By Richard Gorby
On May 30, 1864, Prescott became the new capital of the new Territory of Arizona, with John Goodwin as Governor.
The first Arizona Territorial Legislature was formed, with its first meeting on September 27, at "Old Fort Misery", the cabin now moved to the grounds of Sharlot Hall Museum. William Claude Jones, previous Attorney General of New Mexico and a practicing lawyer in Tucson, was chosen as Speaker of the House. The meetings, moved to the newly built Capitol Building on Gurley Street, were apparently a great success, with Speaker Jones commended for his leadership and especially for his acting as interpreter for two members from Tucson who spoke only Spanish. "The Speaker was highly competent in both languages."
From Governor Goodwin to the House:
"I congratulate you on the harmony and good feelings which have characterized your deliberations. At a time when political feelings are strongly excited (the Civil War was still in progress), you have suffered no party differences to distract your proceedings and divert your attention from the important work before you."
The greatest praise went to Speaker Jones:
"Resolved, that the thanks of the members of the House of Representatives be and are hereby tendered to the Honorable W. Claude Jones, for the able, efficient and impartial manner in which he has discharged the arduous duties of Speaker of the House during the present session."
After the adoption of this resolution, the Honorable W. Jones arose and said:
"Gentlemen of the House of Representatives: It is with the deepest emotion that I thank you for the approval of my official action as Speaker of the House of Representatives during the present session. In the discharge of my duties I have pursued but one rule of action and that was to do what my conscience told me was right. I have no political hopes, and no ambitious views to gratify."
Thomas Edwin Farish, Arizona historian, has said that in very few subsequent Legislatures in Arizona did the same spirit of amity and mutual respect prevail.
All this would seem to project a highly successful future for W. Claude Jones. Already in high esteem, one of only two lawyers in Prescott, on November 13, 1864, he married the beautiful Caroline Stephens, just in with her parents from Missouri. Things seemingly went well for Jones after his marriage. He remained active by lecturing several evenings in the Capitol Building on "The Resources of Arizona", but about five months after the wedding, W. Claude Jones disappeared.
It would seem to be difficult to disappear in Prescott in 1865. A town of less than 600, about the only way out was by stage, with no privacy from James Grant's La Paz Express on Montezuma Street, especially with The Arizona Miner reporting: "Leaving today for California, Aaron Wertheimer, Van Smith, Mr. Wormser, and two Chinamen." Even by horseback one didn't go alone because of possible Indian attack.
However, W. Claude Jones not only disappeared but disappeared permanently. Caroline E. Jones filed for divorce a year later, her attorney, Judge Howard, stating:
"That on or about the 13th day of November, A.D. 1864, she was lawfully married to the said Defendant, and from therefore continued to reside with him as his wife until the 5th day of May, A.D. 1865. That on the day last before mentioned, Defendant abandoned her and has gone to parts unknown to her nor in any manner communicated with her."
Jones was never heard from again. Thomas Edwin Farish, author of the 1912, eight volume History of Arizona, who wrote about and admired Jones, stated:
"His subsequent history I have been unable to find."
Richard Gorby is a volunteer at the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives and Library.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (bub8333pa). Reuse only by permission.
Judge "Blinky" Howard (with mutton chops) at Fort Misery in 1893. Howard was the divorce attorney for Caroline Jones, Prescott's first bride in November of 1864. Mrs. Jones filed for divorce after her husband, W. Claude Jones disappeared in May of 1865.