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William R. Jones

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WILLIAM RICHARD JONES.

History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, A. Warner & Co., Chicago, Ill., 1889, pp 284 – 285

Capt. Willlam Richard Jones, now manager of the Edgar Thomson Steel-works, was born in Luzerne county, Pa., Feb. 28, 1839. He is of Welsh descent, his father, Rev. John G. Jones, having, with his wife and two children, emigrated from Wales to America in 1832, and first settled in Pittsburgh Pa. The family removed from Pittsburgh to Scranton, Pa., and later to Hazelton and Wilkesbarre, and finally to Catasauqua, Pa. Owing to his father’s ill health, lie was compelled to commence work when quite young, and hence was deprived of any but the most limited early educational advantages. When at the age of only ten, he was apprenticed to the Crane Ion company, of Catasauqua, Pa., in the foundry department, and later was placed in the machine-shop of that company, then under the supervision of Mr. Hopkin Thomas, whom Capt. Jones considers one of the brightest mechanics of his day. Hopkin Thomas was noted for his development of youthful minds, and it was his boast that he never produced a bad mechanic, and in the later years of his life, pointed with pride to the men who occupied leading positions in the mechanical and metallurgical world, who were formerly apprentices under his direction. In the list we find Philip Hoffecher, master mechanic Lehigh Valley railroad, at Waverly, Pa.; William Thomas, superintendent Crane Iron-works, Catasauqua, Pa.; James Thomas and George Davies, founders and machinists, Catasauqua; Owen Leibert, assistant superintendent Bethlehem Iron-works; Samuel Davis, superintendent Port Oram mines, Dover, N. J.; Daniel N. Jones, general superintendent Colorado Coal & Iron company, Pueblo, Cob.

By the time he had arrived at the age of fourteen he had made such progress that he-was receiving the full wages of a regular journeyman machinist. About this time he entered the employment of William Millens, and went to work in his machine-shop at Janesville, Luzerne. county, Pa. In 1856 he moved to Philadelphia, and worked at his trade as a machinist in the shops of I. P. Morris & Co. The panic of 1854 deprived him of work, and compelled him to endure many privations. In the search for employment he reached Tyrone, Pa., where he engaged himself to a lumberman by the name of Evans, and went with him m Clearfield county, Pa. He remained with Mr. Evans, as a farm hand, lumberman and raftsman, until the spring of 1858, when he entered the employ of a farmer named Ricketts. He then was employed as an engineer by the firm of Gibson Bros., near Glen Hope, Clearfield county. Pa., and later in the same capacity for William Levis, at Beccaria Mills. In the spring of 1859 he removed to Johnstown. Pa., and worked as machinist for the Cambria Iron company, Under John Fritz, then general superintendent of that company. After working there three months he was offered the position of master-mechanic by Giles Edwards, who was engaged to build a blast-furnace at Chattanooga, Teun. He accepted the offer and removed to Chattanooga, where lie remained until the breaking out of the war, when he was compelled to fly north with his young bride having been married April 14, 1861, to Miss Harriet Lloyd, leaving Chattanooga the night that Lieut. Jones burned and destroyed the government works at Harper’s Ferry.

Returning to Johnstown, Pa., in 1861, he was again employed by the Cambria Iron company as a machinist. In the following year, July 31, he enlisted as a private in Co. A, 133d P. V., and was promoted to corporal. The regiment was hurried forward to the seat of war, and was placed in the defenses of Washington during the second Bull run campaign, when it was incorporated into the 5th army corps, and served with the Army of the Potomac until it was mustered out of service, a few weeks before the Gettysburg campaign. At the battle of Fredericksburg the 133d and 155th P. V. formed the first assaulting column of Gen. A. A. Humphries’ 3d division, 5th army corps, and the famous assault on St. Mary’s Heights was made about 4:30 P. M. The regiments were formed in front of the canal, the 133d having the right, and after slinging knapsacks, the column moved forward with great determination and loud cheers, as they approached the stone wall under a perfect storm of shell and bullets; the officer of the 2d army corps ordered them to stop and lie down. What had been a compact column had by the enemy’s terrific fire been badly broken, and although a desultory fire was maintained for some time, the charge had been bloodily repulsed. Company F. of the 133d regiment, was almost annihilated. This company for a time refused to listen to the order to cease firing and lie clown, but continued to fight with great gallantry, and kept pouring a galling fire at the stone wall, and there is no doubt that the heavy and steady fire of this brave body of men resulted in the death of the rebel, Gen. Cobb, who was in command of the rebel forces defending the stone wall. Company F started with the assaulting column with fifty-two men, rank and file, and lost fifty-five per cent of its numbers, having thirteen men killed outright and sixteen wounded.

