Bill JONES – Basketball Pioneer

While looking up different topics to write about, I came across the Toledo’s Attics post regarding African American’s in Toledo Sports. In the basketball section, there was a short article about William (Bill) McNeill JONES who was a great basketball player from Toledo and one of the first black players to integrate professional basketball. Bill JONES was born in Toledo in 1914, which made me wonder if he was related to one of my JONES lines.  Bill JONES was a basketball star when he attended Woodward High School here in Toledo.  He also was a player for the University of Toledo and is currently in their athletic hall of fame.  After college he was on a team that integrated the National Basketball League in the 1940s which later merge with the Basketball Association of America and became the National Basketball Association (NBA).

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Of course JONES is a very common surname, but due to the year of his birth being prior to 1920, I felt that maybe there was a connection due to there not being many black people in Northwest Ohio during that time period.

I also remembered that I do have a William A. JONES in my genealogy.  He is a part of the “other” JONES family in my ancestry.  As shared in the JONES/ROBINSON post, I have two lines of JONES families who are not related to each other.  Both of them are on my maternal line and confusingly, they married into each others families rather early on.  Harold WHITFIELD, whose mother was Martha (Mattie) JONES WHITFIELD, went on to marry Florence ROBINSON WHITFIELD, whose mother was Nancy JONES ROBINSON mentioned in that post.  So both individuals in this couple had mother’s who were from a family with the surname JONES.  I know, I know, it is confusing!!  But this post will be about the line of Martha (Mattie) JONES WHITFIELD.

Mattie JONES was born in Ohio in approximately 1865 (d. 1949 Toledo, Ohio).  Her father was John A. JONES (b. approx 1835, d. approx 1890) who on census records indicated he was from Mississippi.  Her mother was Amy BLICK(S)/BLECK(S) JONES  (b. approx 1846, d. 1903) who stated she was from Virginia.  This JONES family moved to the Northwest Ohio area around 1876-1880.  On the 1870 census the JONES family was living in Berlin Township, Delaware County, Ohio.  Delaware County is in Central Ohio and has an interesting history being that it was home to two union camps during the Civil War.  One for white troops and the other for black troops.  I have found some information linking John A. JONES with being a Civil War soldier in the US Colored Infantry, but I cannot confirm this as even halfway true due to the very common name of John JONES, I intend to delve into military genealogy hopefully later this year for all known/suspected veterans in my family tree.  In 1870, John A. JONES was a farm laborer and had real estate valued at $300 and had a personal estate listed at $200 in Berlin Township, which I felt was pretty rich for that day and time, especially for a black man.  Amy JONES stated that she was “uncertain” about her age, which lead me to conclude that she was a formerly enslaved person, though I feel both were more than likely former slaves.  As an aside, I am working on finding out more about Amy JONES.  Her maiden name was spelled horrendously on various documents pertaining to her children’s marriages and deaths but I am going to attempt to link her with a family in Virginia to conduct some slavery research and see if I can find out more about her.

On the 1880 census, the JONES family were living in Swan Creek, Fulton County, Ohio, which is in Northwest Ohio.  They were the only black family living in the county at that time according to the book mentioned in the JONES/ROBINSON post “Blacks in Ohio in 1880.” This was a book that listed all the black people in Ohio according to the 1880 Census.

John A. JONES was listed as a farmer on the census.  All of the children, except the two youngest William JONES (4 years old) and Hattie JONES (1 year old) were marked as having attended school within the year.  Neither John A. JONES nor Amy JONES could read or write.

According to Toledo city directories, this JONES family lived in the City of Toledo by 1886.  John JONES became a “drayman” the same occupation as Elias WHITFIELD who married Mattie JONES and became his son-in-law.

Due to John A JONES and Amy JONES having a son named William, I wondered if Bill JONES was the grandson of John A. and Amy JONES.  Further research into his background, using Bill JONES’ birth date and pulling up records for the 1920 census showed that Bill JONES was the son of William A. JONES and Jessie GATLIFF/GATLEFF JONES.  William A. JONES and Jessie GATLIFF/GATLEFF were married in Toledo on April 27, 1907.  Jessie listed her parents as John GATLIFF and Amanda GOENS/GOINS.  She was born in Ross County, Ohio.  William A. JONES listed his parents as John A. JONES and Amy BLICK/BLECK.  He was born in 1875 in Delaware County, Ohio!

So the basketball pioneer (William) Bill McNeil JONES was my 5th cousin!  Pretty far removed but for me, not by much in the genealogy world.

William A. JONES and Jessie GATLIFF/GATLEFF JONES went on to have 7 known children.  Three of those children had the same names as members of my “other” JONES family.  Bill JONES was named after his father William of course.  Bill’s sister Elizabeth was named after their aunt and Bill’s older brother John was named after their grandfather John A. JONES.

Due to their longevity in Ohio with a documented family history since the 1860s, the JONES family would qualify as a “Century Family” with the Ohio Genealogical Society.

I will also look further into the genealogy of Jessie GATLIFF/GATLEFF since she was from Ross County, Ohio.  Ross County had a pretty large, long presence of free people of color and GOINS/GOENS especially is a very familiar name for Ross County and warrants additional research.

REFERENCES USED FOR THIS POST:

Toledo’s Attic:  http://toledosattic.org/104-essays/sportshistory/174-afroamintoledosports?showall=&start=4

1870 Census – www.familysearch.org

1880 Census – www.familysearch.org

1920Census – www.familysearch.org

Ohio, County Marriages 1789-2013 – www.familysearch.org

 

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