SEE: Jones Brewery today
Born on a nearby Barrington farm in 1832, Frank Jones' rags-to-riches story is still popular local history. Fueled by cheap immigrant labor, Jones grew his local brewery into a large brick complex, some of which survives today. He parlayed his profits into ownership of the Rockingham and Wentworth Hotels , insurance companies, banks, the local railroad, racing horses and more.
Despite his wealth and power, Jones was seen by some as the champion of the working man, as this political ballad suggests. He served a controversial term as Mayor of Portsmouth, then as congressman. By 1880 he was an extraordinarily wealthy man and became, according to one local historian, "the titular head of the Democratic party in New Hampshire. Jones and other local politicians shifted the political power of the state from its capital at Concord, back to the Seacoast.
Nominated to run for governor in 1880, Jones was introduced as "a household word in New Hampshire." Although owner of a mansion in Portsmouth with its own racing horse stables, Jones ran as a friend to the common working man.
Jones, who would later swap political parties, was strongly opposed by Concord Republican William Eaton Chandler who owned the Concord newspaper (and is known to SeacoastNH.com readers as the husband of Lucy Hale who was originally engaged to John Wilkes Booth). Chandler and the wealthy Republican party attacked alemaker Jones as the source of drunkenness. Both sides were not unknown to purchase votes and there were no moral giants amid the muckraking campaign. And, in the end, with the powerful influence of Chandler, Jones lost to Republican Charles Bell, 44,432 to 40,813 votes.
In his biography of Frank Jones, Ray Brighton mentions a pro-Jones political group called the "Jones Cadets of Christian Shore." This was, and remains for some, the pet name for the old Protestant neighborhood to the north of the city. Locals say that a number of Irish families moved "up the Crick" to Christian Shore when Italian immigrants began arriving in Portsmouth. The local newspaper, according to Brighton, noticed that Irish supporters of Jones had joined this Christian Shore group which had previously been exclusively Protestant. The following brewery song, signed by "P. Ryan," may have been the anthem of this political group.
By J. Dennis Robinson
Sources: (1) Richard Winslow, "Frank Jones of NH: A Capitalist and Politican in during the Gilded Age, UNH History Dept Master's Thesis, 1965; (2) Ray Brighton, "Frank Jones: King of the Alemakers" Peter E. Randall Publisher, 1976.
Frank Jones Brewery Song
Note: Discovered in 1999, this delicate one-page manuscript was transcribed by Mike O'Keefe. The tune remains unknown, but sing it to the melody of the popular "MacNamara's Band" and you will capture the feeling.
Frank Jones Brewery Song (c. 1897)
Come all you Jolly Sportsmen and listen to a song,
It is a splendid building, as we all well know,
Brewers they are so clever in brewing this splendid beer,
If you go cellar, what a splendid sight,
There you'll see Yankee Denny with his beautiful big nose,
There you'll see Paddy Holoran, he is just like any bull,
I went to the hall the other night, there I did behold,
It's there I noticed Mr. Jones among the noble throng,
All these oily druggists boast of their little pills,
Now to conclude and finish, I am feeling a little dry,
How the Manuscript was Discovered
SeacoastNH.com received this rare original piece of ephemera from reader Mike O'Keefe of Washington, DC. Born in Portsmouth, NH, Mike graduated from the local high school in 1965 and taught history at nearby York High in Maine. Mike currently works at the refugee bureau of the Department of State in DC where he lives with his wife Ann. He has worked in Botswana, Costa Rica and other locations and currently oversees programs for 2 million refugees in the Sudan.
Mike's mother Mary, who still lives in Portsmouth, recently discovered the fragile manuscript among the family papers. Mike's grandfather worked at the Frank Jones Brewery toward the end of the last century, as did many Irish immigrants. The O'Keefe family arrived in the Seacoast in the 1850s.
His great grand-uncle, Corneilus O'Keefe, owned a saloon on Market Square and represented a Portsmouth ward in the New Hampshire General Court during the 1890s. In a strange twist of fate, Mike too represented Portsmouth Ward 4 in the General Court of NH from 1972-80. Corneilus followed the typical Irish job immigrant progression, Mike says. First, he was a "sole sorter" at Gale Shoe Factory, then a barrel maker at the Jones Brewery, and finally worked at the Portsmouth Navy Yard. He was the only survivor of an accident at the Yard in the 1920s when a construction building he and several other men were on fell into a dry-dock.
Mike has generously agreed to donate the document to a local archive after it is published on this web site. "I was so delighted to find SeacoastNH.com," Mike writes. "I have never seen a web site like it. You have done a great job. When- ever I feel homesick, I turn to your excellent web site and remember Portsmouth.
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