Somebody asked me a while back why Jones Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, near Stella, was named such. 

The likely answer is in volume 2 of “We Gather Together: A History of Newton County, Missouri Churches” by Larry James and Kay Hively. 

Jones Chapel was originally called Hopewell Free Will Baptist Church. The church was established in 1894. At an organizational meeting, N.C. Jones was elected as moderator and his cousin, Sam W. Jones, as clerk. Sam was also chosen as a trustee. 

The following year, in 1895, Sam Jones donated the land to construct a church building on. Here’s the thing, though: The church still wasn’t called Jones Chapel at that time. In fact, according to the book, the first found reference to the name Jones Chapel wasn’t until 1912. Even then, the names Hopewell Free Will Baptist and Jones Chapel were used interchangeably for the same church for years. It wasn’t until after 1930 that the Jones Chapel name became more or less exclusive, per the book. 

Please keep in mind I’m mostly only going by secondary source information here and I also don’t want to take any credit away from the authors. I didn’t do the original research myself, other than doing a little browsing through period newspapers and a few other records. 

Now, Sam W. Jones wasn’t the only Jones involved in the early days of that church, so Sam may not have been the only namesake of Jones Chapel, though he donated the land. That Sam Jones and other members of the Jones family were instrumental in starting the church is a fact, though. Successive Jones family members may have continued active involvement in the church. So I believe Jones Chapel POSSIBLY wasn’t named for any one particular person, but for the family in general. That being said, another secondary source refers to Sam Jones as the “founder” of Jones Chapel, and I think a good argument could be made that Sam Jones is THE namesake of the church. I’m sure the members of the actual present-day congregation know more than I do about it, and I don’t mean to speak for them. I’m just passing on what I’ve learned.

The original historic church building burned in 1992, and was replaced by the current brick structure. 

As to Samuel Wable Jones himself, he was born February 27, 1837 in Harlan County, Kentucky. He married Mary C. Hendrickson before 1860, and they had several children together before migrating to Newton County, Missouri sometime between 1872 and 1880. He listed himself as a Union army veteran in the 1910 census. Besides his church involvement, he was a farmer all of his working life. He passed away on September 25, 1923 at the age of 86 and is buried in Jones Chapel Cemetery. 

By the way, if you haven’t picked up a copy of either volume of “We Gather Together”, you really should. You can find it at the Newton County Museum, once it reopens, and I think at the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce office. I have also seen it at Mitchell’s Downtown Drug Store and at Antiquish, and I’m sure other local businesses probably carry it as well. It is also at the Neosho-Newton County Library. 

-Wes Franklin writes a weekly column, That History Guy, for The Neosho Daily News.