Good Man, Kind Friend, and True Christian

As I research my ancestors and their families, I find myself sometimes wondering, if I knew the person in life, “what would I think of them? Would we like one another?” I like to think that for the most part we would, especially when I can pull together a pretty good picture of someone from records, newspaper, diaries and other sources. As the picture comes into focus, the individuals in my family tree that stand out in my mind are the ones with interesting stories. These stories include religious and political refugees, secret rendezvous, and family lore. But others stick out because they seem like good people that work hard and serve others. Two that immediately come to mind are my great-grandmother, Martha Lake Carmichael Medlock, and my 6th great-uncle, John Bones.

I have written a couple times about Martha, so will write this post about John Bones. The topic for 52 Ancestors this week is Nice, and from what I’ve found about John Bones, he seems to have been a very nice man.

John Bones

John Bones, ca. 1845

John was the eldest child of James and Mary (Adams) Bones. He was born 12 December 1792 in County Antrim, Ireland. James participated in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. After the rebellion failed, family legend suggests that John and his 3 siblings went with their parents to Jamaica, but returned to Ireland within a couple years, where the next child, William, was born in 1801.

James, Mary, and their nine children remained in Ireland until 1810, when they immigrated to the United States. They arrived in Savannah in time to celebrate the 4th of July. The family settled in Fairfield County, South Carolina, where other extended Bones family had previously immigrated, but John most likely went directly to join his Uncle William in Augusta, Georgia. Uncle William’s store sold “fine Irish linen and sheeting.” John initially worked as a clerk but by 1813 he and his uncle were partners. By 1818, his uncle withdrew from the store, leaving John as the owner.

That same year, John married Maria Barney Fitzsimons Eve, on 8 April at Frog Hall, the home of Maria’s father. (She also happens to be my 5th great-aunt on both my Longstreet and Carmichael lines.) At some point, they took in and later adopted Maria’s niece, Hannah Longstreet. (Maria’s sister and brother-in-law moved to the country for his work, leaving their children in Augusta with family to attend school.)

In 1825, John purchased a plantation for his parents in Edgefield, South Carolina, called Cedar Grove. (As far as I can tell, John never lived there, instead allowing parents, siblings, and other relatives to use the home.)

Mary Brown Bones

Mary (Brown) Bones, ca. 1845

Maria died in 1833 from tuberculosis. On his first trip back to Ireland the following year, John married his first cousin, Mary Brown. They would travel back and forth between Ireland and Georgia several times to visit family and for business, often taking Hannah or other relatives with them.

John also helped Mary’s three brothers after they immigrated to Augusta by employing them in his store. By 1847, John had made his brother-in-law, John Brown, a partner. John and Mary took in the children of Mary’s brother, William, after both William and his wife, Emily, passed away.

John served in the community in many capacities including on the board of directors at the Bank of Augusta, as a city alderman, on the board of health, and on the first board of education. He was an early subscriber to a library for young men, donating $500 to a trust fund for the organization.

Mary died in 1865 at the age of 55. John followed her in death on 25 October 1870 at the age of 77. In his will, he leaves $10,000 to Hannah Longstreet and then instructs the rest of his assets to be divided into 6 parts with shares going to the following groups or individuals: one share to his adopted Brown nieces and nephew; one share to the daughter of his deceased brother; one share to the children of another deceased brother; one share in the form of Cedar Grove to his sister, Martha, and her family living there; one share to his sister, Eliza; and one share to his sister, Jane.

From his obituary published in The Chronicle and Sentinel on 26 October 1870, more is learned of his character:

Mr. Bones was the eldest living merchant of Augusta at the time of his death. He never retired from business, but up to the day of his death he took an active part in the business affairs. He was a participant in most of the prominent enterprises of this community, and the present Augusta Factory owes its origin to a simple suggestion of his made upon the street to the late Mr. D’Antignac, that “it never would do, having gotten power to let it lie idle”. Those two gentlemen immediately canvassed for subscriptions, which resulted in building the first cotton factory in Augusta and the first building of the Augusta canal for the application of its power.

Childless, he was liberal, generous and benevolent, always encouraging the young, with always an excuse for the errors of others. His hand never lifted, except in friendly approval, to caress or to bestow good upon all whom he could. He was, too, the practical peace-maker, always endeavoring, by his council and example, to prevent feuds and ill feeling, and to settle difficulties between his friends.

As a prominent example at once of his genial disposition and friendly influence, it should be stated that the reconciliation which was effected between the late George McDuffie, of South Carolina, and Col. William Cumming, of this city, was due to his efforts. Friendly and intimate with each and respected by both, the restoration of friendly intercourse between these two remarkable men in their day and generation was arranged by him, and their first friendly interview, after a long, exciting and embittered contest, both with pen and upon the field of honor, took place in the parlors of his home.

He was a regular attendant of the Presbyterian church, and without open profession, always expressed his warm regard for, and took and active and earnest part in privately diffusing the benignant principles of Christianity.

He died as we have already said, in the 78th year of his age, leaving no direct lineal representative, but a large circle of friends and relatives to deplore his loss as that of a good man, kind friend, and true Christian.

As part of his legacy, at least 5 nephews of several generations were named for him. He and both his wives are buried in the Cottage Cemetery in Augusta, Georgia.

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