The Meteoric Residency of Henry Clay Jewett

Sherman Skinner Jewett was born in Moravia in 1818, and left at the age of 16. He walked to Jordan and took a canal boat to Buffalo, where he arrived with fifty cents in his pocket and the address of his uncle’s iron foundry. At the age of 18, he became the junior partner of another foundry, formed a new partnership at 20, and by the age of 22 was the sole proprietor of his own firm. From there he built a career as a stove manufacturer, merchant, banker, railroad operator and civic leader.

“His only amusement,” noted one history, “is fishing on the Niagara river, where he uses his elegant steam yacht, ‘ Titania,’ and devotes himself with passionate energy to the destruction of perch, black bass and muscalonge.”

His two sons, Henry and Josiah, spent time in business with him and also prospered on their own. But Henry Clay Jewett had a passion for more than business: He loved horses, trotters in particular, “of the best type.” Outside of East Aurora, N.Y., he built a farm with a race track, a one-mile track entirely covered by its own mile-long roof. Glazed windows every eight feet provided ample daylight and viewing areas were heated by natural gas. Horses could train all winter and their owners could watch them in comfort. Henry eventually had another stock farm in Kansas, plus an orange grove in California and lots of money.

Josiah Jewett graduated from Yale in 1863, went into business with his father, and from 1880 to ‘85 was the president of the Buffalo Bisons baseball team. He married Grace Hall, the daughter of Nathan Kelsey Hall (of Marcellus), who had served as U.S. Postmaster General under President Millard Fillmore, and then as U.S. District Court Judge in Buffalo. After the baseball team was sold, Josiah returned to his banking and manufacturing interests. He retired in 1900.

It appears Henry Jewett was the first to visit Skaneateles, “driving here by team” from East Aurora in 1902. In June of that year he bought the former Dor Austin farm, 3 1/2 miles south of the village on the west side of the lake, from David Cashman, picking up 128 acres and 2000 feet of lakefront for $6,400. Henry immediately planned a new house with a view up and down the lake, and in 1903, the house was “nearing completion.”

Cabin Launch SB&CAt the same time, in February of 1903, the Skaneateles Boat & Canoe Company was building Jewett a 50-foot, $5,000 cabin launch, with interiors of cherry and oak. Henry Jewett named it Titania, perpetuating the memory of his father’s steam launch.

Launch for Jewett

In 1904, Josiah Jewett parted ways with his wife, who went to live with a married daughter in Yonkers, N.Y. Josiah came to Skaneateles, perhaps in anticipation of being near his brother. He took up residence at the Packwood House (today’s Sherwood Inn) from autumn to spring, and spent his summers at the Glen Haven Hotel.

In 1905, the Buffalo newspapers reported that H.C. Jewett would be spending time at “his elegant new home on Skaneateles Lake,” but he also spent time that year at home in East Aurora. And in the winter, he went to California, stopping at the Hotel del Coronado at Coronado Beach before settling in Pasadena.

In 1906, saying the climate did not agree with him, Henry put his Skaneateles farm on the market. In October, he came to inspect the property, and take one more ride around the lake on the Titania, which went up for sale as well (going to Michael J. Carmody for $1,200, for use on Owasco Lake). After four years of barely being here, Henry Jewett was gone. He died in East Aurora in 1923.

Josiah Jewett, however, made Skaneateles his home. In 1913, he bought a plot of land at the corner of West Lake and Genesee Streets from the Skaneateles Lake Transportation Company and built a house called “The Terrace.” Josiah lived there until his death in 1932; he was noted as the last living graduate of Yale’s Class of 1863.

In 1934, the contents of Josiah’s home (“special items: 3 French gilt chairs and settee to match”) were auctioned off by his son, Nathan Hall Jewett of Detroit, and the house and land were sold to the village, which purchased them to create Shotwell Park.

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2 thoughts on “The Meteoric Residency of Henry Clay Jewett

  1. Wonder what the last name of the married daughter was. In 1904, his ex-wife went to live with her. As I grew up in Yonkers, maybe I knew her. [?]

  2. I look forward to each of your stories. My father and his family lived for many decades in Skaneateles. Growing up in Japan, where my parents lived for 25 years, I heard many stories of my father’s years growing up on 5 State St. Please continue to write about this special place. My father’s family lived in the house next to the Odd Fellows Temple.

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