Original Introduction and Arrangement
In mid-December, 1992, architectural historian Barrie Scardino and I met with Houston Endowment President, Joe Nelson, on the fifth floor of the Bankers Mortgage Building, in what was once Jesse Jones's office. At that time, Ms. Scardino and I were assigned the job of creating an archive from a maze of documents and photographs that had been retrieved from the building's faded green file cabinets, old painted safes and walk-in vaults. Little did we know that the stacks of plain, white bankers boxes arrayed before us were filled with treasures from Houston's past and would reveal rare insight into Mr. Jones's public, business and personal lives.
Houston Endowment had recently moved its offices to the Texas Commerce Tower and had emptied Bankers Mortgage Building of its few remaining tenants, leaving behind these remarkable relics for Ms. Scardino and I to organize and preserve. We established a work space in that same fifth floor office, in the vacant, ten story building on Main Street Mr. Jones built back in 1908 for the Texas Company. As the mass of material slowly took form, our awareness of Mr. Jones's philosophies, achievements and contributions also began to emerge.
About one year later, we moved the evolving archive to Houston Endowment's new office and went to work in one of the conference rooms. Ms. Scardino completed her portion of the project in May of 1994, and, before leaving, created an index to the archive's personal papers. I remained and continued to work on the Foundation's exhibit, which I began soon after we moved into the new building. In January of 1995, it was decided that similar material, housed in temporary storage, should be included in the collection's corporate and property records. (Folders containing this material have stars on the left corner to distinguish them from the more specifically categorized and refined original material.) Now that this task has been accomplished, the archive is complete.
The accompanying indexes are general guides to provide easy access to the collection's documents. The alphabetically listed corporate and property records may not adhere to that arrangement within a box due to the material's varying shapes and sizes. An explanation of certain entries in the corporate and property indexes follows:
BOOK OF ACCOUNT--includes ledgers and journals
DATES--indicate the age range of documents within each entry, even though they may relate to an event that occurred on a specific date, such as a loan or sale
Franchise and income tax dates indicate the years taxes were incurred
Gaps in dates indicate missing documents
Stock book dates indicate the years during which stock was issued
Articles of incorporation dates indicate the day the corporate officers signed the incorporation papers (articles of incorporation sometimes appear as a separate document; may appear in the front of the minute book; or, if there are two or more minute books, may appear with the dissolution certificate in the last book)
Dissolution certificate dates indicate the day the state issued the certificate
VARIOUS DOCUMENTS--includes contracts, correspondence, deeds, inventories, maps and receipts
VARIOUS BUILDINGS, VARIOUS CORPORATIONS, VARIOUS PROPERTIES-
Includes documents involving two or more entities
In the Texas counties where Mr. Jones conducted significant building programs, the property records have been sub-divided into city blocks with their corresponding buildings. Because Mr. Jones invested primarily in Harris County, the volume and scope of the material dictated that the collection be further divided by leagues, surveys, additions and sub-divisions as well as blocks. Only property records involving New York City are organized by address.
This collection embodies a large part of Houston's history. It includes documents involving Stephen F. Austin, the Allen Brothers and, from the more recent past, many notable people, buildings and events. It includes papers from M. T. Jones's vast lumber empire, the business that fueled his nephew Jesse's profound impact on Houston's development and growth. This archive also encompasses the source of one of Mr. Jones's most lasting legacies, Houston Endowment Inc., a legacy that perpetuates his positive influence on our world today.
Steven L. Fenberg
July 14, 1995
Biographical / Historical
Jesse Holman Jones, son of William Hasque Jones and Laura Holman Jones, was born in Robertson County, TN, April 5, 1874. The family soon moved to Dallas, TX, where William Jones managed his brother's lumberyard in Terrell. Two years later the family moved to a farm on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, where after completing ninth grade, Jesse was put in charge of one of his father's tobacco factories. In 1891 Jesse entered Hill's Business College in Dallas and then in 1895 started work at his uncle's firm, the M.T. Jones Lumber Co. in Hillsboro, TX. He soon became manager of the Dallas lumberyard, and upon his uncle's death in 1898 became general manager of the Houston yard. He established his own company, the South Texas Lumber Company and expanded into real estate, banking, and commercial buildings and as the largest developer in the area was responsible for most of Houston's prewar construction of over 100 buildings in Houston, Fort Worth, Dallas, New York City. Between 1908 and 1912 he bought part of Houston Chronicle, became chairman of the Texas Trust Company, president of National Bank of Commerce, an original stockholder in Humble Oil and Refining Company, and as chairman of the Houston harbor board, raised money for the Houston Ship Channel.
During World War I President Woodrow Wilson named him director general of military relief for the American Red Cross, he became sole owner of the Houston Chronicle in 1926, and in 1928 as director of finance for the Democratic National Convention, was instrumental in bringing the convention to Houston. President Herbert Hoover named him to the Reconstruction Finance Coporation, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him head of the RFC (1933-39) and Federal Loan Administrator (1939), and at the same time became Secretary of Commerce. Jones broke his ties with the Democratic party and returned to Houston in 1945 to concentrate on business ventures and philanthropy. Jones died on June 1, 1956.