In the year 1855 a writer of fiction, Uriah James Jones produced a book, History Of The Early Settlement Of The Juniata Valley: Embracing An Account Of The Early Pioneers, And The Trials And Privations Incident To The Settlement Of The Valley, Predatory Incursions, Massacres, And Abductions By The Indians During The French And Indian Wars, And The War Of The Revolution, &c. With that book, he succeeded in causing more damage to the recording of history of this region than anyone else.
Uriah James Jones moved to Hollidaysburg and began to work as the editor of the Standard, the local newspaper. Mr. Jones had married Margaretta L. Traugh, the sister of O.A. Traugh, then publisher of the Standard. He stayed only a short while before moving, in 1846, to Pittsburgh where he found employment as the publisher of the newspaper, the Keystone. That venture was a failure, and Mr. Jones later moved back to Hollidaysburg, where he resided and edited the Standard until the late-1850s. In 1858 he moved to Lancaster to edit the Express. He moved back to Hollidaysburg within a year and, then in 1860, he made his final move to Harrisburg to serve as editor of the Patriot and Union. U.J. Jones died in Harrisburg in the year 1864 at the age of forty-four after being struck by a train.
The legacy that U.J. Jones left to Blair County as a result of his brief years as a resident was the volume, History Of The Early Settlement Of The Juniata Valley: Embracing An Account Of The Early Pioneers, And The Trials And Privations Incident To The Settlement Of The Valley, Predatory Incursions, Massacres, And Abductions By The Indians During The French And Indian Wars, And The War Of The Revolution, &c. Whether that legacy was a favorable one to the county is very question-able. Mr. Jones started his writing career as a writer of fiction. The book, Simon Girty, was his single famous foray into the realm of historical fiction. According to William H. Egle, who edited, added an appendix and republished the History Of The Early Settlement Of The Juniata Valley, in 1889, Mr. Jones "could tell a local happening in a way that made you read it despite yourself." There was no doubt that Uriah J. Jones could write imaginative narratives, having started his career by writing fiction and traveling with a theatre company for over a year.
Mr. Jones noted in the Preface to his 1855 volume that he was induced to write the History Of The Early Settlement Of The Juniata Valley because the two history books which had previously been published that dealt with this region had "signally failed" to provide graphic histories of the early settlement of the region. He went on to state that the two volumes (i.e. Sherman Day's Historical Collections Of Pennsylvania, and I.D. Rupp's A History Of Northumberland, Huntingdon, Mifflin, Centre, Union, Columbia, Juniata, And Clinton Counties, Pa.) had failed "...because the subscribers looked for a faithful record of the stirring events which occurred when this portion of the land of Penn was 'the dark and bloody ground'." How interesting that a book’s "failing" should be attributed to the fact that the author attempted to tell the truth in it. The two history books scorned by U.J. Jones had presented the historical facts of the region as they were derived from the public records without embellishments. What Uriah J. Jones gave to his readers were historical facts extravagantly spiced with fiction. Although his approach might have satisfied more readers who thirsted for fictional excitement, Mr. Jones' liberal employment of imagination acted as a virus to destroy historical fact for the next one hundred and fifty years. Mr. Jones quoted the early pioneers despite the fact that his sources for quotations were five or so elderly individuals, none of whom would have been more than eight or nine years of age when they supposedly heard the remarks they were quoting. Mr. Jones even noted that although Michael Maguire was "enfeebled by age...he gave days, dates, and names, with such ease as almost to stagger belief." when he recalled a particular incident. Perhaps the fact of the matter was that the dates and names came so easily to Mr. Maguire because he was simply recalling what might have been told to him at some earlier time - whether accurate or not. Perhaps Mr. Maguire was simply making up some of the details of the stories himself to make them more exciting. Mr. Maguire, in one story, claimed that as a boy of six or seven, he watched from his family home’s porch as the first settlers of Scotch Valley (in present-day Blair County), the Moores, marched up through the valley with their claymores hanging at their sides. It is interesting to note that if the Maguire family was already settled there, how could the Moores have been the first settlers. It is also interesting that he should state that they carried claymores – which were rather long swords used in Scotland nearly a hundred years prior to the time period that Mr. Maguire was recounting. The information supplied by Mr. Jones has been of some value to historians who followed him because it provided certain routes that could be followed, but the validity of the particulars associated with those routes are indeed suspect. And there is where the wealth of information bequeathed by Mr. Jones led later historians astray. Too many of Jones' fanciful quotes and anecdotes were accepted as pure fact without any checking to verify their validity. Practically each and every history book published after the History Of The Early Settlement Of The Juniata Valley quoted that book's information as if it embodied first-hand accounts. In the same way that a virus attacks living matter and then breeds within that living matter, U.J. Jones' version of history infested the subsequent histories that came to be written about this region. So, U.J. Jones' legacy is a bittersweet one. On the one hand, without it much of the information we know about the early years of the county might have been lost, but with it we have an often incorrect version of that information.