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Below is a family biography included in The History of Jefferson County, Missouri published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1888.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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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. After 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 acquaintance 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 blockhouse 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, an 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. Sometime 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 attention 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 fruit, 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 of the past without regret and to the future without fear.

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This family biography is one of 224 biographies included in The History of Jefferson County, Missouri published in 1888.  For the complete description, click here: Jefferson County, Missouri History, Genealogy, and Maps

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