Week 13: #52 Ancestors – Almost Forgotten
By Eilene Lyon
This is the 52 Ancestors post that will have you shaking your head and muttering, “That Eilene is insane about her genealogy research.” And I won’t argue the point.
Meet Dr. Jones
Back in November 2018, I told you a little about my cousin, Dr. Benjamin H. Jones. Benjamin came to my attention, because he is mentioned in the family gold rush letters. His brother Samuel headed the Blackford Mining Company that included my 3rd great-grandfather, Henry Z. Jenkins.
The world had essentially forgotten Benjamin Hull Jones until I began researching his life. Even though he married and had children, he has very few descendants.
Born in 1820 in Barnesville, Ohio, Benjamin was the second child of Thomas Jones, Jr. and Sarah Ransom.1 The Joneses had six children, plus an adopted niece, when a scarlet fever epidemic ransacked the community in 1832. Three of Benjamin’s brothers died, and evidence suggests that he also got sick, but survived. Thomas and Sarah later had two more children.2
Perhaps this childhood event is the reason he became a physician. In his 30s, he apparently suffered from arthritis, which is one reason I think he got sick during the epidemic.
Dr. Jones married Mariah W. Zinn on February 28, 1843.3 They had five children: Thomas, Geneva, Lucetta (aka Louise or Lou), Weston, and Mary. The family moved to eastern Indiana about 1849, which is the year Weston was born and died as an infant (actual dates unknown).4
Because he arranged the loan for the Blackford Mining Company to go to California in 1851, Dr. Jones was a key witness in the lawsuit the lender filed when Samuel and his partners refused to repay the money. One reason I’m so taken with Benjamin’s story, aside from his tragic accident, is that his testimony survives. It’s like hearing a voice call out from the past.
On December 30 and 31, 1853, Benjamin gave a deposition, assisted by his sister, Rebecca. A couple days earlier, he’d accidently shot himself in the face. The deposition was arranged because everyone thought he would die from his wounds.5
Dead and Buried
But Benjamin didn’t die, then. A few months later, he testified in court. On or about the same day the judge rendered his verdict, Benjamin and Mariah’s youngest daughter, Mary Adeline, died and was buried in Hillside Cemetery in Pennville, Jay County, Indiana. She was not quite 4 years old. A headstone marks her place of rest.6
The Jones family Bible states Benjamin died in March 1864, when he was just 43 years old. I doubt his old gunshot injury had any bearing on his death. The Blackford County Historical Society has a diary written by Joseph Van Cleve, a Hartford City merchant. Van Cleve made this note on March 15, 1864: “Dr. Jones of Camden [now Pennville] found dead near Ben Swovelands.”
The Swoveland property was near Trenton, in Blackford County. Dr. Jones almost certainly traveled everywhere on horseback. I suspect that as a further complication of his childhood illness, he had a weak heart and simply collapsed and fell from his horse.7
Presumably, Mariah buried Benjamin next to little Mary in Hillside Cemetery, but there is no headstone. Several months later, his 18-year-old daughter, Geneva, passed away of unknown causes.8 She is probably also buried near Mary, but again, no headstone. Nor is there one for Weston, though he may have been buried in Ohio.
Mariah W. Jones, Thomas J. Jones, Lucetta (Jones) Larrick, and her son, Edward Larrick, are all buried in Maple Lawn Cemetery, which is across the road from Hillside Cemetery. They all have nice headstones. (The reason they are not in Hillside is because the cemetery was closed to new interments by the time they died.)
Uncovering the Dead
It really bothered me that Benjamin and two of his children were apparently laid in unmarked graves. So, I decided to see if my hunch about them being next to Mary’s grave in Hillside could be correct.
I checked to see if Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, had an archeology/anthropology department with ground-penetrating radar equipment (GPR). It turns out that they do. At first, a student was going to do the project for me as part of her thesis, but her grant would not allow it.
Instead, I paid the Applied Anthropology Lab to study a couple areas in Hillside Cemetery for me, including the area around Mary A. Jones’s grave. The report I received states that north of Mary’s grave there is an anomaly that appears to have two burials done around the same time period (Benjamin and Geneva?). There is also another probable grave south of her that may be Weston.9
The two areas surveyed revealed 55 possible graves where only 20 are marked by currently visible stones (some markers may be buried).10 The GPR results suggest my hypothesis has merit. There’s no indication that markers were ever placed on Benjamin, Geneva, or Weston’s graves.
It’s unfortunate that the Society of Friends, who started and managed this cemetery, did not keep records. There is no map and no record of burials.11 The small areas I had surveyed clearly show that there are many unmarked graves in Hillside. Sadly, GPR can “uncover” the dead, but it can’t name them.
Feature image: Mary A. Jones’s grave in Hillside Cemetery (center of image), alone in a sea of green.
- The Samuel Jones family Bible, collection of J. W. Beck. ↩
- Ibid. A history of Belmont County suggests the epidemic took place in 1833, but if the family record is correct, it took place in 1832. ↩
- Benjamin H. Jones and Maria Zinn. Ancestry.com. Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. ↩
- Jones family Bible. ↩
- Muncie Public Library. Delaware County Digital Image Search. Allen Makepeace v. Samuel Jones et al. http://digitalresource.munpl.org/default.asp ↩
- Ibid. and personal visit to Hillside Cemetery. ↩
- The CDC lists long-term complications from scarlet fever, which are rare today. But in Benjamin’s time, it was common for this disease to lead to rheumatic fever (heart disease) and arthritis. Benjamin, in his deposition, indicated he suffered from “the hip disease” which could have been arthritis. https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/scarlet-fever.html ↩
- Jones family Bible. ↩
- Nolan, Kevin C. 2018. Geophysical Field Reconnaissance of Hillside Cemetery Jay County, Indiana. AAL Project #17SP005, Applied Anthropology Laboratories, Department of Anthropology, Ball State University, Muncie, IN. Report prepared for Eilene Lyon, p. 6. ↩
- Ibid. p. 65. ↩
- My research in the Family History Library records for the Camden meeting indicated that the White Water Monthly Meeting had directed the Camden group to make a record for deaths and burials, but it seems that no such records were ever created. I contacted a professor at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, (a Society of Friends institution) and he did not believe there were any records. The Township Trustee has no records, either. A survey was made from the existing headstones, but that is all I’ve been able to turn up. ↩