Rev. Samuel P. Jones | Photo Credit: Public Domain
Rev. Samuel P. Jones | Photo Credit: Public Domain

Known for his iconic line “Quit Your Meanness”, Sam Jones changed the lives of many people over the course of his religious career. From a tragic early life that lead him down an alcoholic path to finding his way through a career as a reverend, Jones was a symbol of leadership and belief that people can improve. He spent most of his life in Cartersville, Georgia with his family and thus was buried in the city’s historic Oak Hill Cemetery.

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Born on October 16, 1847 in the small Alabama town of Oak Bowery, Samuel Porter Jones was the son of a lawyer named John and his wife Nancy Sarah “Queeny” Jones. Samuel spent the first eight years of his life in Alabama, until his mother died. Shortly after, his father moved with Samuel to the town of Cartersville, Georgia, north of Atlanta.

John Jones remarried in Georgia to Jane S. Skinner before going off to enlist in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Samuel and his stepmother were left behind during the war and in 1864, Sherman’s March to the Sea was about to destroy much of the area. Samuel was sent to hide their horses but was ultimately separated from his family. He ended up traveling with a group of men from the Union Army to Kentucky where he remained throughout the rest of the war with a family who took him in. While in Kentucky, he met Laura McElwain, who would become his wife.

Jones took some time to study law, as he wanted to become a lawyer like his father. In 1868, he was admitted to the Georgia bar to begin practicing. He instantly drew many clients for his determined nature and excellent speaking skills.

After the death of Sam and Laura’s first child, he increasingly turned to alcohol. He began drinking so much that he was getting into trouble and ended up losing his law practice. After his terrible habit seemed to have no resolution, he found inspiration to get better. On his fathers deathbed, he promised John Jones that he would stop drinking and find his way.

Sam went on to decide that he was going to become a reverend, like his grandfather. His wife threatened to leave him because she wanted to be married to a lawyer, not a preacher. The thought of being a preacher’s wife did not appeal to her. Declaring that God would remove anyone from his path that prevented him from following religion, Jones became committed to the church. The night before he was to go off to pursue his religious career, his wife grew gravely ill. Immediately the next morning, she had a changed opinion that Sam should follow his career, in fear the God may remove her from his life (or strike her dead) for not supporting his religious pursuits.

He began focusing on religion and building his Methodist faith. Ordained by the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Jones began a career that would not only change his life, but so many around him.

Within a few years of becoming a reverend, Jones had grown small churches and started gathering the attention of people across the region. Soon, churches were asking him to come speak and give his lively sermons to help raise attention to alcohol consumption, wild dancing, and the importance of religion. Jones enjoyed to speak on the topic of being a changed man, sharing his story of being an alcoholic to a reverend.

Back home in Cartersville, Samuel purchased a residence that would go on to be known as Rose Lawn. It was here that Samuel and his wife Laura raised their six surviving children. The home is unique in not only in its elegance but the story of how it came to be so large.

Read more about Rose Lawn here.

Rose Lawn, Cartersville, Georgia | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures
Rose Lawn, Cartersville, Georgia | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

In 1885, Sam was asked to speak in Nashville, Tennessee to spread God’s word amongst an increasingly rowdy city. It was here that local steamboat captain, Thomas Green Ryman, who had been profiting off the immoral acts was determined to rid Jones from his town. He found Jones to be bad for business with his lectures on anti-alcohol and committed faith. Ryman sent some men to beat up Jones after one of his sermons, but Jones changed his speech to focus on the importance of being a mother’s son, which struck Ryman to the heart.

Capt. Ryman then found Jones to be a wonderful preacher and decided to build him the grandest church he could. It was then Ryman constructed the Union Gospel Tabernacle (later renamed the Ryman Auditorium) in 1886. Ryman had hoped that Jones would move to Nashville, but instead he chose to remain in Cartersville. From 1886 until his death in 1906, Jones would annually visit Nashville each September to give powerful sermons in his immense tabernacle.

Samuel P. Jones was able to positively influence thousands of people through his traveling sermons. It is estimated the Rev. Jones took in over $750,000 through his evangelistic career. However, he took very little of that money as his salary. In fact, 75% of his money has been attributed to being spent on building churches, community buildings and even sending young people to college. In Cartersville, Sam built the Sam Jones Female College. The building still stands but is now Cartersville High School. Jones also commonly raised money for local charities in which he would donate to organizations in the cities his preached in.

Rev. Jones continued traveling and preaching throughout the rest of his life. Unfortunately, the night before his 59th birthday, Jones was traveling home from Arkansas and suddenly passed away. It has been assumed that he likely died of a heart attack. He passed away on October 15, 1906. His body was returned to Georgia, and his body was first displayed at the rotunda of the Georgia Capitol building in Atlanta before being displayed inside his home at Rose Lawn for numerous others looking to pay their respects. His body was finally laid to rest at Oak Hill Cemetery in Cartersville.

Grave of Samuel P. Jones
Grave of Samuel P. Jones | Photo Credit: Find a Grave – Becca

Plan Your Visit

The Grave of Samuel P. Jones lies within Oak Hill Cemetery at 319 Erwin Street in Cartersville, Georgia.

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