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Who was John Ravenscroft Jones?

March 26, 2019

Who was John Ravenscroft jones? 

 

John Ravenscroft Jones – the son of Thomas and Mary A. (Goode) Jones of Mecklenburg County, Virginia -- was born August 21, 1818 in Lawrenceville, Virginia in the county of Brunswick.

 

The photo of Mr. Jones, above, was provided to me by Fred Taylor (courtesy of the Jones-Horsman family). Mr. Taylor has become a friend and mentor in my obsessive quest to learn about, preserve and to promote the incredible history of the Jones family and of their beautiful estate.

 

As described in the book, A Biographical Record of the Kappa Alpha Society in Williams College, Jones was prepared for college at Ebenezer Academy in Brunswick County, Virginia and Hopkins Academy in Hadley, Massachusetts. He also attended Williams College in Massachusetts briefly but left due to poor health in November of 1835.

 

In the spring of 1836, he enrolled at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia. However, as his health again began to fail, he abandoned his pursuit of a collegiate education and from 1836 to 1839 he taught school at Brunswick Academy. 

 

In 1839, John Ravenscroft married Mary Rice. They had five children; William Rice Jones (1840-1894), Thomas Williamson Goode Jones (1842-1846), Margaret Williamson Jones (1844-1913), Mary Armistead Jones (1847-1856), and Ravenscroft Jones (1849-1925). 

 

Fred Taylor wrote a fabulous article about the amazing life of Capt. William Rice Jones(shown in the photo to the left, also provided to me by Mr. Taylor, courtesy of the Jones-Horsman family), Legacy Fulfilled, which appeared in the Spring 2019 Edition of Military Images. It's definitely worth a read!

 

"Virginia’s William Rice Jones left his beloved West Point as a matter of honor and principle," Taylor wrote, "after his home state seceded and cast his lot with the Confederate army. The young man eventually rose to become an artillery chief in Texas, and returned to the Lone Star State to make a new life for himself after the end of hostilities."

 

You can read the blog I posted back in January here. He really was a fascinating and very accomplished man.

 

The lower photo is of Ravenscroft Jones, another son of John Ravenscroft.

 

 

In the early 1800s, the Brunswick property was owned by Colonel Addison Powell, who promoted the estate as a health resort. Powell sold the property to John J. Gregg in 1841. Gregg ran a boy’s school at the site. Although Gregg may have been a fine educator, he was lacking in business acumen and the school was not a financial success.

 

In 1850, John Ravenscroft Jones purchased the Brunswick Mineral Springs property from John. J. Gregg and reopened the school. In October of 1850, Jones placed an ad in the Weekly National Intelligencer (of Washington, D.C.), seeking to "employ a Teacher, competent and qualified to give Instruction in English, Latin, and Greek Languages and Mathematics."

 

An image of the ad, along with the others that follow, were researched, discovered and also sent to me by Mr. Taylor.

 

"To one morally and intellectually qualified to establish a school of high grade, "Jones proposed in his ad, "a liberal salary and a permanent situation will be given."

 

"A gentleman raised and educated at the South, who proposes to make teaching a profession, would be preferred," he added," asking that applicants "address the subscriber, with testimonials as to character and qualifications."

 

On Friday, January 10, 1852 -- once all preparations had been made for this new endeavor -- Jones placed an ad in the Richmond Enquirer, announcing that "a school for Boys" would be opening in his family home "on the 1st Monday in February 1851."

 

"A competent teacher has been employed, and I shall take charge of some of the classes myself, so that I shall be fully acquainted with all the operations of the school," Jones wrote further, "and will be willingly responsible to its patrons for its entire management."

 

"I desire to establish a good School rather than a large one," Jones clarified," and with that view, the number of pupils will not in any event, exceed twenty."

 

In 1855, Jones sold the property to his sister-in-law, Hannah Rice, however, he opened his home as a place of boarding for boys attending school at other local institutions.

 

 

On October 12, 1860, the owner of Rock Spring Academy in Brunswick County placed an ad in the Richmond Enquirer announcing that "the Exercise of this School will be resumed" and that he had appointed his brother, "Diggs Poynor, a recent graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, with the management of the School."

