Eliza Coltman Grew was born on March 30, 1803, in Providence, Rhode Island. She was the eldest child of Rev Henry and Susan Grew. Before marrying John Taylor Jones, Eliza served as a teacher and showed a propensity for learning languages through her study of Greek without a tutor. For a time, Eliza wrestled with her faith and the grace of God. In January 1827, she confessed to being a follower of Jesus Christ.
On July 14, 1830, she married Rev Dr John Taylor Jones of the American Baptist Missionary Union. On August 2, the newlyweds departed Boston for Burma. After a short stay at the Serampore Mission, they arrived in Amherst, Burma, on February 17, where they would serve as missionaries for almost two years. At Amherst, they joined Mr and Mrs Bennett, Mr and Mrs Kincaid, and Mrs Mason. Soon they were called upon to assist in maintaining the mission post in Yangon, where they met Adoniram Judson. After about a week, Judson left for Moulmein, which made them the sole ABMU missionaries in Yangon from July 1831 to February 1832.
In September 1832, the Jones family was appointed to take on a new assignment in Siam. In March 1833, the Jones family arrived in Bangkok after making stops in Malacca and Singapore. In Bangkok, the Jones family found many Chinese residing inside the city and many Peguans and Burmans living on the outskirts. After arriving in Bangkok, Eliza would often visit the Burman villages nearby. She did effective evangelism work, particularly among Burman women, whom she witnessed to with two becoming converts. During her service, she helped establish a day school where she taught two to three times a week alongside other missionaries.
Eliza Jones’ literary work was extensive:
a. Within a year, she had copied and developed a Siamese-English dictionary (most likely from the work of Gutzlaff and Tomlin). A copy of this manuscript is at the British Museum Library.
b. She worked on a romanised script for Siamese.
c. She developed a large school-book in Siamese.
d. She wrote the histories of Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar, Moses, and the exodus of Israel from Egypt to Canaan.
e. She composed several hymns using Siamese poetry and meter.
On March 28, 1838, Eliza Jones died of cholera, after an illness of only 12 hours, joining a son and daughter who had also died in the mission field. She left behind two children and a devoted husband. In a letter, her husband wrote:
“With zeal, piety, intelligence, and energy of no ordinary character, Mrs Jones undertook much, prayed much, accomplished much; how much, eternity alone will reveal. Some saved from heathenism no doubt through her instrumentality, have already gone to heaven. Others, who profess to be disciples of Christ through her teaching, yet remain, and many are they who will not soon forget her warnings and expostulations. Amid continual weakness and suffering she persevered, and accomplished what she undertook. I must not enlarge upon her character; she has fulfilled her course, and gone to glory.”
Robert, Dana Lee. American Women in Mission: A Social History of their Thought and Practice. Mercer University Press, 1996.
Jones, Eliza G. Memoir of Mrs. Eliza G. Jones, Missionary to Burmah and Siam. American Baptist Publication Society, 1838.
Sigourney, Lydia Howard. Letters to My Pupils: With Narrative and Biographical Sketches. 1851. (Her former teacher wrote of her on pp. 294–302.)