Compiled by Dale Wint, Catasuqua historian


Souces:  History of Allegheny County; The Romance of Steel; Clipping book 1 - Catasauqua Public Library.


(Newt Bugbee Files)



Captain William R. Jones was born February 23, 1839, in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. He was of Welsh descent, his father, the Rev. John C. Jones being born in Brecon, Breconshire, Wales on February 12, 1805. With his wife, Magdalene, who was born in Ystradgynlais, Breconshire, Wales on February 26, 1809, and two children, he emigrated to America in 1832, and first settled in Pittsburgh. The family removed from Pittsburgh to Scranton, arid later to Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre and finally to Catasauqua.


Rev. John C. Jones was the religious and intellectual leader of the Welsh community in the village of Catasauqua. He earned his living as a pattern maker for the Lehigh Crane Iron Works and he resided in one of the "company homes" at No. 315 Church Street. He was an educated man and he possessed a personal library of one hundred and fifty volumes, the largest collection in the village. They were mainly historical books, such as Plutarch and Esephus, with Shakespeare and other miscellaneous classics.


The Rev. John G. and Magdalene Jones were blessed with following children; David, born 1831, married Mersena .. daughter of John Peter; Mary, born 1835; Margaret, born 1837; William R., born February 23. 1839; Rebecca, born 1841; Sarah M., born 1843; John, born 1845; and James, born December 16, 1846, died September 1847.


Magdalene Jones passed away on September 12,.and her remains were interred at the churchyard cemetery, they were later re-interred at Fairview Cemetery. Rev. John C. Jones was in ill health for several years and he passed away on April 27, 1853 and his remains were later interred along with those of his wife at Fairview Cemetery. Several years before his death, Captain William R. Jones erected a granite monument over their graves at Fairview Cemetery.


William R. Jones obtained a rudimentary education in the public grade schools of Catasauqua and through the use of his father's personal library he continued his own education. While attending school the young "Bill" Jones wrecked the schoolhouse, because the teacher had unjustly whipped one of his schoolmates.


Owing to his father's ill health he was compelled to commence work during the year of 1849, at the age of ten years. He was apprenticed to the Lehigh Crane Iron Works in the foundry department and later was placed in the machine shop of the company, under the tutelage of Hopkin Thomas. By the time he arrived at the age of fourteen, in 1853, he was receiving the full wages of a regular journeyman machinist.


William R. Jones and James Thomas left Catasauqua and for several months they entered the employ of William Millens, (ed., possibly William Milnes) who operated a machine shop at Janesville, Luzerne County. In 1856, they moved to Philadelphia, and worked as machinists in the shops of I. P. Morris & Company, where they worked on two large blast engines for the Lehigh Crane Iron works, and they were sent to Catasauqua with the force of men to erect the same. After the completion of this work William R. Jones returned to Philadelphia. The Panic of 1857 compelled him to search for other employment and he engaged himself to a lumberman by the name of Evans, going with him to Clearfield County. He remained with Mr. Evans, as a farm hand, lumberman and raftsman, until the spring of 1858, when he entered the employ of a farmer named Ricketts. He then was employed as an engineer by the firm of Gibson Bros., near Glen Hope, Clearfield County, and later in the same capacity for William Levis, at Beccaria Mills. In the spring of 1859 he removed to Johnstown, and worked as a machinist for the Cambria Iron Company, under John Fritz, then general superintendent of the company. After working there three months he was offered the position of master-mechanic by Giles Edwards, who was engaged to build a blast-furnace it Chattanooga, Tennessee. He accepted the offer and removed to Chattanooga, where he remained until the out break of the War Between the States, when because of his outspoken loyalty to the Union he was compelled to travel north with his young bride. Returning to Johnstown, in 1861, William R. Jones was again employed by the Cambria Iron Company as a machinist. On April 14, 1861, William R. Jones and Miss Harriet Lloyd were wed at Chattanooga, Tennessee. Four children born to this union; the eldest Ella, died in 1864; William M. C., was employed by the Edgar Thomson Steel works as an engineer and surveyor; Cora; and Charles, who died at a young age.


