Jesse Jones, according to his tombstone, was born February 12, 1858, likely into slavery. In the 1870 census, he is apparently listed as William Jesse Jones, although his tombstone lists his middle initial as "R." His father was William, and his mother's name may have been Margaret; they lived near Chapel Hill. The 1880 census lists him as living in Chapel Hill, working as a tanner, and married to Sylvia.
For many years Jones was the head waiter and a chef at the Chapel Hill Hotel's University Inn Annex and the (first) Pickard Hotel. He also catered banquets for university faculty, alumni, and students. Apparently, the students nicknamed him "Marse," which is an antebellum term for "master," once used by slaves; when used by whites towards blacks, it was likely considered to be deragatory but in an ironic or "humorous" way (ahem).
In 1909 or early 1910, Jones started, owned, and operated The Coop
, a members-only dining facility that catered to university students, especially fraternity members.
Jones died August 1, 1912 at the Kanuga Club
, a private resort southwest of Hendersonville, and is buried in the segregated section
of the (old) Chapel Hill Cemetery.