Family Stories

Thomas T. Jewell and His Six Wives – Penobscot County, Maine/Schuyler County, Illinois/Fillmore County, Nebraska/Monroe County, Iowa/Barry County, Missouri

Thomas T. Jewell in Uniform

Today’s post is about a gentleman named Thomas T. Jewell who moved and lived in several states during his long life.  Thomas was the oldest child of Thomas W. Jewell and Zillah Ward, born in Maine June 14, 1847.  His father was born there in 1815, the son of Ebenezer Jewell and Patience Quimby.  The Jewell’s were originally from Coos County, New Hampshire.  Thomas’ mother was a daughter of Aaron Ward.  The family must have left Maine for Illinois shortly after Thomas’ birth, since his sister Lucinda Amanda Jewell was born in Schuyler County, Illinois.  Thomas W. and Zillah also had the following children:  Julia Miranda, Charles T., John C., Eben Ward, Enoch Sumner, Elmer E. and Parkhurst Jewell.

Thomas was only 16 when he first enlisted with the Union Army in 1862 with the 119th Illinois Infantry, and also served with the 137th Illinois. 

November 23, 1864, in Rushville, Schuyler County, Thomas married Mira Berry.  One daughter was born to this couple, Mary Elizabeth, March 19, 1866.  I cannot say what happened with this marriage, but when the daughter was about two years old Mira left Thomas, taking the child with her.  The following article from The Cherokee Sentinel, Cherokee, Kansas, Friday, May 21, 1909, gives a few clues.

Thomas T. Jewell Here

Mr. Thomas T. Jewell of Albia, Iowa, was in the city last week visiting his daughter, Mrs. Wilson Lindsay whom he had not seen for forty-two years and no living tongue can tell the joy there was for both of them in this meeting and we are all glad to see them so happy together.

Mr. Jewell has many friends here that have known him all his life who were glad to greet him.  He was a soldier – belonged to Co. B, 119th Ill. Inf. and Co. K, 137th Ill. Inf.

He met two of his old comrades Thomas Gilham of this city and B. F. Goodwin of Pittsburg, Kansas, whom he had not seen for over 40 years.  He met Mr. Gilham on the street and it wasn’t but a few minutes till the old boys in blue gathered around him and to say they had a happy meeting would be putting it mild.

Mr. Jewell says he likes our city and never met a more friendly set of people in his life and everyone seems to want to make his visit pleasant for him.  Mr. Jewell says he thinks if he lived here, he would be a well man in six months.  He says that the water here has done him more good than all the medicine he has taken in the last five years and he feels like a new man since coming here.  He thinks he will move here.

This meeting with his long-lost daughter is like a romance from the pen of a gifted novelist.  Mrs. Lindsay in speaking of it says:

“There are not words enough in existence to express the joy and happiness that is in the hearts of papa and I.”  She being only 18 months old when separated from him.  She lost trace of him and until a few years ago she supposed him dead.  When she learned where he was, she wrote to him and they have corresponded ever since and now have met for the first time in her recollection.

“We have daily prayed that we might live to meet once more on earth and now our prayers are answered,” said Mrs. Lindsay.

Of course, there is always more to the story.  An article in the same newspaper on Friday, January 15, 1909, is the obituary for Mary Elizabeth Jewell Lindsay’s mother – Mira Berry Jewell.  It said Mrs. Jewell had lived in Cherokee for over thirty years, coming with her brother, W. V. Berry, in the early 1870’s.  Perhaps Mary Elizabeth waited until her mother’s death to invite her father to visit.

Let’s go back to Rushville, Illinois.  After Mira Berry Jewell left Thomas with baby Mary Elizabeth, he married Sarah E. Anderson June 30, 1872.  Was this after Mira left for Kansas with her brother?  Was Thomas a bigamist?  Who can say for sure?  In the 1880 census Thomas is 34, born in Maine, father born in Maine and mother born in Indiana.  He was a broom maker.  Sarah was 29.  Four daughters live in the family – Mary E., 15; Laura B., 7; Nellie M., 5; and Martha Alice, 3.  Just a moment.  If the couple married in 1872, they couldn’t have a 15-year-old daughter eight years later.  This must be Mary Elizabeth Jewell, daughter of Thomas and Mira.  Was this a visit to her father?  What about the newspaper article in 1909 that said they hadn’t seen each other for forty years?  Perhaps she was visiting her father when the census was taken.  Perhaps by 1909 they forgot about this visit?  It is quite possible her mother and uncle were visiting their families in Rushville, which gave Mary Elizabeth a chance to be with her father for a short while.

