Jones, Jenkin Lloyd, 1843-1918

Variant names
Birth 1843-11-14
Death 1918-09-12

Biographical notes:

Minister, pacifist. Pastor, All Souls Church, Chicago, Illinois. Secretary, Western Unitarian Conference, 1874-1884. Founder, Unity magazine, 1878. Founder, Abraham Lincoln Centre, 1905. Chairman, Committee of Administration, Henry Ford Peace Expedition.

From the description of Papers, 1861-1932 (inclusive), 1888-1901 (bulk). (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52246354

Jenkin Lloyd Jones, born in Wales in 1843, was brought to the United States by his parents in 1844 and was raised on a pioneer farm in Wisconsin. Several of his ancestors, including Jenkin Jones and David Lloyd, had been pioneer ministers in the Arminian movement in Wales. Jones enlisted in the Union army during the Civil War as a matter of conscience, fighting in the battles of Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Missionary Ridge. He was mustered out in 1865 as a confirmed opponent to war, a position he maintained throughout his life. Upon graduation in 1870 from Meadville Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, he was ordained a Unitarian minister, serving at Winnetka, Illinois, 1870-71, and Janesville, Wisconsin, 1871-80. In 1882, Jones began missionary work on the south side of Chicago, which resulted in the organization of All Souls Church, of which he remained pastor until his death. Jones early in his career was active in forming "Mutual Improvement Clubs", a new idea in church life in the 1870's, a movement that spread and eventually became the "Unity Clubs" found in almost all Unitarian churches of the Middle West.

In 1874, Jones became secretary of the Western Unitarian Conference, a position he held until 1884. He infused new life into the dying organization, moved its headquarters to Chicago in 1880, and devoted all of his time to the Conference, giving up his church in Janesville. He helped found the weekly magazine Unity in 1878, dedicated to "Freedom, Fellowship and Character in Religion," and remained its editor until his death. He set up a Sunday School society which published numerous lessons and vigorous tract-publications. But Jones also led a movement within the Western Conference for ethical rather than theological unanimity as the basis for liberal fellowship. This issue erupted at the Cincinnati meeting of the Conference in 1886, where many of the conservative churches withdrew and the eastern branch of the movement set up a rival organization. Until the breach was healed in 1894, Jones used his editorship of Unity to advance the liberal cause and the magazine became the mouthpiece of the liberal party within the movement.

Soon after the foundation of All Souls Church Jones dropped the word "Unitarian". He felt that denomination built a fence around religion and he did not want his church, even by remote implication, to exclude anyone. This church became the nucleus of Jones' even more ambitious project, the Abraham Lincoln Centre, founded in 1905. Lincoln Centre was a combination social, civic and religious center in its early years, with All Souls Church at its core, but it also provided a gymnasium, manual training, domestic science classes, reading rooms, libraries, lecture courses, as well as study classes in subjects including religion, citizenship, literature. Jones' idea of universal religion inspired the World's Parliament of Religion, in connection with the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He was the moving force behind the movement as well as its General Secretary. He also sailed on the Ford Peace Ship Mission in December 1915 and became the chairman of the Committee of Administration after the withdrawal of Henry Ford due to illness. He maintained his pacifist viewpoint until his death and in 1918 his editorial opposition in Unity to war in general and American participation in World War I led to the suspension of mailing privileges of the magazine by the United States Postmaster-General. Jones also founded the Tower Hill (Wisconsin) Summer Camp in 1889, which gave systematic lectures on literary and liberal religious subjects.

He was the author of numerous works, among them: An Artilleryman's Diary (1914); The Faith That Makes Faithful, with W. C. Gannett (1886); Jess: Bits of Wayside Gospel (1899); A Search for an Infidel (1901); and Love for the Battletorn Peoples (1916). He received an honorary LL.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1909.

Susan Barber, Jones' first wife died in 1911. In 1915, he married Edith Lackersteen, his longtime associate at Lincoln Centre. Jones died at Tower Hill, Wisconsin, in 1918. Edith Lloyd Jones died in 1932.

From the guide to the Jones, Jenkin Lloyd. Papers, 1861-1932, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Links to collections


This is only a preview comparison of Constellations. It will only exist until this window is closed.

  • Added or updated
  • Deleted or outdated




  • Unitarian churches
  • Outdoor recreation


not available for this record


  • Wisconsin--Iowa County (as recorded)
  • Tower Hill (Wis.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)