n 1870 hazel-eyed, brown-haired, 20-year-old Alonzo Trévier Jones (1850-1923) left the home of his parents, Grammer and Ingaby Jones, and his work as a clerk at a dry goods store, to join the United States Army. He served from 1870 to 1875 and attained the rank of sergeant. He participated in the Modoc war in northern California in 1873.1
Arthur Spalding remembered Jones during the 1890s as a “towering, angular man, with a loping gait and uncouth posturings and gestures.”2
Baptized by Isaac Van Horn on August 8, 1874, in Walla Walla, Washington (then a territory), he emerged from the water exclaiming with upraised hands, “Dead to the world, and alive to thee, O my God!”3
Jones subsequently assisted I. D. Van Horn with evangelism in Oregon and Washington and became a minister. On April 15, 1877, he married Frances E. Patten, the younger sister of Van Horn’s wife, Adelia. Although he wanted an education, the pressing needs of ministry interfered.
In 1884 he began editorial work with the Signs of the Times
and the Sabbath Sentinel
in Oakland, California. He also served as pastor of the Healdsburg College church, and as a Bible teacher at the college. In a few short years Jones went from relative obscurity to being one of the denominations most prominent workers, partnering with E. J. Waggoner in an important role at the 1888 Minneapolis, Minnesota, General Conference session. Ellen White identified them as sharing “a most precious message” of righteousness by faith.
In December 1888 Jones testified against the Blair Sunday law bill before the Senate Committee on Education and Labor. He remained on the national stage, and his views were widely noticed in newspapers. Jones also became pastor of the Battle Creek Dime Tabernacle and presented lengthy and dynamic sermons at the General Conference sessions during the 1890s that brought dramatic spiritual revival. From 1897 to 1901 he was editor of the Review and Herald
During the 1901-1903 reorganization of the General Conference he took a strong stand against “kingly power” and argued against the administrative position of “president.” After 1903 he became more closely aligned with J. H. Kellogg in organizational intrigues, and harbored a critical attitude. By 1906 he had lost most of his influence with Seventh-day Adventists. His ministerial credentials were removed in 1907 and his membership in 1909. Tragically, his last years were spent in opposition to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He participated with the Ballenger brothers in the establishment of their dissident movement and paper, The Gathering Call
To the end of his life he professed to believe and preach the third angel’s message and righteousness by faith. He also continued to publish a religious liberty paper The American Sentinel
(not a Seventh-day Adventist periodical).4
Jones died on May 12, 1923, at his home in Battle Creek, Michigan.
1 United States Federal Census Records for 1850, 1870, and 1900; Alonzo T. Jones Passport Application, Aug. 23, 1895; United States Army Register of Enlistments: 1798-1914; “A Tribute to the Life and Labors of the Late Alonzo T. Jones,” American Sentinel of Religious Liberty, July 1923, pp. 1-8.
2 Quoted in George R. Knight, A. T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2011), p. 18. Some other details in this account are drawn from George Knight’s book.
3 Adelia P. Van Horn, “A Sabbath in Walla Walla, W. T.,” Review and Herald, Aug. 25, 1874.
4 G. E. Fifield, “In Memoriam: Elder A. T. Jones,” The Gathering Call, June 1923.
Merlin Burt is director of the Center for Adventist Research, Andrews University. This article was published October 10, 2013.