W.O. JONES: Welsh Farm-Boy to American Industrialist


Born in 1837, William Owen Jones my 2nd Great Grandfather immigrated to America from Wales between 1856 and 1859, and settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was employed as an apprentice boilermaker. In 1860 he was Naturalized and became an American citizen. He married Ruth Jones (her birth name) in 1866. She was also from Wales and had been first married to John Stark, a coal-miner in July 1860; they were living in Salisbury, Ohio about 100 miles east of Cincinnati.

W.O & Ruth lived in Cincinnati till 1869, then at Ironton, Ohio through 1877. In 1870 when they move to Ironton, W.O.’s daughter Mary Jane, came to live with them. Born of a relationship when he was seventeen with a farm-girl on his grandfather’s farm in Wales, Mary Jane later to be known as “GoGo”, would go on to wed three husbands herself and create a Matriarchal dynasty. When she died in 1944 in Birmingham Alabama,  GoGo was a wealthy and respected self-made woman.

In the 1870s, Ironton was a major industrial center in America and was the largest producer of iron plate and products in the world.  In the 1870 census, W.O. is listed as a “boilermaker”. Boilers were used to power everything in the factories in Ironton, and America.

The move to Louisville in 1878 had to do with work.

By September 1878 and the birth of William Owen Jones, Jr., the last of their six children, the family was living at 229 High Street in Portland, now Louisville.

The name of the Louisville boiler works that W.O. came to be associated with is,  the C.J.Walton & Sons Boiler Works, it was founded in 1836 by Joseph Mitchell, as the Joseph Mitchell Boiler Yard. Located at 1219 Main Street (now West Main Street), it was a five-minute walk from W.O.’s apartment on High Street.

Advertisement 1881

In 1863, Charles James Walton married Louisa Mitchell, the daughter of Joseph Mitchell. It was in that year that C.J.Walton began working at the boiler works.  In 1878 when Joseph Mitchell retired, C.J.Walton took over as President of the company, and it was now called the Joseph Mitchell Boiler Yard, C.J. Walton Proprietor.  It was at this time that C.J. brought in W.O. Jones to replace him as Superintendent of the boiler works.

On August 26, 1885, W.O.’s wife Ruth died of heart disease, leaving W.O. a widower with five children. Their oldest child Mary Elizabeth had died earlier of Typhomalarial Fever when she was thirteen in 1880.

The house on Portland Avenue
The house on Portland Avenue

By March 1886, W.O. had met and married Sarah Webb, who was sixteen years his junior. She was a widow with two children herself, who over the next six years, would add three more children to their brood. In late 1886 the family moved into the new three-story house at 2238 Portland, that W.O. had built.

In 1888, Druid (David) Walton, C.J.Walton’s son, began working at the Boiler Company. He had graduated a year earlier from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey with an M.E. degree.  Now W.O.Jones is listed in Caron’s 1888 Directory of Louisville, as the “Superintendent – The Joseph Mitchell Boiler Yard“.

Twelve years later in 1900, C.J.Walton retires and Druid Walton, his son, becomes President of C.J. Walton & Sons. In the 1900 census, W.O.’s son Evan Owen Jones, my Great Grandfather is 30 years old, married, and listed as the Superintendent of the Boiler Yard. He had started working there when he was 17 in 1888, and became Superintendent, nine years later in 1897, taking over his father’s position. Also in that 1900 census, two of Evan’s maternal nephews are also working at the boiler yard, as are other relatives.

Walton Tubular Boiler 1911
Walton Tubular Boiler 1911

In 1909 W.O. Jones, now 72 retired from the Boiler Works, his employment listed as “none”, in the 1910 census. The next year 1911, finds Evan Jones, Druid Walton and Jesse Ellis Coleman, who had worked there approximately thirty years, forming company with a $50,000 investment, which is called C.J.Walton & Son, “for the manufacture and sales of metal boilers”.  Either they have acquired all the stock in the company or they have put additional money into it. In February 1922, W.O. Jones dies.  At the end of that October, Druid Walton commits suicide in his office.

In 1926 the business and property of C.J. Walton & Son was sold to the Drummond Manufacturing company. It happened that the Drummond plant that was the largest manufacturer of wagon axles in America, and had been located next door to C.J. Walton & Sons for over sixty years. Drummond continued manufacturing the boilers of the Walton design for several more years. drummondThrough the end of the Second World War the boiler division continued to manufacture liquid storage tanks of 50,000 gallons plus. After 1952 the company is no longer found to be in operation.

