Monday, April 29, 2013

Elmira Jewell... Pioneer Woman to History.... and 'Granny Jewell' to her Family

Granny Jewell
at about 91 yrs of age
Elmira Sanford Jewell was born October 10, 1834, in Phillips, Maine, the daughter of James Dyer Sawyer and Elizabeth Hanscom, the youngest of a large family of children. Due to historic lineage, Elmira can claim a number of famous ancestors – Mary Dyer, Anne Marbury Hutchinson, and William Brewster, among others. In the early 1850s, Elmira came west, with her parents and many of her siblings, settling in Linn County, Iowa, near Central City. On March 19, 1856 Elmira was married to Harrison Jewell, of New Hampshire. While family lore has them meeting by chance, it would appear that they were known to one another, or at least aware of each other’s families – as Elmira’s brother in-law (husband of her late sister) was living with Harrison in New Hampshire in 1850. On December 10, 1858, Viola Sybil Jewell was born to Elmira and Harrison, and it is sometime after this that Harrison disappears… in 1860 Elmira and Viola are living with her parents James & Elizabeth, and Harrison is not to be found. Family lore has him going West during the gold rush, but that seems unlikely due to the timing. In 1864, Elmira gives birth to a son, Clarence… so either Harrison reappears after 1860, or Clarence has another, unknown Father. Viola marries New Yorkers Myron George in 1878, and gives birth to five children: Sally Estella "Essie", Earl, Maude, Erwin, and Julia. Clarence would marry in 1887, to Emma Mitthan, and have two sons. Sadly, 1889 would begin four years of tragedy... Clarence died at the age of 25... the following year his son Freddie... and the year after son Fay. In 1892, Elmira's daughter Viola died, after an illness of scarlet fever and left a young family to mourn her.

Elmira Jewell
portrait date unknown
After the death of her Viola, Elmira moves in with her son in-law and helps care for her grandchildren. Granny Jewell, as she came to be known, was an important figure in the lives of her grandchildren. In time, Myron remarried to Lizzie Phyle, an unpleasant woman, who both disliked and mistreated her new step-children. Elmira, now unwelcome in the new household, moves in with her widowed brother Moses. Still nearby, she was never far from the lives of her Grandchildren and later Great-Grandchildren.
Granny Jewell with
2 great-granddaughters
In time, Myron ended his unhappy marriage, and late in life married the widowed mother in-law of his son Erwin. And in her advancing age Elmira began living with her granddaughter, Julia Maine and family. She even moved with them to Winnebago, Minnesota, where Julia’s husband was from, before they returned to Iowa.


Elmira was known to be very active, into her 90s…. quilting and crocheting many projects…. And still remaining physically active throughout her late 90s.

It was at the Central City home of Julia, on December 14,, 1930, that Elmira’s long life came to an end. Her 5 grandchildren and countless great and great-great grandchildren survived her.
Oakhill Cemetery in Central City, Iowa

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