Tuesday, July 26, 2011

His Ancestry Would Have Surprised Him

William Ransom Jones (1855-1935)
was my great grandfather.

William Ransom Jones

William was the second son of Thomas Jones and his first wife, Anna L. Benedict who was born in Canada. Anna was a daughter of Isaac and Rebecca Wing Benedict who brought their family to southeastern Iowa in 1850. They were Quakers and settled among Quaker families in their new location.

It is likely that Will  knew something of both his Benedict and Wing Canadian and Quaker heritage but practically nothing about his Jones family line. Research by descendants in recent years found his connection back to Edward Fuller, passenger on the Mayflower. I wish he had known about this historical personality, for as an avid reader, I’m sure he knew about the significance of The Mayflower Compact . . . but without knowing that his ancestor was one of the signers.

In most documents, Will is recorded as William R. Jones; his wife called him Will. Neighbors and friends often referred to him as “Whistlin’ Bill”  or Billy. In his obituary with the headline of “Pioneer Dies At His Home,” his name appears as William R. Jones. The marking on his gravestone was W. R. Jones. The family records his middle name as Ransom, but without knowing its origins. We have learned of a Ransom family who in Canada lived near the Benedicts; they had a small son named William Ransom. It seems likely that Anna Benedict Jones named her son after that family.

Grandpa Jones was a small man, small-boned and never fat. His hair was white, not bald, but thin. His white mustache was always trimmed. He was a quiet person but always had a smile and was well liked. When his children were small, he always took time to listen to their problems and joys. On Sunday afternoons he would play board games with his boys and their friends. He had a croconole game board which was designed for 24 different games, and he knew the rules for all of them. He liked to read. In addition to subscribing to several newspapers, he took the Capper's Farmer and other farm magazines, and he also  read the Almanac and seed catalogs.

My mother described her grandfather as "a mild-mannered man." Her cousin Harold Jones spoke of him in a similar manner, that he was quiet and talked very little, was said to have the "second sight." He seemed bowed by the loss of three of his five children.

William appeared with his parents in the special Iowa state census of 1856. His mother died in 1859 when Will was only four years old, after which he lived for a time with his mother's parents. The 1860 census shows William at the age of 4, living with Isaac and Rebecca Benedict.

This photo print of William as a child
was made from a tintype.

In the 1870 census, William is listed in his father's home in Cedar Township, Lee County, Iowa, with stepmother, Sarah Lunn Wolf Jones. In the 1880 census, Will Jones, nephew, age 25, farmer, is living in the home of Will Hammer and his wife Thurza, a sister of Will's deceased mother.

As a young man, Will developed a health problem, probably tuberculosis, and went out west for his health. In Thomas County, Kansas, he homesteaded land and met his future wife, Ionia Ellen Thompson who was about ten years younger than Will. Their marriage was announced in the December 5, 1889 “Local Happenings” column of The Tribune, one of the three newspapers in Colby, Kansas: “Wm. R. Jones and Iona Thompson were married by Justice A. S. Harner of Kingrey township, on the first of this month.” They took up his claim, proved up on it, but never got anything out of it. When weather conditions turned very dry, they gave up on it and went to southeastern Iowa.

One hundred years later (1989), on a drive from Kansas City to Denver, we visited the Thomas County Courthouse in Colby, Kansas, to learn the location of William Jones’ land. The Patent Record, p. 172 of Book 4, shows the date of August 24, 1891 for the property—the northeast quarter of section eight in township nine south of range thirty-five west of the sixth principal meridian in Kansas containing one hundred sixty acres. We were told to look southward from Interstate 70 at the Levant markers 43/44, and that the Jones Homestead would have been located about 2 to 3 miles south. The area consists of miles of rolling wheatfields, broken only by an occasional grain elevator, more frequent than trees. Will must surely have missed the shaded wooded areas and creeks of southeastern Iowa.

The Will Jones Family in Lee County, Iowa, 1908

Will had been a cowboy in Kansas—his grandson Wendell was given his Winchester saddle gun. Will’s  Iowa farm was only about 40 acres and the homeplace north of West Point and south of Lowell was a 13-acre plot right on the Lee County line. Part of the house was actually in Henry County. On Sundays they often went to three different churches—to Sunday School at Lowell Baptist, to afternoon church at Woolen’s Corner Methodist Chuirch and at night they went to the Pickle Church (Methodist).

--genieBev (Genealogy Beverly)
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