John W. Jones was an active agent in the Underground Railroad and aided in the escape of 800 runaway slaves. Jones sheltered many fugitives in his own home, and none in his care were captured or returned to the South. As the sexton for Woodlawn Cemetery, one of John W. Jones' primary roles was to bury each deceased Confederate soldier from the Elmira Prison Camp. Of the 2,973 prisoners who Jones buried, only seven are listed as unknown. Jones kept such precise records that on December 7, 1877 the federal government declared the burial site a national cemetery.
John W. Jones' family home changed ownership several times, and eventually fell into disrepair. Condemned by the City of Elmira in 1997, a group of concerned citizens, saved it from demolition. The building was restored into a museum, which currently stands on Jones’ original farm property.
The museum highlights the history of African Americans who settled in New York and the activity of local abolitionists, emphasizing Elmira’s role as the only regular agency and published station on the Underground Railroad between Philadelphia and St. Catharines, Canada, and explore Mr. Jones’ community involvement and his relationship with his contemporaries.