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Who is Capt. William Rice Jones?

January 2, 2019

 

 

Who is Captain William Rice Jones?

 

Well, he's a hero of sorts. Especially to those who knew him, and have come to know him... like me.

 

More accurately, I should ask: "Who was Captain William Rice Jones?

 

To explain, I will have to take you back to the beginning.

 

William Rice Jones was born to John Ravenscroft Jones and Mary Rice Jones on Nov. 21, 1840. He is shown here in the photo on the left, which was sent to me, (through the courtesy of the Jones family) by Fred Taylor, who has become a mentor and "brother in arms," so to speak, regarding the history of the property, now known as Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast.

 

Jones had two brothers; Thomas Williamson Goode Jones (July 25, 1842 - Sept. 4, 1846) and Ravenscroft Jones (Nov. 16, 1849 - Oct. 17, 1925). He also had two sisters; Mary Armstead Jones (Oct 10, 1847 - April 7, 1856) and Margaret Williamson Jones (April 27, 1844 - May 21, 1913).

 

According to George Brown Goode, author of the book, Virginia Cousins: A Study of the Ancestry and Posterity of John Goode,  Jones was “educated at the United States Military Academy at West Point, having been appointed as a cadet in 1857, but not graduating on account of the opening of the war.”

 

It was, according to Goode, upon the recommendation of his distant cousin -- United States Representative William Osborne Goode of Mecklenburg County, Virginia -- that William Rice Jones was appointed to West Point on July 1, 1857. He was 16 years old.

 

Below is the certificate of William R. Jones into West Point, signed by then Secretary of War, John B. Floyd.

 

Floyd, the governor of Virginia from 1849 to 1852, was secretary of war in the administration of United States president James Buchanan (1857–1860), and a Confederate general during the American Civil War (1861–1865). As governor, Floyd helped usher in the apportionment and suffrage reforms proposed by the constitutional convention of 1850–1851, but at Buchanan's War Department his reputation plunged because of various corruption scandals. His good name would never recover.

 

 

At Fort Donelson, Tennessee, in February 1862, he held off the forces of Union brigadier general Ulysses S. Grant for two days. Rather than personally surrender, however, he and his Virginia soldiers fled by steamboat in the middle of the night, leaving the duty to his third in command. Floyd was relieved of his command a month later.

 

On April 22, 1861, following the secession of Virginia from the United States, William Rice Jones resigned from West Point and on May 1, 1861 he enlisted in service of the Commonwealth of Virginia, where he served as a cadet and recruiting officer until 1862. 

 

Jones, a good soldier, rose to the rank of Captain and served as Assistant Chief of Artillery for Major General John B. Magruder (pictured to the left with the sword), whose greatest success was his brilliant recapture of Galveston, Texas on January 1, 1863.

 

Jones later served as Assistant Inspector General in "Slaughter's Brigade, for Brigadier General James E. Slaughter.

 

Slaughter, born in Cedar Mountain, Virginia (known also as Slaughter Mountain as the land belonged to his family), in June of 1827,  was the great-nephew of President James Madison, and had once served has Inspector-General on the staff of General P.G.T. Beauregard.

 

Jones was paroled from service in Houston, Texas in 1865.

 

Captain William Rice Jones (standing, far left) posed for this photo with Slaughter (seated, third from left) and the rest of his staff, somewhere in either Galveston or Houston, Texas in 1863.

 

On May 29, 1865, after the end of the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon to persons who had participated in the rebellion against the United States.

 

There were fourteen excepted classes, though, and members of those classes had to make special application to the President. Captain Jones was one of them.

 

 

 

So, by the end of that year, Captain Jones applied for and was granted a presidential pardon to restore his citizenship.

 

“At the conclusion of the war,” Goode wrote further in Virginia Cousins, Captain Jones was a “part time resident of Texas.” 

 

That’s because Captain Jones had become invested in a business there.

 

Between 1870 and 1880, another Confederate Veteran named Charles Callaghan had a sheep ranch on an 80-acre tract in Encinal, Texas. 

 

Before Callaghan died in 1874, the Texas State Historical Association has recorded that he employed Jones as superintendent of the ranch.

 

“Jones carried on the work for the heirs and built up the ranch by purchase and lease until at its height it ran 100,000 sheep and 6,000 goats and owned 125,000 acres outright, besides 100,000 more under lease."

 

Because of the tremendous success of the sheep-raising function, the ranch became the focus of the bitter Sheep Wars in the 1880s. During one heated altercation, two of the Callaghan sheep-men were killed. Captain Jones after gathering a posse, "trailed and captured the killers, who were imprisoned.”

 

As a testament to the keen ability of Captain Jones to multi-task -- in between the time he spent elevating a sheep ranch to its height of success and capturing evil-doers -- he also served as the manager of the health resort in Lawrenceville, Virginia known then as Brunswick Springs.

 

According to Fred Taylor, the father of Captain William Rice Jones -- John Ravenscroft Jones -- had once owned the Brunswick property but ended up selling the entire 1255-acre estate in 1855 to his sister-in-law, Hannah Rice, for $7,500.

 

While Taylor admits he is not exactly sure why Jones sold the property, he confirmed that “the whole family remained on the property.”

 

It was Hannah Rice who sold the property to her nephew, Captain William Rice Jones, in 1881. However, because of the economic devastation of the Civil War and the subsequent damage of the era known as Reconstruction, the value of the property had plummeted to $3,765. Nevertheless, the whole family was still there.

 

Captain William Rice Jones died on November 12, 1894, just nine days shy of his 53rd birthday. Having never married, his will returned the entire property to his father – John Ravenscroft Jones -- who was still living at the time. 

Captain William Rice Jones was laid to rest in the historical family cemetery behind the mansion. However,  his grave remained without a formal headstone for decades. That is, until Tracy Clary and the Old Brunswick Camp #512 Sons of Confederate Veterans came along. It was Clary and his group who saw to it that a proper headstone was erected to honor the man and to pay homage to his incredible legacy. 

 

 

As reported by Sylvia Allen for the South Hill Enterprise: "The weather was perfect for the Day of Remembrance on Saturday, September 29, 2018 and people came, some from great distances, to pay tribute."

 

In fact, about 250 people -- many of whom wore elaborate period costumes -- came to the event. Two direct descendants of Captain Jones, Mr. Bruce Settle and Mrs. Charlotte  Lee -- were also in attendance and took part in the unveiling of the tombstone.

 

 

I was at the event as well. In fact, I personally toured many of the guests, in groups of a dozen or so, through the mansion.

 

The suites, gloriously furnished with beautiful period antiques, are named after members of the family, most of whom are also buried in the family cemetery.

 

Captain William's Suite, cozy and rustic with hand made quilts on the queen-sized bed, is on the second floor of the mansion.

 

The descendants of Captain William Rice Jones graciously brought a few of his personal belongings to the event. The feeling that came over me as I touched his uniform -- his coat, his hat, the sash -- was curiously comforting, as if some part of him still lingered in the cloth. But it was when I put my hand around the hilt of his sword that the man seemed to become "real."

 

I cannot deny that it was on this day that I was overcome by a sense of determination to preserve and promote the rich history of this man and the place that was once his home. In fact -- with the invaluable assistance of Mr. Fred Taylor -- I have learned much about the Jones family and have been able to trace the history of the property way back to the 1820's, when it was owned by Colonel Addison Powell...

 

But I'll tell you all about that in another story. 

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