Jones, Jessie Kenan Wilder (1882–1969)

By: Katharyn Duff

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: August 7, 2022

Jessie Jones, Abilene civic leader, was born on August 11, 1882, in Graham, Texas. She graduated from Weatherford College with a bachelor of music degree and did postgraduate studies at the Sherwood School of Music, the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, and Bush Temple Conservatory of Music in Dallas. She established a music school in Seymour, Texas, where she met her husband, Morgan C. Jones, Sr., a brother of Percy Jones and a nephew of railroad builder Morgan Jones, for whom he worked. The two were married on October 26, 1904, in Weatherford and moved to Abilene in 1909. They had five children.

During the Great Depression Jones helped establish the Negro Day Nursery, where working Black parents could leave their children. She was also president of the Abilene Free Milk Fund for the needy. Driving with her five small children to Colorado in the early 1930s, she found there was no shady spot along the road to stop and spread a lunch; the only shade she could find was under a railroad trestle. Back in Abilene, she attended a highway beautification meeting and proposed a roadside-park project, an idea subsequently advocated by Governor Miriam Ferguson. Hundreds of roadside parks were ultimately built.

During World War II Jones was chairman of the Home Service Committee for the Taylor County Red Cross. In 1941 she was named president of the executive board of the Abilene Museum of Fine Arts, a post she held for twenty years before being named honorary president. She helped organize the Abilene Garden Club and was president of the City Federation of Women's Clubs. She was also one of the organizers of the Abilene Women's Club and its president, as well as president of the Rosenfeld Music Club and state treasurer of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs. She served on the committee that wrote the city charter for the commission-manager form of government in Abilene. She became a member of the Abilene Parks and Recreation Board in 1940 and served on the board until 1956, with one term as president.

Jessie Jones served for fourteen years on the board of stewards of St. Paul Methodist Church in Abilene. She was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Altrusa Club, and an honorary member of Delta Kappa Gamma. For her charity work she received the 1965 Golden Deeds Award, conferred by the Abilene Exchange Club. She died on July 22, 1969, and was buried in Elmwood Memorial Park, Abilene.

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Abilene Reporter-News, July 22, 1969. Hugh E. Cosby, The History of Abilene (Abilene, Texas, 1955).

  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Museums
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Women
  • Women's Clubs
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • West Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Katharyn Duff, “Jones, Jessie Kenan Wilder,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 12, 2022,

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February 1, 1995
August 7, 2022

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