Chaplain John David Jones
Our subject commenced sailing in 1852 with Capt. Solon Rumage on the schooner Wings of the Morning, and remained in various capacities on the vessels of Captain Rumage, and with other lake masters for twelve years. He then sought salt water, and took service on merchant vessels. In 1861 he enlisted in the Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry, but after serving one year he joined the navy and was appointed carpenter on the gunboat Yantic, on which he remained two years. While fighting at Fort Fisher a one-hundred-pound pivot swivel gun burst, killing the gunner and the officer of the division, the two men standing nearest to the Chaplain. This was the first attack under General Butler. At the second attack under General Terry, volunteers were called to go wtih Lieut. W. B. Cushing, the hero who destroyed the Rebel ram Albemarle. The purpose of the expedition was to storm Fort Fisher. Chaplain Jones was one of the sailors who accompanied him. He stood by the side of Lieutenant Porter when he was shot. A squad of seven or eight men who were with him were all killed or wounded. "This," the Chaplain said, "was the most trying moment of my life, and I thank God for his great mercy."
After his service he returned to the lakes, and went as watchman on the propeller Winslow with Capt. Robert Anderson, who was considered in those days one of the most skillful and able navigators on the lakes. He had previously sailed on the bark Pomeroy, which he laid up in Chicago at the end of the season. After his service with Captain Anderson, he went as mate on the schooner N. C. Winslow. The Chaplain also sailed on the following vessels: T. P. Handy, William Case, Champion, C. C. Cooper, the bark Bridge, and many others. Chaplain Jones asserts that he never had command of a vessel for the reason that he was a victim of drink. His conversion from one of the wildest of sailor men to Christianity and right living took place in 1868, soon after his return to the lakes, after his thrilling experience on salt water, and his good work in the Floating Bethel dates from that time.
He has now been engaged in Bethel work thirty-one years. It can be truthfully said of the Floating Bethel, of which he is the founder, that to the poor the Gospel is preached, the sick are visited, and the wayward reclaimed.
Quoting the words of Rev. J. S. Reager, "Chaplain Jones knows their sorrows, knows their sick fathers and mothers, knows the calamities that have come into their homes; everything connected with their lives seems to have come to the knowledge of this man."
Chaplain Jones quells the unruly in his meetings with the same vigor and earnestness that is a marked feature in his discourses to the unfortunate and erring. On the dock front in the Floating Bethel there is a commodious reading room for the unemployed. It is generally well filled, and the good order kept there is something to marvel at. In a book lately published on the charities of Cleveland, speaking of this Bethel, an old captain says: "There is no work equal to it on fresh water." W. H. Doan, the philanthropist, at one of the Floating Bethel board of directors' meetings, said: "I know of no work where more is accomplished with the amount of money it costs, or where God's blessing is to be more seen than at the Floating Bethel."
The Floating Bethel has become an necessary institution, and Chaplain Jones a necessary instructor, at the port of Cleveland, and this is testified to by the generous manner in which this work is recognized by all classes of citizens. In 1895 he received a handsome present, amounting to $6,183.75 for the purpose of lifting a mortgage from his home, which his generosity to the poor of the city had caused him to negotiate. Two years ago he conceived the idea that with a boat nicely fitted up and mounted on wheels he could reach many people who were not in the habit of going to church. He went to Detroit and visited the different boat houses until he found a boat suitable for the purpose. He paid $50 for one and brought it to Cleveland, mounted it on wheels and the boat was soon in commission. He then cruised in the different parts of the city with a crew of singers, and did much good in spreading the Gospel in this novel manner. The officers of the Floating Bethel are Capt. Thomas Wilson, president; Capt. George Stone, first vice-president; Stiles H. Curtiss, second vice-president; C. O. Scott, treasurer; H. F. Lyman, secretary; J. D. Jones, chaplain and superintendent.
Chaplain Jones is a man of striking physique, having a very expressive face and of commanding appearance. His armless sleeve is caused by his losing an arm in a railroad accident, during his railroad career. He was married, in 1868, to Miss Lydia Pepperday, organist of the old Bethel at that time. Eight children have been born to them, four of which are living: Loren P., John D., Jr., Lida and Ella.
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This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.