John W. Jones was born in 1817 on a plantation in Virginia. At the age of 27 he and four others fled their plantation and made a hazard filled 300-mile journey to Elmira. Jones settled in the area where he learned to read and write, and by 1851 he was an active agent on the Underground Railroad helping over 800 slaves escape to Canada. In 1864, Jones was caretaker of Woodlawn Cemetery when he was contracted to bury the confederate dead from Elmira Prison.
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Photos Courtesy of:
Chemung County Historical Society
Library of Congress