Jacob Jones, a pioneer property-owner, merchant, farmer, blacksmith and hotelkeeper at Montpelier, Idaho, and one of the most prominent citizens of the town, was born in Breconshire, South Wales, May 14, 1825. His parents were descended from old Welsh families and his father was a Methodist, and his mother was a Presbyterian. Of their ten children he was the youngest. He was educated and entered upon the active struggle of life in his native land and there married Miss Anne Collier on the Saturday before Christmas, 1852. As early as 1846 he had been converted to the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and he had done much missionary work in its behalf, as a result of which many hundreds have embraced the faith. His wife had also been for some years a convert. In the spring of 1853 only a few months after their marriage, they set out for the United States, on board the sailing ship International, from Liverpool. There were six hundred passengers, and the voyage consumed eight weeks, at the end of which time they very gladly disembarked at New Orleans, Louisiana. Mr. Jones and his brother, Henry, went to Fillmore, Missouri, where the brothers engaged for a time in contracting and building. From there Mr. Jones went with his family to Nebraska City, Nebraska, where they lived eight years. In the spring of 1863 they removed to Salt Lake City, Utah, where Mr. Jones opened a blacksmith shop, having mastered the trade in Wales and being thoroughly familiar with the work in all its details. At that time the war had brought iron up to a high price, and Salt Lake City was isolated from the older civilization of the country to a greater extent than it is now, and blacksmith’s iron cost Mr. Jones twenty-five cents a pound. To pay these prices he was obliged to charge good prices for his work, and he made money. In 1864 President Brigham Young, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, called for volunteers to go to live in Bear Lake valley, now in Bear Lake County, Idaho, with a view of settling the country and spreading the gospel. As a volunteer, Mr. Jones came to the valley thirty-five years ago, in 1864, when there was not a house in the valley, from river head to river mouth. The next year (1865) he brought out his family. During the first summer they lived in the willows and slept in their wagon, and in the fall, in preparation for the rigors of winter, they erected a small log cabin. Every season for six years all that they attempted to raise was destroyed by crickets, grasshoppers or early frosts. These troubles and the unfriendly attitude of the Indians rendered the prospect for the devoted settlers very dark indeed. They were ordered away by the Shoshone Indians, and when they did not go Chief Washakee went to Salt Lake City and conferred with President Young about the matter. Brigham Young believed it was cheaper to feed Indians than to fight them, and had confidence in their friendship if it could be gained. He feasted Washakee and impressed him so favorably in every way that the settlers were permitted to remain without molestation. The pioneers adopted a friendly and conciliatory policy in dealing with the Indians, and rarely had serious trouble with them. Once Pocatello, the Bannack chief, came to the settlement with his braves and treated the whites with much insolence. Some of the Indians demanded beef and flour, which were scarce articles there at the time, and some of them amused themselves and their companions by standing on the settlers’ beds and otherwise rendering themselves offensive and ridiculous. Two men were dispatched secretly to Cache valley for help, and the next day there were fifty minutemen in hand, and Pocatello and his followers withdrew, with as good grace as possible and never troubled the settlers afterward. There was no mill anywhere near, and grain was ground in coffee mills and the pioneers had no base of supplies nearer than Cache valley. But, strange as it may appear at first thought, Mr. Jones was actually prospering in a financial way. He had established a blacksmith shop and was getting as much as six dollars for shoeing a span of horses and was being paid for other work at proportionate prices. There was much emigration through the valley and much packing of merchandise. The objective points were Boise City and the mining camps and settlements in Montana. There were many horses to be shod and many wagons to be repaired, and this steady stream of overland travel made much other profitable work for Mr. Jones. He saw a train of eighty wagons, loaded with whisky and each drawn by six yokes of cattle, pass his shop en route for Montana mining camps, and at other times evidences of enterprises in the pursuit of the “almighty dollar” which were scarcely less remarkable and suggestive. When he had saved up some capital he built a big frame house and occupied it as a residence and hotel. He planted trees about it and made it as comfortable and inviting as possible, and here he set a good table and gave every one a hearty welcome and a cheery goodbye, as a result of which he prospered beyond his most sanguine calculations. The house was kept open as a hotel until 1897, and since then Mr. Jones has entertained only favored old customers and personal friends.
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As Mr. Jones made money, he sought good investment for some of it in the immediate vicinity. He and Edward Burgoyne acquired the land on which the new town of Montpelier has grown up. They have built many houses and sold many lots and are still the largest owners of property there. From time to time Mr. Jones has bought other property, when he has been able to do so on advantageous terms. In this way and by other purchases he became the owner of much valuable farmland, and upon the marriage of one of his sons it is his rule to give him a good farm. He abandoned black-smithing after having carried on the business with success about fifteen years, and in 1897, when he ceased” keeping hotel, he retired from active life, well off in this world’s goods, rich in the good will of his fellow citizens and with abundant self-approval of all methods by which he has prospered. With a partner, he built the roller-process flouring mill which became so great a factor in the prosperity of the town and its tributary territory, but later disposed of his interest in it.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones have had twelve children, of whom nine are living: Nessi A., who is Mrs. C. Webster; Lilian E., who married John Stevens; Thomas W., who is a merchant at Montpelier; Franklin, who is a dealer in meat in Montpelier; Jacob, who is a successful rancher near Montpelier; Nellie S., who is the wife of Thomas Glen, a lawyer of Montpelier; May, who is Mrs. Clem Oakley, of Montpelier; John H., who is now married; and Daisy, who is a member of her father’s household.