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John M. and Mary Ann Smith Jones Founders of Alamo

John and Mary Ann Jones were some of the earliest American settlers in Alamo, arriving in 1850 after living in San Jose. Both Mary Ann (1825-1918) and John (1822-1870) contributed significantly to that first settlement in all aspects of its development. Mary Ann Jones’ autobiography is a fine source of information about that early period. Much of it is available in Virgie Jones’ book Remembering Alamo. Jones was a remarkable woman: devout, modest, smart and resolute. She, her husband and two children traveled to California in 1846 – a year in which there was a huge migration of American families into Oregon and California. John was sick part of the time on the trip to California in 1846 and Mary Ann learned to drive the wagon. Accounts of the challenges of that long trip are awe-inspiring. They passed the Donner Party and just missed the early Sierra snowfalls of 1846. On Jan. 24, 1847, Mary Ann gave birth to her third child, Josephine (later Mrs. Daniel Inman). In her diary of the trip, Mary Ann never even mentioned that she was pregnant. The growing family lived in Napa and San Jose during the founding of American California. According to John’s report, they rejected San Francisco “it was the coldest, windiest place they had ever seen.” They had 10 children and were naturally very interested in education. They began an early grammar school, boarded the first teachers and helped found the Union Academy high school (1860-1868). Mary Ann helped set up religious camp meetings which led to the establishment of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the first in the East Bay, c. 1856. John was also an early County School Superintendent, Justice of the Peace and County Assessor. He was Alamo’s Postmaster from 1852-1861 when, in the early years, the Alamo Post Office was the only one between Martinez and Mission San Jose. Mary Ann helped with the post office when John was not in town. From her diary: “I took care of the office. Many times men would come and get their mail and sit and read and talk until I felt like saying, ‘Do go, I have to work.’ We had no stamps then, nor envelopes. We wrote out letters, folded and sealed them with sealing wax, and then paid ten cents for delivery. We had mail twice a week.” He was an early member of the Masonic Lodge, founded in Alamo in 1858. After the 1868 earthquake damaged the building, the Masonic Lodge met in Danville and then moved to Walnut Creek. Mary Ann was a charter member of the Danville Grange in 1873, an advocate for women’s right to vote and a supporter of the railroad. She was active all her long life as a member and Sunday School teacher in the Presbyterian Church. The diary which Mrs. Jones wrote toward the end of her life is full of information about early times in the San Ramon Valley and California. She wrote about the first state legislature in San Jose, the Alamo religious camp meetings (which led to the establishment of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church), other pioneer families and her struggles as a young widow. At the Jones Family Plot in the Alamo Cemetery, the gravestones of John and Mary have only their initials: JMJ and MAJ. A daughter with initials GJ is also there. Sources Virgie V. Jones, Historical Persons and Places… in San Ramon Valley, pp. 9-10, 12, 143-5, 148; Jones, Remembering Alamo, p. 35-63, 87, 136; Munro-Fraser, History of Contra Costa County, 1882, pp. 135, 240, 242, 435, 443.