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MEMORIES IN FOCUS: Marion kept up nicely with the Joneses years ago

MARION HISTORICAL MUSEUM PHOTO

This small house, later demolished, at Lincoln and Denver Sts. was home to a couple who truly regarded Marion as “best place I’ve seen.”

The Marion area has a reputation of being home to retired or semi-retired Methodist ministers.

Although the reputation has expanded greatly in recent years, it actually began long ago, with a former minister who truly believed Marion’s old motto of being “best place I’ve seen.”

Paul F. Jones (1839-1909) was the 11th minister of Marion’s oldest congregation, now known as Valley United Methodist Church, which meets in the second oldest church building in town.

After serving in Cottonwood Falls, El Dorado, and Winfield, Jones was assigned to Marion in 1884.

Two years later, he was reassigned, as Methodist ministers often are, to another church — in Garden City.

But he and his wife, Frances Charlotte “Fanny” Jones (1841-1934), loved Marion so much that upon leaving the ministry in 1888, they built a small home at Lincoln and Denver Sts. and moved back to Marion.

Their home, eventually demolished to make way for a new structure, seemed unspectacular from the outside, especially before three intricate porches and lattice work were added in 1889.

According to the Marion Record of May 25, 1888, the “unpretentious external appearance” belied a cozy interior with unexpected features that, at the time, were considered quite modern.

Record editor E.W. Hoch wrote: “The double parlor, the three comfortable bedrooms with closets and adjoining bath room, the neat and airy dining room with large convenient pantry and hand pump, the large and cheerful sitting room with capacious bay window filled with flowers — all these rooms, appropriately finished and furnished, make a home of which Mr. and Mrs. Jones may well be proud.”

Hoch explained why the Joneses moved back to town.

“When Mr. Jones was pastor of the Methodist church in Marion some years ago, he and his good wife fell in love with lovely Marion,” Hoch wrote “Since Mr. Jones’s retirement from the ministry they have been living and prospering at Garden City but, while speaking favorably and hopefully of that city and country, they are delighted to get back to what Mr. Jones in his enthusiasm says is the prettiest town in Kansas.

“To one who has been living in the average western town, built upon a vast level plain, unrelieved by hill or rock or native tree, Marion, with its hills and valleys, its streams and stately forest trees, its parks, and its beautiful and diversified scenery has a charm little appreciated, we fear, by the majority of our people.”

Jones was born in Ohio and eventually reached Kansas in 1873 after stops in Illinois and Missouri.

An avid angler, once catching 117 fish with a companion in a single day, he went on after retiring from preaching to sell real estate and insurance and to offer loans. He even did some business as a travel agent. And he continued to preach from time to time, conducting revival services members of the town’s Evangelical church, now Eastmoor United Methodist.

“He is a skillful fisherman and enjoys the piscatorial sport very much,” Hoch wrote, “and while angling for the finny tribe with genial gentlemen of the work he often proves himself a most adroit and successful fisher of men.”

A leader in the Masonic Lodge and a favorite political orator, he was a one-time unsuccessful candidate for state senate on a “fusion” ticket — Democrats, like him, and Republicans united against the populist movement of Democrat William Jennings Bryan.

Both he and his wife are buried in Marion Cemetery. Their surviving children all moved to California.

Last modified July 17, 2019

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