John Jones - Natick Mapmaker
John Jones was an 18th century gentleman farmer who made maps for Natick and eastern Massachusetts. He wore so many hats that it seems a bit skimpy to call him what some historians call him: John Jones, the Natick Mapmaker.
We know so much about the so-called Founding Fathers and the key figures of the American Revolutionary War. We tend to know so little about the men and women who were the doers and the shakers in colonial society for 150 years before the Declaration of Independence.
John Jones (1716-1801) was one of those colonial figures. He was a hardworking, respected man of the town, with significant responsibilities as a teacher, militia colonel, judge, and deacon of Rev. Stephen Badger’s South Natick church. Jones was not a fire-breathing rebel in the Revolutionary War. In fact, he was a Loyalist Tory and a royal commissioner before the onset of the war, but he also was a local leader of opposition to the short-lived Stamp Act (1765) imposed on the colonies by King George and his Parliament. His Loyalist sympathies were short-lived after the shooting started.
Born in Weston in 1716, he was the oldest son of John and Mehitable (Garfield) Jones. On his mother’s side, he could claim ancestors among the earliest and most highly connected settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He married twice and had 10 children, all of whom were baptized in the South Natick meetinghouse.
In 1760 Jones succeeded Ebenezer Felch as the Natick Proprietors’ clerk and surveyor. Mapmaking was vital as the colonial towns grew and land speculation preceded settlement and expanded agriculture. Under commission from the British crown, Jones became well known for his maps of Natick, eastern Massachusetts, and southern Maine. He served as a justice of the peace including stints as a trial judge, handled routine matters of colonial administration, imposed penalties for failure to go to church, and performed marriages as late as 1795.
Jones cut an imposing figure in Natick, a steadily growing town that was officially incorporated during his lifetime in 1781—130 years after it was founded by Rev. John Eliot and the Algonquian leader Waban as the first “Praying Indian Town” in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
John Jones was the real-life inspiration for the “Squire Jones” character in Oldtown Folks, the 1869 classic by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The squire “…was a well-formed, well-dressed man, who lived in a handsome style, and came to meeting in his own carriage…”
Full disclosure: John Jones actually bought a farm (1740) about a mile from Pegan Hill, in the Elm Bank area of a western extremity of what was then Dedham, and now is the northern tip of Dover. The Massachusetts Horticultural Society is there now. Jones’ farm (a “secluded retreat”) was separated from Natick by the Charles River. He died at the farm on February 2, 1801, and was buried in the old burial ground behind his church.
Selected sources and additional reading:
Natick Historical Society collections.
Google Books. “Book of Minutes of Col. John Jones of Dedham.” Accessed June 14, 2019.