Captain Ball, pere

Gentleman JackResearch has failed to find anything about the early years of Captain Jack Ball (sometimes called Gentleman Jack) . Some say they were spent under another name, but the open-minded will point out that record keeping then was not what it is today. A habitue of the taverns in Williamsburg and elsewhere, he was a sociable sort and married Susanna Gray, the daughter of a local merchant, and joined the firm. Jack Ball was in St Louis on a fur buying trip as agent for a London firm when Lewis and Clark returned. He was captivated by the tales and decided to mount his own expedition west, ( financed with his father-in-law's money). He elected himself Captain. He discovered and mapped Ball River and Ball Valley. Modern scholars have not been able to match any features to enable them to precisely identify these locations. However, equipment and stores were traded for beaver pelts. Little profit for science, but enough of a business profit to rename Gray's Mercantile to Gray and Ball.

At this time pressure from Mrs. Ball, and the arrival of a new young Ball, prompted a return home. Occasional trips west remained in front of him, but home and business settled him down.


 
Father and Son

Captain Ball, fils

"A Gentleman and a Scholar and a Judge of Good Whiskey"


Captain J. Ball was born in 1823 and educated at home by a tutor, as was the custom in that part of the country. He also made several trips west with his father as a child. Then a stint at William and Mary, the only suitable college for a southern gentleman. Unfortunately, there is no record of his graduation. (Note: There are several conflicting rumors about his sudden departure.) In 1846 he was partaking of the Grand Tour, which he cut short to join the Mexican War. Through some political influence from his family, he received a commission as a Cavalry Lieutenant in the the State Militia. By the time he joined his unit, they were approaching New Orleans enroute home after the war.

Lt. Ball maintained his commission and assiduously attended every social function held by his unit and some of the training sessions as well. As an educated man and genial host, he was quickly appointed adjutant. When the War Between the States began his patriotism came to the fore and he rode off to war. In battle he served with honor but not distinction and his only wound was a broken arm suffered from falling off his own horse. After that, he fought more mightily with the pen than the sword, writing orders and dispatches, checking inventories, and ordering supplies. Thus he became regimental adjutant and received a captain's commission.

After the war he returned home to find his home in ruins, his parents in need and his fiancee married. He let his elder brother have his share in the estate (and one less mouth to feed) and headed west where he makes a living as a part-time clerk, dealer, letter writer and occasional bartender.

Should you meet Captain Ball, your wife will find him charming (which largely accounts for his frequent relocations and job changes) and you will find him genial and genteel as long as you avoid derogatory statements about "President Davis". (editor's note: We advise not lending him any money. The pension check he is waiting for is from the Confederacy. He is convinced the US Post Office is conspiring to malign the CSA by not delivering his check. It is best to avoid this subject in conversation.)

Cap'n Ball in New Mexico
Letters to Capt. Ball.

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