TO LEARN MORE, SEE OUR BOB AND ALMEADY CHISUM JONES EXHIBIT PAGE
John Dolford “Bob” Jones (1850-1936) 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 & Preserve. In 2012, Carroll ISD’s newest elementary, Walnut Grove, was named for the school he built for his grandchildren and other children who could not attend white schools.
Bob Jones was the son of a white man, Leazer Alvis Jones (1822-1879), and his slave Elizabeth (1822-1877). Family lore says Leazer lived in the Carolinas until the 1840s, then left by sea with slaves and racehorses. After spending time racing his horses in Houston, he likely traveled up the Mississippi, then west on the Arkansas River to reach his new home south of Fort Smith, Ark.
In about 1859, Leazer took Elizabeth and their children to Texas. They lived on a farm in the Medlin community, near what’s now Roanoke. In all, he had five children with Elizabeth and seven with his wife, Mary, who was white. Elizabeth is buried in Medlin Cemetery in present-day Trophy Club. Leazer’s black family and white family remained friends for more than 100 years.
Almeady Chisum (1857-1949) also was born into slavery. Her mother, Jensie (circa 1837-1874), told Almeady that cattle baron John Simpson Chisum (1824-1884) was her father. When Almeady was about 1 year old, she, her mother, sister Harriet and brother were given to John as collateral for cattle being herded west. They lived at the Chisum ranch near Bolivar (in Denton County) until about 1871, when John shifted his cattle operation to New Mexico. Jensie and her daughters then moved to Bonham, Texas. Jensie was a skilled cook and seamstress, as were her daughters.
BOB IS SET FREE
In Texas, Bob herded sheep for his father. After the war, Bob later told his children, his father set him free on a hill southeast of their farm (perhaps in present-day Westlake). Leazer returned to Arkansas. Looking to earn money in hardscrabble post-war Texas, Bob signed on with trail drives heading to railheads in Kansas. Bud Daggett, whose uncle was called “The Father of Fort Worth,” became a good friend.
In the 1870 census, Bob, his mother and sisters were listed by name, a first for African Americans. About that time, Bob bought land in eastern Denton County to start a cattle and farming operation. He later told his children that he was drawn to the land because it was on Denton Creek (water for his stock) and had lots of trees (to provide shade for cattle and for firewood).
BOB AND ALMEADY COURT, MARRY
In 1873 or ’74, Bob attended in dance in Bonham, 80 miles away, where he met Almeady. (He may have known about her earlier because of his work on cattle drives.) He invited her to meet his mother. She said yes, if he would come in a wagon to get her and bring his sister Georgeann. After her visit, Almeady returned to Bonham from Denton on the new Texas & Pacific Railway.
On Jan. 3, 1875, Bob and Almeady were married at Harriet’s house. (Their mother had died a year before.) In September, Jim, the first of their 10 children, was born Their house, logs covered with boards, was 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.
Their children, born between 1875 and 1898, were Jim, Alice, Virgie, June, Eugie, Emma, Artie, Hattie, Jinks and Emory.
AN ECONOMIC ENGINE
Over the years, Bob became one of the area’s largest landowners, eventually owning 1,000-2,000 acres “free and clear” on the Tarrant-Denton county line.
Like any rancher, he dealt with bank loans, lawyers, oil and gas leases, deeds and more. Both black and white tenant farmers grew corn and grain for his livestock. He always helped them to succeed.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CHURCH
In 1902, the family built Mount Carmel Baptist Church near what is now Bob Jones Road and White’s Chapel. (A previous family church had been called Walnut Grove Baptist Church.) Family members remember that Mount Carmel burned in 1964 or ’65, perhaps after being hit by lightning. Read family remembrances of the church at the end of this page.
THE VALUE OF EDUCATION
Bob and Almeady valued education and on occasion moved their children to Denton so they could attend school, but that was disruptive to their farming operation. Other times, they hired teachers, who taught at the church or in a little building outside their home.
