Bob and Almeady Jones circa 1898 with their 10 children. They valued religion, education, hard work and family.
John Dolford “Bob” Jones, born a slave in 1850, became a prosperous landowner in the Roanoke-Southlake area and a well-respected rancher and family man. Today he’s remembered as the namesake of Bob Jones Road, Bob Jones Park and Bob Jones Nature Center. In 2012, Carroll ISD’s newest elementary, Walnut Grove, was named for the one-room, eight-grade school he had built for his grandchildren, who could not attend white schools. Bob Jones died in 1936.
Bob Jones was the son of a white man, Leazer Alvis Jones and his slave Elizabeth. Family members say Leazer lived in the Carolinas until the 1840s, when he left for Texas by sea. With him, they say, he brought slaves and racehorses.
Elizabeth, also called Lizzie, was born in 1827 and died in 1877 near present-day Trophy Club. She gave birth to two of her five children by Leazer in Mississippi, one in Arkansas and two in Texas. She is buried in what was originally the "colored" section of Medlin Cemetery in present-day Trophy Club.
Bob Jones came to Carrollton, Texas, from Arkansas about 1859 with his parents and a brother and sister. They moved about 1860 to the area of Medlin Mound, the Medlin community in what's now Trophy Club and Westlake. Two months after the Civil War started in 1861, 39-year-old Leazer joined Capt. R.N. Gano's Grapevine Mounted Riflemen. He was later posted to a local militia that hunted deserters and was sometimes sent west and northwest to deal with Indian raiding.
Leazer had a white family, in Arkansas. Leazer's white and black families remained friends into the 1900s.
Starting around 1860, Bob Jones herded sheep for his father. Bob and his brother, Jim, bought 60 acres in what's now Roanoke from their father, and later Bob bought Jim out. In the mid-1860s, Bob moved closer to Denton Creek, northwest of the Dove community in now-Southlake, and started a cattle and farming operation. Bob, his mother and sisters were counted in the 1870 census, the first one that African Americans were part of.
Starting about 1867, Texans began driving cattle north to railheads in Kansas. What's now Roanoke was near the Eastern Trail, which ran through Fort Worth and skirted what is now I35 (to the west of the Cross Timbers) before connecting at the Red River to the Chisholm Trail. Bob Jones hired on.
Bob Jones became one of the area’s largest landowners, eventually owning 1,000-2,000 acres on the Tarrant-Denton county line. Much of that land, on the floodplain, is now under Lake Grapevine.
In the early 1870s Bob attended a dance in Bonham, Texas, and met Meady Chisum, born in 1857. In 1858, legendary cattleman John Chisum was given ownership of Meady, her mother, her brother Philip and sister Harriet as collateral for cattle being driven to California. Her mother was named Jensie. Until she was 14 years old, Meady, along with her mother and sister, lived on the John Chisum ranch at Bolivar in Denton County.
Bob Jones and Meady Chisum married in 1875 and had 10 children: Jim, Alice, Virgie, June, Eugie, Emma, Artie, Hattie, Jinks and Emory. Their first house, made of logs covered with boards, expanded as the family grew. When the house was finished, it had two stories, a main room with a fireplace, four or five bedrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, and a balcony and porches all around. In 1948, when Meady Jones and her daughter Eugie Thomas were living there, the house burned. Today there is nothing that marks the site.
The family built Walnut Grove Baptist Church near what is now Bob Jones Road and North White's Chapel Road. School was sometimes held there. By 1902, the church was renamed Mount Carmel. Family members remember that Mount Carmel burned, perhaps from being hit by lightning, in 1964 or ’65. Read family remembrances of the church at the end of this file.
How the boarded-up Walnut Grove School looked in the 1970s, from a video taken by Bill Jones, Bob Jones' grandson. The school was closed in 1951 because its students were ready for high school. They continued their education in Fort Worth.
Bob and Almeady Jones valued education and on occasion moved their children to Denton so they could attend school, a process that was disruptive to the family’s ranching operation. Other times, the Joneses hired teachers. In about 1920, to benefit his grandchildren and other children in the area, Bob Jones donated an acre to the county (which had created districts for “colored” schools and kept an accounting of the students) and built Walnut Grove School. Typical of country schools, it had a pot-bellied stove and one teacher for all eight grades. His grandson Bobby Jones – later Dr. Bobby Jones – remembers the "bonus" education he received there: as he waited his turn to recite, he would listen to the older students.
