[b.1750 - d.1812]
History deals with man's past as a social being.
On August 17th, 1792, Ephraim Jones was sworn in as the member for Grenville County in Upper Canada's first Legislative Assembly. This exceptional man was a person of position and popularity in the colony. He and his distinguished dynasty forged a firm link with the establishment which eventually became known as the Family Compact. This Tory clique, which was linked by political, social and religious connections, was to dominate political affairs in the province until 1837.
Ephraim, a United Empire Loyalist, was a farmer, miller, merchant and manufacturer. The ninth son of Elisha and Mary Jones, Ephraim was born on April 27, 1750 in an "an elegant mansion house" at Weston, Massachusetts. Elisha, a prosperous landowner, was a colonel in the Massachusetts militia and an early and ardent opponent of the American Revolution. Service to their sovereign was central to the lives of both sire and sons, six of whom joined the Loyalist standard. Elisha's prestige was such that he was often consulted by the commander-in-chief of British forces, General Thomas Gage, who placed "the greatest confidence" in Elisha.
Ephraim enjoyed the same trust. Governor Sir Guy Carleton appointed him commissary of forage in the army of General John Burgoyne. While serving under 'Gentleman Johnny' Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1777, Ephraim was taken prisoner when the British forces surrendered. Following his release some time later, Ephraim joined Jessup's Loyal Rangers as an ensign and served until the regiment was disbanded in 1783. With other members of Jessup's Rangers, Ephraim moved to Canada where the young half-pay officer decided to locate in a Loyalist settlement along the St. Lawrence River.
Ephraim became known as `Commissary' Jones following a brief stint handling food and supplies for the Loyalist settlers. When widespread drinking menaced the settlement, it was decided to license the sale of liquor. As the son of a great "forestander in Loyalty," and a highly responsible individual, Ephraim alone was selected by Major Jessup as the person most proper to be entrusted with the liquor licence.
In 1790 Ephraim received 1300 acres in Augusta Township for services to the crown and by 1811 he had accumulated some 11,260 acres of land scattered over 12 townships. His activities as shopkeeper and owner of a mill and foundry on the Gananoque River firmly established him as an important businessman as well as large landowner.
Jones held a number of elective and appointive offices including justice of the peace, member of the land board for Leeds and Grenville counties, and judge on the New Johnstown (Cornwall) court. In the first session of the legislature, Jones introduced a bill establishing trial by jury. In 1793 he supported the act providing for the gradual abolition of slavery in the colony despite being the owner of numerous slaves, their numbers and names each recorded in his account books. In 1798 Ephraim introduced a bill to establish a public market at York for direct sale of produce between farmer and consumer. While initially agreed to by the Assembly, the bill as amended by the Legislative Council was subsequently rejected.
Because of Ephraim's business success and his unrivalled record of loyalty, his word within government circles carried a great deal of weight. His influence with officials was such that applicants for aid or public appointments frequently first sought his support, usually with positive results. One Stephen Burritt wrote telling Ephraim "of the reality of my sufferings" and requesting that Jones certify his needs and his worth to public administrators in exchange for which Burritt promised he would "acknowledge that particular favour with Gratitude." Burritt subsequently received an appointment as justice of the peace.
Ephraim had twelve children by his first wife, eight of whom survived infancy. They were educated with the province's elite in John Strachan's grammar school in Cornwall. As adults they were to receive remunerative appointments because of their ties with Strachan and others like John Beverely Robinson who rose to power in Upper Canada during and after the War of 1812.
Early evidence of Ephraim's frail health was revealed in 1806 and after a lingering illness he died in January, 1812. He made ample provision in his will for his children, one son receiving 900 acres of land, 200 pounds for law books, and a large sum "for reasonable expenses till he shall be admitted to the bar." Jones' name and fame were perpetuated by his children, whose entry into the select society of Upper Canada was bolstered by their father's friendships and achievements. Raised in an atmosphere of privilege and wealth, they built upon Ephraim's accomplishments and rose rapidly up the ladder of preference. Two Jones' girls married judges, one of whom became chief justice of Newfoundland. Two of Ephraim's sons, one a judge and the other Brockville's most prominent merchant, were elected to the Assembly. Both were appointed as well to the Legislative Council where Judge Jones became speaker. Two other sons achieved distinction in business and banking, each receiving appointments as collectors of customs, one at Prescott and one at Brockville.
The provincial patronage network worked well for the Jones' boys.
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