Public Records Office
433 East Duke of Gloucester Street
The small brick building off to the side of the Old Capitol Building is fairly unassuming, though it, like many of the buildings in the old section of the city, possesses a complex and sometimes tragic history. Of course, this structure is in possession of a few spirits as well.
When the Capitol burned in 1747, many of the colony’s records were destroyed in the fire. The House of Burgesses and the Council passed legislation authorizing construction of a Public Records Office, or Secretary’s Office, to house and protect the colony’s records. This elegant brick structure was built with little wood to ensure that it would not burn. Four fireplaces connecting to two massive chimneys allowed for small fires that would provide heat in the winter and keep the building dry during the heat of summer.
This building housed the colony’s records until the removal of the capital to Richmond in 1780. The Court of Admiralty occupied the building for some years, then it became a home for the headmaster when a school was opened in the Capitol building. During the Civil War when Confederates were fleeing Yorktown, some rebels hid in the building. Union troops surrounded the building and a firefight ensued between the two groups. Eventually, the rebels ran out of ammunition and the Union troops burst through the door and captured them.
Around the turn of the 20th century, this building was the home to David Roland Jones and his family. Jones had seven daughters that he sternly kept in line with strict discipline. Legend holds that one of his daughters, Edna, fell in love with a local young man. The young woman, however, was severely myopic, or near-sighted, which may have led to her death. After sneaking out of the house one night, the young woman was struck and killed by a speeding carriage. Her body was laid to rest in the family cemetery behind the Public Records Office, but her spirit may continue to linger.
A Colonial Williamsburg employee recorded a 1969 encounter with the wraith in her diary. “As I was scrubbing windows, I saw the vision of a woman in white, dangling in mid-air over the old graveyard. Then after a moment or two, she disappeared.” Behrend tells of a guest on one of her tours who glimpsed the young woman peering around the corner of the building. She also tells the story of another visitor who, while strolling the grounds early one morning, heard a woman calling, “Dora! Dora!” That may be Dora Armistead, whose home stood next door until it was moved some years ago. Armistead was known to be a friend of the Jones family.
In researching this story, both authors have mentioned that Edna was buried in the cemetery behind the house, though a quick search through Findagrave.com, shows no one buried under that name. David Roland Jones is there with seven women, but none named Edna.
- Behrend, Jackie Eileen. The Hauntings of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1998.
- “Jones Cemetery Memorials.” com. Accessed 2 March 2019.
- Kinney, Pamela K. Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, & Other Haunted Locations. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2011.
- Olmert, Michael. Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1985.