Keeping Up With The Joneses: The Maxwell Settlement Part 2

I received some great feedback about my last blog, Lambton’s Communal Experiment: The Maxwell Settlement. A lot of people are unaware of and fascinated by this pocket of Lambton County’s history! I have been working closely with the Jones Diaries over the last few weeks, and I wanted to share some additional information about this amazing collection to flesh out the Maxwell story. So here is Keeping Up With The Joneses: The Maxwell Settlement Part 2!

I mentioned at the end of my last blog that the Lambton Room has some incredible material documenting the Maxwell settlement. I have been dusting off and properly arranging/storing the Jones diaries for several weeks now, and I have developed a much better understanding of the collection.

The collection contains diaries from three different Joneses: two diaries from Henry John Jones Sr., the master-mind and driving force behind Maxwell; a single diary from Julia Maria Jones, Henry John Sr.’s daughter; and a whopping thirty-four diaries from Henry John Jones Jr., Julia’s brother.

Henry John Sr., September 28, 1832.

Henry John Jones Sr.’s diaries document between December 11, 1831 and September 22, 1833. His entries can be a bit formulaic; he tends to record weather readings, such as thermometer, barometer and wind speed. He records details about agricultural activities, farm accidents and visitors. For example, September 28, 1832 he noted, “Townsend arrived with workmen to finish bridge. 2 boys stopped in search of horses.” (page 123) March 7, 1833 Jones recorded, “Sandy Hamilton came up again, being desirous of returning to the shores of the lake.” (page 28) His diaries provide a great snapshot of activity at Maxwell during its heyday.

Henry John Sr., March 7, 1833.

Julia Maria Jones kept a diary from May 20, 1830 to August 28, 1830. It documents the journey from England to Canada, and through to the site for Maxwell. “Our view of Maxwell even at first was favourable…” Julia notes, commenting on the beauty of the landscape and the hard trek she endured to reach her destination.

Henry John Jones Jr. documented an extensive portion of his life with diaries. His first diary was “Remarks on the zoology of the neighbourhood of Maxwell,” a summary of the animals around Maxwell without much detail about the activities of the humans. He kept regular diary entries until 1843, when our collection abruptly stops until 1852, when it picks up regularly again. It is possible that he quit writing for that period, or the diaries are in someone else’s possession. The last diary we have ends in June, 1883.

Henry John Jones Jr., January 1, 1837.

Jones Jr. writes openly and honestly, for example on January 1, 1837 when he noted, “Looking back on my proceedings during the last year and my prospects at present, I must acknowledge that the view is anything but pleasing… The Land business is in a very unsettled state, indeed the chances are that my present employment cannot last much longer. A devil of an annoyance, after wasting three or four years of my life in it. My consolation is that though poorly, I have managed to maintain myself, and have acquired habits of business and a certain quantity of experience and information which will doubtless under any circumstances be useful to me hereafter.”

It is a rare opportunity to have access to this type of material, diaries that document so regularly and carefully a notable period in county history. The Jones Diaries have been cleaned, inventoried, and archival-safe boxes have been individually prepared for each diary to ensure it remains protected under optimal conditions.

While the family’s ambitious Maxwell failed, their dreams and experiences are recorded forever in the Jones Diaries.

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