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A Patriarch of the Elmwood Business Community

Miles Jones, himself, was not a well known figure in the Elmwood business community, but this sketch will reveal the great influence that his sons and sons-in-law had on Elmwood business in the late 1800’s. Miles Jones had an active business life as a carpenter in Sydney, Ontario and moved to Elmwood only after he was 65 years old and no longer directly involved in business. Contrarily, the members of his extended family were involved in many of the early business enterprises in Elmwood, and formed businesses and partnerships with the names of Jones, Douglas, VanSickle, Venn, and Vandervoort. These names were prominent on the shop signs and newspaper advertisements in Elmwood from 1860 to 1900.

Here are some representative newspaper advertisements and business directory notices from Elmwood in 1866 and 1870.

1866 - WM. DOUGLAS & Co. - Carriage & Wagon Makers, Near the Depot, - Elmwood, Ill. would respectively announce to the Farming community, and all others interested, that they are now fully prepared to manufacture all kinds of Carriages & Lumber Wagons. In a style which they warrant to give satisfaction, in respect to both Workmanship and Materials, the work being done under their immediate inspection, and, good iron and well-seasoned lumber only, being used. Open and Caliche Top Buggies made in the most fashionable style. Lumber Wagons with iron or Wooden Axles or Thimble Skeins, and fitted with Seats and Patent Brakes. One Horse Wagons, etc., got up promptly to order. Re-fitting, Repairing done to order.


1870 - JONES & VANDERVOORT - Keep a full stock of Dry Goods, Furnishings, Boots, Shoes, Hats, Caps, Carpeting, &. They also have in their employ a first-class Tailor, so that persons can be accommodated with goods ready-made or unmade. They are among the early settlers in the place, and are known to be gentlemen of enterprise and reliability, identifying themselves with every progressive feature of the place.


1870 - CALDWELL & VENN -- Manufacture Carriages, Wagons and Buggies, and they do General Blacksmithing on call. They put up just as fine a Carriage as can be turned out of any shop in the State; hence they should receive the patronage of the public, in their line, instead of giving it to other rival shops of the town.

The Jones family has deep and interesting roots. Miles Jones’s descendents can trace their family tree, through Miles’s great grandmother, Joanna Abell, back to King Edward III and other royals including Charlemagne and various emperors of Rome . In May 1704, Miles’ great grandfather, Benjamin Jones was the only survivor or the Pascomunch Indian Massacre in Connecticut , during which his father and two brothers lost their lives. Benjamin alone barely escaped with his life. Miles Jones, born on 6 Nov 1794 in Otis, Mass., married Pamela Ketchum Turner in Chautauqua Co. New York in 1822. They lived for a while in Sydney Ontario and several of his sons and daughters got married there. The families started moving to Elmwood, Illinois in 1859. When Miles Jones died in 1885, at 90 years of age, he was the oldest man living in Elmwood; thereafter that honor passed on to Father Hiram Brown, then 88 years old.

Miles’s son, Luther Franklin Jones was the first of the Jones family to come to Elmwood. He and his brother-in-law, J. A. Vandervoort, came to Elmwood in 1859 and went into the grocery and mercantile business as Jones and Vandervoort. Back in Ontario , Joseph Aikens Vandervoort married Miles Jones’s daughter, Eleanor Eliza Jones, on 6 Nov 1849 and 10 years later the couple and three of their children came to Elmwood.

When J. A. Vandervoort and L. F. Jones arrived in Elmwood in 1859 there were only two business houses in the town. They decided to try the grocery business and opened their first shop in the building opposite the Elmwood house on the block of Magnolia just south of Hawthorne . At the time, both families had to live over the store as there was nary a house for rent in town. A couple of years later, J. A. Vandervoort bought a small residence from Daniel Caverly for $600 and was very proud of it as it was the first home he called his own.

A few years later, Vandervoort and Jones relocated onto the next block of Magnolia and called their new larger store (twenty-four feet by one hundred feet!), the Palace of Trade, deeming it deserving of such a glorified name as it was one of the finest business rooms in town. The firm was a going concern until Mr. Jones’ death in June 1871; thereafter the firms name changed to Vandervoort and Wyley, and remained so until June 1878 when J. A. Vandervoort retired. His son and son-in-law took over his interest and the firm was renamed Wyley, Vandervoort and Sloan. In 1897, the store was run by J. A.’s son and known as W. M. Vandervoort.

