(Photo Kelsey Klont/TCJ)
Nancy Jones of Bellevue has served her community in more ways than one. In Bellevue she is Nancy Jones; to her friends and Allis-Chalmers enthusiasts she is Nan.
In October of 1965, Jones and her late former-husband, Robert, purchased a farm near Bellevue, where they raised geese. They had three daughters: Denise, Debra, Donna and a son Alan Lee Jones; and now have two granddaughters: Kyra Postma and Leigh Jones. Daughter Denise and her son Tony are now deceased.
A couple of years later Robert, a journey pressman, went to the Bellevue Gazette to place a classified ad about their geese. The owner asked if he wanted to buy the newspaper. In June of 1968, after a lot of discussion, the Joneses, along with another couple, bought the Bellevue Gazette. Six months later, the Joneses took main ownership. At the time there was the Gazette and an advertiser called the Spotlighter, an advertising paper available to everyone. The Bellevue Gazette was a subscription-based paper when they bought it. Later they combined the two into a free distribution newspaper to be delivered to everyone who had a Bellevue address. The next 11 years owning the local newspaper brought a lot of opportunities her way. One day she went to the school for their news that week when the superintendent asked if she wanted to be a member on the school board, which she later accepted and was on from 1974-1981, then again from 1986-1996.
During that time, the Joneses were also printing the Galesburg, and Richland papers. In 1979, she sold the Bellevue Gazette to the owner of those papers. Then her passion for writing took her to the next adventure that started in 1982 and would last for a quarter of a century.
When son Alan Lee became interested in antique tractors, she wrote and submitted a story called “Moms Get Hooked on Antique Tractors” to the tractor magazine, Engineers and Engine. In 1982 Nancy and Alan Lee visited an antique tractor show at Freeport, Illinois and met some Allis-Chalmers enthusiasts. There Nan was noticed from her story in Engineers and Engines and encouraged to keep writing about Allis-Chalmers.
Within the next year Nan took her writing further and created the Old Allis News newsletter that grew exponentially. Old Allis News also coordinated the “Gathering of the Orange” events around the US and Canada which gave Jones a lot of great opportunities for travel. The first issue of Old Allis News was published in the spring of 1983 as a two sided newsletter and became a 48 page, four-color magazine when she sold it in 2008 to Dave and Heidi Clausen of Clayton, Wisconsin.
With her activities and involvement surrounding Old Allis News she also became involved in the start of the Rumely Allis-Chalmers Heritage Center at LaPorte, Indiana where she served as their first secretary.
Her bigger passion, other than writing and Allis-Chalmers, is preserving and recognizing Bellevue’s history. That journey started in 1976 when Bellevue celebrated the Bicentennial. Jones was on that committee where the outgrowth was to have a museum. The Bellevue Memorial Museum was organized under the Bellevue Historical Society, which started in 1975. The museum was built with donations from individuals, businesses and a grant from the Miller Foundation. Jones has been a member from the time the Bellevue Historical Society began, serving as the first president and now serving as the treasurer.
In June of 2023 when the Eaton County Historical Commission met at the Gothic Mill in Bellevue, Jones was given their Heritage Award.
Looking back at has a simple classified ad for geese led to owning a newspaper and all the adventures that followed with a tractor magazine, Nan knows she has had a great adventure all along, and it began in Bellevue.