RALEIGH — Almost 100 near and not-so-near relatives who can trace their roots to 18th-century Raleigh landowner Nathaniel Crabtree Jones Jr. had what likely was their last chance to walk in and around their ancestors hilltop home off Wake Forest Road on Sunday.
By late summer, if all goes as planned, the 3,448-square-foot house will be 500 feet away on a new foundation on Hilmer Drive and will become someones home.
Sunday, however, the two-story house with its three brick chimneys still sat amid large oaks and rambling hedges at the end of an unpaved drive off Wake Forest Road just inside the I-440 Beltline.
On the lawn, Kimbrough Jones of Raleigh said he had lived in the house briefly after getting out of the military in the early 1970s. His parents had moved into the house several years before, taking it over from another Jones relative.
I was never interested in genealogy, Jones said, and he chuckled as he recalled how as a boy, visiting the house with his parents, he would flee family discussions to sit in the car and listen to rock music on the radio.
Jones and his wife, Evelyn, said their son, Bryan Jones, is the last to bear the family name.
The descendants of Crabtree Jones wearing stickers that often had the names Borden, Kimbrough, Hanes and Cobb had come from as far as San Francisco and Washington state for the impromptu reunion organized through a flurry of Internet messages.
The relatives ranged from 93-year-old Frank Borden Hanes of Winston-Salem to 2-month-old Robert Hanes Andrews.
A hand-drawn family tree showed the branches that developed as Crabtree Jones children married and built connections with other North Carolina families.
The relationships on Sunday were as direct as mothers and daughters and as distant as cousins removed several times.
But, as J. Myrick Howard, president of Preservation North Carolina, told the group, Were all related by house.
Howards group is at the center of the plan to preserve the house when South Carolina developer Russ Davis builds the Jones Grant Apartments on the Jones land, which in the 1970s was bought by the late Charles William Gaddy and is now held by a Gaddy family trust.
Preservation North Carolina has bought and will deconstruct the nearby Hilmer Drive home where the late Raleigh City Council member A.L. Strickland once lived. Davis will deed the Jones house to PNC and pay for a Greensboro company to move it in one piece to the site, and PNC will sell it to a buyer who wants to renovate and live in a pre-Revolutionary house.
The house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will settle across Hilmer Drive from the Jones family cemetery, where headstones from the 18th and 19th centuries remain.
Dana Borden Lacy of Greensboro is generally considered the keeper of the family history, and she had packets for everyone Sunday with genealogical information.
Asked if she knew all the people who had showed up, Lacy sounded a bit surprised by the question.
All of them, except for three, she said. Were all cousins.
Nancy Hanes White of Creedmoor bowed to the greater knowledge of her cousin Lacy, saying she did not know nearly as many people at the house Sunday.
She also noted that Sundays gathering was not really a big event.
This is small! White said, explaining that a family reunion about two decades ago in Goldsboro brought about 300 people.
The land came to Crabtree Jones father, Nathaniel Sr., through a 1749 land grant from Lord Granville. He built his homestead a ways up the hill from what is now a wagon path through the woods but once was the Louisburg Road, Howard said.
The nickname Crabtree referred to the Crabtree Creek valley that lies to the south of the hilltop house.
There was another Nathaniel Jones among the landed gentry, and he owned land to the southwest in what is now a part of Cary.
That area was known as White Plains, and the owner became known as White Plains Jones, and eventually just W.P., Crabtrees descendants said.