One of the most fascinating characters we discovered as part of our Loyalist research was grand old Jesse Jones. As we’ve explored numerous times on this blog, oftentimes what we think about an object turns out to be completely untrue upon further investigation. Museums often rely on the stories provided by donors and perhaps we’ve become too jaded recently to accept them at face value.
So was the case with a wooden box donated in 1974 by Marjorie Golding Green. The story given to us by Mrs. Green was that it belonged to Jesse Jones, a Bucks County, Pennsylvania Loyalist and that she was his great-granddaughter. Given our past history with donor information not quite adding up to the reality of historical fact, our collective eyebrows were raised on this story as well. How could someone living in the 20th century be a great-granddaughter of someone born in the 18th century? To us there seemed to be a generation or two missing. And so began the quest to find Jesse Jones.
First of all, our colleagues at the New Brunswick Museum authenticated the box as truly 18th century and in the Pennsylvania Shaker style. The box is completely wooden, possibly maple (it is relatively heavy) with the oval bands, top and bottom pegged into place. The side has a very interesting 3-point notch joint with ten securing pins. The greenish-gray finish is undoubtedly original to the piece as well. So at least we knew the box itself was authentic.
It didn’t take too long to shake Jesse out of the Jones family tree. Jesse Jones was born in 1771, the son of Edward Jones (1743-1831) and Eleanor Davis. According to family tradition, Eleanor Davis was an aunt of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Edward Jones was from Bucks County, Pennsylvania and served with the Bucks County Volunteers during the American Revolution. This group of Loyalists “Adherred to their Duty and Allegiance to the Best of Kings”, as it says in a 1786 petition for financial relief and compensation by some members, and fought in and around Philadelphia, the Patriot “capital”. As a consequence of their loyalty, the volunteers were accused of treason and when the British evacuated Philadelphia in 1778, the Bucks County men went with them north to New York.
In 1783, the Jones family were part of the Loyalist migration northward. As a twelve year old, what did young Jesse bring in the box? Some books? A favourite game or toy? Or perhaps treasured family possessions that have been lost to history? We don’t know, but the box survives. The Jones’ settled very near the Queens and Kings County lines at present day Evandale and Wickham and began farming. To this day several Jones families live and work in this area.
Some time before 1793, Jesse married Martha Adams (born c. 1774), the daughter of Connecticut and New York Loyalists Nathaniel Adams (1744-1818) and Mary Owen. Together they produced a family of 13 children: David born 1793, Edward, John, Owen, Walter, Nathaniel, Samuel, Robert, Martha, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Jesse and Asa, born 1817. Martha’s death date is unknown at this point, but certainly she had passed away by 1838 when something extraordinary occurred. On 10 September 1838, 67 year old Jesse Jones married 27 year old Susan (or Susanna) Cameron, a spinster from Wickham, Queens County. In 1840 Jesse found himself the father of Ann, followed by Mehitable about 1842 and finally, Rachel about 1844; Jesse being about 73 at the time of the this last birth. One can only imagine what went on within the Jones family. How did the children of his first marriage feel about these developments of biblical proportions? Or was there a “scandal” at all? After all, it was not that unusual for men in the 19th century to marry a much younger woman the second time around. That said, marrying someone young enough to one’s granddaughter was a little unusual!
And hence the crux of our story . . . how does a Loyalist have a 20th century great-granddaughter? Well, you find yourself a very young wife as you enter your golden years! Fortunately, Jesse Jones lived long enough to see his three young daughters blossom into young women before his death 15 January 1861. According to the New Brunswick Courier, he was aged 92 but to date we have not found his burial place. Later, his daughter Mehatible married a Kimber from Carleton County and his daughter Rachel married a John Carpenter. The eldest daughter of the second marriage, Ann (1840-1914), married Charles Cameron (1841-1887) of Upper Hampstead about 1870. In 1871, Charles and Ann lived in Hampstead Parish (probably Upper Hampstead since that is where they are buried), had a newborn son, Jesse, and had Ann’s sixty year old mother, Susanna, living with them. Following the 1871 Census Susanna disappears from the official record and her burial place, like that of Jesse, is unknown. Ann and Charles Cameron had several other children, including Gertrude Sheloa (1881-1959) who married Clifford Alden Golding (12 March 1872-25 August 1950) the son of Albert Venning Golding and Elethear Clarke of New Jerusalem and Hibernia. Gertrude and Clifford Golding had three children: Albert, Pearl, and the donor of the box, Marjorie (1898-1989). Marjorie married George A. Green 24 July 1924 and lived in the village of Hampstead.
The moral of our story? Don’t be so suspicious of a donor’s story . . . you never know what interesting circumstances brought it about.