Worshipful Master, Most Worshipful Grand Secretary, Right Worshipful Jr. Grand Warden, Right Worshipful District Deputy Grandmaster, Mayor Kenny, Supervisor Cellini, distinguished guests and Friends.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you on this unique and very significant public occasion. I see by our program that the subject of this keynote address is "Keeping up with the Joneses". Alas, I fear that for too long, we as a community have not fulfilled our obligation to future generations to preserve and perpetuate our history. This day, which has been a long time in coming, is a step towards correcting that error.
It is also fitting that Freemasons take part in this undertaking, for we remember, today, the forebears who not only founded this community, but who also helped to establish Freemasonry as a driving force for good in Monticello and in Sullivan County.
Nearly nine score and twelve years ago (for those of you who are counting, that is 192 years), during the fall and early winter of 1804, John P. Jones selected a lot for his own residence, cut down the first tree with his own hands and the aid of an axe, cleared his lot and built the first European-style house in what is now the Village of Monticello, on the site where the Bank of New York now stands. John, and his brother, Samuel F. Jones, had been engaged in the construction of a saw-mill, probably located just a block or two down St. John Street from where we are now. This sparked the settlement and growth of this community, but it did not begin just then and there.
John and Samuel were two of the four children of Samuel Jones and Parthenia Patterson of Wallingford, Connecticut. John was born in Goshen, Litchfield County, Connecticut Jan. 16, 1779, and Samuel in Cornwall, Connecticut in 1775. Their father was a farmer, a patriot of 1776 who served in the Revolutionary army as an ensign. While John and Samuel were young, their family moved to Lebanon, in Columbia County. Thereafter, we know nothing of their doings until about 1802.
Previously, there had been a good deal of settlement in Sullivan County. Judge William A. Thompson, who also came from Litchfield County in Connecticut, built the first permanent settlement in the Town of Thompson in 1795, with a small log house for himself and his family, and later a grist mill which was completed in the summer of 1796. In the Town of Mamakating, there were so many settlers by 1790 that a school was opened near Wurtsboro. Similarly the towns of Liberty, Fallsburg, Lumberland, Bethel and others were being settled. As a result, it became necessary to improve the means of travel for development and commerce between the settlers and the rest of the world. So it was, in 1801, when the Newburgh and Cochecton Turnpike was chartered to open up the wilderness of Sullivan County to settlement, growth and development, we learn that Samuel F. Jones became interested in the turnpike company's affairs, and became involved in the process to settle upon a feasible route to connect Newburgh, on the Hudson River, to Cochecton on the Delaware River. He came to the conclusion that when that road was completed, a new county would be formed from the southwestern territory of Ulster County and that there would be a very considerable influx of settlers to the region. He therefore bought up over 1400 acres of land and took his brother, John P. Jones, in as a partner, and John P. soon after bought nearly 450 acres of adjoining land to add to it. They built a sawmill and began other improvements to their fledgling community.
The turnpike route came to be determined in the spring of 1804. Judge Thompson and his friends and dependents wanted the road to run through their settlement, Thompsonville, and thought that with the Judge's stature and influence, they would succeed in their desires. However, the influence developed by Samuel F. Jones with the Turnpike Company, allowed him to succeed in having the road line run precisely where he wanted it, namely, right through the place at which he and his brother intended to establish their village.
Before there was even a log-hut in it, they surveyed the streets and laid out a village square, like the style usually found in Communities in Connecticut and in New England in general, where public and governmental buildings would be located, a site for the first church of the community, although he was not a religious man, and a cemetery, where, 'ere long, he and many of the first settlers and pioneers would be laid to rest. And to the site of this great project he gave the name: Monticello. When the first Masonic Lodge meeting was held in Monticello, there were fewer than twenty log houses in the community, and the forests were so dense that workmen engaged in the tanning bark industry, cabin builders and other residents were known, often, to lose their way along Broadway, or Main Street, which was little more than a tree-blazed trail which led to North Settlement near the intersection of what is now Routes 17 and 17B.
The Jones Brothers donated to the community the park and land on which now stands the Sullivan County Courthouse, and the First Church of Monticello Presbyterian.
Samuel F. Jones was an active, energetic man, quick and definite in his speech, when he didn't stutter. He was sound and vigorous of mind and intellect, became the first postmaster and one of the first Judges of the County Court of Sullivan. He also was elected Supervisor for several terms.
John P. Jones was a merchant's clerk and engaged in trade before coming to Sullivan County. He spoke slowly and with hesitation, but was cautious, slow, sure and persistent in business. He was the first Clerk of the County and held the office for ten years, was a Supervisor of his town, postmaster for 28 years, a State Senator, and served as a member of the Electoral College from New York in 1856. He cared so much for the interests of his community, Monticello, that no one felt more than he the disappointment and indignation which was manifested when the New York and Erie Railroad was located in the Delaware River Valley instead of running through or near Monticello
The first Masonic Lodge was granted its charter by Grand Master (and Governor) DeWitt Clinton in 1816, named Sullivan Lodge #272. There is evidence, however, that the lodge organized as early as 181 1, when a group of men petitioned Grand Lodge for the formation of Sullivan Lodge, and that the Jones brothers were among the ten men who signed the petition. With the petition was the recommendation that Samuel F. Jones be the first Master of the Lodge, and he served as master of the ~lodge-in-formation for some 6 years until the charter was issued. Unfortunately for Jones, one John Russell was named in the charter as the first master, possibly because Samuel had taken to drink, suffered some scandal. He later died in the prime of his life.
John P., however, lived a sober and abstemious life. [That was a word used by James E. Quinlan to describe John P. Jones. I looked it up, and it means 'moderate' or 'temperate'.] In any event, he saw the first and second church-edifices erected on the spot selected by his brother and himself before there was a house in Monticello. He died on November 20, 1858, full of years and honors and was buried here, in the first village graveyard which was selected by himself when he was young, and which was full to repletion when he died.
We find, then, that the Jones Brothers, John P. And Samuel F., have taken their places of prominence among the pioneers and founders of our community, as Masons, just as the pioneers and founders of our Country, were Masons, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, DeWitt Clinton, Major John Sullivan, and many others.
We hope to honor them in deed, as well as in word, by the long overdue actions we initiate here today. I salute the Joint Founders' Cemetery Committee and those public- and community-minded citizens for their efforts in this restoration and recognition project which is and should be a source of pride in community, and commend you in this great undertaking.