Jonas Shearn Rice, biography c. 1905
[from A History of Texas and Texans]
  Source: Johnson, Frank W. A History of Texas and Texans, Vol. III, p. 1331. Chicago: American Historical Association, 1914.

COL. JONAS SHEARN RICE. In the group of men who compose the leaders in Texas finance and larger business, there is at this time not a more prominent figure than Col. J. S. Rice of Houston. The name itself has for a number of years had a prestige which would be sufficient as an asse1¿ in almost any enterprise with which it is associated. Colonel Rice began his career about forty years ago as clerk in a railroad office, then some years later became one of the minor employees in a Houston bank, and thirty years ago his name first acquired large prominence in the industrial affairs of southern Texas when he and his brother, William M. Rice, went into the lumber industry. Jonas Shearn Rice was born in Houston, Texas, November 25, 1855, and is a son of Frederick and Charlotte M. (Baldwin) Rice. On both his father's and his mother ‘s side he is descended from American Revolutionary stock, and is of Scotch-Irish and English extraction. One of his great-grandfathers named Hall was wounded in the battle of Lexington in 1775, but lived to be one hundred and two years old, and spent all his lifetime in Massachusetts. Frederick A. Rice, the father, was born in Massachusetts, located at Houston in 1850, and for many years was identified with mercantile and railroad interests. He was one of the builders of the Old Houston & Texas Central Railroad, and in every way one of the most progressive citizens in that epoch of development which began before the war, and which produced the metropolis of south Texas. His death occurred in 1901 at the age of seventy-one years. He was a brother of the late William M. Rice, founder of the Rice Institute of Houston. Charlotte Baldwin Rice, the mother, was born in New York State, a daughter of Horace Baldwin, whose brother-in-law, was A. C. Allen, one of the owners of the original town site and founders of the city of Houston in 1836. Horace Baldwin. himself, located in Texas in 1840, and was engaged in the transportation along the gulf coast and from Houston down the bayou. In 1844 he was honored with dcction to the office of Mayor at Houston. There were seven sons and three daughters in the family of Frederick A. Rice and wife, and Colonel Rice was the oldest of the children.

Colonel Rice completed his education in the Texas Military Institute at Austin, and left school in October, 1874, at the age of nineteen, in order to become a railroad clerk under J. Waldo, who was general freight and passenger agent of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad. In 1879 he left railroading to become bookkeeper and teller for the National Exchange Bank of Houston.

In 1881 Colonel Rice and his brother, William M. Rice, engaged in the sawmill business in Tyler county, and from that time forward he has been identified with many of the larger business affairs and interests of the state. Governor Culberson, in 1895, appointed him financial agent of the Texas State Penitentiary, a position which he held until 1899. Governor Sayers then appointed him superintendent of the Texas State Penal System. He resigned that office in 1902 and returned to Houston, which city has since been his home and the center of his large and financial business undertakings. From 1904 to 1909 he was one of the receivers for the Kirby Lumber Company, and when that great corporation was reorganized in 1909 he became its vice-president.

Colonel Rice in August, 1905, was elected president of the Union Bank & Trust Company of Houston, which has since become the Union National Bank, of which he is still president. His interests in the financial and business affairs of southern Texas, in addition to what has already been stated, is best indicated by his official connection with the larger corporations. Colonel Rice is president of the Great Southern Life Insurance Company of Texas, president of the Bankers Trust Company of Houston; is vice-president of the J. S. & W. M. Rice Lumber Company of Houston; vice-president of the Hogan-Allnoch Dry Goods Company of Houston; vicepresident of the Houston Land Corporation; is treasurer of the Keithly Company of Houston; and director of the Trinity & Brazos Valley Railroad Company.

Colonel Rice in 1874 became a member of the Houston Light Guards, a noted military organization which in its time was one of the most influential social as well as military bodies in the state. He took a prominent part in the State National Guards' work and held the commission of adjutant in the First Regiment of Militia which was organized after the Civil war. He also served as adjutant general of the First Brigade on the staff of General F. W. James, and his final military service was as chief of staff under Governor L. S. Ross. Fraternally Colonel Rice is affiliated with the Masonic Order, with all the branches of the York Rites including the Chapter and the Knights Templar Comniandery and belongs to El Mina Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Galveston. He is also a member of the Order of Elks in Houston, and belongs to the Lumbermen ‘s Organization, the Hoo Hoos. Colonel Rice was appointed by Governor Campbell a memher of the commission for the improvement of the San Jacinto Battle Ground. He is a former president of the Thelian Club, and in 1905 was King of the No-Tsu-Oh Carnival Association.

In 1887 Colonel Rice married Miss Mary J. Ross, daughter of Colonel P. F. Ross, and a niece of Governor L. S. Ross. Mrs. Rice is also a granddaughter of General James E. Harrison of Waco. Their three children are Laura F., Kate Padgitt, and Lottie. The Rice home is at 2304 Crawford Street.

Text and images were digitized and proofread from the original source documents by Murry Hammond. Contact Murry for all corrections and contributions of new material.