JONES, THOMAS ROSENELL (Rosenelle), businessman and politician; b. 12 Sept. 1825 in Saint John, N.B., son of John Jones and Eliza Rosenell; d. there 10 April 1901.
A descendant of pre-loyalist and loyalist settlers, Thomas Rosenell Jones was educated in Saint John until he was 13, completing his studies at the commercial school of Thomas Addison and his son. He became a clerk around 1840, and after a few years he went to Fredericton, where for about three and a half years he assisted in managing its branch of the boot and shoe business of Stephen Kent Foster.
Returning to his native city in 1849, Jones opened his own store as a retailer of clothing and furnishing goods. Business grew, and within 20 years he had become one of the largest dry-goods wholesalers and manufacturers in the region. In the early 1870s the firm moved from King Street to Canterbury Street, where Jones established a manufactory with more than 100 employees which made clothing, especially shirts, “suitable to the country trade,” and sold its products across the Maritimes. By the late 1870s T. R. Jones and Company had one of the most extensive establishments in Saint John. Jones was also involved in several other commercial ventures, serving, for example, as vice-president of the Coldbrook Rolling Mills Company, becoming a shipowner, and dealing in lumber. He retired from the dry-goods trade in 1881 and went into estate agency, banking, and brokerage.
During the early 1860s it had become apparent that a major restructuring of continental and transatlantic transport systems was imminent, and Jones had recognized that the future prosperity of a city would depend on its links within a larger system. As a Saint John city councilman between 1860 and 1868, he was a major supporter of the city’s investment in the Western Extension railway, of which he was a director. By 1871 the railway had been constructed along much of the west-side waterfront.
Jones continued to expound his theme of the need for effective transportation links while he was a member of the local Board of Trade from 1872 to 1877. He was among the proponents of greater business control over the city’s transport assets, claiming in 1873 that “little or nothing could be done” towards improving the port until the Common Council ceased to administer it. What was particularly needed was a waterfront railway on the east side of the harbour. Realizing that the city alone could not assume the fiscal burden for this line, he and his colleagues on the board urged the federal government to extend the Intercolonial Railway. By the end of the 1870s an extension had been completed. Saint John’s two peninsulas now had railways but no connecting railway bridge and it was recognized that rail service to the port was inefficient without one.
In the fall of 1880 the signing of the contract for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway focused the attention of the Saint John business community on the city’s future role in a national transportation system. The lack of a connection between the railways was again brought to notice, and early in 1881 Jones travelled to Ottawa seeking funds for a project which would join them. In March he was one of the incorporators of the Saint John Bridge and Railway Extension Company, created for that purpose, but he and his colleagues failed to secure the necessary investment capital. They were, however, enabled to proceed thanks to a federal loan obtained in 1883 with the help of Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley*, minister of finance and mp for Saint John City. Construction of the railway link and its bridge over the Reversing Falls was completed in 1885.
Jones also successfully involved the federal government in other matters concerning waterfronts and transport in southern New Brunswick by persuading it to commit funds or grant subsidies, particularly in the construction in the late 1880s of the “Short Line” between Montreal and Saint John. He was recognized by his contemporaries as being one of the first in New Brunswick to see the potential importance of a direct rail connection between cities in central Canada and the Maritimes. Jones’s efforts laid the basis for the integration of Saint John into the national transportation system by the turn of the century. After his death the Board of Trade stated that his efforts had also contributed to the designation of Saint John as Canada’s winter port.
In addition to his civic and commercial activities, Jones was a member of the Legislative Council of New Brunswick from 1869 to its abolition in 1892. Moreover, he served as president of the Executive Council of New Brunswick from February to June 1871 in the government of George Luther Hatheway*. During his years on the Board of Trade he was three times local representative to the Dominion Board of Trade. A freemason, Jones was also a member of the St George’s Society.
On 27 Feb. 1851 in Portland (Saint John) Jones had married Mary Jane Downey, daughter of Charles Downey. They had a family of six sons and five daughters. Perhaps it was symptomatic of the out-migration of his children’s generation that only two of his sons made their careers in the city which their father had helped place on the national transport map of Canada.
PANB, RS71, 1901, T. R. Jones. St Luke’s Anglican Church (Saint John, N.B.), Reg. of marriages. Daily Telegraph (Saint John), 11 April 1901. Saint John Globe, 11 April 1901. St. John Daily Sun, 28 Feb., 11, 16 April 1901. Biog. rev. of N.B. (Jack), 42. Canadian album (Cochrane and Hopkins), 4: 242. Canadian biog. dict. E. W. McGahan, “The port in the city: Saint John, N.B. (1887–1911), and the process of integration” (phd thesis, Univ. of N.B., Fredericton, 1979), 762; The port of Saint John (1v. to date, Saint John, 1982– ). G. W. Schuyler, Saint John, two hundred years proud (Burlington, Ont., 1984), 203. St. John and its business: a history of St. John (Saint John, 1875), 64.