Jefferson County Historical Society

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William Sumner Jewett, a well known and truly representative citizen of
Jefferson County, is worthy of prominent mention in the present volume.
The family of which he is a member is of English origin, some of its 
members having come to this country in the "Mayflower" or a little 
later.  Mark Jewett, William's grandfather, was a native of Connecticut
but afterward immigrated to New Hampshire, where he reared a family of
seven sons and two daughters, who, naturally of an adventurous spirit,
finally became settled over different parts of the Western World. 
Gilman, the third son, and father of the subject of this sketch, first
went to the coast of Maine, but later started for a point further west.
Afterr a trip filled with experiences too numerous to mention here, he
started for the lead mines of Missouri, landing at Selma, in this county, 
where he made the acquantance of Col. William Alexander, who prevailed 
on him to teach a school in the vicinity of his (Alexander's)home, in 
Randolph County, Ill.  For two winters, early in the "twenties", he 
wielded the birch, and raised one crop during the summer, and the 
following February married Elizabeth Alexander, daughter of his 
employer.  Following this he purchased the Nathaniel Hull farm, on
which was a block house for protection against the Indians, and there
prospered as a farmer and stock raiser.  Five children blessed the 
union of himself and wife, three of whom survive: Sumner, Laura and
Samuel.  In 1835 he died of cholera, contracted while in St. Louis.  
His wife followed him in March, 1837.  William Sumner Jewett was born
in the old block house referred to, September 28, 1827, and upon the
death of his parents suffered the usual treatment of homeless orphans,
until, through the goodness of his guardian, Col. J. A. James, one of
God's noblemen, he became an inmate of his home, where he enjoyed the
advantages of a good common school education, remaining there until of
age.  The temptation to enlist in the Mexican War was strong, but duty
pointed to the discharge of work about the farm of his guardian, where
he closely applied himself.  Subsequently, while on a visit to 
Steubenville, Ohio, he became engaged in teaching, at which he met with 
excellent success, but, not considering that occupation his especial 
calling he returned to Illinois, resumed farming, and October 10, 1849, 
married Miss Cecilia Adlesberger.  They began their married life in a 
genuine pioneer manner, soon completing a log cabin, into which they 
moved and afterward devoting themselves, early and late, and with much 
energy, to the acquirement and cultivation of their increasing possessions, 
finally a few acres were cleared of timber, but by the overflow of the 
river in 1851, the results of their earnest labor were swept away, added 
to which was a loss sustained by the rascality of one with whom Mr. Jewett
had had business transactions.  He now bought the privilege of selling
wood on the Missouri side of the river, and undertaking which brought
with it, as subsequent events proved, numerous difficulties and financial 
perplexities, but, on the whole, he was enabled by the latter part of 1855 
to feel a sense of relief at the improvement in his condition. During this 
time, in July, 1852, he had lost his wife and child by death.  In April, 
1856, he bought the Plattin Rock property, an old lead landing in Jefferson 
County, Mo., and married, the next September, Miss Permelia A. Breckinridge, 
of Old Mines, Washington County, Mo. The financial crash of 1857 again 
caused him serious annoyance. Some time after he purchased "Calico Island," 
opposite Plattin Rock, commenced its improvement, and soon had 500 cords 
of wood cut, ready for shipment, when by the ravages of an overflowing river, 
1858, it was all swept away.  By no means discouraged by his misfortunes, Mr. 
Jewett turned his attentiion to fruit farming, but, by the breaking out of 
the war, an unsettled condition of affairs generally resulted.  Of Southern
sympathies he was, however, opposed to secession, and finally enlisted
and served three months in the Eighty-first Enrolled Missouri Militia
under Col. L. J. Rankin, in 1863.  Early the next year he formed a
partnership with Col. N. J. Colman in the fruit raising business, in
the meantime carrying on the white sand business which he had commenced
the year previous.  The former did not result as favorably as hoped for,
but the latter he still continued, notwithstanding the opposition and 
ridicule met with in his efforts to bring before others the importance
of his undertaking.  In this connection, it might well be mentioned 
that his main object in the sand business was not the making of money
for the time being, but the future improvement of the country and the
establishment of manufactories here.  In the absence of home markets
for the sand secured, shipments to other places had to be made, a
difficulty which can more readily be appreciated when the fact is stated 
that all serviceable barges or boats were pressed into military service.  
In the spring of 1865, upon the close of the war, a company was formed 
to transport the sand to the East, but, through mismanagement, the barge 
purchased sank and caused additional loss by the sinking of another barge 
loaded with iron, which was aground in the channel of the river.  In 
September, 1864, Mr. Jewett was deprived of the sight of one eye by an 
accident.  The plate glass works at Crystal City proved an available 
market for the sand produced for some years, or until the panic of 1873 
forced the works to close. From this time on he was interested in several 
undertakings, among which was the raising of grapes for wine making, and 
in this connection it is but proper to remark that Mr. Jewett, after no 
little experience, considers the soil of Jefferson County far superior 
in every respect to flat prairie land for the production of all kinds of 
fruits, cereals, etc.  Politically he is a Democrat, having voted for 
Lewis Cass for president, in 1848.  While attending the St. Louis 
University, in 1846, he joined the Catholic Church, of which his wife 
and children are also members.  The names of the children are: Jessie, 
William B., James Charles, Cecilia and Samuel. Since 1880 Mr. Jewett 
has devoted himself to labor about his farm, a favorite occupation, 
though at odd times he has developed the rock on his place, and in 1887 
took out some 5,000 perches for the glass works and others. Now on the 
shady side of sixty years, his estimable wife and himself can look back 
upon their life work on the past without regret and to the future without fear.