In 1951, Walnut Grove closed because its seven students were heading to junior and senior high school. Because of racial segregation, black and mixed-race children had to go to Fort Worth or another large city to continue their education.
For the most part, descendants insist, being of mixed race didn’t cause a problem for the family, Eugie Thomas said in 1976 during an oral history. “The Jones family was raised among and with the white families. White tenant farmers worked on the Jones land. Social events and religious gatherings were shared.”
Her interviewer concluded that “Eugie recalls that she felt no hostility or discrimination other than the fact that she could not go to school.” Read the rest of this interesting interview here. Please note there are some spelling and factual errors.
Bobby Jones, born about 90 years after his grandfather and a nephew of Eugie Thomas, agreed with his aunt when asked in 2003 whether the family suffered from discrimination.
“Living out where we did, we were isolated away from a lot of the racial strife that was occurring,” he said. “We were the only black family that lived in the area. My father and his family were some of the bigger landowners around, so we weren’t affected by segregation.”
Other black families lived near them over the years, working mostly as farm laborers. In Grapevine, several black communities, including one called "The Hill," existed. Information can be obtained from the Grapevine Historical Society.
The annual Jones family picnic, which Bob Jones began on his farm in the fall after the harvest, was fun for the entire community. Sons Jinks and Emory Jones continued to host the picnic into the 1970s. (Courtesy of the Jones family)
In 1949, Bob and Almeady’s youngest sons, Jinks and Emory, opened a livestock sale barn after the land they had inherited from their father was taken for the lake. Farmers and ranchers came for miles to attend the auctions, held several times a week. The men’s wives, Lula (Jinks) and Elnora (Emory), who were sisters, operated a tiny cafe at the sale barn that is thought to be the first integrated cafe in Texas. The site has since been swallowed up by the expansion of Texas 114.
“Mama and Aunt Lula didn’t open an integrated cafe,” explained Bobby Jones.
“Black truck drivers would stop on the road, and they would come to the back door and ask if they could have a soda or a sandwich,” Betty Jones Foreman explained. “My mother told them, ‘I’ll serve you if you come to the front door … this is a family business and I’ll serve who I want.' ”
In the late 1800s Bob Jones hosted the first end-of-harvest picnic that became a tradition into the 1960s. Later it was moved to his sons’ Grapevine Auction Barn. Friends and neighbors happily anticipated the barbecue, children’s games, adult baseball games and carnival rides. People brought their musical instruments and played while others danced. In the picnic’s later years, it was open for three days, and it’s estimated that up to 1,000 people attended each day.
As evidenced by his obituary, Bob Jones was held in high esteem. He died in 1936 and Almeady Jones in 1949.
A newspaper article about the funeral reads:
Wealthy Negro’s Funeral Attended By White Friends
ROANOKE, Dec. 28 – As many white people as colored gathered in the Baptist church here Sunday to pay final tribute to Bob Jones, 86-year-old negro citizen and wealthy landowner.
The crowd of 500 which jammed the white people’s church was said to be the largest funeral gathering ever witnessed in the community and the occasion itself unprecedented. Many came from out-of-town.
A negro preacher from Pilot Point had charge of the services, but the white host pastor, Rev. T. Lynn Stewart, assisted.
Elaborate floral offerings banked the casket. Burial was in a plot of the Medlin Cemetery set aside for Jones when the burial ground was established by the white owner, the late J.W. Medlin.
Bob Jones, whose full name was John Dolford Jones, founded the Jones negro settlement near Roanoke in 1870 several years after he came to Texas from a plantation near Fort Smith, Ark. He bought his first 60 acres of land from his father and at his death his property holdings amounted to about 1,000 acres, including the large two-story house in which he lived.
Walnut Grove Baptist Church was the first to serve the Jones community; by 1902 it was renamed Mount Carmel Baptist Church. Services and funerals were held in the one-room church, located east of North White's Chapel and just north of Bob Jones Road, until the 1960s. It reportedly burned in 1964 or ‘65.
A grandson remembers it being about 25-by-40 feet in size.
A reference to Mount Carmel church is found in the Dallas Morning News archives. At the 1902 meeting of the Northwestern Colored Baptist Association, "the collections amounted to $19.80. After new members had been enrolled $5 was given to educational work and $2 to Mount Carmel Church, Denton County." (There was also a Mount Carmel in Dallas.)
