Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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JONES , JOHN RICE ( 1759 - 1824 ), pioneer of the American mid-west ,

was the eldest of fourteen children of John Jones , excise officer , Mallwyd, Mer. , b. in Feb. 1759 . Family tradition attributes to him an Oxford education, but this is unconfirmed. In Jan. 1781 he m., at Brecon , Eliza , daughter of Richard and Mary Powell of that town, where he was in practice as a solicitor in 1782 , with London chambers in Thanet Place, Strand . In 1784 he sailed for Philadelphia , returning in the course of the year for his wife and his son, John Rice , but leaving behind an infant daughter, Maria . In 1786 he moved to Kentucky (then federal territory, not yet admitted as a state), and fought in the Indian wars under George Rogers Clarke , ending as commissary-general at Vincennes (later in Indiana ), where he received a grant of land from Congress and made a large fortune as the first English -speaking lawyer in the area during the period when population was flocking in. On the death of his Welsh wife in 1790 he m., 1791 , an American lady, by whom he had a large family. When, in 1800 , Indiana was organised as a territory, Jones became its first attorney-general (under W. H. Harrison ) and helped to frame its first code of laws ( 1807 ); and as a member of the territorial legislature he took a prominent part in the unsuccessful agitation for the retention of slavery in the territory ( 1802 ) and in the successful agitation for the admission of Indiana ( 1816 ) and Illinois ( 1818 ) as states of the Union. From about 1809 he was engaged in lead mining operations across the Mississippi in what became the state of Missouri , owning the oldest and most prolific mine in the territory, and introducing the reverberatory furnace . In 1817 he joined in petitioning for the admission of Missouri as a state, and took a ‘conspicuous’ part in the convention which drafted its constitution in 1820 . From 1821-4 he was a judge of the supreme court in the new state. He was also an original trustee of Indiana University ( 1806 ) and of Potosi Academy , Missouri ( 1817 ). He has been described as ‘ a student till the day of his death ,’ and credited with a wide knowledge of languages . He also had the reputation of being ‘ a good speaker and a brilliant advocate ,’ and was believed to be in his day ‘ one of the wealthiest men of the great west ’ — and at the same time ‘ a friend of the indigent, the ignorant and the distressed. ’ His Welsh -born son and namesake (a member of the Indiana legislature ) was killed in a political affray in 1808 ; the children and descendants on his second marriage have been prominent as soldiers and lawyers in the states of the Middle West .

Sources:

  • Journal of the Merioneth Historical and Record Society , ii, 1956 , 249-59, and sources therein cited.

Author:

Emeritus Professor Arthur Herbert Dodd, M.A., (1891-1975), Bangor

Published date: 1959