Thomas, wife Sarah Anderson, and daughters Nellie Miranda, Laura B. and Martha Alice, taken during the 1880’s.

A few years later the west was calling.  Thomas and Sarah and their daughters, along with his parents and several other Rushville families, including the Ritchey’s, moved to Fillmore County, Nebraska.  A state census was taken for this county in 1884.  Thomas, Sarah and their three daughters were included. 

Laura B. Jewell, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Anderson, married A. A. Smiley, son of Thomas Smiley and Lodema Stacy, May 28, 1890, in Fillmore County, Nebraska.

Seven months after her daughter’s wedding, Sarah died.

Fillmore County Republican, Geneva, Nebraska

December 24, 1890

Sarah E. Jewell, died at home in this city, Friday, December 19, 1890, at 10:15 a.m.  Mrs. Jewell was born March 3, 1851, and was married to T. T. Jewell, June 30, 1872.  She joined the Christian Church at the age of fourteen.  In the year of (unreadable) while residing at Carleton, Nebraska, she united with the Methodist Church.  When she moved to this city she brought her church letter and was an honored member at her death.

Mrs. Jewell, while in health poor, was tireless in her efforts to promote Christian religion, and was ever ready to labor for the cause she loved.  Her health began to fail about five years ago, and for the last sixteen months she has been confined to her room and bed.  Although her suffering was great, she bore it with Christian grace and died rejoicing in the faith which had been her solace through life.  She leaves a husband and three daughters, Alice and Nellie, aged 14 and 16, and Mrs. Laura Smiley, to mourn her loss.

In the 1890 census for veterans, Thomas T. Jewell is listed as living in Precinct B, Geneva, in Fillmore County, Nebraska.  According to the information listed he served during the Civil War from August 1862 to October 1864, two years, 1 month.  He has suffered from diarrhea and kidney disease for 26 years (since the war).  His army papers were lost, but he is unfit for manual labor.

October 25, 1891, Thomas married Lucy Belle McPherson.  He was 43, she was 20.  I love the marriage records of this time period in the mid-western states.  Parents names are given, Thomas and Zillah Ward Jewell for him, Aaron and Elvira E. Jones McPherson for her.  The couple was married at the bride’s residence.  Lucy McPherson Jewell lived slightly over a year after her marriage, dying November 8, 1892.  I feel she must have died due to childbirth since their daughter, Luella Jewell, was born November 1, 1892.  The card of thanks by Thomas Jewell in the November 9, 1892, Fillmore County Republican expressed his thanks for the ‘different societies and to friends and neighbors who so kindly gave their assistance and sympathy during the sickness and burial of my wife.  My desire is that each and every one may have such sympathy and kindness when they meet afflictions.’

At some point after Lucy’s death Thomas and the girls moved to Monroe County, Iowa.

Thomas Jewell working in his broom making shop.

The Iowa Marriages

Mar 1896

August 10, 1896, in Monroe County, Iowa, Isaac F. Spinks, 20, farmer, son of James Spinks and Nancy Ann Stephens, married Nellie Jewell, 22, daughter of Thomas Jewell and Sarah Anderson.  They married at the home of the groom’s parents.  

Nine years after Sarah’s death, Thomas filed a petition of divorce from first wife Mira Berry Jewell – although the notice in the paper lists her as Mary E. Jewell.  This must be her official name, Mira being a nickname.

The Geneva Gazette, Fillmore County, Nebraska

Friday, April 14, 1899

Notice to Non-Resident Defendant

Mary E. Jewell will take notice that on the 25th day of March, A.D. 1899, Thomas T. Jewell filed his petition in the district court of Fillmore County, Nebraska, against the above-named defendant, the object and prayer of which are that he may be divorced from said defendant upon the ground of cruelty.

You are required to answer said petition on or before the eighth day of May, A.D. 1899.   Thomas T. Jewell, by F. B. Donisthorpe, his attorney.

In May of the same year Judge Hastings granted the divorce of ‘Thomas T. Jewell vs. Mary E. Jewell, decree as prayed on payment of costs by plaintiff’.  Several other divorces were listed by Judge Hastings.  I wouldn’t have thought divorce was granted that often at that time.

August 5, 1899, Thomas Jewell married Mary E. Snell James, a widow, in Lucas County, Iowa.  He was 53, she was 49.  He is listed as a broom maker from Peoria, Illinois, Thomas and Zillah, his parents.  I think it very important that his parents are listed on the later marriage records as I would have thought it as unlikely that ‘our’ Thomas married this many times.  It is listed as his second marriage, but we know it to be his fourth.  Mary’s parents were Henry Snell and Emma Clong (?).