On July 31, 1862, William R. Jones enlisted as a private in Co. A, 133rd Regiment. Pennsylvania Volunteers, and on August 5, 1862, he was mustered in for nine months' service and was promoted to corporal. The regiment was incorporated into the 5th Corps of the Army of the Potomac and participated in the Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville campaigns, being mustered out of service on May 24, 1863. He returned to Johnstown, and, as skilled workmen were becoming very scarce, was induced by George Fritz, the general superintendent of the works, to again enter the employ of the Cambria Iron Company. Becoming dissatisfied with remaining at home and impelled by his patriotic impulses, he organized Co. F, 194th Regiment. Pennsylvania Volunteers, and was mustered in as captain of that organization on July 20, 1864, for one hundred days' service. On October 10, 1864, three weeks before the regiment's date of mustering out, he was transferred to the 97th Regiment, Pennsylvania "Volunteers. He served as captain of an independent company made up of men from the 193rd and 194th Regiments, Pennsylvania Volunteers and he served as such until the company was mustered out on June 17, 1865.


Upon returning home Captain William R. Jones again entered the employ of the Cambria Iron Company as assistant to George Fritz. While in the employ of the Cambria Iron Company Captain Jones assisted in the construction of the company's Bessemer steel-converting and blooming mill plants. With the death of George Fritz, in August of 1873, Daniel N. Jones was appointed superintendent over Captain "Bill" Jones. Daniel N. Jones had learned his trade at the Lehigh Crane Iron Works in Catasauqua and he also trained as a master-mechanic under Hopkin Thomas. Captain "Bill" Jones resigned his position at the Cambria Iran Works and left Johnstown. Re was then hired as a master-mechanic by the Edgar Thomson Steel Company at Braddock, near Pittsburgh, to help erect their steel works and rail-mill. Upon the completion of the works, the owner, Andrew Carnegie, hired captain "Bill" Jones as the general manager and afterwards he was given the full, charge of the engineering department. In 1875, surrounded by his faithful men from Johnstown, Captain Jones began to show the world how to make steel. He broke all the records for steel production, not only in America but also in Great Britain. In his first fifteen months of steel-making, Captain "Bill" Jones turned out nearly twice as much steel as any one had made before with a plant of equal size. He continued to increase his production and to set new records for production year after year. When the British Iron and Steel Institute met in 1881, a paper written by Captain William R. Jones was read by its secretary. In the paper Captain Jones modestly ascribed his success to the following five causes:

First, the employment of men who were young and ambitious.

Second, the "strong but pleasant rivalry" between different plants.

Third, the employment of mixed nationalities.

Fourth, the eight hour day. "Flesh and blood cannot stand twelve hours of continuous work.

Fifth, the use of the most up-to-date machinery.


Captain 'Bill" Jones asked for and received "a hell of a big salary" from Andrew Carnegie, who's known policy was not to pay any employee more than five thousand dollars per annum, but to bind the worker to the company by issuing him shares in the company. Captain Jones was rewarded with a salary of twenty-five thousand dollars, a salary equal to that of the President of the United States, and along with a percentage on the product of the mill, his income was almost fifty thousand dollars a year.


During his tenure at the Edgar Thomson Works he built Furnaces A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, and H and I were in the course of erection at the time of his death. The improvements and inventions that Captain William R. Jones produced there made those furnaces the finest in the world. Captain "Bill" Jones' inventions were numerous, .the first was patented on June 12, 1876, for "Washers for Ingot Molds." His other important patents were a devise for operating ladles in the Bessemer process and on .Improvements in Hose Couplings." both patented December 12. 1876; "Fastenings for Bessemer converters." December 26, 1876; "Hot Bed for Bending Rails," April 10, 1877; "Process and Apparatus for compressing Ingots while Casting', September, 1878; "Ingot Molds," October 1. 1876; Cooling Roll Journals and Shafts," July 5, 1881; Feeding Appliance for Rolling Mills," April 27, 1886; "Art of Manufacturing Railroad Bars," October 12, 1886; Appliance for Rolls," May 15, 1888; "Apparatus for Removing and Setting Rolls," June 26, 1888; "Housing Caps for Rolls," May 15. 1888; 'Roll Housing," August 21, 1888; "Apparatus for removing Ingots from Molds," January 1, 1889. His last and most important invention was a method and a device for mixing metal taken direct from several blast-furnaces, and charged into two large receiving-tanks, each capable of holding eighty tons of molten metal. After the metal is thoroughly mixed it is poured into ladles and taken to the converting-works. The device, known as the "Jones Mixer" was put into operation in September of 1888, and letters of patent were allowed but were not yet issued at the time of his death.


