Biography of E.R. Jewett

JEWETT, E. R. Willow Lawn is in some respects the handsomest estate in Buffalo. It lies on Main Street, near the railroad over which the Belt Line trains conveniently run at short intervals. Its grounds stretch back through acres of farm land to the City Park. The finest half-mile avenue in the city limits for pleasure driving sweeps down past the place and merges into the park roads. The house, lacking the pretensions of many a more modern and expensive city residence, is large, roomy, and has an unmistakable air of comfort and convenience. The long path that leads up to it from the street crosses a lawn well set with trees and shrubs. The chief pride of the lawn, however, the cherished object which has given the estate its pleasant name, is a willow tree. Its great trunk, six feet in diameter and nineteen in circumference, divides, a dozen feet or so above the ground, into many huge branches. A simple seat encircles the tree. It is probably the largest tree in Buffalo; nor do we know of any so large within many miles of Buffalo. It is not the only large willow at Willow Lawn, but it dwarfs its companions. Who planted it is not known. The legend lives that around the tree the Senecas used to gather. Beyond that its history must be supplied by the imagination.

Willow Lawn is the home of Mr. Elam R. Jewett. He was a pioneer of the printing and publishing business in Buffalo; has for almost half a century been one of Buffalo’s leading citizens; and there is none to-day more truly alive to the city’s progress and welfare than he.

Elam R. Jewett was a Green Mountain boy. He was born at New Haven, Vt., December 10, 1810. About the time that Horace Greeley (born in New Hampshire when Elam R. Jewett was two months old, in Vermont) first stood up to the printer’s case at East Poultney, Vt., to set type for the Northern Spectator, young Jewett left his native town and went to learn the same trade in the office of the National Standard, at Middlebury. Each was to win an eminent rank in a noble calling, at different ends of the Empire State. After a term of two months’ attendance at the Montpelier Academy he became one of the publishers of the Vermont State Journal, Mr. C. L. Knapp – afterward member of Congress and editor of the Lowell Citizen – being his associate. Shortly afterward they assumed the publication of the Middlebury Free Press, and carried on both papers. They were both anti-Masonic, that question being then prominent in the politics of the country.

In 1838 Mr. Jewett made a trip to Ohio, where he contemplated engaging in business; but changing his plans he went to Buffalo, where in the fall of 1838, with Dr. Daniel Lee, he bought the Journal. Buffalo had then about 10,000 inhabitants.

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Election was coming on, and there were two Whig papers struggling for a living. It was suggested to Mr. Jewett that consolidation, if possible, would be a wise policy. Acting under this advice, the Journal, in May, 1839, was merged in the Commercial Advertiser.

The consolidated paper was called the Commercial Advertiser and Journal, in order to protect the legality of unexpired advertisements for awhile, and then the Journal was dropped and the Commercial Advertiser used only. The publishers were E. R. Jewett & Co., Dr. Thomas M. Foote being the Company.

Under this management the paper prospered. In 1847 a midshipman named Pollocki, angered at an article which had appeared, walked into the office and fired a pistol at Mr. Jewett. The buckshot lodged in a leather wallet, full of papers, in Mr. Jewett’s pocket, and did no harm. Pollock subsequently lodged in prison.

The succeeding years brought many business changes. In 1850 Mr. Jewett assumed the management of the Albany State Register and had charge of it for two years, meantime continuing his business in Buffalo, which had grown into large proportions in the job and stationery lines. S. H. Lathrop was added to the firm in 1850. A relief line engraving business was built up, the work done by the company winning a high reputation. Mr. Jewett disposed of the engraving department of his business to H. Chandler & Co., from whom it passed to Messrs. William P. Northrup & Co., and thence to Messrs. Matthews, Northrup & Co.

In 1856 Messrs. Jewett and Foote went to Europe with President Fillmore, between whom and Mr. Jewett a warm personal friendship had existed from the time of Mr. Jewett’s settlement in Buffalo. Circumstances preventing Messrs. Fillmore and Foote from going to the Holy Land, as was contemplated, Mr. Jewett joined a party of Americans bound thither and traveled through Palestine. At Cannes, in France, the summer residence of Lord Brougham, President Fillmore and companions were invited to the chateau of the English statesman and cordially welcomed. At Rome they were given an audience by his holiness Pope Pius IX.

