Madeline Jones taught in Morgan County schools for 31 years. She is remembered by many for her quiet wisdom and determined spirit.
"Mrs. Madeline," as she was known to her students, was born November 5, 1915 -- the second daughter of Sarah Melvina Jones Wilson (1888-1916) and Jesse Monroe Wilson (1890-1975). Due to her father's interest
in unusual names for his children, she was named Aleta Madeline. The idea for the name Madeline came from the French novel 'Les Miserables' which he read during the weeks preceding her birth. Her sister, older by nineteen months, was named Evelyn Yetive. Subsequent half-brothers were named Jesse James, Gaylon Eugene, Glenn Scott, and Donald Allen. Her half-sister was named Virginia Jo.
Three months after her birth in the 2nd District of Morgan County, Madeline's mother died of pneumonia. From the time of her mother's death, she and her sister were cared for by her maternal aunts Bertha, Columbia and
Florence Jones, her uncle Henderson, and her grandparents, Serena Clay Barger Jones (1847-1939) and Benjamin Wiley Jones (1854-1920). The house in which she was born, built by her father, was located on the Jones farm in the Joyner community. It remained unoccupied for many years after the death of "Sallie" Wilson.
Jesse Wilson worked at various jobs in the Morgan County area after his wife's death. He lived at Petros with his parents, Esther Glass Wilson (1872-1968) and Peter Wilson (1886-1940). He made frequent visits to see
his children unless circumstances prevented him from doing so. One such set of circumstances was the influenza epidemic of 1918. Mr. Wilson's large family was beseiged with the flu. One day he walked by the Ben Jones farm on his way to make funeral arrangements for a teen-aged sister. On the way, he stopped to yell from the gate to check on the condition of his daughter, Madeline, aged three, who was suffering from both diptheria and scarlet
fever. Contact between the two families had been almost impossible because of the flu epidemic.
After making arrangements for the burial of that sister and yet another teen-aged sister who died the next day, Mr. Wilson again visited his daughter. Her condition was critical. The Jones family had been "sitting
up" with her every night for over a month, and the "Granny woman" of the community had given up hope. Mr. Wilson went to Harriman and persuaded/coerced a throat specialist to make a house call to treat his
daughter, Madeline. The fee agreed upon was $25 and a gallon of moonshine -- the moonshine to be paid after the visit was completed. It was to this doctor, and her father for bringing him, that Madeline Jones owed
her life. After the specialist treated her, her condition continued to improve, although she had a permanent hearing loss and was thin and pale for the remainder of her childhood.
Madeline attended Joyner Elementary School where she graduated from the eighth grade. She and her sister walked the two miles to school each day even in cold, snowy weather. She attended Central High School in Wartburg where she graduated in 1934, the salutatorian of her class. After her graduation, she attended the University of Tennessee.
Her first teaching position was at Ruppee School in the southwest portion of Morgan County. It was a one-room school for which she received a warrent for $50 a month. Due to the insolvency of the county, it was almost impossible to cash these warrants for full value. Madeline boarded with the Fred Hamby family in the Ruppee community. In addition to teaching school, her responsibilities included preparing her students to sing at funerals and escorting them to the church to do so. On at least one occasion, she also assisted Mrs. Hamby in making a shroud.
After summer school at the University of Tennessee, Madeline returned for a second year at Ruppee School. In the meantime, she had acquired a permanent certificate to teach elementary school in the state of Tennessee. She also purchased a 1937 Chevrolet from Schubert Motor Company with the understanding she would be taught to drive. Schubert Motor Company was one of the few places where you could get full value for a county warrent
provided part of the money was applied to a car payment.
Later teaching positions included Petros Elementary School and Elizabeth School. During World War II, she
was teacher/principal of Joyner School. From there she was transferred to Oakdale High School where she
taught two years.
In 1939, Madeline Wilson married Kenneth Collin Jones, also of the Joyner Community. They were the parents of one daughter, Betty Lynn, who is married to Don L. McNeilly. They have two daughters -- Donna Lynn and Lisa Dawn.
The greater part of Madeline Jones' teaching career was spent teaching in Wartburg schools. When the new high school building was completed in 1946, she transferred from Oakdale to Central High School. There she taught a variety of subjects -- math, algebra, French, and physical education.
In 1950, Madeline returned to elementary school, teaching fifth grade at Central Elementary School from that time until her retirement in 1968. By that time she had taught the children of many of her former students. Her
classes were well-disciplined although she seldom resorted to "paddling." Her methods were up-to-date and designed to impart basic education while keeping students interested in learning. She set professional standards for herself that few teachers were able to attain, and she retired at the age of 53 when she felt she could no longer meet her own standards.
Aleta Madeline Wilson Jones died January 15, 1973 after a courageous battle against cancer. Her legacy to her former students is the memory of her wisdom and determination.
Written in response to a request from the Morgan County Retired Teachers Association * Written and submitted by Betty Lynn Jones McNeilly
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