Biscayne National Park is part of the world’s third-largest coral reef and includes the northernmost Florida Keys, mangrove forests, bay waters, and 10,000 years of human history. But did you know this history includes one of the greatest African-American pioneer families?
Senator Bullard, along with the National Parks Conservation Association youth advocates, successfully passed a bill, a one-time designation, to recognize Sir Lancelot Garfield Jones, October 13, 2014.
The following inspirational story includes a lot of hard work and is based on the “Historic Context Study: Israel Lafayette Jones Site, BiscayneNational Park” by Carolyn Finney.
“Unlock the door to the story of Lancelot Jones and you’ll find inspiration,” Senator Dwight Bullard, Florida State Senator, District 39, said.
Inspiration From A Father
Israel Lafayette Jones, born in Raleigh, NC, 1858, most likely born a slave. This can’t be proven through slave schedules, but at that time only one percent were freemen. He worked as a farmer and later moved to Wilmington, NC where he handled small boats and worked at the docks as a stevedore.
If he were a slave, it is believed he was freed and moved to Florida in 1892. Due to a freeze, he was unsuccessful raising oranges in Orlando and headed to Tampa. He searched for work as he continued south.
He found work as a caretaker for several properties in CapeFlorida. In 1893, he took on a foreman’s position at a pineapple farm. For nine years his caretaker and foreman positions taught him the skills needed to grow pineapples and key limes. During this time, Israel also worked for the Peacock Inn, Coconut Grove, as a handyman where he met his wife, Mozelle Albury. They married in 1895.
Inspiration Through Hard Work
Israel purchased Porgy Key, an island on the southern edge of Ceasar Creek from Fletcher Albury for $300, in 1897. In 1898, he purchased Old Rhodes Key, of which Porgy Key was a part. Two years later he moved his family into the existing two-bedroom house. He and his brother, Samuel built a four-bedroom, two-story home. The family cleared the land of mahogany, gumbo-limbo, palmetto, and thorny vines to plant their key limes and pineapples. They also produced fruits and vegetables to supplement their income.
March 1897, King Arthur Lafayette Jones was born. Sir Lancelot Garfield Jones was born October 1898. Both were delivered by Dr. Henry Jackson (Jackson Memorial’s namesake) and a midwife. King Arthur and Sir Lancelot are believed to be the first black Americans to be born on Key Biscayne.
In 1911, Israel purchased Totten Key, a 250-acre pineapple plantation. King Arthur and Sir Lancelot were given ownership of Totten Key in 1929. Their mother’s health declined and she died shortly after. Their father died in 1932, age 73.
The Jones brothers carried 250 bushels of key limes to Miami weekly with their 32-foot boat, the Lone Star. Their farm became the largest producer of key limes and pineapples on the East Coast of Florida and the largest key lime producer in the state.
Inspiration Through Survival
In 1935, the Jones brothers began fishing for bonefish and started a fish guiding business. In 1938, due to the 1926 Hurricane damage to their farmlands and Mexico’s ability to produce greater quantities of pineapples and key limes, they decided to leave the farming business. WWII stopped their guide business for a few years.
They supplied a private club, The Coco Lobo Club, with stone crabs and lobster. Sir Lancelot’s reputation as a guide provided him with the opportunity to guide such notables as Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Charles “Bebe” Rebozo, Richard Nixon, and others.
Islandia, Miami-Dade’s smallest municipality, of which the Jones property was the second largest, was declared a National Monument in 1968 and a National Park in 1980. By 1985, Sir Lancelot and one other citizen were the only residents, along with park rangers, to live within the boundaries. October 23, 2013, the Jones property, The Jones Family Historic District, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Inspiration Through Conservation
Sir Lancelot King Arthur died February 1966, and his sister-in-law, Kathleen, sold the property to the National Park Service, 1970. Sir Lancelot believed the area should be preserved and the more than 277 acres was sold for over a million dollars with Sir Lancelot granted to live the remainder of his life in his home.
His home’s electricity was provided by solar panels and he used rain water for washing. He spent his retirement relaxing, reading, and sharing his ecological knowledge, often with children visiting the Environmental Education Center at the Adam’s Key Ranger Station.
The family home burned down from a propane tank fire, 1982, moving him into the caretaker’s shack. Hurricane Andrew destroyed the shack and forced him to permanently leave the island. He lived the last years of his life with family friends, the Adderly’s. Sir Lancelot Garfield Jones died December 22, 1997, age 99.
“Lancelot honed his skills in agriculture, as a fisherman, as a guide and was a respected member of the community. He triumphed over the racial atmosphere of Miami-DadeCounty and is a person many feel should be held with the same regard as Julia Tuttle and Henry Flagler,” Senator Bullard said.
Park visitors are invited to embrace Sir Lancelot’s inspirational story by joining the City of Homestead, BiscayneNational Park, the National Parks Conservation Association and youth advocates, friends and family of Sir Lancelot and celebrate “Sir Lancelot Garfield Jones Day,” October 13, 2014, and encourage the House and Senate of Florida to make this day of honor permanent.