John Jones: Early Los Angeles Jewish Pioneer

John Jones

Values Codes I – E – L – P 


John Jones was born to Polish parents in either Poland or London in the early 1800’s.

John Jones, early Jewish pioneer of Los Angeles

At approximately age thirty-eight, Jones was sentenced to life at Old Bailey and was transported to Australia for stealing a breast pin.

England alleviated much of its poverty problems by shipping young people to Australia for both major and minor crimes.

John Jones arrived in Australia in 1836, and received his certificate of freedom seven years later.



With news of the California Gold Rush, John Jones boarded the British brig HMS Broad Axe in Adelaide, arriving in San Francisco 116 days later, in 1850.

Jones became an American citizen in 1859.

(NOTE: He should not be confused with his non-Jewish contemporary, John P. Jones, who founded the City of Santa Monica in 1875, and later became a U.S. Senator from Nevada.)

Jones settled in Los Angeles, where he went into the wholesale grocery business.

Twice a year, he would close his store for six weeks while he traveled to San Francisco to buy merchandise, attend synagogue, and renew relationships with friends.

In 1853, he became the first wholesale liquor merchant in Los Angeles.

In the mid-1850’s, Jones returned to San Francisco for several years.

While there, he served as vice-president of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Jones returned with his new wife, Doria, to Los Angeles, in 1863.

A price war with competitor, Harris Newmark, forced Jones out of business in 1865.

He joined in partnership in a new wholesale food business with Bernard Cohn around 1867.

This partnership lasted until 1871, when Cohn dissolved the partnership and joined with Hellman, Hass & Co.

John and Doria Deighton Jones became land owners and developers.



John Jones newspaper advertisement

John Jones served on the Los Angeles City Council and in 1871 was the first Jew to become Council President of Los Angeles.

Both John and Doria maintained social ties to the Los Angeles Jewish Community.

When the Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society was formed in 1870 — the first women’s charity organization in Los Angeles — Doria was elected Treasurer.



John Jones married Doria Deighton, a Scottish-born Christian, in the late 1850’s in San Francisco.

They had three children: Mark Gordon, Constance, and Caroline Adelaide.

Caroline Adelaide married James Lankershim, the son of Isaac Lankershim.


John Jones passed away in 1876.

Doria Jones died in 1908.

At the time of her death in 1908, Doria was one of Los Angeles’ largest developers of the inner city.

Doria Deighton Jones, portrait, 1876



  • Gene Caper and Norton B. Stern, “First Jewish President of the Los Angeles City Council,” Western States Jewish History 17/1.
  • William M. Kramer, “Early Jewish Civil Servants: More Come to Light,” Western States Jewish History 42/2&3.

Ava Kahn is curator of this John Jones exhibit.



John Jones Tombstone