Major Thomas Jones was born about 1665 in Straubane, Ireland. His family was Welsh, but they lived in Ireland for some time. Major Jones served in in the Battle of the Boyne under James II. He eventually gave up his seafaring life and settled in Warwick, Rhode Island. A prominent family, the Townsends, also lived in Warwick at the time. Thomas Townsend obtained a considerable amount of land on Long Island, including several hundred acres of land in what is now Massapequa. Thomas Jones met Thomas Towsend’s daughter Freelove and married her. On October 30, 1696, Thomas Townsend gifted Jones and Freelove a large tract of land in Massapequa.
Major Jones and his wife moved to the Fort Neck area of Massapequa. He built a home at the head of a creek on Merrick Road, near Biltmore Boulevard. The creek became known as Brick House Creek (It is now Massapequa Lake and Preserve). Thomas Jones enlarged his holdings until he had approximately 6,000 acres (Part of that land is now Jones Beach State Park). He was granted a commission of Captain in the Queens County Militia in 1702. In 1710, he was appointed Ranger General of the Island of Nassau by Governor Hunter.
Major Jones died in December 1713 and was laid to rest in a small family burial ground not far from the house. He wrote the inscription for his own headstone. It reads, “Here Lyes Interd the Body of Major Thomas Jones Who Came From Straubane In The Kingdom of Ireland Settle Here and Died December 1713. From Distant Lands To This Wild Waste He Came This Seat He Choose and Here He Fixed His Name. Long May His Sons This Peaceful Spot Injoy and No Ill Fate his Offspring Here Annoy.”
He and Freelove’s graves were moved to the graveyard at Old Grace Episcopal Church on Merrick Road. The two original tombstones mark the graves. His grave is the oldest historic object in Massapequa.
A few legends have emerged about Thomas Jones and his seafaring life. He was a privateer before settling on Long Island. Legend says that he buried some treasure near his house in Massapequa. As the story is told, he asked a young boy to guard the treasure and when the boy agreed, Jones supposedly killed the boy and threw his body upon the chest as he buried it. Residents spoke of hearing the boy’s cries in the swamp where the treasure was supposed to be laid. Legend has it that when Jones died, a big black bird flew into the room and perched upon his pillow. The bird remained in the room until Jones passed away and flew out of an oval window in the house.
After his passing, strange goings-on began to occur. The oval window which the bird flew through could not be closed and sightings of his ghost were seen entering the window and taking a walk. Jones’s sons and grandson did everything they could to close the window, to no avail. The family eventually gave up and moved out of the house for good.
Massapequa Post. An Illustrated History of Massapequa. Massapequa Publishing Co., 1968.
Panchyk, Richard. Hidden History of Long Island. History Press, 2016.