People & Places
In November, we, as a nation, reflect on the sacrifices and stories that have shaped our family history and our nation. This is a tribute to the heroes in my bloodline; their legacy is forever intertwined with the fabric of American history.
I’m lucky to have an aunt who did a lot of digging about my dad’s ancestors. She gave me a wealth of knowledge about my family history.
This is the story of my family’s journey through American history. Hopefully, others will be inspired to discover the tales of the enduring spirit that defines our shared American identity.
My grandfather on my dad’s side, Bruce Murphey Jones, is a larger-than-life hero in our family. At 15 years old, he joined the U.S. Army but was kicked out when they discovered his age. He rejoined as soon as he was of age and served for two years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. He was stationed in Greenland, building airstrips and buildings.
Following his service in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he underwent training as one of the early paratroopers and subsequently served in both the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions. Before the D-Day invasion, he landed in France in the early morning hours, helping to clear the beach for the invasion force.
My grandmother’s father served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I as a trainer and handler for carrier pigeons that sent messages beyond enemy lines in Belgium. Bruce’s father, Valentine Jones, served in the Spanish-American War as a Rough Rider.
I had multiple family members serve in the Civil War, possibly on opposing sides but I only have information on two Union soldiers.
Valentine’s father, Charles T. Jones, fought for Missouri’s 8th Congressional District. He enlisted on July 1, 1863, the same day the Battle of Gettysburg began. My other great-great grandfather, George Washington Murphey, was a private in the 29th Illinois Infantry Regiment.
My family’s service in the United States extends beyond the Civil War and helped shape the nation we cherish. Some of my family members were inspired by individuals who fought for causes in other countries they believed in, and they decided to join the fight.
Although I cannot verify it, apparently Valentine’s maternal grandfather, Wiley Jones Patrick Sr. fought in the Polish–Russian War, also known as the November Uprising or the Cadet Revolution in 1830-31, which was a Polish rebellion against the Russian Empire.
My forefathers stood shoulder to shoulder with the founding fathers of the United States, fighting valiantly for independence from Britain during the Revolutionary War.
Two of the men in my family who fought in the Continental Army were John Kendrick, a captain in the Virginia Militia regiment and John Murphey served in the 2nd Maryland Regiment.
John Patrick served at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, during the War of 1812. The fort was key for the Americans defending Baltimore from British ships.
Going back to the 1600s, my family was involved in the colonization of the New World.
Thomas West 12th Baron De La Warr was the governor of the Virginia colony, and the state of Delaware was named after him. He was the great-grandson of Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII.
The West family owned the property that would later become West Point.
Thanksgiving is especially important in my family because one of the pilgrims onboard was my ancestor. Samuel Fuller came over as a child with his parents and his uncle, who confusingly had the same name. Unfortunately, Samuel’s parents did not survive the voyage and he was raised by his uncle.
One of my favorite family stories is about Penelope Prince Stout.
Legend has it, she survived a Native American attack in what is now New Jersey in 1643 after her family was in a shipwreck. She was left for dead but somehow recovered and found her family. The details of the story vary and some historians consider it more of a legend than a historical account. Either way, she’s become a symbol of resilience for the early American settlers.
Thank you for going on this journey with me.
Jesse Jones lives in Albuquerque with his wife and son. Jesse graduated from of the University of New Mexico twice. This spring, he graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism and, in 2006, he received a bachelor’s degree in university studies with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a current fellow of the New Mexico Local News Fund.