At the battle of Chancellorsville these same regiments performed gallant service wider the command of that efficient and brave officer. Col. Peter Allabach, who was ordered to send two regiments to cover the withdrawal of the army to the new line being formed near Bullock’s clearing, which duty they performed in the face of a superior and exultant enemy. In both of these engagements Corporal Jones distinguished himself by personal bravery. Prior to the battle he was badly injured at the crossing of the Rapidan, but refused to leave the regiment, and maintained his place in line, although suffering severely. Upon the expiration of his term of service he returned to Johnstown, and, as skilled workmen were becoming very scarce, was induced by George Fritz, the general superintendent of the works, to again enter the employ of the Cambria Iron company. Becoming dissatisfied with remaining at home, and impelled by his patriotic impulses, he organized Co. F, 194th P. V., and was mustered in as captain of this company July 20, 1864. In accordance with circular order No. 58, adjutant-general’s office, he was mustered out as captain of that organization and re-mustered as captain of an independent company, which was formed of members of the 193d and 194th P. V. Capt. -Jones’ company was assigned to provost duty in Baltimore, Md., under Col. J. Wooley, provost-marshal, that city being in the middle department, commanded by Maj. Gen. Lew, Wallace, whose headquarters were in Baltimore.

While acting as commander of the provost guard of Baltimore, Capt. Jones was called upon to perform many duties requiring both tact and personal courage, as well as to exert the qualities of a strict disciplinarian. So well did he and his command acquit themselves that they not only possessed the confidence of their superior officers but were publicly complimented by Gen. Wallace. Capt. Jones was honorably mustered out June 17, 1865, following the close of the war, when lie returned to Johnstown, Pa., and again entered the employ of the Cambria Iron company as assistant to George Fritz, the company’s general superintendent and chief engineer, and as such assisted in the construction of the Cambria Iron cornpany’s Bessemer steel-converting and blooming-mill plants. Upon the death of George Fritz, in August, 1873, he resigned his position at the Cambria Iron-works, and was soon afterward engaged as master-mechanic by the Edgar Thomson Steel company, of Pittsburgh, to help erect their steelworks and railmill, then building at Bessemer, Allegheny county, and which were designed from plans by that eminent American engineer, A. L. Holly.

Upon the completion of the works, Capt. Jones was made the general superintendent, and afterward given the full charge of the engineering department, as well as the general management of the establishment. Although this plant, when erected, was perhaps the most perfect one in the United States, the rapid advances in the art of steel-making soon made it desirable to completely remodel it, which was done under his direction, a new blooming-mill being built in 1881, and the converting-works rebuilt in 1882. The blooming-mill is one of the most perfect mills yet designed, and after eight years’ constant service, it remains a perfect mill, and as Capt. Jones says, ”I can’t improve it” Herbert Spencer, who visited the works a few years ago, was astounded when he saw the mill working, and expressed himself as being greatly pleased. This mill was adopted and is now used by the Roane Iron company, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Lackawanna Iron and Steel company, Scranton, Pa.; Union Iron and Steel company, Chicago, III., and the Joliet Steel company, Joliet, Ill. The main features of the mill embody the inventions of the late George Fritz, perfected by Capt. Jones. The company also decided to build blast-furnaces, completing furnace “A,” fifteen feet five inches bosh by sixty-five feet high, in 1879, and furnaces “B” and C each twenty-one feet bosh by eighty feet high, in 1880. These were so successful under Capt. Jones’ management that he was authorized to build two more, whereupon he completed furnaces “D” and “E,” each twenty-two feet bosh by eighty feet high, in 1881, and then added furnaces “F” and “G,” each of the same dimensions as “D” and “E,” in 1886 and 1887, respectively. Furnaces “F” and “G” constitute, without exception, the finest furnace-plant in the world, and have exacted general commendation from metallurgists and engineers from all parts of the world. They have exceeded in output all previous records of any furnaces in the world. In 1885 he attached automatic tables to the railmill, thereby doing away with a large number of skilled workmen and effecting a large saving in the operating expenses. These tables were covered by his own and Robt. W. Hunt’s patents. The works were so successful that in l887 Capt. Jones received permission to build an entirely new railmill, in the construction of which he departed from all precedent, following ideas of his own, and the result more than fulfilled his most sanguine anticipation, and it is generally conceded, by those competent to judge, to be the most complete railmill in the world.

