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  • Writer's pictureJack Hager

>Bless Those Who Persecute You

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Last Wednesday, while Jane was in recovery following her surgery, I walked outside the hospital to a nearby cemetery. I knew Mark Twain was buried there, but my walk took an unexpected turn when I saw a marker for the grace of John W. Jones.

I had no idea who he was. But I read a plaque by his headstone, was intrigued and blessed; and did a bit of research that I share here:

John W. Jones was born June 21, 1817 into slavery in Virginia. In June of 1844 he fled north and ended up in Elmira, NY. In 1847 he was appointed the caretaker of the First Baptist Church. In 1854 he married the sister of Stephen Swailes, who became a lieutenant in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the all-black unit depicted in the excellent movie “Glory.”

Jones was active in the Underground Railroad, and helped over 800 slaves escape to freedom.

On July 6, 1864 the Elmira Prison Camp opened. Conditions were deplorable, and the camp was shut down on July 10, 1865…but not before almost 3,000 prisoners died.

John W. Jones, the ex-slave, took responsibility and supervised the burial of 2,973 Confederate soldiers. He kept diligent records, and marked each grave with a small cross. Washington accepted his records and paid him $2.50 for each burial.

Jones was active in his church; and I hope to meet him in glory.

What a depiction of loving those who persecute us.

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