JONES, SOLOMON, physician, office holder, politician, jp, judge, and militia officer; b. c. 1756 in New Jersey, youngest son of – Jones and Sarah Dunham; m. Mary Tunnicliffe, daughter of a prominent New York landholder, and they had three daughters and four sons; d. 21 Sept. 1822 in what is now Maitland, Ont.
When Solomon Jones was a child the family moved from New Jersey to the Hudson River, settling near Fort Edward, N.Y., at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War. While his brothers were developing their prosperous farms, Solomon was studying medicine at Albany. The Joneses were ardent tories and, early in the American revolution, they joined with other loyalists in offering their services to the British commander at Crown Point, N.Y., Guy Carleton*. Solomon became a surgeon’s mate in his brother Jonathan’s company of the King’s Loyal Americans, later called Jessup’s Rangers. The Jones family took an active part in John Burgoyne*’s Saratoga campaign and were thus forced to flee north to British lines after the defeat in 1777. During the remainder of the war, Solomon was able to improve his medical skills by treating the loyalists at the various refugee camps as well as by serving in the field. He was also able to obtain further medical training at Montreal. At the end of the war, the loyalist corps were disbanded and given grants of land. Jones obtained 1,000 acres in Township No.7 (Augusta), in what was then western Quebec.
His immediate prospects were not encouraging. In 1783, shortly before going to settle on his land, he had terminated a joint business venture which he had tried with his brother Daniel, though to no success. In 1784 he petitioned Governor Frederick Haldimand*, noting that the province was “over run with Gentlemen of your Memoralists profession . . . and the small pay your Memoralist had during his seven years’ servitude to His Majesty put it out of his power to have any Money beforehand.” He asked that the governor “point out some Bread for him.” While he was waiting, he had to endure the hardships suffered by loyalist settlers during these early years. However, his medical skill, unstinting generosity to those in need, and loyalty to the crown soon brought him recognition. In 1788 he was appointed surgeon to the local militia and by 1794 had become clerk to the district land board. He was made a justice of the peace in 1796 and the same year was elected to the Upper Canadian House of Assembly for the riding of Leeds and Frontenac. Although not a prominent political figure, he was a conscientious representative, patiently dealing with the petitions and claims of his constituents. At the end of his term as an assemblyman, he faced a turning-point in his career. In 1799 he applied, unsuccessfully, for the position of hospital mate at Kingston. However, later that year he was appointed a justice of the peace for the recently created Johnstown District and in 1800 he was sent a commission making him a judge of the District Court. He thereafter committed his talents and energies entirely to the needs of the region.
As a local official, Jones took an active part in the development of the community. From 1807 he served as trustee for the district grammar school. His own sons attended John Strachan*’s school in Cornwall, and Jones was thereby brought into an intimate and lasting relationship with the future bishop. The two men were instrumental in getting a regular parsonage for the area and having Anglican clergyman John Bethune* appointed its minister in 1814. They both felt that the Church of England, as an established church, helped support order and good government by promoting public morality and deference to duly constituted authority. Jones fully recognized the social obligations of his position and, he stated, made it his “particular object to set a good example to all within his influence of Loyalty, industry and perseverance in this province and has in his professional line been a sufferer in administering to the poor and needy settlers.”
Jones’s brief political career had brought him into close contact with the governing élite at York (Toronto). Using influential friends such as Richard Cartwright* of Kingston and William Dummer Powell, he had the District Court clerk, Charles Jones*, dismissed and his own son Jonathan appointed in his place in late 1808 or early 1809. Strachan also lent his support, although in a private letter to Jones he delicately suggested that there might be something “unusual” in the clerk of the court being the judge’s son. This minor bit of nepotism is indicative of Jones’s rising position within the local oligarchy.
Another symbol of Jones’s status was his fine residence, Homewood, built in 1800 by a master stonemason, Louis Brière (Brilliere) of Montreal. Apart from his own growing family, Jones was responsible for his mother as well as a female black slave whom he had purchased from his brother Daniel, and a wayward nephew who had run into domestic troubles. As a firm but understanding parent, Solomon provided the necessary guidance for the boy. Jones kept in touch by regular correspondence with family members, providing them with news and financial support. His sister who had married a British officer and moved to England was particularly indebted to Jones for the sums of money he sent to her. With such a large household to support, Solomon was beset with financial worries and pressed by creditors in Montreal for payment of his overdue accounts. Still, he did his best to supply the available comforts to his family. His personal accounts contain frequent charges for tobacco, wines, and spirits along with occasional silks and laces. Solomon was also an accomplished fiddler and played the various reels and jigs which provided much of the loyalists’ entertainment.
The declaration of war by the United States in 1812 posed a serious threat to all that Jones had worked for. In what was likely the first action of the war, early in July a detachment from the Grenville militia, which included Jones’s son Dunham, conducted a surprise raid on a small fleet of American vessels sailing from Ogdensburg to Sackets Harbor, N.Y. This action was regretted by the senior militia officers who felt that the seizure of private property was to be discouraged. They delegated Solomon Jones to meet with the American commander at Ogdensburg. Following this meeting, the militia officers agreed that the goods should be returned and “all private property should be respected.” However, Jones wanted a more active role in the war. He had held the rank of captain in the militia but had been obliged to give it up, probably in 1808, because of the demands of his medical practice. In March 1813 he was appointed surgeon to the garrison at Prescott. He also continued with his civil duties. In 1814 he was made a commissioner to detain persons suspected of treason. As the district representative of the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada, Jones was able to help those left destitute by the war.
After the return of peace Jones continued to serve the Johnstown District despite his advancing years. In 1819 he was appointed to the land board. In addition to settling claims of local residents, he obtained substantial grants which were due him from the crown. However, he had little opportunity to develop his extensive holdings. By 1822 he was in poor health. A trip to take the waters at Saratoga Springs, near his boyhood home, proved unsuccessful. He returned to Homewood where he died on 21 September.
Jones’s strong attachment to the Church of England, the governing élite, and the British connection are clear evidence of his tory outlook. His life was characterized by personal benevolence and he was held in high esteem by all classes. An obituary notice in the Kingston Chronicle aptly described him as “long an indefatigable physician, and a highly valuable member of the community.” Jones lies buried in the Blue Church cemetery at Maitland beneath a simple stone marker.
ACC, Diocese of Ont. Arch. (Kingston), St John’s Church (Prescott, Ont.), reg. of burials, 13 Aug. 1821–6 Oct. 1890. ANQ-M, CN1-16, 6 mars 1800. AO, Map coll., C-5, Augusta Township, 1785–87; ms 520, notice of appointment to militia, 14 June 1788; Powell to Jones, 25 Oct. 1808; Jones to Powell, 25 Oct. 1808; Strachan to Jones, 19 Nov. 1808, 16 March 1812; officers of the Grenville militia, signed statement, 7 July 1812; G. O. Stuart to Jones, 8 March 1814;