Lewis Evan Jones (1825 – 1910) of Cedar County Nebraska

The following was taken from The Illustrated History of Nebraska, History of Nebraska, Vol I, pages 371 – 372.


Lewis Evan Jones

Lewis Evan Jones, Jr., born February 21, 1825, was the eldest son of Lewis Evan Jones, Sr. and his wife, Jane Pritchard. Lewis Sr., was the second eldest surviving son of William Ellis Jones of Bryntirion, a noted scholar and early disciple of John Wesley. William of Bryntirion was the owner of an extensive tract of mountainous land in Merionethshire at Dolgellau, Wales, on which thousands of sheep and goats ranged since ancient times. On this valuable estate gold was discovered in the 18th century, leading to the early development of a highly profitable mining operation, one of the first of its kind in Wales.

Jane Pritchard, Lewis Jr.’s mother, was the daughter of Mordecai Pritchard, an exciseman in Wales in the employment of the British government.

As a boy, Lewis Evan Jones, Jr. received a limited formal education in the country schools, but gained a great deal of knowledge and experience from his early apprenticeship in his father’s printing and publishing office in Caernarvon, Wales. His father, an ardent Welsh nationalist and associate of many of Wales’ most progressive politicians, authors, and intellects, was a controversial figure in his home country. From his presses he published some of the earliest pro-labor, anti-British, anti-Established Church material to appear in a country that would in later decades become recognized as the birthplace of Socialism.

Not content to idle in his father’s shadow, at just fifteen years old, Lewis Jr. traveled to Liverpool, England and secured a berth as a seaman on a vessel bound for St. Petersburg, Russia. His early travels took him around the world to the ports of Odessa, Constantinople, across the Pacific, and within a few years to America, where he worked his way through the port cities of Richmond, Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans.

After briefly returning home to Caernarvon to fetch his brother Richard (born 1837) and sister Ann (born 1823), in 1849 the three made their way back to America and the city of New Orleans. From there they ventured up the Mississippi, establishing their home at St. Louis, Missouri.
In St. Louis, Lewis Jr. secured employment at The Missouri Republican, a newspaper now esteemed for its extensive coverage of the politics and events leading up to the American Civil War.

In 1850, Lewis Evan Jones, Jr. met and married Miss Louisa Richards, a native of Bristol, England. The same year he purchased a small printing firm and began publishing the first numbers of the journal of the St. Louis Conference of the Methodist-Episcopal Church. This publication gained instant popularity among the largely immigrant, pioneer population of Missouri, wielding significant influence in Methodist affairs for many decades after its inauguration.

Sometime prior to 1857, Lewis’ sister Ann died in St. Louis, and his brother Richard moved south to New Orleans. That same year Lewis Jr. sold the Methodist Episcopal Journal and moved with his wife and four children to St. Helena, Nebraska, a sparsely populated, truly pioneer territory in the still unsettled American Northwest. In St. Helena he established the first sawmill and the first newspaper in the territory, using both to acquire wealth in land and early political influence. By 1860, Lewis was also operating a successful flour mill, servicing the needs of a small but growing population of farmers who trickled into the region from the east.

Lewis Evan Jones, Jr. became a member of the Nebraska Territorial Legislature and was a leading force in Nebraska’s admission to the Union in 1867. Throughout his long life he served in various capacities in the political leadership of Nebraska, including a twenty-year long stint as county commissioner of Cedar County, where he worked to encourage better relations between the original Native American population, the establishing state and Federal governments, and newly arriving white immigrants. Politically, he was a lifelong Democrat and described himself as a “Jeffersonian”. Lewis Evan Jones, Jr. was held in high esteem by his fellow Nebraskans and is today recognized as one of the earliest and most effective pioneer-settlers in the region.

Lewis and his wife Louisa had nine surviving children. Their countless descendants are now dispersed throughout the nation. Lewis Evan Jones, Jr. died on October 21, 1910, and is buried in the community he founded, Wynot, Cedar County, Nebraska.


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