Josephus Jones joined the military corps at the Cape of Good Hope as a rifleman in September 1784. During 1789 and 1790, with the rank of "Cadet Bombardier", he assisted Lieutenant J.C. Frederici* in surveying and mapping the coastal region between Cape Agulhas and Algoa Bay. The resulting map, on a scale of approximately 1:120 000, was No. 231 in the collection of maps assembled by governer C.J. Van de Graaff* during his term of office at the Cape (1785-1791). It is the best map of the southern Cape coast printed during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The coastline is well placed in latitude and accurately represented and the map includes farms with the names of the owners.
While this work was in progress Jones also drew plans of various Dutch East India Company posts along the south Coast (Van de Graaff Collection, No. 244). In February 1791 he again assisted Frederici, this time in mapping St Helena Bay (No. 278). Other work by him included a plan of the governor's house and gardens at Newlands (1791, No. 286), and probably a plan of the country residence at Rondebosch (1791, No. 289). The originals form part of the Van de Graaff Collection in the Topographical Institute at Delft, the Netherlands, while copies are kept in the National Archives, Cape Town. Jones's plans are of excellent quality and demonstate advanced techniques for the time.
In 1791 Jones joined the corps of engineers and worked as a draughtsman and cartographer under L.M. Thibault*. He was commissioned in 1795, shortly before the first annexation of the Cape by the British. During the British occupation (1795-1803) he remained at the Cape as a prisoner of war, and during the subsequent rule of the Batavian Republic (1803-1806) was employed again by governer J.W. Janssens. After the second annexation of the Cape by the British in 1806 he continued in the service of the new government.
Jones is also known as an artist. Though his work was not artistically outstanding it is of historical significance. Two of his water-colours are in the Fehr Collection, Cape Town, and two others, depicting the military camps at Wynberg and Rondebosch in 1805, are at Groot Constantia. His best know work is a panorama of Cape Town drawn in 1808, consisting of six pen and water-colour drawings depicting a 360 degree view. It is now in the Rembrandt van Rhijn Art Foundation at Stellenbosch.