The success of the Palace of Trace didn’t keep the owners from exploring other businesses. In 1866, L. F. Jones and J. A. Vandervoort partnered with J. J. Rose of Elmwood and W. E. Phelps -- the son of W. J. Phelps, the founder of Elmwood -- and formed W. E. Phelps & Co, a stock company for the purpose of working in wood and iron. A machine shop, foundry, wood shop and blacksmith shop were built and fitted with the necessary machinery in addition to Rose's newly patented tin upsetter, punch and shears. They ventured into various types of manufacturing, but the concern lost money, and finally closed up business altogether. Ultimately W. E. Phelps bought out the interests of the other partners.

The proceeds from that sale enabled J. A. Vandervoort and L. F. Jones to embark upon a new venture with William Douglas forming Douglas & Co:  a mercantile business in Elmwood. William Douglas joined the Jones family by espousing Sarah Maria Jones in 1852 back in Ontario . They started a family in Ontario , and then moved with their three children to Elmwood in 1862. Wm. Douglas had been a blacksmith in Ontario and upon arriving in Elmwood he opened a carriage and wagon business on the site where the Elmwood foundry and machine shops later stood.

Wm. Douglas continued in the carriage and wagon business until the fall of 1866. He then engaged in the mercantile business with his brother-in-law Harvey VanSickle as Douglas and VanSickle. Harvey VanSickle had married another Jones daughter, Maria Ann Jones, in Elmwood in 1861. After his death in 1869, L. F.  Jones and J. A. Vandervoort purchased the VanSickle interest and the firm was renamed Douglas and Co.

In 1871, Wm. Douglas disposed of his interest in Douglas and Co. and reentered the carriage and wagon business with his new brother-in-law, James Venn. James Venn and Maria Ann Jones had married the year before, after both had lost their spouses. Although James Venn had been a competitor of Wm. Douglas in the carriage business, after he joined the family, he and Wm. decided to become partners. Wm. Douglas bought out the Caldwell interest in Caldwell and Venn, and the firm became known as Douglas and Venn. In 1878, Wm. Douglas bought out Mr. Venn and the firm’s name changed again, this time to Douglas & Son.

Two other Jones sons resided in Elmwood as well. Darius Benjamin Jones came to Elmwood in 1862 and worked in the mercantile business until 1872 when he moved to Emerson, Iowa and engaged in the same business. Washington Winsor Jones was living in Elmwood by 1878 when his daughter Edith was born. He moved to Abingdon, Ill about 1880, and then returned to Elmwood Ill about 1891.

Today, we may well ask why the Jones sons and sons-in-law, who were so prominent and successful in Elmwood in the late 1800’s, are no longer represented in the town. There are a number of reasons. Wm. Douglas’s son, William H. Douglas, for example, persevered in the wagon business and eventually worked for the Brown Carriage Company in Elmwood. However, when the automobile took the place of the horse and buggy, he could no longer find suitable employment in Elmwood and was obliged to move to Peoria, Illinois where he worked for Aetna Insurance for 30 years. His family remained there after his death. The Vandervoort family was very successful in Elmwood, but J. A. Vandervoort’s son -- who was named after his grandfather as Winsor Miles Jones Vandervoort -- moved to Chicago and eventually died in Evanston, Illinois.

In the late 1800’s, many people were familiar with the businesses and enterprises of the large Jones family, but, as time went on, they tended to forget the family ties between the sons and sons-in-law of Miles Jones which had facilitated their partnerships and helped hold these partnerships together. Distance eventually broke those ties and over time the memories of them faded from the minds of those who had once known or done business with the descendants of Miles Jones.

(This sketch of Elmwood in the 1800’s was prepared in March 2003 by Albert Douglass Hart, Jr. - a descendant of Miles Jones.)

Click on links below for more information on the Jones Family

Miles Jones

Joseph Aikens Vandervoort

William Douglas

James Venn

Harvey VanSickle

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