Family history and 1905 Census.
Ernest Jones was born in Union City, Tennessee in 1871. According to genealogical research and family stories, Jones’ African American parents and grandparents owned their own land before the Civil War. Ernest's father, Wiley Jones, had Native American heritage and handed down the headdress (shown in the photograph) to Ernest. Wiley was a farmer and worked in the brick trade and one of Ernest's older brothers was listed as a bricklayer in the 1880 census, so Ernest likely learned to be a bricklayer from them. He moved to Chicago where he worked as a bricklayer and was among a number of African American tradesmen who were recruited by foreman Casiville Bullard to come to St. Paul in 1902 to work on the Capitol. The Bullard and Jones descendants remember that the stonemasons used to get together often at picnics and other social gatherings. Jones worked on the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in 1929, as well as commercial buildings around Rice Street and University Avenue.
The St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church was the focus of community activities for Ernest’s wife, Odessa (Wade) Jones, as it was for her daughter Ora Lee “Coopie” Anderson. Ernest built a home at 1021 Rondo Avenue - later razed, along with many other homes and businesses in the center of the African American community, to make way for I-94. The couple raised a large family and their descendants are still active community members in St. Paul. Jones later returned to Chicago in the 1930s, where he formed the Black Bricklayers Association. He worked until at least 1944 and died in Chicago at the age of 85 in 1957.