Family chronicles

George Anson Jewett’s NEHGS membership form.

Recently, Jennifer Jewett Dilley of Des Moines, Iowa, reached out to the Publications office at NEHGS to discuss permissions for a project. Jennifer explained that her father Gerald Anson Jewett Jr. is “92 years young,” and that they are writing a book that chronicles Gerald’s life and the times in which he lived. It currently stands at three hundred pages and is nearing completion. Jennifer mentioned that Gerald’s great-grandfather, George Anson Jewett, was a member of NEHGS many years ago. I wrote down his name and wondered if we’d be able to uncover anything of interest on George.

I reached out to Manager of Manuscript Collections Tim Salls. Tim was able to locate George Anson Jewett’s membership form. Beginning in 1870, NEHGS asked new members to fill out this type of form. Many existing NEHGS members filled out the form as well. The forms were then back-filed according to the date they joined. While the form was discontinued in 2000, all returned forms are currently preserved within our institutional archives.

Tim explained that the questions on the membership form changed over the years. A typical nineteenth-century example includes name, place and date of birth, current residence, father’s name and date/place of birth, mother’s maiden name and date/place of birth, names of ancestors in direct line, wife’s maiden name, wife’s father’s name, date of marriage, names of children, history of education, offices held, works written/published, and occupation.

I shared a scan of George’s membership form with Jennifer and she was delighted. She immediately recognized George’s signature. “George was known for that beautiful signature of his,” she said, “and it hugely graces his headstone.”

George was elected a member to NEHGS in 1912 and ended his membership in 1933, as noted on the form. Jennifer shared that Annie, George’s beloved wife of 65 years, died on New Year’s Day in 1933. “It apparently really took the spunk out of my lively great-great-grandfather George. I can understand why he withdrew from your Society that year,” she said.

Jennifer Jewett Dilley and Gerald Anson Jewett Jr. at the grave of George Anson Jewett at Woodland Cemetery in Des Moines.

Last month, Jennifer volunteered in a headstone cleaning endeavor at Woodland Cemetery, where her great-great-grandfather George is buried. Woodland Cemetery, established in 1848, is the oldest cemetery in Des Moines and has over 80,000 graves. Jennifer cleaned the very block that contains her pioneer family’s plot, and she said it was a moving experience.

About Cécile Engeln

Cécile joined NEHGS with nearly ten years of editorial and project management experience in academic publishing. She has developed a variety of books, ranging from a guide to U.S. citizenship to graphic novels, and managed the production of complex foreign language programs. She graduated with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in French from Andrews University in Michigan. She received her M.A. in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College.

12 thoughts on “Family chronicles

  1. What a wonderful article, Cecile. I’m delighted you enjoyed my family’s story enough to take it to vita-brevis. We have just completed Dad’s 392-page book, and are in final stages of publishing through–So excited that they felt it was of high enough quality to pick it up. Very soon, ‘Here’s To It!’ will be available in bookstores around the globe and on Amazon and B&N, etc. Who knew that a life memoir with genealogical back stories would turn into such a fabulous project? All the continued best to you and NEHGS. Jennifer Jewett Dilley, Des Moines, IA

  2. I share Pamela Athearn Filbert’s enthusiasm for this “lovely” story. Jennifer, would you please share with us a few tidbits about George Anson Jewett? What was his occupation that he had such a compelling signature?

  3. I too think this is a lovely story. The name immediately caught my eye, as my gg grandfather was Moses Jewett, b. Hollis, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, at an unknown date probably around 1790, m. there 20 Oct 1812 to Eunice Andrews, b. 1792 in an unknown place. They moved to Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, between 1816 and 1818, judging by the birthplaces of their children. Eunice died there in 1835; Moses remarried, to Adaline Athearn, in 1836. He died in Cleveland in 1850. I’ve found some evidence that his parents were Enoch Jewett and Lydia Pike. When this couple moved to Hollis after the Rev. War, they were warned out. I’ve seen on Find-A-Grave a copy of their headstone, with all their children’s names, in Hollis. One problem researching them is that Moses and Enoch are both very common names in the Jewett family, and I can’t tie this family to the original 1638/9
    settlers of Rowley, Maximilian and his brother. Oddly enough, one of my father’s sisters also married into the Jewett family, but I have even less idea what this connection is.