Captain William R. Jones was a liberal giver to charities, and widows and families of deceased employees, giving away approximately ten thousand dollars a year. The day after the Johnstown Flood on May 31, 1889, Captain 'Bill" Jones took three hundred of his men, at his own expense to the wrecked city, where they worked for two weeks to help restore the property that had been destroyed.


In 1887, Captain Bill Jones and James Thomas arranged a gathering of the friends who had lived in Catasauqua thirty years past. The meeting took place at Onoko Glen and on the preceding day, the group went to Mauch Chunk and took a trip over the "Switchback Railroad. From there the group went on to Onoko Glen, where a fine dinner was partaken of at the Wahnetah Hotel, after which the evening was spent in reminiscing.


Captain William R. Jones was a member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Western Pennsylvania, and the Iron and Steel Institute of Great Britain. He was a prominent and active member of the G. A. R. and in 1886 was chosen Senior Vice Department Commander of Pennsylvania, and he was a member of the Masonic fraternity. In politics he was an unswerving Republican, but in local politics he was a believer in the man rather than the party. In religious matters he was a liberal, and was not connected with any church organization, and although reared a Presbyterian, he was a supporter of the Methodist Evangelical Church.


On Thursday evening, September 26, 1889, Captain William R. Jones accompanied Superintendent James Gayley to Furnace C. which had not been working properly all day. Several of the employees were tapping the cinder. In an instant a section of about a foot in dimension about seven feet above their heads, fell out, and a stream of hot coal and metal poured upon the group. Captain Jones in his endeavor to escape fell, between a stone wall and a cinder car, striking his head on the car. His face and hands were also severely burned. One of the employees at once shut off the blast to the furnace, and the flame ceased. James Tolan, formally of Catasauqua, was in the machine shop nearby, and when he saw Captain 'Bill" Jones lying amongst the cinder, he ran in and carried him out. Captain Jones was carried to the company office where he conversed in a dazed manner, while physicians were dressing his burns. He was then taken to the Homeopathic Hospital in Pittsburgh and upon his reaching the hospital his mind commenced to wander, and he remained in a semiconscious state until he died at 10:30 o'clock Saturday night, September 28, 1889.


The funeral of Captain William P. Jones was held at 2:30 O'clock on Wednesday, October 2. 1889, and was attended by General Alger, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and his staff and Commander Stewart and his staff of the Department of Pennsylvania; approximately ten thousand workmen; widows and orphans; and the greatest steel manufacturers of the country came to pay their last respects. From the Lehigh Valley were Superintendents John Fritz and Owen Leibert, of the Bethlehem Steel Works; Samuel, John and David H. Thomas, of the Thomas Iron Works; George Davies and James Thomas of Davies and Thomas Company; Daniel Milson of Catasauqua, while Rev. Cornelius Earle D. D.  of the First Presbyterian Church of Catasauqua, assisted in the funeral ceremonies, and spoke of the Captain's early manhood.


The honorary pallbearers were Andrew Carnegie, New York; Henry C. Frick, Pittsburgh; Robert W. Hunt, Chicago; Owen Leibert, Bethlehem; Andrew Hamilton, Johnstown; and James Thomas, Catasauqua. The casket, which remained closed, was borne by employees of the Edgar Thomson Works, amongst whom was James Tolan. The remains were placed in a vault at the Monongahela Cemetery.



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Rev. June 2010