The buildings of the Edgar Thomson Steel-works, under Capt. Jones’ management, now cover nearly eleven acres, while the whole area of ground attached to the plant is 133 acres. The capacity of the furnaces now running is fifteen hundred tons of pig-metal, and of the steel department twelve hundred tons of ingots and one thousand tons of rails per twenty-four hours. At present natural gas is used throughout all the heating-furnaces. There are twenty-eight miles of railroad track on the grounds, mostly of standard gauge, and twenty-three locomotives are required to do the yard transportation. The works employ 2,500 hands.

Capt. Jones has been an industrious inventor and has covered many of his improvements by patents. The first of them was “A device for operating ladles in Bessemer Process,” and the second “Improvements in Hose Couplings,” patented Dec. 12, 1876. These were followed by “Fastenings for Bessemer Converters,” patented Dec. 26, 1876; improvements in “Washers for Ingot Molds,” June 12, 1870; “Hot Bed for Bending Rails.” April 10, 1877; “Process and Apparatus for compressing Ingots while Casting.” September, 1878; “Ingot Molds,” Oct. 1, 1878; “Cooling Roll Journals and Shafts,” July 5, 1881; “‘Feeding Appliance for Rolling Mills,” April 27, 1886; “Art of Manufacturing Railroad Bars,” Oct. 12, 1886; “Appliance for Rolls,” May 15, 1888; “Apparatus for Removing and Setting Rolls,” June 26, 1888; “Housing Caps for Rolls,” May 15, 1888; “Roll Housings,” Aug. 21, 1888; “Apparatus for removing Ingots from Molds,” Jan. 1, 1889. His latest and most important invention is a method and device for mixing metal taken direct from the blast-furnaces, and. charged into two large receiving-tanks, each capable of holding eighty tons of molten metal. After metal is thoroughly mixed it is poured into ladles and taken to converting works. This was put into operation September, 1888, and has proven to be an invaluable invention. Letters patent have been allowed but are not yet issued. In 1888, in addition to his duties as general manager of the Edgar Thomson Steel-works, he was appointed consulting engineer for Carnegie, Phipps & Co.

Capt. Jones is a member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Western Pennsylvania, and the Iron and Steel Institute of Great Britain. He has been a frequent contributor to the papers of the various societies on subjects relating to mechanics and Bessemer steel manufacture. He is a prominent and active member of the G. A. R., and was chosen in 1889 senior vice-commander of that order for the department of Pennsylvania, and is a member of the Masonic fraternity. In national politics he is an unswerving republican, a strong and firm believer in a judicious and fair protective policy. In local politics he is more of a believer in the man than the party. In religious matters he is a liberal, and is not connected with any church organization, and although reared a Presbyterian, he is a warm friend of the M. E. Church.

Capt. Jones was united in marriage April 14, 1861, at Chattanooga, Tenn., with Harriet Lloyd, but owing to his outspoken loyalty to the Union, he was compelled to flee north with his bride a few days after their wedding. Four children have been born to them, of whom, however, but two are living. The eldest, Ella, died in 1864, while her father was stationed at Baltimore, Md., in the service of his country; the youngest. Charles, died at Johnstown, Pa. Their living children are a son, W. M. C. Jones, and a daughter, Cora, both of whom have attained their majority. The son is engaged at the Edgar Thomson Steel-works as engineer and surveyor._- R. W. H.

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