King’s demise

An unpredictable accident – a kick from a horse ­– ultimately killed circus leader J. Augustus Jones

The smaller stone in front of the larger memorial where he and his wife, Martha, were laid to rest.

From Bandwagon: “J. Augustus Jones frequently made trips to his home. He was leading stockholder and a director of Forest Furniture Manufacturing Co., of Youngsville, as well as director of the First National Bank of that borough; he was also director of the Warren Savings Bank. These and other business duties made him absent from the show, but he made sure that there was always a Jones in the ticket wagon.”

In 1907, rail was laid that connected Sugar Grove and Youngsville to more major lines in Warren. That meant the animals quartered at Chandlers Valley could now be moved by train.

“Jones conceived a spur track to the farm and r

unning the entire circus train into the sheds there. The roadbed would not sustain a 20-car loaded circus train but would carry a 7-car unit. This in less than a day the entire show train” could be ready to leave Warren County.

The shows continue to operate up until the start of World War I, which impacted operated just as the Spanish-American War had done.

“With the cauldron of patriotic and war fever seething and new government regulatory agencies being continually created, J. Augustus Jones added patriotic flair to his show. In the parade, each horse had a red, white and blue plume on its head. Flags graced the four top corners of each parade chariot, costumes of performers reflected the patriotic motif.

Times Observer photos by Josh Cotton One of the more distinctive memorials in Oakland Cemetery is that of Jones, above.

“The first draft call was in June 1917. When Jones observed the raw recruits, many fresh from the farms, he searched his soul. How could he approve of wangling money from these lads who were on their way to the war front? He knew that may would never return.”

So some of the… shady… business practices the circus may have participated in to expand their profits were suddenly discontinued. The article states that some showmen felt Jones had “gone Sunday School” with his newfound demand for honesty. “The practice of coating copper cents with aluminum paint and having the butchers pass them out as a dime when making change was prohibited. The show did not benefit from this trickery but it had given tacit approval.

No more.

He also “planned to invest $1,000 a week” in the Liberty Loan program. Feed and labor costs “induced Jones to auction of all his animals” for one show in early 1918 and the government overtaking the use of the railroads was another barrier.

Still, per the article, Jones aimed to take a program near the military camps just as he had in 1898.

But that whole plan came crashing down when Jones was kicked in the leg by a horse evidently in the state of Missouri.

From Bandwagon: “The horseshoe caught Jones square in the knee and with a force so great that knee and hoof became locked…. The ligaments of the kneecap were torn and the knee bone broken; another break in the leg also sustained.”

The injury was apparently more serious than that description would indicate.

From Bandwagon: “Arrangements were made to take Jones to his home at Warren. A hospital spring cot was provided, but because it was impossible to move him and also impossible to get the cot into the Pullman compartment, Jones made the trip to Warren in the baggage car. A special attendant was with him to cleveland and here the writer (of the article, John Kunzog) relieved the attendant. I received a bottle of small pills (opium), towels and other items needed to care for the patient and we arrived in Warren Sunday morning, August 25. A horse-drawn ambulance was awaiting our arrival, and Jones was taken to his home at 24 Glenwood Avenue. Three doctors examined Jones and following a consultation, a specialist was called from Philadelphia. Following the later’s examination it was decided the patient’s condition was not serious, but the loss of much blood necessitated the injection of serum…. Bedside reports stated that Jones was steadily improving, but these reports belied the true facts. The pallor of his face held the look of death. He passed away Sunday afternoon, September 1, 1918.”

The author notes that the funeral was held at First Presbyterian and that Jones died just 12 days shy of his 50th birthday.

“To give an insight of his charitable nature,” the article states, “every season when leaving on tour there was sheaf of notes signed by him at the Youngsville bank and no doubt also at the Warren bank. Any person for whom he endorsed a note could have it renewed if he remembered the due date and paid the interest. Many a person acquired their home by the helping hand of Jones.”

The Jones shows continued into the 1940s when other forms of entertainment – especially television – killed off many of these kinds of shows.

One of the early circus owners that Jones bought out was also killed by a horse, which some reports called a “strange coincidence.”

From Bandwagon: “Mrs. Martha L. Jones, a grief-stricken widow, ordered erected one of the most outstanding memorials for her late husband’s grave. It was ready for Memorial Day 1919. It consists of a life-size marble statue of a female figure placing a wreath on the grave. To her left is a granite pillar, 18 inches in diameter, but broken in half, and on which in has relife is the name, J. Augustus Jones.

“The feminine figure represents Mrs. Jones; the broken pillar represents a life broken off before its mission was accomplished. What was this mission? When the answer was available, no one asked.

“Now, when an answer is wanted, no one can give it. But I like to think the pillar marks J. Augustus Jones’ crusade against grift in an effort to clean up the circus.”


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