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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jones, Rees Rutland (1840–1916)

by J. P. Shanahan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Rees Rutland Jones (1840-1916), solicitor, was born on 12 February 1840 in Sydney, son of Rees Jones, then a grocer and subsequently a grazier and mayor of Yass, and his wife Ann, née Thompson. The merchant David Jones was his uncle. Precocious and exceptionally gifted, Rees received his primary education at Yass. In 1852 he attended Dr John Dunmore Lang's Australian College, Sydney, moved to St James Grammar School in 1853 and in 1854 was tutored by William Timothy, son of William Cape, for the matriculation examination which he passed when not yet 15. He went to the University of Sydney in 1855 on a general proficiency scholarship, won the Barker scholarship for mathematics in 1857 and graduated B.A. in 1858 (M.A., 1872).

Jones was employed by the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney until in 1861 he was articled to James Norton. Admitted as a solicitor in New South Wales on 4 June 1864 and in Queensland on 3 September, he arrived at Rockhampton, Queensland, on 10 September and spent the rest of his life there. On 12 December 1865 he married Matilda Jane, daughter of W. J. Brown, called 'Brown the Magnificent'; they had thirteen children. An alderman in 1870, he was a town solicitor in 1871-96, an original trustee of the Rockhampton Grammar School and chairman in 1885-98, and president of the Rockhampton Club for thirty years.

Jones established a legal business in Rockhampton in partnership with his brother-in-law William John Brown. When Brown died in 1889 he was replaced by Charles Sydney Jones (no relation). More than ninety years later the firm was still entitled Rees R. & Sydney Jones. He represented the Mount Morgan syndicate in the appeal to the Privy Council over the 'jumping' cases, and in 1886 when the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co. Ltd was registered, acquired shares and drafted its memorandum and articles of association. In his criminal practice he defended the murderer T. J. A. Griffin and appeared for the prisoner Palmer in the Halligan murder case of 1869. In the latter case his defiance of the magistrate in defence of his client's interests enhanced his reputation.

After failure in Clermont and Rockhampton in 1883 Jones won the North Rockhampton seat in the Legislative Assembly in 1888 as a member of the McIlwraith faction. He supported the separation of central Queensland in the 1891 debate on the provincial legislatures bill but usually spoke only on matters of interest to lawyers or to his electorate. He resigned just before the 1893 general election. Jones was a bon vivant and a brilliant conversationalist, whose chief interests were mathematics and Australian history. He published pamphlets entitled Gold Mining in Central Queensland and the Mount Morgan Mine (1913), The Merino Sheep in Australia (1914), and Souvenir of Emu Park, Emu Park and its Early History (1915), which moved the (Royal) Queensland Historical Society to confer life membership upon him. Before it could be granted, he contracted cancer, went to Sydney for an operation and died there on 30 December 1916. He was buried in Waverley cemetery with Presbyterian forms.

Select Bibliography

  • Alcazar Press, Queensland, 1900 (Brisb, nd)
  • JRHSQ, 30 Nov 1916
  • Brisbane Courier, and Morning Bulletin, 1 Dec 1916, 15 Oct 1964
  • Bulletin, 7 Dec 1916
  • Capricornian, 9 Dec 1916
  • autobiographical notes (privately held).

Citation details

J. P. Shanahan, 'Jones, Rees Rutland (1840–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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