Before I launched this website I did a great deal of research to find stories I thought would be interesting to share. In “A Pictorial History-Wichita” book there was a picture of a well dressed black man steering an overly decorated carriage. The caption referred to him as “one of the best known Black people in early Wichita.” I had to find out more about Captain Sam Jones.
Samuel Wilson Jones was born on March 10, 1867 in Leavenworth, KS. He came to Wichita in 1874 with his parents. He was the oldest in a family of five girls and three boys.
Jones was the first and only African American child in a Wichita Public School when he attended the 4th Ward school from 1875-1878.
In the 1880’s Jones was a professional bandsman. Playing trombone and cymbals with the Richards & Pringle Georgia Minstrels Group, the Ringling Brothers Circus and the Sells Brothers Circus where he was called the “King of all Trombone Players.” At one point he started training as a trapeze artist, but a bad fall in rehearsal forced him to give it up.
With his music background Samuel formed the first African American band in Wichita
Jones also wrote and published a religious paper called the “Kansas Globe” from 1887-1888
On April 4, 1891, he married Mary Covington Jones.
Through the years he worked as a lather, printer and even a plumber.
In 1894, politicians began showing an interest in minority races. White republicans started showing up for political meetings at Garfield Hall. The Black Republicans were chaired by Sam Jones.
Jones would run for and win office. He was elected Sedgwick County Constable in 1894, making him the first African American voted to county office in Kansas
While still a constable, Jones established a newspaper, the “National Baptist World,” which he headquartered in Wichita. I could not find much on the paper, only that it ran for about six years from 1894-1900. He also wrote for the “National Reflector” from 1895-1898.
The Eagle did a story on him saying, “It is not often that a constable is imbued with a deep religious sentiment, but Sam is an exception. He can drop the editorial pen at any hour of the day, buckle on his six-shooter, give chase to a chicken thief and return to write the glories of the Baptist faith without the least disturbance in the realm of his thought. He is not only an advocate and defender of the statutes of the state, but he stands up nobly for the statutes of Moses.”
The deeply religious Jones attended St. Paul UMC
After serving as constable he moved to the WPD, becoming the first black officer serving his community from 1896 – 1930.
I’m not sure of the dates but I also found a note the he gave lectures for the first motion pictures shown in Wichita.
Jones said his philosophy was “Tend to your own business and leave other people’s alone.”
The Spanish American War broke out in 1898.
Jones, wanting to serve his country, was the first black man to sign the enrollment list when African Americans could enlist.
When forming the regiment in July 1898, Governor John Leedy made the decision to have black officers as well as enlisted men.
Jones led 49 volunteers in the 23rd Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry. They were stationed in San Luis and the unit repaired roads and infrastructure until it returned to Kansas in 1899.
Jones was given the honorary title of captain by his company during that time. He lost only one man in his troop.
Captain Jones was sent home from the war to be treated at a military hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas for gravel (kidney stones) and diabetes.
He wrote about his experience after the war:
“Since that time the members of the convoy have become scattered to the four winds of the earth so to speak. The Grim Reaper, death, has gathered unto the fold many of the members, while some of us are yet to be found on the old camp ground, Wichita, where are our hearts were thrilled with the news of war and our patriotism propelled us to serve faithfully and well our flag, our country.”
After his wife died in 1945, he moved in with his son, Sam M. Jones.
Jones often played the bugle at veteran funerals well into his 80’s.
In 1952 he became a consultant with Historic Wichita Inc, he worked with them until two days before his death.
Captain Jones passed away on August 11, 1960 at the age of 93.
He and his wife are interred at Maple Grove Cemetery
Special thanks to Dr. Lona Reeves at the Kansas African American Museum, for her time and help in researching this story.
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