Jewish Center & Federation
of the Twin Tiers
Elmira - Corning - Watkins Glen - Waverly - Sayre
Visit the John W. Jones Museum on July 15
Space limited! Call (607) 734-8122 for reservations

Please join the JCF for a tour of the John W. Jones Museum on Sunday, July 15, at 2:00 p.m.

The Museum, at 1250 Davis Street across from Woodlawn Cemetery, highlights the career of John Jones as an agent of the Underground Railroad and as the sexton of Woodlawn Cemetery, plus the history of African Americans who settled in New York and the activity of local abolitionists.

It emphasizes Elmira’s role as the only regular agency and published station on the Underground Railroad between Philadelphia and Canada.

John W. Jones became an active agent in the Underground Railroad in 1851. He made an arrangement with Northern Central Railroad employees to hide the fugitives in the 4:00 “Freedom Baggage Car,” directly to Niagara Falls via Watkins Glen and Canandaigua. Most of the “baggage” eventually landed in St. Catharines, Ontario. By 1860, Jones aided in the escape of 800 runaway slaves. He usually received the fugitives in parties of six to ten, but there were times he found shelter for up to 30 men, women, and children a night. Of those 800, none were captured or returned to the South.

Jones became the sexton for Woodlawn Cemetery in 1859. One of his primary roles was to bury each deceased Confederate soldier from the Elmira Prison Camp. Of the 2,973 prisoners whom Jones buried, only seven are listed as unknown. Among those he buried were Jewish Confederate soldiers whose names are in Congregation Kol Ami’s yahrzeit lists.

The house was the private residence of John W. Jones and his family. It changed ownership several times, and was condemned in 1997. Concerned citizens, including Dr. Edward Grandt, saved it from demolition and restored it, opening the Museum in 2016.

The Museum can accommodate only 10 participants per tour, so reservations are essential. Please call the JCF office at (607) 734-8122. If the number in our group is larger, we’ll request additional tours or schedule additional dates.

Map and directions