Sunday, January 6, 2013

Following Up: The Joneses of Long Island

The drawing at the right, which parodies Emanuel Leutze's 1851 painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, is by James Donahey. It appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on February 15, 1913, the day before Rosalie Jones and the Army of the Hudson crossed the Delaware on the way to Washington.

The earliest accounts of Rosalie Gardiner Jones's exploits in support of woman suffrage often describe her as "a wealthy Long Island young woman," and indeed she was. In an article called "The Radical Rich" on, Louise Bernikow says this about Rosalie Jones:
Her family's British and Dutch roots dated back to the earlier years of settlement in New York. Jones Beach and Gardiner's Island were named after her ancestors. Rosalie, her parents, and siblings occupied a 1,000-acre estate in Oyster Bay, the largest private residence on Long Island. Out of such backgrounds few rebels emerge. Nobody in the Jones family actually worked. "They sat and looked at property," as one descendant put it.
Rosalie's father, Dr. Oliver Livingston Jones, graduated from Bellevue Medical College but never actually practiced medicine. Rosalie herself went to Adelphi College and graduated from Brooklyn Law School but, it seems, never actually worked as a lawyer.

Gossips reported, quoting the New York Press, that after the army reached Albany, General Jones received a telegram from her mother "rejoicing in the fact that the journey is safely over." The message disappointed General Jones because "it did not wish our cause success." Because Gossips didn't pick up on the story of the pilgrimage until the suffragettes were approaching Hudson, we missed Mrs. Jones's attempts to abort the hike--at least, her daughter's part in it. On December 21, 1912, the day after the army reached Wappingers Falls, the New York Times reported:
The hike came near ending here, so far as Gen. Jones was concerned. Mrs. O. L. Jones, stay-at-home mother of the marching General, had heard in New York that her daughter was suffering from footsoreness and was in danger of breaking down. . . . She at once dispatched a trained nurse to stop the army whenever he found it and order Gen. Jones home.
When the "would-be obstructionist" caught up with the army just outside Wappingers Falls, General Jones refused to be deterred. She sent the "obstructionist" back to her mother with a "war dispatch" declaring her intention to continue on to Albany. Mrs. Jones wasn't ready to give up either. The New York Times report continues:
The end is not yet. Mrs. Jones is coming from the city in a high-powered car on Sunday, and barring tire or engine trouble she will overtake the pilgrims between Poughkeepsie and Rhinebeck. By personal persuasion she will try and make her daughter return home.
Gossips has found no reports on whether or not Mrs. Jones managed to overtake the army or what happened when she did, but we do know that her daughter succeeded in reaching Albany as she intended.

Although the Joneses' wealth was of legendary proportions, it didn't immune them from catastrophe and tragedy. In the summer of 1909, Rosalie's father, Dr. Oliver Livingston Jones, disappeared from the family's summer home in Cold Spring Harbor. It was believed that he was distraught because his eldest son was confined in a sanitarium. A search party was dispatched to look for him. Meanwhile, another of his sons put an oil lamp in the cupola of the 1855 Greek Revival mansion which was their summer place. The search party found Dr. Jones "wandering about the country in a confused state of mind" and returned him safely home. The oil lamp in the cupola, however, started a fire that destroyed the house, which was said to be the largest (reportedly, it had a hundred rooms) and finest mansion on Long Island.

In August 1913, Dr. Jones shot himself in the head in his home at 116 West 72nd Street in New York City. The New York Times reported that someone passing the house heard revolver shots and rushed to summon a policeman who was patrolling on Columbus Avenue.
Hastening there the policeman found the house in an uproar, and upon making his way upstairs, found Dr. Jones lying, fully clothed, on the tiled floor of the bathroom in front of the mirror with blood flowing from a gash in his head and a bullet wound above the right ear. Mrs. Jones was hysterical in the next room.
Louise Jones, Rosalie's sister, summoned doctors to the house to treat her father there, but the policeman called an ambulance, and Dr. Jones was taken to the Polyclinic Hospital, located at 345 West 50th Street. There, despite efforts to save him, Jones died from his wound the following day. 

The family maintained that it had been an accident, that Dr. Jones had been cleaning an old revolver when it went off. The police report, however, ascribed the injury to an attempt at suicide. Supporting the notion of suicide is this account, from the New York Timesof Dr. Jones's state of mind prior to the incident:
. . . the shock of the experience [of the fire that destroyed the Cold Spring mansion] and continued worry about the state of his son preyed on the physician's mind and made him almost a nervous wreck. Of late, at times the family kept a nurse or some other attendant to watch and care for him.
Dr. Jones was 63 years old when he died. Reporting about the estate that he left to his wife, Mary Elizabeth Jones, who was also his first cousin and wealthy in her own right, the New York Times noted that Dr. Jones was said to have owned real estate in nearly every state in the Union and his real estate holdings in New York were estimated to be worth $1,147,659--$1.1 million being considerably more in 1913 than it is today.


  1. This must be the Jones in "keeping up with the Jonses" came from?

    There is a mansion in ruins on the banks of the Hudson River south of us along the River Road that also once belonged to The Joanses.

    1. I thought that, too, Vince, so I did a little checking. According to the most scholarly comment on the origin of the expression I found (The Edith Wharton Society), "keeping up with the Joneses" was inspired by Wyndcliffe, Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones's 24-room house on 80 acres in Rhinebeck, which was built in 1852. Clearly, that was outdone three years later when Walter Restored Jones built his 100-room house, which he called the Manor House, on 1,000 acres in Cold Spring Harbor. Even the Joneses couldn't keep up with the Jonese.

  2. Wyndcliffe - a total, magnificent, ruin. Said to be haunted
    and the ghost will never let it be restored.
    Owned by the Jones family at one time.