 

That "the location of Mr. Poynor's School" was between the residence of the academy's owner and his own, Jones added below the announcement of the school's reopening that the "pupils will be received as borders" in his home at Brunswick Mineral Springs, as would Mr. Poynor.

 

"This arrangement secures to those boarding with me such assistance in their studies as may be required at any time," Jones explained, "and that degree of counsel or control which will be beneficial to their morals or manners."

 

"I have known Mr. Poynor from his childhood," Jones testified on Poynor's behalf, "and can confidently recommend him to the public as competent by his attainments and qualified by his character and disposition for the profession in which he now engages."

 

"All boys who may be entrusted to me," Jones vowed,"shall receive that kind and paternal attention extended to my own sons."

 

While such a testimonial might seem unnecessary or even pretentious, one must remember that Brunswick County was then -- and still is to this day -- a small and quite tightly-knit community. Outsiders were and still are viewed with caution and it is only by the endorsement of someone well-trusted and held in high esteem in the community that any form of acceptance can be found by someone unknown by those born and raised there.

 

So… Why would the endorsement of John Ravenscroft Jones in particular be so valuable to someone seeking to run a successful business in the community and viewed with such high regard among the residents?

 

Consider the words of Frances E. Buford, who served as a County Judge for Brunswick in 1880, as written in the book, Virginia Cousins, by John Brown Goode:

 

“Mr. J. Ravenscroft Jones was educated at Williams College, Massachusetts. He is a successful planter and a man of the highest intelligence, with a mind well stored with accurate and valuable information on all subjects of general interest: strong in his convictions of right and bold and fearless in maintaining them; faithful and conscientious in the discharge of every duty and withal possessed of a character above reproach."

 

"These qualities have won for him the confidence and respect of all who knew him and have caused his selection to fill various positions of public trust. The duties of which he has invariably discharged in a manner that reflected the highest credit upon himself and to the entire satisfaction of the appointing power. The last of these positions held by him was that of Superintendent of Public Free Schools for this county. If he were gone, there is not within the limits of this county one who could take his place.”

 

Jones was appointed to serve as Superintendent of Free Public Schools for Brunswick County on January 1, 1873, where he remained until 1883. Under the old constitution of Virginia, Jones was a justice of the peace and a member of the County Court. He also served for many years as a lay-reader in the Protestant Episcopal Church. For those unfamiliar, the position of a lay-reader is considerably more involved than you might think.

 

According to An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, "a lay reader may lead the Daily Offices of the church. If needed, a lay reader may lead the liturgy for the Holy Eucharist through the prayers of the people, concluding with the Lord's Prayer and the grace, or with the exchange of the peace." 

 

"A lay reader may also lead the Burial Office, as well as the Ash Wednesday liturgy, the Palm liturgy, and the Good Friday liturgy."

 

The Ravenscroft Suite -- located on the second floor of the mansion -- was named in honor of this amazing man, who played an integral role in what would become the long and proud legacy of the Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast.

 

Known also as our Bridal Suite, the Ravenscroft Suite is decorated with beautiful period antiques, including a beautifully romantic canopied, queen-sized bed. 

 

The private bathroom is gloriously spacious. However, the most inviting aspect of this wonderful room is the deliciously deep, antique claw-foot tub.

 

Whether or not you are aware, there are two mineral water springs beneath the grounds of the Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast -- hence the name -- and mineral water flows from every faucet on the property.

 

Imagine filling this tub with mineral spring water -- known to provide a bounty of medicinal benefits -- and taking a long, hot soak before turning in for the night.

 

In 1881, Hanna Rice sold the property to her nephew -- and the first-born of the five children born to J. Ravenscroft and Mary Rice Jones -- Captain William Rice Jones

 

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.

 

During the greater part of his latter life, John Ravenscroft Jones spent his days as a farmer. 

 

John Ravenscroft Jones died in his beloved home on August 2, 1901, just 18 days short of his 83rd birthday.

 

He is buried in the historic family cemetery on the property behind the mansion.

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