Willis Cornelius Jones

Brother of my great great grandfather, John Newton Jones


Willis Cornelius Jones was born at the home of his parents, Robert and Melinda Ewing Jones, fifteen miles east of Bolivar, In Hardeman County, TN. He died 11 January 1908 in Amity, Clark County, AR. A Confederate marker was obtained by descendants and installed at his grave in Jones Cemetery in 1992.

Willis Jones’ paternal Grandfather, Andrew Jones, was a Captain of Militia in the War of 1812 from Livingston County, KY. The maternal grandfather of W. C. Jones was James Ewing, a member of the Ewing family of Virginia and Tennessee, one of whose members founded the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Goodspeed’s History of Central Arkansas, published in 1889, states that W. C. Jones was educated in the common schools of his native state. He began his study of medicine at the Memphis Medical College, later moving with his family to Pontotoc County, MS and to Clark County, AR, in 1849. He entered a quarter section of land which was covered by timber. Erecting a log house, he commenced the practice of medicine, being truly a pioneer in that county.

Willis C. Jones married, 3 February 1853, Mary Adeline “Polly” Wright, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth “Betsy” Fowler Wright, born 9 February 1834 in Georgia, died March 1904 in Hot Springs, AR, and buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Hot Springs.

Willis C. Jones enlisted at Wayside in Hot Spring County in the spring of 1861 and served until the Confederate Army was disbanded. He served in Harrison’s Fourth Arkansas Infantry and later in Hanson’s, Proctor’s, and Burke’s Company under Colonel J. R. Shaler and Captain R. Maxey.

Both Willis C. Jones and his older brother, Dr. Alfred Jones, practiced medicine in this area—Alfred in Montgomery County, where he lived in Jones Valley near Caddo Gap. A descendant of Dr. Alfred Jones, Granville Cubage of Caddo Gap and Hot Springs, described his Uncle Doc as one of the best baby doctors in his part of the country, and stated he was quite noted in this area as a diagnostician. He described Dr. Alfred Jones as being about five feet, nine inches tall, dark, with a rather spare frame, neat, and as well-dressed as possible for the times. He was considered a professional man and dressed accordingly. In later years, he has an abundant growth of silvery white hair and a beard.

On 21 February 1903, in Muskogee, OK, Willis Jones and several members of his family made application for identification as Mississippi Choctaw Indians and were examined by the Dawes Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes on 21 February 1903. In his testimony, Dr. Jones claimed one-eighth Choctaw blood through his father, Robert Jones, and grandmother Rebecca Box, under Article Fourteen of the Treaty of 1830. When asked if his father and grandmother could speak the Choctaw language, he affirmed that they could and stated that he himself understood the language, though not perfectly. He knew some words and could count. If you wanted to tell a man he was a hundred years old, you said “Pocola Tucalo.” None of the Jones applicants could prove their Choctaw ancestors complied, or attempted to comply, with the provisions of Article Fourteen and were not successful in establishing their Indian heritage. Their applications were denied.

The children of Willis Cornelius and Mary Adeline Wright Jones were: (1) Nancy Elizabeth (born 24 December 1853/54 in Clark County, died 27 February 1920 in Spencerville, Choctaw County, OK) married 18 December 1870 Alexander Wright (born 16 October 1844, died 22 November 1920 in Spencerville, OK), son of Augustus and Lavina Ann Sellers Wright, descendants of two Mayflower passengers; (2) Joseph Henry (born ca. 1855 in Hot Spring County, AR, died ca. 1911 in Oklahoma), a minister of the Missionary Baptist Church in Crystal Springs community, married in 1877 Martha Cearley, daughter of Hiram Cearley; (3) Sarah Jane (born 2 August 1857 in Hot Spring County, died 12 June 1946 in Spencerville, OK), married 27 January 1876 William Andrew Jackson; (4) Mary Melinda (born 5 September 1860 in Arkansas, died 4 August 1947, buried Hickory Grove Cemetery, Hot Spring County), married Henry Patton Keith (born 4 October 1856, died 16 May 1924, buried Hickory Grove Cemetery); (5) Eliza Handson (born 6 July 1861 in Arkansas, died 24 January 1892), married 25 December 1879, Jessie McDuffie Ketchum, at her father’s house by John W. Davis, minister; (6) Julia A. (born 1864), married Dozier Matthews; (7) Margaret A. (born 1866 in Arkansas, died in Pattenville, TX), married Monroe Berry of Montgomery, AL.

--submitted by Bobbie Jones McLane


Book: Clark County Arkansas – Past and Present, 1992 by the Clark County Historical Association.