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?




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


There is a Facebook group.


You will regret following me on Twitter here.


Enter your email address:

A TinyLetter Email Newsletter

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.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


Syndicate: RSS1.0, RSS2.0
Links: RSS1.0, RSS2.0


© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

Tables of Contents