The Remarkable Jones Women

The Remarkable Jones Women

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[Reposted for the Carnival of Genealogy:  Disasters for “Fearless Females, Prompts for Women’s History Month, Mar 13th:  Moment of Strength]

Thomas Jones found himself a widow in 1889. He was 39 years old. Thomas set out to raise his four daughters and one son alone in San Francisco. From 1900 on, he lived with his daughter, Margaret. When she married in 1904, Thomas lived with their family.

All of the Jones women were raising their families in San Francisco in 1906. Josephine (Jones) Pohley had three children aged 5, 9, and 12. Margaret (Jones) Jackson gave birth to her first child in March 1906. Gertrude (Jones) Burke had four children aged 1, 3, 5, and 7, and she was pregnant with her fifth. Alice (Jones) Bourne had also given birth to her first child in March.

In April of that fateful year, all the Jones women found themselves in the middle of catastrophe. 1906 was the year that the San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed their beloved city. In those early hours of April 18, all were out on the street running for there lives. Each saw things they did not like to remember. Margaret with her baby clutched to her breast, her husband Harry, and her father Thomas ran from their house only to find their neighbor sitting on her front step. They yelled at her to run. She replied that she had just paid her rent and was not leaving. As they turned to flee, they felt a rumbling and heard a terrible sound. When they looked back, the woman’s house was destroyed and she was dead underneath the ruble.

Somehow the Jones families found each other in the streets of the city. William Bourne, husband of Alice, punched out a businessman because he was jacking up the prices on baby carriages. He left the man some money, took whatever baby carriages the women needed, then sent the rest careening down the hill for others to use.

I can only imagine what they all must have felt. The women pushing baby carriages. The men holding smaller children. Everyone running for their lives while trying to make sure no one was left behind. Gertrude’s husband, John Burke, was missing. They hoped to catch up with him later.

All but one survived that day. A couple of days after the earthquake, Gertrude got the news that her husband was dead. They lived for a while in the camps set up around the city. They cooked outdoors, lived in tents, and used newspaper in the bathroom. When the dust settled and it was safe to go home, only Josephine & Joseph Pohley had a home left to go to. They took in their relatives and everyone got along as best they could.

I often wonder at how they survived it all. Although John Burke, died during the earthquake, not one baby or child was lost. Margaret and Alice had babies only 4 weeks before the earthquake, yet each survived the ordeal. Gertrude perhaps showed the strongest will. She came through the disaster a few months pregnant with four children, and no husband to help her through the hard times.

By 1910, Margaret, Harry, Thomas, and their children moved to Oakland, the city across the bay. The Pohley’s still lived in their home in San Francisco. Alice & William Bourne took in Gertrude and her 5 children.

The Jones women survived many more ordeals in their lives. Margaret divorced in the late 1920s and later ended up taking care of a couple of her grandchildren. Gertrude raised her children alone, never to marry. Josephine and Alice survived their own tribulations.

Thomas Jones who lived well into his 70s must have passed on some hardy genes to his daughters. Each one of them lived long, full lives–and each outlived her husband! Josephine died at the age of 92, Margaret and Gertrude at the age of 85, and Alice at the age of 93. Through thick and thin, the four Jones women survived it all. I think they were truly remarkable women!

4 thoughts on “The Remarkable Jones Women

  1. What a tale of survival and true grit! I hope they left you some diaries. I bet they are absolutely fascinating reading. I could almost feel the earth tremble as I imagined your ancestors fleeing, then looking back to see their neighbor’s house gone, and she with it.

  2. Kathryn, Thanks for your comments! I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have so many small children to protect is such a disaster. The strength of these women was truly remarkable. I know there must be thousands of stories just like theirs. I am fortunate that my grandma passed down the stories. How I wish that my great grandmother had kept a journal. The stories she could have told about San Francisco at the turn of the century!

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