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John Jones' Monument

With $50,000 over the course of his life, what did John Jones accomplish?

John Jones began at the age of fifteen to build a monument and finished it at fifty. He worked night and day, often all night long, and on the Sabbath. He seemed to be in a great hurry to get it done. He spent all the money he earned upon it—some say $50,000. Then he borrowed all he could; and when no one would loan him any more he would take his wife's dresses and the bed-clothes and many other valuable things in his home, and sell them to get more money to finish that monument.

They say he came home one day and was about to take the blankets that lay over his sleeping baby to keep it warm, and his wife tried to stop him; but he drew back his fist and knocked her down, and then went away with the blankets and never brought them back, and the poor baby sickened and died from the exposure. At last there was not anything left in the house. The poor, heart-broken wife soon followed the baby to the grave. Yet John Jones kept working all the more at the monument. I saw him when he was about fifty years old. The momument was nearly done; but he had worked so hard at it that I hardly knew him, he was so worn; his clothes were all in tatters, and his hands and face, indeed, his whole body, were covered with scars which he got in laying up some of the stones. And the wretched man had been so little, all this while that he was building, in good society that he had about forgotten how to use the English language; his tongue had somehow become very thick, and when he tried to speak out would come an oath.

That may seem strange, but I have found out that all who build such monuments as John's prefer oaths to any other word!

Now come with me, and I will show you John's monument. It stands in a beautiful part of the city where five streets meet. Most men put such things in a cemetery. But John had his own way and put it on one of the finest lots to be found.

“Does it look like the Bunker Hill monument?” asks little Amy Arlott by my side.

Not at all. John didn't want to be remembered that way. He might have taken that $50,000 and built an asylum for poor little children that have no home, and people would have called the asylum his monument.

But here we are at the front door. It is a grand house! It is high and large, with great halls and towers, and velvet carpets, elegant mirrors and a piano, and I know not what all; so rich and grand.

This is John Jones' monument! and the man who sold John nearly all the whisky he drank lives here with his family, and they all dress in the richest and finest clothes.

Do you understand it?


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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