Alford Lafayette Jones came to Ashpole before the town's incorporation in 1899 as Union City. Real estate records show that he purchased property in 1897 prior to the Southeastern Railroad being constructed as a spur from the Atlantic Coast Line in Elrod. Jones, originally from Liberty, NC, came to Buie (near Pembroke) as an employee of a lumber company located there. From Buie he migrated to Fairmont in 1898, opening the South Eastern Lumber Company with J. Danforth Bush, future Lt. Governor of Delaware, and R. B. Rayner.
Photo Credit: Lumberton Argus, 1904
The company began shipping dressed lumber to northern markets as soon as the railroad was completed. A. L. Jones sold his interests back to the company in 1904 but continued to live, work and invest in Ashpole. Previously he had constructed the first tobacco warehouse in town in 1899, leasing it out for others to operate but maintaining an interest as he learned the business. He continued operating his farms that he had acquired while a timber man and became known as quite the progressive farm operator. He began constructing residential housing for sale and rent and, in December 1912, began construction of the largest building in Fairmont which still sits on the southeast corner of Main and Thompson Streets.
The Jones Building was Fairmont's first mall/community center. It contained three sections on the first floor for retail establishments. The Bank of Fairmont located in the northernmost section and Harry Weinstein set up his dry goods establishment in the center section. Office space was located on the second floor along with an opera house located over the two northernmost sections. E. G. Floyd operated the opera house for a time, and doctors, lawyers and insurance agents filled the office space from the beginning. The Fairmont Masonic Lodge was located on the third floor.
Photo credit: Charles Williamson, Frances McNeill Williamson history collection
A. L. Jones died August 15, 1921 of kidney disease, leaving behind his wife, sons Ernest and Philip and daughters Bessie Jennings, Christine Thompson, Amic Jones and Catherine Jones. Jones died as the largest land owner and one of the wealthiest people in Fairmont. His son Ernest continued the family operations, eventually carving himself out a niche in the local tobacco business and later becoming mayor of Fairmont in 1947. He died while in office in 1949 of kidney disease.