Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Aug 23

From Humble Beginnings to Wilberforce University President

Posted on August 23, 2019 at 12:06 PM by Melissa Dalton

Wilberforce University, the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans, was established in 1856 (See Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 University Hall - Wilberforce (JPG)
Fig. 1 University Hall – Wilberforce University, Wilberforce University Catalogue 1899-1900 (Greene County Archives)

During that same year, a South Carolinian slave named Sylvia, gave birth to a son named Joshua Henry Jones. Jones would later become the president of Wilberforce University at the turn of the twentieth century. At the young age of fourteen, he became a Sunday school teacher and by the age of nineteen, he became an ordained minister and was married. In 1885, Jones received his bachelor’s degree from Claflin University in South Carolina. Sadly that same year, he lost his wife while she was giving birth to their fourth child.

Not long after, Jones left his four children in the care of his brother-in-law, in order to obtain his divinity degree from Wilberforce University (See Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Wilberforce University 1899-1900 Catalogue cover page (JPG)
Fig. 2 Wilberforce University Annual Catalogue 1899-1900 (Greene County Archives)

Upon graduation in 1887, he married a music teacher named Augusta Clark. Jones settled with his new wife and children in Providence, Rhode Island, but later moved to Columbus, Ohio. For eight years, he served as the pastor of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Columbus. In 1892, he became the first African American elected to the Columbus Board of Education. In 1893, Jones accepted the Secretary of the Industrial Department  position at Wilberforce University. Seven years later in 1900, he became Wilberforce University’s president (See Fig. 3).

Fig. 3  Rev. Joshua H. Jones (JPG)
Fig. 3 Rev. Joshua H. Jones, Wilberforce University Annual Catalogue 1899-1900 (Greene County Archives)

While serving as president for eight years, Jones made it a priority to procure long-term financial security for the University. To increase Wilberforce’s reserves, he purchased several tracts of land using university dining hall funds, in order to make the university more self-sufficient. Using his own money, he also purchased a large amount of land for $10,000. Jones paid himself six percent interest for this investment of which the trustees disapproved. Jones was however, well liked with many of Wilberforce's students.

In 1912, Jones was elected as a Bishop for the A.M.E. Church, and by this time he had become quite a wealthy man. He was known for being very generous, especially with churches that were in financial need. During the 1920s, he again helped Wilberforce University alleviate their financial debt by raising $40,000. By the late 1920s, Jones was assigned to the very financially strapped First Episcopal District which he helped raise funds for some of the churches in the district. In 1934, at the age of seventy-eight, Bishop Joshua Henry Jones died of a diabetic comma. Along with many other notable African Americans of Greene County, Bishop Jones is buried at Massies Creek Cemetery in Cedarville. In next week’s blog post, we will examine Jones’ personal estate records.

Fig. 4 Cemetery Marker (JPG)
Bishop Joshua Henry Jones' Gravemarker (image courtesy of Warrick L. Barrett via FindAGrave)

Until Next Time!

Greene County Archives
Jones Tabernacle Methodist Episcopal Church


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