Salado Mills Part 7:
Ike Jones Mill, 1880 – 1917: All in the Family
By: Charlene Carson Local Historian
Milling seems to have run in the Col. Thomas Henry Jones family. When the Colonel’s son Isaac Van Zandt Jones returned to Texas from military service, he established his home on a farm below his father’s mill, which had been in operation for about 10 years.
The Salado River ran below his house so in 1880 the industrious son set up a gristmill in the community of Kolls, Texas, located near present day Amity Rd. East and Sulphur Wells Rd. The mill became known as the Ike Jones Mill.
Isaac (Ike) Van Zandt Jones was born in 1842 in Madison County, Tennessee, near the town of Jackson. His parents were Col. Thomas Henry Jones and Maria Louisa (Van Zandt) Jones. Mrs. Jones was the daughter of Jacob Van Zandt and Mary (Isaac) Van Zandt who were well known in Tennessee and Texas. Her brother, Isaac Van Zandt, was prominent in Texas politics and was a candidate for governor at the time of his death in 1847. Van Zandt County in northeast Texas was named in honor of him.
As a young man, Jones had received his education at Bastrop Military School located at Bastrop, Texas. At the age of 18 he joined the Confederate army as a member of Company D, Eighth Texas Regiment. During his years of military service, he fought in a number of significant battles and numerous skirmishes. Jones was able to complete his service without suffering a single wound. He was discharged from the military at Bentonville, North Carolina.
Jones returned to Texas in 1865 where he joined his parents in Austin. Like his father who was involved in the construction business, the younger Jones became involved with the business of manufacturing brick. However, after eight years of making bricks, he turned his attention to merchandising with the dry goods firm of Clapp & Co. Jones soon grew restless of fancy notions and dry goods and yearned for something more profitable and fulfilling.
Isaac V. Jones married Miss Claudia Caroline Toole, daughter of Henry and Mary (Telfair) Toole, of North Carolina on March 13, 1866 in Hays County, Texas. Soon after their marriage the young couple followed Jones’s father to Bell County and settled on their 417-acre farm. It was here that they would have a family of six sons, Henry Toole, Walter T., Rufus Telfair, Charlon Y., Isaac, and Hugh P., and build their life together.
Soon after his arrival, Jones constructed a frame gristmill made of “rawhide” lumber sawed from native hardwood trees. The local supply of available resources usually determined what material would be used in making the mill and the dam.
The Ike Jones Mill dam was made of cedar posts which were sunk with an upstream incline. The dam was located more than half a mile upstream from the mill. This location was to secure a sufficient drop in elevation to make possible the free flow of water through the sluice. The sluice started the water on its way to the mill.
The Jones Mill was very successful as a gristmill, but Jones was always looking for ways to improve the mill to meet the ever-changing needs of the farmers. When cotton became a dominant crop, Jones converted his mill to a cotton gin. With his desire to improve ginning technology, Jones invented a Bailing-Press for compressing cotton, hay, tobacco, or other crops requiring baling. A patent was granted for this press on March 21, 1882.
Nineteen years later on December 24, 1901, Jones received a patent for a new and improved Bailing-Press that made cylindrical bales of cotton. In his application for the patent, Jones stated that the redesigned bailing-press would receive the cotton as fast as it was ginned and the bale would be completed the moment the ginning was completed.
As innovative ginning methods continued to be introduced, the old converted gristmill gins could no longer meet the demands of the ever-improving cotton production and ginning methods. Therefore, in 1917, the Ike Jones Mill closed. The mill site subsequently assumed a new purpose. It became a recreational area. The one-half mile long mill race was perfect for swimming, and the mill house became a bathhouse. Just above the mill was a sulphur well and the beautiful scenery around the mill site made the Ike Jones Mill site a popular recreational spot.
In addition to being a millwright, Jones was an avid, progressive farmer. His farms were considered to be the best in the area. He gave special attention to the fruit industry. He had a huge orchard consisting of plum, apricot, apple, pear, and peach trees. At one time, he had over 400 peach trees. He also had an excellent collection of grapes of at least forty different varieties. Jones also successfully engaged in stock-raising with special attention to the raising of Jersey cattle. His pride and joy was a Jersey cow who is said to have given over 14 pounds of butter per week.
According to an article published in the October 11, 1920 issue of the Temple Daily Telegram, the Jones Mill and 203 acres of land were acquired by Edwin Bailey of Temple. Bailey planned to build upon the natural recreational facility already in place by adding a modern stock farm with an updated playground. The property was to be operated under the name Pleasure Stock Farm.
It was Bailey’s intention to remodel the grounds and facilities to make the site the most attractive and alluring recreational grounds for miles around. He even planned to construct small cottages that families could rent for their stay during the hot summer months. With this same purchase, 153 acres of land was transferred to J. L. Bailey of Temple. This land included a part of the farm and pleasure resort. The Baileys built a modern gin on the old mill site. The building was made of sheet iron and had gasoline powered machinery.
J. L. Bailey purchased Stinnett Mill in 1922, two years after his son Edwin purchased Jones Mill, which was about a mile below Stinnett Mill. It was rumored that the two plants would be connected by electric power generated from both dams so that extra power could be transmitted to either plant as needed.
Meanwhile, the mill fell victim to the flood of 1921, and the Joneses’ grand old homestead that was once the center of Southern hospitality was destroyed by fire in 1924, the same year as the third fire of the Salado College building.
In 1928 when Ruth Garrison Francis, a hometown Salado girl, and her father were exploring the old mill sites on the Salado, Ruth wrote that hogs were enjoying a swim in the mill race pool. She and her father found timbers and twisted machinery, including the mill hopper, scattered along the banks of the creek.
At this writing, information regarding the death and burial site of Jones’s first wife, Claudia, the mother of his first six sons, could not be found. Records show, however, that on April 24, 1912, Jones married Mildred Caroline Reid, daughter of William H. and Maggie Reid of Belton, Texas. Four sons and a daughter were born to this union. Their names were Hugh, Kleber, Thomas, Isaac, and Mary.
Isaac (Ike) Van Zandt Jones and his second wife, Mildred Reid Jones, are buried in the Old Salado Grave Yard along with five of Jones’s children, Rufus Telfair, Percy, Walter T., Tom Reid, and Mary Ward Jones. Also buried in the Jones family plot are Linton Jones, Dr. Kleber Jones, and Capt. Rufus Jones, all brothers of Ike Jones.
Ike Jones’s father and mother, Thomas H. Jones (1812-1888) and Maria Louisa Van Zandt Jones (1822-1863) are buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Travis County, Austin, Texas.
The scattered debris from the Ike Jones Mill and the other abandoned mill sites on the Salado are reminders that for over one hundred years milling was a way of life along the Salado River. Texas history marched along the banks of the Salado as each mill made its contribution to the community and to the country as a whole. The stories of the Salado Mills and their millers are now recorded so that we and future generations may have a knowledge and an understanding of this segment of Salado’s past.
Charlene Carson is the author of Gristmills of Central Texas. The book is a photographic history of the many mills of Central Texas, including the eight on Salado Creek. It is available at the Strawberry Patch, the Salado Museum, and from the author by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.