In 1857, soon after Mr. Jewett’s return, the panic carried down his former partners, Messrs. Jewett and Foote, the largest creditors, bought the business of the concern from the assignee, thus once more becoming publishers of the Commercial Advertiser. In 1862 the establishment was sold to Messrs. Wheeler, Warren, & Candee.

In a paper read before the Buffalo Historical Society November 23, 1863, by C. F. S. Thomas, on “Reminiscences of the Press of Buffalo from 1835 to 1863,” he says: “The first small job printing press was introduced in 1845 by Jewett, Thomas, & Co., who also established the first stereotype foundry in this city in 1846 or 1847.” Continuing, Mr. Thomas said: “It was in the summer or fall of 1836, I believe, that the Buffalo Journal was first published as a daily, Messrs. Haskins & Day still continuing as editors. The journal, after continuing a rather unprofitable existence for several years, passed about 1839 into the hands of Mr. E. R. Jewett, with whom was associated Dr. Lee and Mr. Clarke as editors, and in the same year it was united with the Commercial Advertiser, and Dr. Foote and Mr. Jewett continued as proprietors.”

In an interesting paper on reminiscences of thirty-eight years of newspaper life, read by Mr. George J. Bryan January 29, 1876, he says: “As a publisher Mr. Jewett was eminently successful. He possesses decided executive ability and rare business talent. May he live to enjoy his hard-earned competence!” A number of young men who at one time and another were in Mr. Jewett’s employ have risen to marked eminence in their calling. Mr. Jewett takes a just pride in speaking of the accomplishments of “his boys,” as he calls them. Among these ” boys ” were the late Wilbur F. Storey, of the Chicago Times; S. P. Rounds, late government printer at Washington; and others in the publishing business or newspaper profession, among them the proprietor of The Bufalo Express. The late T. S. Hawks, of this city, was still another of Mr. Jewett’s “boys”; as were Quartus Graves, afterward a publisher; S. Verrinder, a Baptist minister; Elias Dougherty, who became an Ohio publisher, and others.

After a few years, during which he engaged successfully in the envelope and stationery business, Mr. Jewett bought the Chapin farm, now a part of Willow Lawn, and retired from active business pursuits to the comparative quiet of suburban life. He took up farming with enthusiasm. He added to his original purchase until he had 470 acres. When the park was laid out 200 acres of his farm were taken under the right of eminent domain; but the remainder is found ample for successful scientific farming.

Here he lives in pleasant retirement, though his retirement is by no means withdrawal froth friends or public affairs. Many relatives east and west find Willow Lawn a delightful ” halfway house,” and a host of friends have learned its hospitality. Mr. Jewett was married in 1838 to Miss Caroline Wheeler, like him a native of New Haven, Vt. Though no living children bless their advanced years, they are spared to each other and the community, and are untiring in good deeds.

Mr. Jewett has never cared for participation in politics. The office of supervisor for the twelfth ward was once forced upon him and, though somewhat against his will, he accepted the election, and in his faithful discharge of duties was a rebuke to the sort of men who seek and gain office only to neglect its obligations.

In a worthier cause, however, Mr. Jewett’s name is illustrious. A devout and sincere Episcopalian, he has long been a generous source of practical aid to the Church. About two years and a half ago he gave to the Church Home a very valuable tract of five acres of land adjoining the park and lying on the beautiful avenue he had made, and which is properly named Jewett Avenue. The gift was on condition that within three years there be guaranteed at least $10,000 for the erection of a chapel thereon as a memorial to the late beloved Edward Ingersoll, D. D. Mr. Jewett had long seen the need of an Episcopal house of worship in this growing part of the City. In fact. for many months past he has caused public services to be held at his house on Sundays. It is gratifying to learn that Mr. Jewett’s magnificent offer to the Church Home has been availed of, and that a suitable chapel is to stand amid these lovely surroundings, a monument alike to the saint whose name it is to bear and to the devoted generosity of Elam R. Jewett.



Addison County VT,

Smith, H. P. History of Addison County Vermont: With Illustrations And Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men And Pioneers. Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & co., 1886.

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