  4. Not sure if I am to reply on this blog site that goes to all subscribers, or to hit the ‘reply’ button for each individual post–I don’t want to overstep guidelines, since new to vita-brevis, and will check into that first. Willetta and Doris, you have tickled my fancy to exchange even more about our ancestors. That will be such fun. And Doris, your mention of the Athearn marriage in your line likely ties you somehow to Pamela (Athearn) Filbert, with her earlier post. Just sayin’.

    1. Oh—I didn’t notice the Athearn connection and I should have. That marriage took place in Cleveland. Census data would tell me when and where she was b. She considerably outlived Moses. They had 2 kids together who died in infancy. Lots of places to go with this.

      Also, Moses’ youngest daughter, my g grandmother Eunice, lived in Dubuque in 1850 with another Enoch Jewett, who I’m fairly sure was an uncle. She and her husband N.S. Bastion, b. in Montgomery Co NY in 1808, lived in Davenport and Dubuque, so there may be other Iowa connections.

      All interesting.


      1. Yes, my “Spidey senses” (from Spider-Man) were tingling as I read about Moses Jewett…he seemed familiar. Then when I got to Adeline Athearn, I knew it. Adeline was a daughter of George Athearn of Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard, and Hephzibah/Hepsibah Hussey of Nantucket (my 5x great-grandparents). The house Adeline grew up in is still owned by an Athearn descendant and run as a bed and breakfast. I got to stay there four years ago, which was awesome!

        1. Pamela: I have just sent a separate reply to Doris as well, since I’m fairly certain that her/your Moses is in the line that came from Maximilian. As I wrote her, I’ve purchase a most fabulous (and very detailed) book by Frederic Clarke Jewett, entitled “History and Genealogy of the Jewetts of America…” and will be happy to pursue this a bit further. Let me know if you’d like to communicate any further about it. My email address is All the best! Jennifer

      2. Doris: I’m quite certain you are of the line of Maximilian, which contains Moses, etc. The problem is that there are so many overlaps with repeated names (like my ggg was a George Enoch Jewett, and his sister was Eunice Jewett Thrift). I have purchased the most amazing book by Frederic Clarke Jewett, entitled “History and Genealogy of the Jewetts of America; a Record of Edward Jewett, of Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, and of His Two Emigrant Sons, Deacon Maximilian and Joseph Jewett, Settlers of Rowley, Massachusetts, in 1639…” and will do some research on this for you/us. If you prefer I respond to you directly through your own email address, just let me know. Would be happy to pick up the conversation from here. Mine is Jennifer

  5. To Doris: I will reply to you separately so that we can compare further notes. Surely we are related. (And what fun!)

    To Willetta: George started several companies as a pioneer of Des Moines. He also had established the first YMCA here, was a founder of Drake University, and on and on the list goes. Though well-known for his 1879 Jewett Lumber Company (my dad is 4th generation and now Chairman Emeritus of that), and for his Jewett Realty Company (actually established for customers back then who were needing to pay off their lumber bills with land), George’s most famous endeavor was surely the Jewett Typewriter Company. He personally traveled the world selling the machines out of its factory in downtown Des Moines, also establishing sales offices in London. Paris, and Berlin.

    Being a bold entrepreneur (and perhaps a bit of a pest, as our family fondly calls him) the guy had numerous encounters with rulers of other countries, with several Presidents of our United States, and with the likes of Thomas Edison, Samuel Clemens, Luther Burbank, Florence Nightengale, and whomever else he wished to call on! What an era that must have been. (And the fact that he kept journals, and later wrote his own Memoirs, sure helps us know him that much better.)

    We have detailed much of what George Jewett did in my Dad’s ‘Here’s To It’ book that’s about to be published, as George really was considered an amazing man for so many reasons. Dad realizes that much of his own success is due to the big shoulders on which he stands (on both sides of the ancestral tree, actually…maternal great-g having founded a couple of thriving Iowa towns, also detailed in the upcoming book).

    Though George (1847-1934) also came from solid stock on both sides of his tree, everything changed when his Daddy left Iowa for the lure of California gold in 1849, when little George was only 19 months old. His is a remarkable story of a self-made pioneer and philanthropist who also eventually located, reunited with, and embraced his long-lost father (and his father’s new CA family… lots of surprises along the way help give our book some fun ancestral twists and turns–truth really is stranger than fiction at times!)