Evan Owen Jones retired in 1927 and died in 1932.

Born in Brazil: Margarietja Polhemus – my 8th Great Grandmother

Forte Orange
Forte Orange, Itamaracá‬. Today.

My 8th great-grandmother Margarietje Polhemus was born in 1642 inItamaracá‬, Pernambuco State, Brazil and died in 1702 in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. Her father Dominie Johannes Theodores Polhemius was a Minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Holland and in 1637 he was part of the Dutch migration to Brazil, taking over the Colony of Recife from the Portuguese. He was appointed Minister to the Dutch Garrison at Fort Orange on the Island of Itamaracá.

After years of turmoil and revolts by the Portuguese, the Dutch abandoned Itamaracá on December 13, 1647. At this point, six-year-old Margarietje and her family would have moved to the relative safety of Recife, on the mainland. Battles with the Portuguese at the Dutch settlement of Recife continued for six more years. The Dutch finally lost control of Recife on January 28, 1654, leaving the Portuguese with the colony of Brazil and putting an end to Nieuw Holland.

The Dutch fled on sixteen ships back to Holland, but Dominie Polhemius was on a different ship than his wife and children. The ship he was on along with twenty-three members of the Jewish community of Recife, was captured by Spanish pirates, they were rescued soon after by the French ship, “Le Charles” and after agreeing to pay for their transportation, they eventually reached the New Amsterdam. The Dutch Governor Pieter Stuyvesant requested that Dominie Polhemius stay and lead the Dutch Reformed Church of Flatbush, along with the churches in the Towns of Breukelen and Flatlands. The three churches operated as “collegiate” churches, sharing Domine Theodorus Polhemus as their first pastor. After two years, once he was established in New Amsterdam, his wife and children, who had been living in Holland, sailed back across the Atlantic and joined him in Flatbush.

Maybe there is another explanation as to why the family was separated. My DNA very clearly indicates that I descend from Brazilian Native Americans and Central African. I propose that Margarietja’s father was most likely a mulatto soldier serving in the Dutch garrison of Itamarca. 

Read more about the related histories of Brazil, the Netherlands and New Amsterdam, here.

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First Blog Post….First Child Born in New Netherland…Sarah Rapalje

Since this is my first post I thought I would start by writing about my 9th Great Grandmother, Sarah Rapalje, the first European child born in New Netherland. She was born at what would become Albany, New York on July 9, 1625, and died in New Amsterdam in 1685, by then known as New York City. Her parents were Joris Jansen Rapalje [1604-1662] and Catalyntje Trico [1605-1689], they had sailed from Holland on the Eendracht, the first ship to bring immigrants to New Netherland in 1624. The Rapalje family originally settled at Fort Orange, in what would eventually become Beverwyck (later known as Albany, New York).

Catalyntje and Joris were to live at Fort Orange for three years. It was there, in a dirt-floored room of a small cabin inside the stockaded fort, that their daughter Sarah was born in 1625.

In 1626 Peter Minuit was appointed the third Director-General of New Netherland and on 24 May 1626, on behalf of the Dutch West India Company, he purchased the island of Manhattan from a Metoac band of Algonquian-speaking Lenape known as the Canarsee Indians. Soon after all the families at Fort Orange were moved to Manhattan, where a grid of streets and canals were laid out,  houses and farms established, and warehouses built.

Catalyntje and Joris Rapelje went on to thrive in New Amsterdam, where they were allocated a plot on the north side of Pearl Street, abutting the Dutch fort and there Joris opened one of the first taverns, which also served as an Inn. There they remained until after the birth of their youngest child Daniel in 1650.

Medallion given to Sarah Rapelje on occasion of her marriage to Hans Hansen Bergen, 1639.
Medallion given to Sarah Rapelje on occasion of her marriage to Hans Hansen Bergen.

Sarah married Hans Hansen Bergen in 1639 when she was only 14 years old and he was 29. Hans died in 1654, only 15 years following their marriage. Sarah was 29 years old and had borne 8 children, including my ancestor Michael Hansen Bergen. About a year after her husband Hans Bergen died, Sarah married Teunis Gysbertsen Bogaert. Sarah and Teunis would then go on to have seven more children.

Sarah died in 1685, during her 60th year. Her mother, Catalyntje Trico actually outlived her oldest daughter Sarah. Catalyntje passed away in 1689, at age 84, four years following Sarah’s death. It has been estimated that Sarah Rapalje’s offspring number at least a million descendants. One of the more famous descendants is Humphrey Bogart, the actor.

My descent from Sarah