Jesse Oliver Jones, Sr.


May 28, 1917 - April 25, 1998
Role: Tophand, Cowhand
Known for: Strength

Jesse's great-grandfather came from Africa but he doesn’t know his name. His grandfather, Ned Jones, worked for the original Tom O'Connor and his father, Matt Jones worked for T.M. O'Connor, one of Tom's sons. Matt was a revered tophand on all the ranches. Jesse grew up in Goliad County mainly on the O'Connor Duke Ranch. Like many of the cowhands, Jesse didn’t get much schooling but he did say he once walked through the door at Hall’s Point School and then once more in Vidauri. Jesse started work at sixteen with the big men and “been hittin’ it ever since”. Jesse came from a big family: Willie, Teresa, Sam, Jessie, Margie, Mary and Martha (twins), Emilia, Louise, Venice Lee, Katherine, Reilly and Alfred (twins), Kathleen, and Rosie. Jesse first noticed the ranches changing in the 1920s, accelerated a bit during The Depression and changed forever after WWII. “People quit havin’ fun workin’, and when that happens, life quits being fun because life was mostly work then and still is, really. Those ranches were our security, so when the ranches changed, we quit feelin’ secure. The old people didn’t have nowhere else to go. The young ones had more guts ‘cause they had other chances. This may have been good for their pocketbooks, but it wasn’t good for their souls.” Jesse was a giant of a man, both physically and in his soul. He loved working cattle more than anyone in the business. He was renowned for his strength as well as his gentleness. A favorite among his co-workers, he was also an invaluable source of information about life and ranching in the glory days of his profession.

Introduction to Jesse Jones

Louise S. O'Connor
Voice of Jesse Jones
Jesse Jones – There's something about them days back there around the cow camp, you know. I just love it because it was so much fun. I don't know if it was the kind of fun where you could hoo-rah people about something. You can make some of 'em mad, but he better not try to do nothing. At the time we were doing it, you know, it didn't seem like it was something you'll never do again or never will see again. We had such a good time back in them days; it was like it was going to last forever. If I was able to get back there and ride horses, do like that, right quick I'd be right out there right now.

Documents

“There was somethin’ about those days in cow camp. It was fun. It seemed like it would go on forever. If I could ride again, if I was able, right quick, I’d be back there workin’ cattle.”

Cryin' For Daylight: Ranching Culture in the Texas Coastal Bend