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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Escaped slave John Jones topic of historical presentation Friday

  • “John Jones stands at a pivotal place in American history,” says Kirk House, director of the Steuben County Historical Society.  “And it’s a history you can walk out at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira.

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  • “John Jones stands at a pivotal place in American history,” says Kirk House, director of the Steuben County Historical Society.  “And it’s a history you can walk out at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira.
    “Jones is buried at Woodlawn, but he was born a slave in Virginia.  He escaped to Elmira, then helped 860 others escape on the ‘Underground Railroad.’
    “Then you have the graves of something like 3000 Confederate POWs… men who were fighting to keep people enslaved, and even to RE-enslave people who’d gotten free.  John Jones had the job of burying them, which he did with great care, respect, and dignity.  He kept records so meticulous that there are scarcely any unknowns among them.
    “It used to be a custom for families to place Confederate flags on Jones’s grave in gratitude.  I’m not sure they all realized exactly who he was.
    “Then you find the grave of Mark Twain, the first mainstream writer to fiercely attack America’s racist way of life.  And finally, the grave of Ernie Davis, who died just three months before the March on Washington, having become the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy for most outstanding college football player.”
    Art Smith of the John Jones Museum will introduce John W. Jones’s career of life in freedom and death with dignity at the final Steuben County Historical Society Winter Lecture, 4 PM Friday April 5 at Bath Fire Hall. The presentation is free and open to the public.

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