The Parable of the Prodigal Son, oil on canvas, by Frans Francken II, 1860 (Wikimedia Commons – Public domain in US – expired copyright)
Was John B. Jaques, who arrived at his father Isaac’s door in 1879 looking for forgiveness, to be trusted in his recently adopted quest to make things right? I must admit that I felt cynical; the Oswego newspaper article makes it quite clear that John had been leaving a trail of misery behind him for the previous 30 years. I could not help but wonder who else had been affected by his behavior, and whether, aware of his father’s advanced years, he wasn’t simply trying to pull a fast one, to get his frail old father to include him in a share of his estate, which I imagine must have been quite substantial.
But, I always try to be one to keep an open mind and give people the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps, this really was the turning of a page. And, I was very intrigued as to who this John Jaques was and what else I could find out about him.
From his death record, I discovered that John was born in 1822 in New York, so he was 57 when he was reunited with Isaac. John’s year of birth probably places him in the middle of the pack of the Isaac Jaques and Wealthy Ann Cushman family:
1-Isaac Jaques b. 8 Aug 1791, Woodbridge Neck, NJ, d. 24 Aug 1880,
Elizabethtown, NJ, bur. 27 Aug 1880, Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, NJ
+Wealthy Ann Cushman b. 11 Nov 1793, Hartford, CT, d. 11 Apr 1856, Elizabeth,
Union Co, NJ, bur. 13 Apr 1856, Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, NJ
|----2-Wealthy Ann Jaques b. 15 Dec 1815, New York City, New York. NY, d. 7 Mar
| 1892, At Home, 25 Reid Street, Elizabeth, Union Co., NJ, bur. First
| Presbyterian Church yard of Elizabeth, NJ
|----2-Jane F. Jaques b. cir. 1818
|----2-John B. Jaques b. Mar 1822, New York or New Jersey, USA
|----2-Walter Jaques b. Cir 1826, New York City, New York USA
|----2-Christopher P. Jaques b. Cir 1832, New York City, New York USA
|----2-Dr. Charles P. Jaques b. Cir 1834, New York City, New York USA, d. 2 Nov
| 1866, Brooklyn, Kings Co., NY
+Rebecca Robinson b. 1804, CT, d. 29 Dec 1886, bur. Evergreen Cemetery,
Hillside, Union Co., NJ
I also learned that John was a family man; his wife’s name was Mary F. Briggs (b. cir. 1827 in NJ), and they had five children, born between circa 1845 and 1853:
- Wealthy Ann (there’s that name again!)
- John B. Jr.
Curiously, in the 1850 census (taken on 16 September 1850), John was in Richmond Co., Georgia. Yes, I know. Georgia. How did he end up there? His age is listed as ’30’, occupation — ‘Tailor,’ and birth place — ‘NY’. He is listed among a large number of other seemingly mostly single individuals of various occupations — teacher, clerk, mechanic, book keeper, stable hand, etc. To be sure that was him, I looked to see where his wife was that year. I found her and the children that had been born prior to that living in Elizabeth, NJ, (down the street from Isaac and Wealthy Jaques and family) with what appears to be Margaretta’s family (John’s sister):
- Charles B Archer, 33, Cabinetmaker, b. New York
- Margaretta Archer, 26, b. New Jersey
- Margaret Carlton, 61, b. New York
- Mary Jaques, 23, b. New Jersey
- Wealthy A. Jaques, 5, b. Pennsylvania
- Mary J. Jaques, 3, b. New Jersey
- John Jaques, 1, b, New Jersey
So, why Georgia? And what was going on in Richmond Co. at that time that may have taken John Jaques there?
According to Rootsweb: In 1850, Richmond County produced 1087 bales of cotton; 297,780 bushels of corn; 27,458 of oats, and 51,045 of sweet potatoes. There were 2 woolen factories, 1 cotton mill, 2 foundries, 1 car factory, 3 saddle manufactories, 1 machine shop, 3 flour mills, and 19 saw mills. It contained 14 churches, 10 newspaper offices; 720 pupils attending public schools, and 415 attending academies or other schools.
I assumed that being a tailor, he was somehow attached to the woolen factories or the cotton mill. Apparently the mill industry gained great momentum in the first half of the 19th century in Georgia, and by 1850, the industry had really taken off. According to the Georgia Encyclopedia: Sensing the emergence of a profitable enterprise for their state, political leaders passed legislation making it easier for potential mill operators to incorporate their businesses. The industry began to flourish, and by 1850 Georgia had thirty-eight textile mills. The cloth produced in the mills evolved from the early coarse fabrics, sometimes called “Georgia wool,” to cotton duck, a heavier canvas-like material. Most of the regional mills in operation at this time were small, with fewer than 2,000 spindles and 100 workers. Often these mills were situated next to the local gristmills, flour mills, and sawmills.
In Georgia’s emerging cities, however, factories tended to be larger. One example was Eagle Manufacturing Company in Columbus, opened in 1851 by William H. Young, a native New Yorker. The growth of the textile industry in Georgia, along with the population increase and expansion of railroads in the state, prompted William “Parson” Brownlow, the editor of a Tennessee newspaper, to call Georgia “the New England of the South” in 1849.
As the 1850s progressed, Georgia mill owners focused on improving rather than expanding their factories. Employees, by then strictly composed of rural whites from areas surrounding the mills, were developing into a skilled workforce. Some owners in the state encouraged seasoned northern mill workers to relocate to Georgia factories, where they could pass along their experience to local workers; some experienced mill workers came from as far away as England.
Perhaps, John was one of those seasoned northern workers who was paid to come down to Georgia to pass on his experience. Given his father was a tailor, John grew up in the trade and no doubt had acquired a great deal of skill by this time. How long he spent there, I don’t know, but I do know that he was back in New Jersey several years later, as I found the first trace of trouble — a little article in the ‘Police’ section of the Newark Daily Advertiser on 9 August 1853: John B. Jaques arrested yesterday by Marshal Francisco for obtaining goods under false pretenses, by representing himself as a partner of Holmes, the clothing merchant, was committed to Justice Plume.
Whether this marked the beginning of John’s run-ins with the law, I don’t know, nor could I find a follow-up article to see what the outcome of this incident was. Isaac and Wealthy would have been in their late 50s when this took place. You can imagine what their reaction must have been, not to mention the reaction of John’s poor young wife.
The 1850s held more tumult for John and those in his sphere.
Part II to follow.