr. and Mrs. Jones' next child, Mary Alice, was born in Manchester, Iowa, January 27, 1859, and died here April 11, 1886. J. Walter, the youngest child, was born in Manchester, Iowa, November 15, 1862, and is also a member of the firm of D. W. Jones & Co.

      To his business and his family Mr. Jones has always exhibited that attachment and thoughtful solicitude which have brought him success with the one and the highest form of all earthly happiness; with the other. He has never sought public honors and has never with but a few trifling exceptions held public office, not that he is lacking in ability or want of popularity to assure him success in public life. He is a man who is well read in the history of the country and knows the social, political and industrial wants of the country better than nine-tenths of the  men  who hold office from one year's end to another; and he  has also been frequently importuned to offer himself for one  position and another, but he has steadily refused every offer of this nature, preferring the quiet life and the certain rewards of well directed industry to the uncertain honors and emoluments that come from public office and political machinations. One thing in Mr. Jones' life is especially worthy of mention in this connection, and that is the pains he has taken to inform himself on the history of his adopted country, its governmental and political tendency and his great attachment for all its institutions.  Many native born Americans have the impression that no one born and reared in a foreign land, however ardent his devotion to this country on coming here, can feel quite as patriotic towards it as towards that of his nativity. In Mr. Jones' case at least this supposition finds a signal refutation. He is as thoroughly American in his way of acting, in his way of thinking and in the secret purposes of his heart as any man could be, whatever his lineage or place of birth. He cherishes for this land of liberty, of free homes and free schools, a patriotic regard that shows itself in most every overt act of his life, and his conversations abound in praises of it.  


      In politics Mr. Jones is a republican, having cast his political fortunes with that party on   its organization and maintained an unshaken allegiance to it since.  He was in earlier years a Whig, having cast his first presidential vote for a Whig candidate, and he voted the Whig ticket as long as the Whig party had an existence. He is a strong protection man, and has given to the subject of free trade and protection and their bearings on governmental systems an unusual amount of study and observation, and he has grown more in favor of the principles of protection with increasing years, and the extended observation and maturity of judgment which they have brought.

      Of a kindly disposition and strong social turn, Mr. Jones has not neglected the warm side of his nature. He is a zealous Mason and has been for twenty-five years. He is a member of Manchester Lodge, No. 165, A. F. and A. M. He is a charter member of Olive Branch Chapter, No. 48, R. A. M., and he is a charter member also of Nazareth Commandery, No. 33, Knights Templar. He belongs to the Unitarian church, having been brought up in the teachings of that church, but he gives a generous support to all church work and never allows the needy to leave his door empty handed.


~ source: Biographical souvenir of the counties of Delaware and Buchanan, Iowa; Chicago : F. A. Battey, 1890. Page 327-330; LDS microfilm #985424

~ contributed by Thom Carlson