    After selling the typewriter business to Underwood by 1912, and putting the lumber and realty businesses into the capable hands of the next generations, George consumed himself for the rest of his life with genealogical pursuits, traveling the country to visit/inspire long-lost cousins in their own ancestral pursuits, and even publishing two books on the subject (being awarded an honorary doctoral degree for his works). That’s also when he became a member of NEHGS, and spent considerable time traveling from Des Moines to Boston to study in their library (1912-1933). Such an inspiration, especially to me, as I hope to do more of that soon myself.

    And my Dad (born the eldest great-grandchild in 1925), got to do so much with his great-g for his own first nine years of life, clearly recalling and embracing the time they spent together (including being with George when he passed). News of George Anson Jewett’s death in July of 1934 was the big bold headline of the Des Moines Register that next morning. All other lumber companies (and Drake University) closed early the next day so folks could attend his funeral. I guess the big headstone with its notable signature must have been crafted with good reason. Thanks for asking!


  6. Ah, so they are in Manuscripts! I once asked a few years after 2000 about them and was told they weren’t readily available (someone in a project had been a member long before).

    Filling in the form in early 1977 was my first pedigree work, and I took it seriously, using photocopies of the pages to practice getting my own handwriting to look better (finally, I went with printed lettering). Chris Child has shown images of his on-going use of similar (handwritten) pedigree forms in his personal work.

    It provided me the reality of contributing in a very personal way to a lasting endeavor. Made my connection to the NEHGS stronger. So …

    Bring the form back! — as a digital data base, typed in by the volunteers, with a “blacked out” function for “living” for the living and a note that the information has NOT been verified by the Society though updateable by the member on a re-submission. Who knows what nuggets might be waiting to be mined in the future? And what nuggets there are in the existing forms?

    (But I’ll take putting staff effort first towards completing the Great Migration 1636-1640 over much else.)

  7. Jennifer,

    I look forward to hearing from you! The Jewetts are something of a brick wall for me, but a very interesting family. My gg grandmother, Eunice Jewett, daughter of Moses Jewett, ended up living all over central Illinois, probably in Chicago, several places in Iowa, St. Paul Minnesota, Dayton, Ohio, and I suspect several other places we haven’t found yet. She was a student at Oberlin, though it’s not clear whether at the high school level or in the college. I have a letter of recommendation written by a professor there. She was on her way to the wilds of Dubuque. That year, 1850, found her enumerated in the same ward as N.S. Bastion, whom she soon married. He was a minister, 20 years her senior, who had just returned from Liberia as a missionary, where he’d lost his first wife and only child to “African fever.”

    Like his first wife, Eunice Jewett Bastion was a teacher. Their youngest surviving daughter, Eunice Jewett Bastion (we call them Eunice sr. and Eunice jr, because Jewett was the daughter’s middle name, but the mother’s maiden name), married John Alvin Waggoner in 1883 in Sullivan, Moultrie County, Illinois. This couple moved with their family of five shortly after 1900 to the wilderness of Walla Walla, Walla Walla County, Washington, when my grandfather Virgil Waggoner, the second child, was old enough to remember the train trip. My late father remembered his grandmother Eunice Jewett Bastion Waggoner with great fondness. Unfortunately, his father Virgil died a few months before I was born.

    Your grandfather’s work in the lumber business caught my eye, too. My other grandfather, Henry Olaf Harrison, worked for several decades in the lumber business, in Canada, where my mother was born, Alaska, and in Washington State. His middle name will tell you that he was Scandinavian. He was my favorite relative growing up. On my mother’s side, I’m 100% Norwegian. When I began researching my father’s side, I learned that the family is very mixed. In addition to the early Jewetts, N.S. Bastion’s middle name is his mother’s maiden name, Schermerhorn. He was descended from Jacob Janse Schermerhorn, who came from the Netherlands to New Netherland as a 16 year old apprentice roughly the same time the Jewetts came to New England. Researching those old Dutch lines, I discovered a Norwegian b. in the late 1500s, who went as a merchant to Amsterdam, married there, then went to New Netherland, ending up in Schenectady, where many of my family were. So I’m half and a smidge Norwegian.

    But I’m interested in all my lines. My brother is more disciplined than I am, sticking to the Waggoners. We know who the immigrant was, because of a family history (full of errors) written in the 1920s. But we don’t know where Hans Wagner came from!


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