In 1920, to benefit his children and other black children in the area, Bob donated an acre to the county (which had created districts for “colored” schools and kept an accounting of the students) and had his sons and sons-in-law build the one-room Walnut Grove School. It was located near today’s Bob Jones Nature Center. Typical of country schools, it had a pot-bellied stove and one teacher for all eight grades. Grandson Bobby Jones — later Dr. Bobby Jones — remembers the “bonus” education he received there: as he waited his turn, he would listen to the older students recite.
By the 1940s, several families were invited to move to the Jones community so their children could attend the school. Not many Jones grandchildren were still around.
In 1951, Walnut Grove closed because its seven students were heading to junior and senior high. Because of racial segregation, black and mixed-race children had to go to Fort Worth or another city to continue their education.
CHALLENGES OF RACE
Texas could be a dangerous place for black and mixed-race people. No doubt Bob and Almeady taught their children how to avoid trouble.
But for the most part, being of mixed race didn’t cause a problem for the family, Eugie said in 1976 in 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 she felt no hostility or discrimination other than the fact that she could not go to school.”
Bobby Jones, born about 90 years after his grandfather, agreed with his Aunt Eugie 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. “My father and his family were some of the bigger landowners around, so we weren’t affected by segregation.”
BOB PASSES AWAY
Bob died on Christmas Day 1936. About 500 people, both black and white, attended his funeral. He was buried in the “colored” section of Medlin Cemetery. See his obituary at the end of this page.
JONES LAND UNDER WATER
In the mid-1940s, the Army Corps of Engineers began planning Lake Grapevine. Much of the original Jones land, situated along Denton Creek, was taken by eminent domain. “Don’t sell the homeplace,” Almeady told Eugie. “The children need a place to come home to.” When the plan changed to include the family home and 40 acres around it, Eugie fought back. For two years. Then one day she received a letter saying she could keep the land but had to return the money. She simply slipped the uncashed checks into an envelope and sent them back.
In 1948, when Eugie was living with her mother, the house burned. Family rushed to remove furniture and throw heirlooms, clothing, quilts, dishes and more out the windows. The family believes lightning may have started the fire. Today there is nothing that marks the site. Eugie and her husband subsequently built a house up the hill.
ALMEADY PASSES AWAY
Almeady died in 1949 and is buried in Medlin Cemetery next to her husband.
JONES SALE BARN AND INTEGRATED CAFE
In 1948, Bob and Almeady’s youngest sons, Jinks and Emory, opened a livestock sale barn at Highway 114 and White’s Chapel Road after their land was taken by eminent domain for Lake Grapevine. Farmers and ranchers came for miles to attend the auctions, held several times a week.
Sisters Lula Jones (Jinks) and Elnora Jones (Emory) operated a small cafe at the auction barn. Opened in 1949, it is thought by historians to be the first integrated cafe in Texas. It was not opened as an integrated cafe, family members say. When black truckers hauling rock to Lake Grapevine would stop at the back door to ask for a sandwich or soda, Lula would tell them, “I’ll serve you if you come around to the front. This is a family business. I’ll serve who I want.” Inside, everyone got along fine.
In the late 1800s, Bob Jones began hosting an end-of-harvest picnic that became a tradition. In the late 1940s, it was moved next to his sons’ auction barn. Friends and neighbors, black and white, happily anticipated the barbecue, games and carnival rides. Some brought musical instruments and played for dances. In the picnic’s later years, it was open for three days, and it’s estimated that 1,000 people a day attended.
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.
Denton Record-Chronicle, January 1937
Mount Carmel Baptist Church
Mount Carmel Baptist Church was built by Bob Jones in 1902 for his children and their families. It is not known what year the church was organized and whether it existed at another location before 1902. 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.)
Mount Carmel as remembered by descendants of Bob and Almeady Jones
Betty Jones Foreman
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.
I remember my mother, Lula Jones, talking about one of the [early] preachers making Bob Jones angry. He preached his sermon on what a wonderful woman Almeady Jones was, and Bob Jones was sitting right there and he didn’t mention his name. Mama said Grandpa said, “Lula, did you hear that preacher dillifing me?” That was Grandpa’s last time in Mount Carmel church. I think that was Rev. Norton.
There was also 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 ground,” 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 old 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 timeframe 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.
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 X 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.