Jim Jones had no idea that the photograph which appeared on the front page of the December 26, 1946 Tri-County Newswould later become the iconic symbol for the Town of Spruce Pine. The tree graced the yard of the English Inn, and Mrs. Isaac English encouraged that it be used as the name for the community. Jim Jones’ photographs go well beyond this one contribution. He documented the Town of Bakersville before the 1923 fire and immediately after. He provided images of the Topliff Hotel, taxi stands in Spruce Pine and Bakersville in the 30’s and 40’s, Model T’s in Bakersville, inside the White Swan Restaurant, as well as countless keepsakes for couples, individuals, and families from Poplar to Little Switzerland.
Jones was born in Bakersville to a Blacksmith, Mr. Wilson Smith “Wiltz” Jones and his wife Ibby Ann Whitson Jones in 1895 and graduated from Bowman High School. In addition to his too brief career in photography, he worked with J.B. Craigmiles at the Mitchell County Banner, he was a reporter for the Asheville-Citzen Times, assistant manager of City Drug Company in Bakersville, and a postal service worker; plus, he taught at Cub Creek and White Oak Schools. He moved his family to Spruce Pine in 1946 and rented studio space above the Dixie Store and Pharmacy.
While his work was exemplary as an art form and historically significant as social documentation, it did not pay the bills for his growing family. He took a position as Bookkeeper for P.D. Goforth Tires, Brad Ragan Service Station, and Frank Greene Auto Parts. He stored his camera in the upstairs back room of their two-story white house on Walnut Avenue and never touched it again. Jim never drove an automobile, but was fascinated with airplanes; he built models and flew them on the old Fair Grounds property. His wife, Maude Wilson Jones, worked at various times as a seamstress for Spruce Pine Store Company, in the dry goods department, and at the Mica Depot. He passed away at the Williams Clinic in 1965 after much suffering as a diabetic.
Shown with the tree is Mrs. R.M. Burleson, Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac English. Jim Jones is shown in his studio in Bakersville sitting on a Rev. Davis stool. Both the original negative of the tree and the image of Jim Jones courtesy of his son, Buzz Jones, and Mary Lee Barron.