JONES, EPHRAIM, soldier, office holder, landowner, businessman, judge, and politician; b. 27 April 1750, in an “elegant mansion house,” at Weston, Mass., ninth son of Elisha Jones and Mary Allen; m. first 24 March 1779 Charlotte Coursolles (Coursol) of Verchères, Que., and they had 12 children, eight of whom survived infancy; m secondly 7 May 1806 Margaret S. Beke (Beck, Beek); d. 24 Jan. 1812 in Augusta Township, Upper Canada.
Ephraim Jones is a noteworthy character in the history of early Upper Canada both because of his influence in the local life of Leeds and Grenville counties, and because his career and its extension in the work of his sons exemplify a link in that network of friends and ideological allies which, christened the “family compact” by its enemies, dominated the political affairs of the province until the 1837 rebellion.
Service to the crown during the American revolution demonstrated the loyalty of both Ephraim and his family. His father, a prosperous landowner and a colonel in the militia of Middlesex County, Mass., was an early and strenuous opponent of the revolution, and after moving to Boston in 1774 was reputedly consulted on numerous occasions by Thomas Gage*, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, who “placed the greatest confidence in him.” Six of his sons joined the loyalist standard, and five of them moved to British North America in the 1780s: Simeon settled in New Brunswick, Elisha, Josiah, and Stephen in Nova Scotia, and Ephraim in the western section of the province of Quebec, soon to become Upper Canada.
Like his father, Ephraim enjoyed the “confidence” of the British authorities. Living at East Hoosack (Hoosac), Mass., at the beginning of the war, he joined the British at Point au Fer (Rouses Point), N.Y., and served for a time with the troops commanded by Major-General Friedrich Adolph Riedesel. Shortly after, Sir Guy Carleton appointed him commissary of forage in the army of John Burgoyne*, and in that position he was with Burgoyne and taken prisoner in the Saratoga campaign in 1777. His whereabouts for the next few years are unknown, but in 1781 he enlisted in the Loyal Rangers, under the command of Edward Jessup, and served until that regiment was disbanded in December 1783.
Along with other men of the loyalist corps, Jones settled in the virgin territory west of the Ottawa River. Although he does not seem to have received a land grant, he apparently resided in what was shortly to be Augusta Township. He served briefly as a commissary for the loyalist settlers, thereby gaining the sobriquet “Commissary Jones,” and in late 1784 Surveyor General Samuel Johannes Holland, who was acquainted with Jones and “several of his Brothers” and spoke highly of his father’s reputation as “a great forestander in Loyalty,” recommended him as a suitable person to be entrusted with a licence for the sale of liquor. Some time later Jones moved to the Montreal area, where he was appointed a justice of the peace in 1786. Within a couple of years, however, he had returned to the loyalist settlements on the St Lawrence. In 1788 he was made a jp in the Luneburg District, and in 1790 he obtained a grant of 1,300 acres of land in Augusta Township for the services he had rendered the crown. Far from remaining content with his initial grant, Jones quickly became a large landowner: by 1811 he had accumulated approximately 11,260 acres of land scattered over 12 townships. He also established himself as an important figure in the business life of the area, for besides being a shopkeeper he apparently operated a mill and owned an iron foundry on the Gananoque River.
The number of elective and appointive offices Jones held is an indication of his local prominence. During the first decade after the formation of the new colony of Upper Canada in 1791, Jones served as a member of the land board of Leeds and Grenville counties, and as a judge on the New Johnstown (Cornwall) Court of Requests as well as on the surrogate courts of the Eastern and Johnstown districts. He was also elected in 1792 as Grenville County’s first member in the new House of Assembly. In the first session he introduced a bill, which was later passed, establishing trials by jury; and although the owner of a number of slaves, he supported the 1793 act providing for the gradual abolition of slavery in the colony.
Business success, together with a record of loyalty and administrative competence, made Jones a person who held the trust of both the government and his local community, and who could act as intermediary between the two. His function as a link between settlers and administrators was revealed in a letter of 1799 in which Stephen Burritt of Marlborough Township, who hoped to receive government aid, asked that Jones “be so well convinced of the reality of my sufferings as . . . to give me a certificate of the same and I shall acknowledge the particular favour with Gratitude.” As it happened, Burritt did not have to wait long for a mark of government favour: whether Jones’s influence played any role is uncertain, but in 1800 Burritt became a jp.
Jones’s children also entered the Upper Canadian élite, their claims to prominence solidified by his friendships as well as by his achievements. Jones sent his son Jonas* to the school run in Cornwall by John Strachan*, who appears to have been on easy terms with the family well before his own political success was ensured. In the 1820s Jones’s sons captured remunerative appointments because of their ties with Strachan and his associates such as John Beverley Robinson*, who rose to power during and after the War of 1812.
A letter written by Strachan in 1806 provides early evidence of Jones’s frail health. His death in January 1812 proved a temporary setback to his children’s ambitions. They were, however, to build well on the foundations he had provided. Of his daughters, Charlotte married Levius Peters Sherwood*, a leading politician and judge, and Eliza married Henry John Boulton*, whose legal career in Upper Canada was capped with his appointment in 1833 as chief justice of Newfoundland. His sons climbed rapidly up the ladder of preference: Alpheus became collector of customs, postmaster, and agent of the Bank of Upper Canada at Prescott; William, a miller, merchant, and lumberman, was made collector of customs in Brockville; Jonas, a member of the House of Assembly, was appointed puisne judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench in 1837 and became speaker of the Legislative Council in 1839; Charles*, also an assembly member and one of Brockville’s most prominent early merchants, was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1828. Ephraim’s family had succeeded him in the provincial patronage network.