Dan Jones was born the sixth of eight children in a mining area of Wales on August 4, 1810. He was plagued with chronic lung diseases throughout most of his life, which leads some to believe he spent time in the lead mines where he grew up. Because no journal or diary has been found, not much is known about his early life.
As a teenager, Jones became a mariner and would eventually marry Jane Melling on January 3, 1837. A few years later, they immigrated to the United States and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where Jones became a captain of several steamer ships on the Mississippi River.