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Col. Lafayette Jones Jr. recalls family's history on free black settlement in Williamsburg

aluck@tidewaterreview.com

Col. Lafayette Jones Jr., a retired army Colonel, now spends his days recalling the history his grandfather told him about their descendants who lived on one of the earliest free black settlements in Freedom Park in James City County.

Jones gave a presentation to the public on the history of the evolution of Freedom Park and his descendants at the park on Saturday.

Jones said he didn’t think much of it when his grandfather told him the same old family history stories throughout his childhood, but now he is grateful his grandfather shared those stories.

Jones wrote “My Great, Great, Grandfather’s Journey to an Island of Freedom," a book about his research and the knowledge that has been passed down through his family.

“George A. Jones, my grandfather, is the one that would tell me stories over and over and over,” Jones said. “We used to ride around, he’d tell me stories and he’d point out all of the historical sites that he was aware of.

“When I was a kid, I used to go around and tell my teachers what my grandpa said and they didn’t always believe me,” Jones said. “Then when I was older, I went back and researched what my grandfather told me, then I started finding more and more information that validated what he told me.

“All of the stories are what his grandfather, my great-grandfather told him,” Jones said. “So between all of us, we’ve covered over 100 years of history.”

Jones’ family is from the Jamestown area and traces members back to Freedom Park. He said his family came as free blacks from England; they were indentured servants.

“That parking lot there at Jamestown is where the settlement used to be back in the day and my family lived in that area,” Jones said. “James Armistead Lafayette, a noted African-American spy during the American Revolution, actually lived with my family in that area.”

Jones highlighted key historic events and how it affected his ancestors, famous events such as Bacon’s Rebellion, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and smaller scale localized events, such as the Battle of Green Spring and Battle of Hot Water.

Jones said that slave freedom rebellions — such as the famous revolt led by slave Nat Turner in Southhampton County in 1831 — were partly driven by the knowledge that there were free-black settlements such as the one in Freedom Park.

Jones said there are other descendants of the free black settlement in Freedom Park around the area. John Jackson, a former slave who lived at Freedom Park, still has a descendant in the area; he lives down Longhill Road and became the first African-American professional hunter in the United States.

“From this group of people, we’ve also had the descendants become three general officers, five colonels, four lieutenant colonels and two command sergeant majors in the military,” Jones said. “One descendant also received the medal of honor.”

“There are a lot of stories to be told of people from this area and their descendants, and guess who’s going to tell them?” Jones said.

Jones has been giving talks and presentations on the history of his descendants since 2008. His book, “My Great, Great, Grandfather’s Journey to an Island of Freedom," is on sale at the Interpretive Center at Freedom Park.

Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038 or aluck@tidewaterreview.com

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