Denton, North Carolina's first schoolhouse, possibly the schoolhouse JAJ I attended. (source)
Little is known of the childhood of James Addison Jones. He was only three or four years old when his mother died, leaving him and two children even younger than he was. His father's third marriage proved to be an unfortunate one. As the boy grew he had to work harder and harder with little or no personal recompense. He was able to attend school in a one-room schoolhouse only a few months a year. As he had to walk a number of miles to this school, his attendance depended upon good weather as well as the amount of farm work to be done. And even this little 'schooling' lasted only a few years. He had to quit school when he got big enough to do a man's work on the farm. I heard him say many times that he never went beyond the fourth grade.
There was little to hold him to this poor farm home, made harsher by his father's strict control and frequent use of corporal punishment, which was common in those days. His brother William left home when eighteen years old, and to this day that is the last news known about him. James Addison Jones, better known as Jim, left home also, when he was eighteen, on foot, without a cent of money in his pocket and without a trade. This was in 1887.
In Lexington, the county seat of Davidson County, North Carolina, where Jim Jones lived, he met a contractor, a Mr. Cecil, who offered him a job, driving a wagon over the rough country roads to Charlotte, N.C. Mr. Cecil had taken the contract to build a cotton mill in Charlotte on a site now only a few blocks from the Southern Railway Station. He had some mules and wagons and brick-making equipment in Lexington that he needed on this job. Jim Jones with a couple of other country boys agreed to drive his wagons loaded with the brick-making machinery for him. According to Edwin, "Either the wagons broke down or the mules gave out or the roads became impassable, because he walked the last twenty-five... miles to Charlotte". Berryman thinks he worked around Concord for nearly two years and learned the trade of brickmaking there before going into Chariotte for work.
Example of a cotton mill during that time period:
Alpha Mill (source)
The Southern Railway Station was sadly demolished in 1962, and the lot is still just empty, currently used for parking for Charlotte Panthers football games. Formerly located at 511 West Trade Street. (top: source; bottom: source)
Possible style of brick-making machine used to train JAJ I (source)