Hailing from the county of Baker in Georgia, the obscure Piamus Walter Jones is profiled today, and his rather odd first name is worth mention, as there are a total of three variations in its spelling floating around online! While the rare portrait of him above (located in the 1882 work entitled Georgia's General Assembly of 1880-81) has his first name listed as "Primus", his gravestone in Baker County denotes it as "Piamus". The spelling is further complicated by a listing for a "Priamus Walter Jones" on a few Rootsweb genealogical-related websites. Despite all of these spelling variations floating around, I usually consider a person's gravestone to be the final arbiter in such matters, hence why Jones is listed as "Piamus (Primus) Walter Jones in the title to his article here.
A lifelong resident of the Peach State, Piamus/Primus W. Jones was born in Meriwether County on May 10, 1844, the thirteenth of fifteen children born to John Jones (1802-1874) and his wife Elizabeth Strozier (1807-1892). The Jones siblings are listed as follows in order of their birth: Anne V. (1826-1920), John W. (1828-1849), Reuben (1829-1874), Franklin Chandler (1830-1891), Willis (1831-1843), Louisa (1832-1916), Orrie (1832-unknown), Emily (1833-1861), Chandler (1834-1899), Enoch Callaway (1837-1916), Desdemona (1838-1841), Morgiana (1840-1915), Piamus (1844-1890), Otis Smith (1845-1880) and Montgomery (born 1848). John Jones was a prominent planter, and was "in his time the leading cotton planter of Georgia." Piamus/Primus is remarked by Georgia's General Assembly as "enjoying a happy boyhood, mixing hunting, fishing and outdoor sports with work and study" but no mention is given as to where he received his schooling.
Engaged in farm work while still a young man, Jones learned the cotton planting trade from his father and became very successful, eventually becoming the owner of 2,500-acre cotton plantation in Baker County. Jones is remarked by more than one source as being a veritable king of the cotton industry, and was noted as having "carried his name into every cotton mart in the world by yearly bringing in for sale the first new bale of cotton for the season." In addition to cotton, Jones is mentioned as raising a large vegetable crop at his residence. Because of his being the producer of the first new bale of cotton every year, Jones was labeled in his death notice as the "first bale man", a fitting tribute for a man so involved with the cotton industry.
A lifelong bachelor, Jones is recorded as "growing more cotton to the plow than any other man in Georgia" and with his statewide reputation as a farmer and grower, came calls for him to run for public office. In 1880 he won election to the Georgia State House of Representatives from Baker County and served in the legislative sessions of 1880-1881, 1886-1887, 1888-1889. During the 1886 session Jones introduced legislation advocating the construction of an experimental agricultural station in Georgia, and his advocacy of this idea received a write-up in the January 1886 edition of the Southern Cultivator, Volume 44, posted below.
Jones's tenure in the state legislator was marked as one of "zeal and faithfulness unbiased by partisan feeling", and was well respected by his Baker County constituency. Jones died at the age of 45 on February 9, 1890, in Atlanta and was memorialized in his Calhoun Times death notice as "being one of the most advanced farmers in the state." He was interred in the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta and his stone (shown below) bears the inscription "First Bag Man" which I found quite perplexing when I first saw a picture of it a few weeks ago! Not knowing of his cotton-planting activities at the time I wondered if Jones was indeed a "bag-man" (a collector/distributor for racketeers). While this proved not to be the case, the "bag-man" inscription is actually a lasting testament to his bringing in the first cotton bale at the beginning of the season. A portrait of his gravestone (found via the billiongraves.com website) is shown below.
Jones' death notice from the February 13, 1890 edition of the Calhoun Times.
Courtesy of the Billiongraves.com website.