Sunday, January 26, 2014

Primus Jones Comes Alive!

    After two years of compiling and posting over 350 articles on all of these oddly named political figures I can honestly state that I continue to be surprised by the amount of people engaged in genealogical work who drop by to "like" our Facebook page, as well as to leave comments and feedback in the message boxes below each article, relating their thanks for my profiling one of their relatives. Even more so, there have been a number of instances where I've inadvertently aided complete strangers to fill in some of the "missing branches" in their family trees....truly amazing how such obscure subject matter can take on a life of its own!! 
   Today I have the honor of relating a story that stems from my April 23, 2013 write-up on Primus (or Priamus) Walter Jones (1844-1890), a prosperous cotton planter from Baker County, Georgia who represented that county in the Georgia State Assembly's House of Representatives in the 1880s. Before late last year Mr. Jones was just another odd named political figure whose name I'd stumbled across in some outdated legislative manual, but as fate would have it, the life of this obscure man meant a great deal to more than a few people, and now, more than 120 years after his death, a number of fascinating details have come to light on Jones' personal life, so read on to find out more!
   First, a brief backstory....A lifelong resident of Georgia, Primus Jones was born into an established family of cotton planters in Baker County and after reaching adulthood took over the day to day operations of the family's 2,500-acre cotton plantation. Over the succeeding years, he became known as the "first bale man" or "first bag man" for producing and bringing to market the first "bag" or "bale" of cotton every season. Jones' prominence in Baker County eventually led to his nomination for the Georgia State Assembly and was elected to the State House of Representatives for the legislative sessions of 1880-81, 1886-87 and 1888-89. Jones died aged only 45 on February 10, 1890, and was widely lamented throughout Georgia not only for his reputation as an "advanced farmer" but also for his tenure in the legislature. Sources of the time also relate that he was a lifelong bachelor, which, as it so happens, proved not to be the case!
   In mid-August of last year I received a comment on Jones' article from one Mickey Bambrick, who later related that she was writing on behalf of her friend Janet O. Johnson, who, as it turns out, happens to be the great-granddaughter of Primus W. Jones! As Mickey explained, Primus' status as a bachelor proved to be false, as he fell in love and had at least one daughter with one of his slaves, a family cook named Moriah Cauley, who died 1908. Cauley, (whose first name is also spelled as Mariah), was several years older than Primus and the couple had one daughter, Ida Maude Jones (1872-1922). Mickey noted her message to me that Primus was listed as Ida's father on her death record from 1922 and was regarded as a kind man who, being a well-to-do cotton planter, left a substantial sum of money to help support Moriah and Ida after his death in 1890.
  Primus and Moriah/Mariah's daughter Ida went on to marry Albert Williams (1868/69-1909) and later had a total of nine children, who are listed as follows in order of their birth:

1.) Randolph Williams of Albany, Georgia: (June 1, 1903-July 4, 1947)
2.) Dorothy Mabel Williams of Albany, Georgia: (July 11, 1895-February 21, 1917)
3.) Maria Mary Williams of Albany, Georgia: (November 28, 1893-October 31, 1975)
4.) Isadore Williams of Albany, Georgia (and later Chicago, Illinois): (September 9, 1896-April 1983)
5.) Wayman S. Williams of Albany, Georgia: (February 9, 1898-November 8, 1976)
6.) Agnew W. Williams of Albany, Georgia: (September 1, 1900-April 22, 1971)
7.) Colleen (Carlean) M. Williams of Albany (and later Decatur, Georgia): (February 23, 1905-May 1977), mother of Janet O. Johnson.
8.) Ida Maude Williams of Albany (and later Greensboro, North Carolina): (October 23, 1907 - April 27, 1976)
9.) Albert Williams of Albany, Georgia, (died ten days after his birth on November 14, 1909)

  The preceding information regarding the lineage of Primus Jones and Moriah Cauley was sent to me via Mickey Bambrick, who also noted (to my great surprise) that the photograph of Primus Jones above (also featured in his article from last year) marked the first time that Mrs. Janet Johnson had seen a photograph of her great-grandfather! All in all truly fascinating history that would have remained unknown to me had Mickey not contacted me on behalf of Janet!

From the Atlanta Constitution, February 8, 1890.

    Shortly after Mickey sent me the extensive lineage of Primus Jones' descendants I began to look more into Jones' later life and managed to stumble across a few articles relating to the last days of his life that I'd been previously been unaware of. Of these new snippets of information, the fact that Jones had a watermelon named in his honor has proven to be the most unique. The "Primus Jones" melon is described by the 1914 edition of Melon Culture as being "a large, quite late melon, dark green, with light stripes and oblong in shape" and further notes that it was "highly prized in the South."
   In addition to having a melon named after him, an obituary for Jones has also been located, via the February 19, 1890 edition of the Manning Times from South Carolina. The Times notes that he had arrived in Atlanta a few weeks previous to his death and had been staying at the Hotel Weinmeister in that city. Shortly afterward he took ill with a severe case of pneumonia, which led to his death at the hotel on February 10, 1890. 
   The Times gives an alternate year of birth for Jones  (1846 instead of 1844) and also tells of his service in the Confederate Army, at age sixteen joining Company F, 41st Georgia Regiment, which eventually saw action under General Braxton Bragg. Prominent notice is given as to Jones' career as a farmer, as well as his record for having "distanced all competitors" by bringing in the first bale of cotton for sale, year after year.

   As stated in the opening passages to this "addition", without Mickey Bambrick stumbling across my write up on Primus Jones I would have never become privy to so many of these fascinating details about Primus that were related to me months after the original article's completion. Many thanks for all of your input, help, and research!! 


  1. Pearl Cunningham WareMarch 20, 2016 at 6:33 PM

    I am one of Primus Jones eleven great-grandchildren whose grandmother was Ida Maude Jones Williams and grandfather was Albert Williams. I had been told that my grandmother had a photograph of Primus which was accidently burned up in the fireplace one day, that he gave a house to my grandmother and her mother, that he had been paying for my grandmother to go to a boarding school for "Colored" pupils, but when he died there was no more money for boarding school and that once my grandmother went with him to visit the cotton field where the workers, former slaves and now servants, said "Here come Massa and his daughter." As far as the statement that"he fell in love" --well, he could have gone to New York and married my great-grandmother. In Georgia and in all southern states, the idea of intermarriage was extremely taboo and the only reason given for segration laws that prohibited African-Americans from using the public libraries and required them to sit at the back of the bus and which lead to lynchings of black men was the idea that integration would lead to amalgamation or mongrelization of the races. submitted by Pearl Cunningham Ware

  2. Hello Pearl!

    Glad to have read your comments on your great grandfather! You may also be interested in reading the original article that I completed on Primus back in April 2013, which is viewable at the following link. Thanks for commenting and if there are any other pieces of familial information you'd like to see included please let me know! ---Andy