Samuel Jones Family Letters

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Draft Application for Bounty Lands under Act of Congress, 1853 - Image Source

Collection Facts

Dates of Original:

Historical Context

In the US, the period between 1800-1850 was one of national expansion and reform. The diary and letters kept by Schenectadian Samuel William Jones, spanning from 1819-1855, trace the growth and development of the Capital Region of New York. The letters from family and friends provide everyday accounts of the impact of historical events in places from New York to Paris to Florida. During this period, America experienced positive technological advances in communication and transportation that pushed territorial expansion both South and West. However, these positive developments came at the cost of the exploitation of enslaved peoples and continued the expatriation and massacre of Native American peoples. Politics were fractious, slanderous, and often led to conflict or uneasy compromise.

 Samuel William Jones was born to Major William and Koziah Jones in Cold Spring, New York in 1971. In 1815, Jones left New York City for Schenectady where he attended Union College and studied law. After working as a lawyer for several years, Jones began his political career around 1824 as an assistant city alderman. He served as Schenectady’s mayor in 1837 and 1838, and Schenectady County Court Justice from 1835 to 1840 and 1847 to 1851. In 1839, Jones chaired the Welcoming Committee for President Martin Van Buren, coordinating the president’s visit to Schenectady and hosting his overnight stay. Jones’ activities included raising support for various development and civic projects, including the Erie Canal and the local African School Society. Beyond his own contributions to Schenectady history, Jones was well connected to other influential New Yorkers, including his father-in-law James Duane, founder of Duanesburg, mayor of New York City, and member of the Continental Congress. On November 26th, 1816, Samuel W. Jones married the daughter of James Duane, Maria Bowers Duane, with whom he had eight children. This collection contains letters from three of those children, Mary Anne (Marianne) Jones, Cornelia Kezia Jones, and Daniel Francis Jones.

Scope of Collection

The collection consists of letters received or collected by Samuel Jones from his family, friends, and associates, and Samuel Jones’ diary which he kept from 1821 to 1855. The content of the letters describe events and activities around the United States as well as intimate looks into family life and how New Yorkers dealt with changing circumstances during the first half of the nineteenth century. Letters from Jones' family on Long Island reveal the growing technology and popularity of this area as steamboats connected them to New York and new resorts were built on the island. The letters from Jones’ son, Daniel Francis Jones, recorded the novelty of living at the forefront of American expansion in Florida. Daniel Francis Jones migrated to St. Augustine, Florida in 1840 and continued to travel along the Atlantic coast of Florida. In his letters, he openly wrote about the removal of Native Americans from their land and the military presence in the area.

This collection contains a few documents written by Samuel W. Jones himself. These documents mostly consist of documents referring to the “Act granting bounty land officers and soldiers who have been engaged in the military service of the United States," passed September 28, 1850. Since Jones was a lieutenant in the War of 1812, he applied for and received military bounty land. In his diary, Jones recorded the experiences of his extended family and associates, and commented on a wide variety of topics including family news, local and national political campaigns, the Compromise of 1820, and the weather.