From the Fortress of Solitude
I spent a few hours research records along our line today on Ancestry.Com. Again, I'm trying to get the parents of Bennett Willis figured out. There are a few discrepancies according to which source I'm looking at but as I said in a different post the majority seem to favor the one detailed on Ancestry.com. If that being true then today we have the pleasure of meeting our 7th Great Grandparents, Major and Mrs Thomas Jones.
Thomas Jones and Freelove Townsend
William Jones and Phoebe Jackson
Sarah Jones and John Willis
Bennett Willis and Catherine Nosseman
Jonathan Willis - Anabella Phlegar
Margaret Ann Willis - George Matthew Williamson
William J. Williamson - Effie Helen Victor
Vennie,Ima Della,Inez,Lillie Ethel,Josie,Emmett,Walt,Charles,Maurice.
The following is a life sketch written by Eric Usinger and edited for interest's sake to make it a quicker read.
For over one hundred and fifty years there was an old brick house that stood on a large tract of land known as Fort Neck in Massapequa. People today would know the area as Merrick Road, just across the street from the Massapequa Preserve. But back in the early nineteenth century, it was known as the haunted house sitting just west of the pirate's grave.
In Denton's History of New York, written at the turn of the century, the house was described as
"an ancient dwelling on Fort Neck, which a century ago or more was known as the haunted house, and had many strange and wonderful stories connected with it, and a lonely grave marked by an old tombstone some little distance from the house, on the banks of a small stream; a most solitary spot."
Furman's Antiquities of Long Island (1827) described the legacy of the house's owner.
"Tradition says that at the time of his death a large black crow hovered over his bed, and when his life was extinct the crow made its exit through the west end of the house... The hole through which the crow made its departure cannot be stopped, and as soon as it's closed, it is opened by some unknown means."The "Pirate's Grave" that Denton described and Furman named, belongs to the "haunted house's" builder, Major Thomas Jones and his loving wife Freelove, the first Europeans to settle Massapequa. A couple whom if there was a motion picture made to chronicle their lives, the drama and excitement might be enough to sink Titanic.
The following information was written by Wayne M. Davis, an ancestor and therefore distant cousin of ours, on the life of Thomas Jones. I know its long but well worth the read. So............
"Keep reading ye scurvy land lovers or ye be walkin the plank ye be!"
____Maj. Thomas Jones__________________________
Maj. Thomas Jones, like the rest of my family ever since, had a knack for choosing the wrong side in a political dispute. His own heritage was Welsh, but as a young man, he joined the Irish who fought unsuccessfully for James the 2nd against the British King William the 3rd at the Battle of Boyne in 1690. He was exiled with his manservant to a dismal Irish "estate" which was little more than a damp hovel.
Soon after, however, the exiled Jones saw a way out of his dilemna. With insurrections in both Ireland and Scotland now successfully put down, King William turned his attention to the French, against whom he would wage war for many years. Jones offered his services to the Crown, and received a "Letter of Marques," which was basically a license to steal -- as long as it was from the French or other enemies of England. This was a clever move by the King for two reasons: Not only was commissioning these "privateers" a good way to harass the French, but it was a handy way to get talented but suspect military men out of the country.
Thomas Jones commissioned a ship and was in Jamaica by 1692 (witnessing the "Great Port Royal Earthquake" of that year, according to his journals.) His journals stopped for a time and his activities over the next four years are murky. He evidently operated out of secluded coves along various islands in the West Indies. He emerged on the other side in 1696 with a Fortune (for its day) and bought a large estate in what is now Massapeaqua, on Long Island. It included a long stretch of the coast.
Jones Inlet on the South Bay, and the long sandy beach known as Jones Beach (once a big day-trip destination for New Yorkers), are both named for him.
Thomas Jones evidently was a mysterious Gatsby-esque character in his later years, while in Long Island. Little was said about the sources of his wealth, other than the occasional reference to his "shipping" interests.
But Jones was accepted into Society because he was rich, and the actual source of his fortune was discussed only in whispers. Now in the good graces of the Crown, the Jones family prospered. One of Thomas Jones' sons was appointed official Counsel of the Colony of New York. Others became prominent businessmen and politicians. Daughters married into the upper reaches of New York society. But most of them continued the tradition of choosing the wrong side in political disputes and the family backed the British during the American Revolution (The French also had not forgotten Jones the Pirate, and the family feared retaliation if the French gained influence in America. They were particularly concerned about Lafayette.) During the war, the Jones estate was widely rumored to be a sanctuary for British spies operating out of Long Island.
After the war, the new Congress passed the "Act of Attainder," allowing the confiscation of all property owned by Loyalists. The Joneses were a prime target. All of the family's land and belongings were about to be seized. Many of the Joneses took what they could and left for Nova Scotia or returned to England.
However, one branch of the family ended up retaining a prominent place in the new country, thanks to an interesting combination of love, legal maneuvering and political intrigue:
One of the Joneses' neighbors was William Floyd, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Despite their political differences, the families had remained personally on good terms. Floyd's son David had in fact fallen in love with one of the Jones girls. The two families struck a deal -- David could marry his beloved, if he changed his name to Floyd-Jones. William Floyd then used his influence to have a special Act of Congress enacted to exempt the "new" Floyd-Jones estate from the Act of Attainder. (And they complain about "special-interest legislation" today!)
The young couple thus had the Floyd's political influence and most of the Jones money. The newly named Floyd-Jones family continued its leading role in New York. David eventually became speaker of the New York State Assembly. His children and grandchildren included a member of Congress, a state treasurer, and a prominent Civil War general. One son, Charles Floyd-Jones, ventured West into what was then the frontier, and established my own branch of the family based in St. Louis and San Francisco.
The Long Island estate is now part of the National Park System, thanks to William Floyd's leading role in the Revolution. The original Floyd mansion is still there, along with several thousand acres of protected wetlands and shoreline facing Fire Island.
For more than 100 years after Thomas Jones' death, there were persistant rumors on Long Island that his pirate "treasure" was buried somewhere on the family estate. In some accounts, it was in an old well; in others, it was in his tomb itself. Trespassers were caught repeatedly, digging in both places.
One disappointed treasure seeker scratched this bit of doggerel on his gravestone:
Beneath this Stone
Repose the bones
Of Pirate Jones
This briny well
Contains the shell
The rest's in Hell!
Major Thomas Jones wrote the following to be etched onto his tombstone:
Here Lyes Interred The Body of
Major Thomas Jones, who came from
Strabane, in the Kingdom of Ireland,
Settled here, and Died, December, 1713.
From distant Lands to this Wild Waste he came,
This Seat he chose, and here he fix'd his Name.
Long May his Sons this Peaceful Spot Injoy,
And no Ill Fate his Offspring here Annoy.
And so we discover new ancestors with lifes so rich and full that books could be written on their escapades. Wouldn't you enjoy sitting down for a few hours with this pirate ancestor and listen as he told the tale of his days at see, stopping and plundering Spanish ships?
The next time you go to a Disney park and ride Pirates of the Caribbean remember your 7th Great Grandfather Thomas and sing along
"Yo ho Yo Ho A Pirate's Life for Me!"