Mary Snell Jewell was deceased by February 9, 1904, when Thomas married Frances A. Jenison Meacham.   Thomas was 57, his “third marriage”, this was Frances’ second marriage, having married a Charles S. Meacham who died in 1896.  Thomas is listed as a broom maker, living in Albia, Monroe County, Iowa, his parents Thomas and Zillah.  Frances’ parents were Joseph E. Jenison and Alvira Sprague. 

61st Birthday Party

There is no city or date listed on this old newspaper notice of the 61st birthday party for Thomas T. Jewell., but this party must have taken place in 1908.

Children of T. T. Jewell Help Him Celebrate the Passing of His Sixty-First Milestone

T. T. Jewell, the successful broom manufacturer of Albia, came very near to an old-fashioned surprise party Tuesday evening of last week.  He turned the sixty-first milestone in his history that day, and Mrs. Jewells, with the children, planned a surprise dinner for him.  But old soldiers are very hard to catch napping, and so the secret leaked out.  Mr. Jewell’s children and their families were all at home on the happy evening and each one brought his part towards the six o’clock dinner.

Those present were Mr. and Mrs. Al Smiley and three children, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Spinks and two children, Mrs. W. G. Woods [Alice} and two children, Miss Louella Jewell, who lives at home, and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Smith and baby, Mrs. Smith being a granddaughter.  It was a happy crowd, dinner, ice cream, cake and all as they gave their heart congratulations to him.  Mr. Jewell was the recipient of some nice gifts, a gold chain and charm from his wife, a pair of shoes, gold cuff buttons, box of cigars and other things of a useful character.  Such gatherings make the heart light and young again.  Mr. Jewell has lived in Albia about ten years.  He was a soldier in 119 and 137 Illinois.

Thomas Jewell and Lucy McPherson’s daughter, Luella, married R. E. Rowe, October 29, 1909, in Monroe County, Iowa.  A. A. Smiley performed the marriage at the parents of the groom, D. F. Rowe and Amanda Taylor.  The groom was in railroading and was 24 years of age.  Louella was 17, a first marriage for both.

February 17, 1910, Frances A. Jenison Meacham Jewell died in Wright County, Iowa.  She was buried in Belmond Cemetery beside her parents.

In the 1910 census of Monroe County, Thomas is a widower, 63 years of age, born in Maine, father born in Maine, mother born in Indiana.  He is a broom maker.

Barry County, Missouri

I can’t say how or why, but in Barry County, Missouri, August 4, 1910, Thomas T. Jewell married Rachel Ellen Baylor Jordan.  In 1920, in this county, Thomas is 72, owns a broom factory; Rachel is 70, and living with them is her 99 year-old mother.  Ten years later the census shows the couple has been married for 19 years.  Their home was valued at $1,500.  Rachel lived another 4 years, dying at the age of 84.  She was buried in Purdy Cemetery. 

Thomas managed five more years from the census before dying at 87 April 25, 1935.  His death certificate was from Barry County, Missouri. It lists Rachel Jewell as his wife, parents Thomas and Zillah Ward Jewell. Thomas was 87 years, 9 months and 12 days old. He was taken back to Oakview Cemetery in Albia, Monroe County, Iowa, where daughters Laura Bell Jewell Smiley and Alice Martha Jewell Wood are buried.  He has a military stone to mark his resting place.

3 replies »

  1. In regard to the lost daughter being listed on the 1880 Census. It could be that when the census taker was recording information the father was asked to list his children and he automatically included the oldest daughter, even though she wasn’t actually living with him. I have discovered from my frequent use of census reports, plus having been a “census taker,” that the folks answering the questions sometimes give information that reflects what they want their family to be, instead of what is actual reality.

    I have discovered an aunt listed twice, once in Iowa with an aunt and also in Illinois with her parents. I know that my great-grandmother’s Iowa sisters often took in their country nieces so they could attend city schools in Burlington instead of one room schools in Illinois. Both my mother and her sister did that when they were in kindergarten as there was no kindergarten offered at their school in Illinois. I am convinced that my great-grandmother thought of her daughter as a part of her household even though she was a train ride away living with her mother’s sister in town.

    Also, don’t get me started on listing all the folks I have found that list themselves as widowers, even though a spouse is living far away in another state, also listing themselves as widowed. Divorces were difficult to obtain and expensive, so they weren’t often used as a vehicle for parting. Not to mention the stigma of being a divorced person in those times.

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