Major Thomas Jones…Welsh Privateer
Namesake of Jones Beach State Park, New York
The family of Major Thomas Jones, sometimes styled the chevalier, and of whose descent from a noble Irish family, which intermarried with one from Wales, is supposed to have originated in Merionethshire or Glamorganshire. However that may be, the characteristics of the Welsh race are plainly discernable in almost every member of the family and are very marked in all of those who have become prominent in any walk of life.
Thomas Jones, who fought at the Battle of the Boyne, Aghrim, and at the capitulation of Limerick, served under William III of England and under James II of Ireland, having served as a Major in the army of the dethroned Monarch. The family of Major Thomas Jones, which had formerly been from England, but of Welsh extraction, had long been seated in the north of Ireland.
Major Jones was born about 1665. In 1692, Major Jones was at the island of Jamaica at the time of the great earthquake of July 7th, being engaged in one of the numerous expeditions under the “Letter of Marque”, and which so many of the English and Irish officers of James II sought service after the defeat at the Battle of the Boyne. In that same year Major Jones arrived in Warwick, Rhode Island and at this place met and married Freelove Townsend, the daughter of Thomas Townsend. Freelove was born Dec. 29, 1674. Thomas Townsend was the son of John Townsend, a prominent Quaker, who came to New Amsterdam early in the 17th century about 1635, from Norwich, England. The family were of great antiquity, their lands being granted them from William the Conqueror.
Thomas Townsend, the father of Freelove Townsend, gave to Thomas Jones and his bride a large tract of Land which had formerly belonged to the Massapequa Indians, on the south side of Long Island. To this vast estate Major Jones and his wife removed in 1696, where he built a substantial brick house at the head of the creek. In 1702, Lord Cornbury, Governor of New York, commissioned Major Jones Captain of the Militia in Queens County, New York on Oct. 20; in that same year on Oct 14, 1704, he was appointed High Sheriff of Queens, and on April 3, 1706 he was appointed Major of the Queens County Regiment.
Governor Hunter, of the Province of New York appointed him Ranger General of the Island of Nassau (Long Island), which gave to him the monopoly of the whale and other fisheries from the north to the south shore of the island. This commission was dated Sept. 4, 1710.
Major Jones died Dec. 13, 1713, and was buried in a a small grave yard on the banks of the then called Brick House Creek, now called Massapequa Creek. The issue of Major Thomas Jones and Freelove was 7 children. A brown headstone marked the spot on which the following inscription written by himself, “Here Lyes Interd The Body of Major Thomas Jones, Who Came From Straubane, In The Kingdom of Ireland, Settled Here and Died December, 1713”.
From Distant Lands to This Wild Waste He Came,
This Seat He Choose, And Here He Fixed His Name,
Long May His Sons This Peace Full Spot Injoy,
And No Ill Fate his Offspring Here Annoy.
For many years after his death many fictions existed about Thomas Jones. The exercise of his commission to sail as a Privateer under “Letters of Marque”, from the French ports, leading to the slander that he was a pirate. These myths were cherished for over a century after his death through ignorance and superstition, and through ignorance and superstition that these fables extended into the middle of the past century and today…
In 1929, the large tract of land given to Thomas Jones and his wife Freelove, along with subsequent purchases by Major Jones, officially became Jones Beach State Park, as part of the New York State Park System through the dedication from Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the nautical vision of Robert Moses.