Dr. William B. Jones

If Einstein was correct, then time like space is a dimension in which one can travel.

Ozzie took took this trip one Saturday in the middle of August with his two companions, Sammy and Toby.  Sammy is Ozzie’s German Shephard, Rin-Tin-Tin’s skittish sister, if he had one . Toby belongs to Ozzies’ daughter, and he is a mix of a Jack Russell Terrier and a Cur Hound. Toby is the Evander Hollyfield of dogs – he has a big heart in a small body.

Our destination was 1878, the place Marion County, Kansas. We were travelling along the broad river bottom that follows the course of the Cottonwood River near Florence to see the the Bichet school, just to the east of Florence and close to the railroad tracks that run the course of the river.

I would tell about the Bichet school here (it served the 60 French families that came to the area of the Cottonwood in the late 1890’s), but the three of us found another story. Tucked up in the Flint Hills to the south of the river and overlooking the river bottom, stands tall and silent the home of Dr. William B. Jones, 1878.

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It is an unlikely spot for a home. Just two miles to the north is the broad river bottom where crops will grow even in a dry Kansas summer. But in the hills the rocky soil holds no moisture and so the ground can not sustain a tree or a garden. Cattle, of course, can graze on the grass, and that is what Dr. William Jones raised. This much is apparent from the stone post and stone buildings that once must have served the cattle he raised.

Who is Dr. William B. Jones?

The website DarkKansas gives a clue.

Dr. William B. Jones was born [1836] in Fleming County, Kentucky,  completed his literary education there and went to Missouri prior to the removal of the family. He read medicine at St. Louis and was graduated there in 1879. He subsequently practiced at Richmond, Missouri; Holton, Kansas; Florence, Kansas; and finally came to Cherokee County. He engaged in practice for two years at Columbus and then located at Galena, where he still resides. He married Sarah C. Strahn, of Fleming County, Kentucky, and they had seven sons, namely: Charles M., of this sketch; W. S. and Clemuel H., both physicians in practice at Galena; Ammon K., a blacksmith located at Joplin, Missouri; W. Dudley, a passenger engineer in the employ of the “Frisco” system, running from Sapulpa to Paris, Indian Territory; William, residing with our subject; and Porter, of Galena.

Another clue comes from Skyways Library which reproduces a biography of his son, Dr. Charles M. Jones of Baxter Springs.

Dr. Charles M. Jones was educated in the schools of Florence, Kansas, and was graduated from the high school at the age of 17 years. He then entered upon the study of medicine under his father and took his first examination in 1879, when but 19 years of age, too young to be permitted to practice. On February 10, 1880, he was granted a license to practice as a one year’s student. In 1882 he returned to college, took his second course and was graduated February 23, 1883. After graduation, Dr. Jones practiced at Florence for 11 years and then removed to Fall River for five years and then located at Baxter Springs. Here his ability has been generally recognized and his practice is a large and lucrative one.

That is not much information from which to reconstruct a life. Then again, sometimes it is more than one thinks.

Dr. Jones was a successful man. That much is apparent from the large two story stone house and the several stone outbuildings that he built far from town. He was fastidious. That is apparent from the care that was executed in the cutting of the stone, the carved lentils, the roof which after 120 years still remains. From the road the house looks almost new, as if it were in the process of being built and not abandoned.

I did not count the rooms. Now that I know that he had seven sons, I wish that I had. Still, for its time and place, the house was large. Perhaps it was a summer home where the doctor took his rambunctious brood away from the city to experience the mysteries of country life. For the seven boys it would not have been an exciting life. The hills are treeless, the little water there is comes in gullies and in August, the gullies are dry. I imagine that the whistling of the wind would drive anyone crazy quickly. And so it is that Dar Kansas tells us that the house was sold by the time of an 1885 census. But a fact check is in order here because every census that I know of was done at the beginning and end of a decade and not in the middle.

Still, we know from the biography of his son Charles, that Dr. Jones practiced in Florence for much of his life while his children went to school. He was evidently a pillar of the community and so, there must be something left behind in the records of Florence Kansas.

After an hour on the Flint Hills with Sammy and Toby, I knew it was time to leave. The dogs had ceased running and chasing each other. Now they were standing in the shade of the house hiding from the sun. Their tongues were lolling out of the mouths and they were panting furiously trying to remain cool in a hot and arid environment. So we left.


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