The land [for Mount Carmel Baptist Church] was given by J.D. (Bob) Jones. I don't know who built the one-room frame building, probably the Jones brothers – June, Jim, Jinks and Emory – and their brothers-in-law. It was a community church almost entirely made up of Jones family. The location of the church was on White Chapel down the way from Bob Jones Road. Instead of turning on Bob Jones, just keep straight, and before you went up the little hill on the right going toward Denton Creek sat the white frame church.
There was a Rev. Lister out of Fort Worth, whose wife played the piano and organized the first choir. After that it was just lay preachers out of Fort Worth or Denton. J.T. Evans (Virgie Jones’ husband) claimed he was "called," and he filled in from time to time. Sometimes the teachers who had been hired for Walnut Grove School would stay over and play the piano on Sunday for church. Two that I remember are Aquilla Johnson out of Fort Worth and Bobbie Johnson (no relation) out of Denton. The preacher was only there on one Sunday each month, and I think that was the fourth Sunday.
Jones sisters Eugie Thomas and Virgie Evans, along with Ms. Henry, were the Sunday School teachers. Ms. Henry was Ernest Clay's sister (Ernest Clay was married to Artie Jones). They had Sunday school each Sunday and then preaching once a month. If there was not a piano player there, we still had music. Eugie would play her one song, Virgie hers and Betty Jean hers. Same music each Sunday, but we were singing.
Occasionally there would be "Dinner on the grounds," and everyone would bring their favorite dish. We would have cabbage, fried chicken, baked chicken, stewed chicken, chicken and dumplings, macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, purple-hull peas, pinto beans, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and etc. For dessert, sweet potato pie, peach and berry cobblers, and pound cake. Usually ice tea and lemonade to drink.
When we had a regular preacher there would be a revival. I joined church at a revival and was baptized in the stock tank on J.T. Evans’ land. Five others joined at the same time I did. I [don’t remember] the date the church burned; seems as if lighting struck it.
In the summertime, all the men would build an arbor, and every year we would have a homecoming in August. We’d have Sunday school under the arbor when it got too hot. My daddy and mama would get in the buggy and we’d go [to church] each week. We used to live in the area where Trophy Club is now. Near Medlin Cemetery – road went right by there. The preacher (once a month) would ride the train into Roanoke early in the morning and then take him back that night. My Aunt Artie played the organ.
There was a little branch [creek] behind the church, and now there are big ol' houses. White’s Chapel, past Bob Jones. Aunt Virgie’s husband would teach the Sunday school lesson; my daddy was a deacon, and he would pray for his mama. I was baptized in Denton Creek. After the homecoming in August, we’d take the kids who joined down to a spot in the creek and baptize the kids. My daddy would go out there with a stick and poke around to hit bottom. Probably 25 to 30 people, or even more [attended church]. Many more [came to] the homecoming.
I have books with some Mount Carmel minutes in them. So the last entry of anything there is dated September 1964. This particular entry is on a chart type of thing which has handwritten headings for October, November and December, but no entry after September. I guess that could mean a lot of things: The End, a new book that I don't have, incapacitated church clerk, etc., etc. But it does coincide with the time frame you make mention of per Bill Jones [who remembers the church building burning in 1964 or '65].
As for funerals held there, all I can refer to are a small collection of funeral programs/memorial folders that I have from my parents' belongings. There I find one for William "Dock" Burns (Hattie Jones' husband) that indicates the service was at Mount Carmel on Dec. 31, 1956, at 3 p.m. with Rev. B.F. Johnson officiating. There is also one for Rom Revels, held March 23, 1959, at 2 p.m., Rev. W.M. Bowden officiating.
Bob Jones' grandson Bobby stands at the site of Walnut Grove school, which was located near the present-day Bob Jones Nature Center. (Courtesy of Charles D. Young)
I would image that Mount Carmel was functioning for some time prior to 1902. My father was the baby of the kids and he was born in 1898. Aunt Eugie was the last of her generation living, and she died in 1985. In the late '70s, she was attending the First Baptist in Roanoke.
The church was a one-room building, wood. painted white, with 3-4 windows on each side. It was about 25-by-40 feet in size. No steeple, no coat room, no pulpit – just a podium that the preacher stood behind, no room for the preacher, no special ornamentation like a cross or stained glass, one door in the middle of the front and about 5 benches on each side. Usually 12-15 people attended.
[By the 1940s,] no services or anything except on the last Sunday of the month (usually the 4th), and communion was only held when a month had 5 Sundays. There were only 12 services per year.