Warren Wright Jones was born at Old Point Comfort in 1876 to John Bradford Jones, who was then bartending at Fort Monroe. When he was about two years old, his father became the Old Point Comfort lighthouse keeper, and it is likely that Warren frequently assisted his father in tending the light.
According to the 1900 census, there is a white man, Warren W. Jones, of Old Point, Virginia serving aboard the U.S.S. Abarenda as a Quartermaster Third Class. Based on future documentation, it is believed that this is the same Warren Jones, but it raises an important concern with census records. Although they are wonderful resources, it is important to remember that accuracy can vary in that oftentimes guesses are made by the census taker or reported by neighbors – in Jones’ case, this information might have been reported by a commander. With biracial heritage, several members of the Jones family are reported as white, Black, or “mulatto” across various government documents over the years. In 1902, Jones married Florence Matthews of Washington, D.C.
By 1904, Jones had completed six months of probationary service for the Lighthouse Service and was appointed assistant keeper of Tangier Sound lighthouse. He resigned from that position in August 1905. At the birth of his daughter at Fort Monroe in 1907, he is listed as the Coxswain of the Steam Launch, Quartermaster Department, U.S. Army; however, records indicate that he briefly served as lighthouse keeper at Old Point Comfort following the death of his father in 1908. His occupation as coxswain is confirmed in the 1910 census which shows him living in Phoebus with his family.
During World War I, he continued to serve as a mariner aboard an Army transport. Four of his brothers also served in the Army or Navy during the war effort. Jones is shown as having returned home from the war, and was again living in Phoebus with Florence and their three daughters in 1920.
Jones passed away in 1923 at Governers Island Hospital in New York. He is buried at Cypress Hill National Cemetery in Brooklyn. His death is documented by several sources, including the Veterans Gravesite database and a National Cemetery Internment form; however, researchers were initially unsure of whether this was the same Warren Wright Jones as prior research had not uncovered a connection to New York. It was not until we located a March 10, 1923 article from the New York Age, a popular newspaper for Black Americans, that we believed this was the same Jones. The article reads “Detective Paul Jones…was in New York last week on account of the death of his brother, Warren W. Jones, who died at the Government Island Hospital, and who was a retired quartermaster of the U.S. Navy.” Despite some of the inconsistencies, Detective Paul Jones was Warren’s brother and he did serve for the majority of his career in quartermaster positions on Army and Navy ships. Additionally, though we do not know the reason for Jones’ visit to New York, two of his daughters are listed as residents of New York by 1930. He might have been visiting family in the area when taken ill or perhaps he was at Fort Jay on assignment for the military.
As a son of John B. Jones, Jones’ role as a child born on Fort Monroe was known by our staff, but the extent of his service in the military and Lighthouse service was unknown until further research was conducted on Black lighthouse keepers at the Old Point Comfort light. Jones’ work as a lighthouse keeper was located in newspaper articles and the 1905 Register of Civil, Military, and Naval Service. Census records, government documents, and newspaper articles allow us to write this detailed biography.
Fort Monroe Authority. “Warren Wright Jones.” Illuminating Shadows, April 28, 2023. [access date]. [URL].