Sunday, January 27, 2013

”Immortality Lies in Being Remembered by Family and Friends” re: John Andrew Tew

If a poll were taken asking people why they pursue genealogy as a hobby, a variety of reasons would surely be tallied -- and many respondents would no doubt reply with multiple reasons for their  genealogy pastime.  Among the expressed reasons we would assuredly see: finding or confirming actual ancestors; assembling a family history for children and other descendents to preserve the past (including family artifacts); exploring the truth about family stories or traditions; finding and confirming evidence necessary to join patriotic or hereditary societies; and finding and confirming relationships to famous/notable persons.  There would probably also be motivations that would not be explicitly revealed and admitted to the pollsters -- such as (uncomfortable truth be told) the need to satisfy an acquisitive and competitive bent that finds expression in collecting more dead ancestors than anyone else.  [Is there a Guinness world record yet for Most Extensive Collection of Ancestors??

I maintain that for a great many of us, another motivation for pursuing genealogy is the act of uncovering and bringing to life our ancestors and relatives by the simple act of insuring they are remembered after they are gone.  In the spirit of the name of this Blog, we seek to identify and then venerate and revere our ancestors, and, by so doing, we in some small measure bring them to life.

A few years ago I reached that age where a good dose of self-bestowed wisdom and a few tablespoons of arrogance coalesced to the point that I began quoting myself to family and friends.  And the favorite self-quote that I foisted on family members in particular was…

“Immortality lies in being remembered by your family and friends.” J. D. Tew

The usual method of conveying this pithy quote is a broadcast e-mail to family with a short message such as . . .

Raise a glass tonight in memory of _______.  It was [50, 60, 75, 100] years ago today that [he, she, they] was/were [born, graduated, married, died, etc.].
And usually photographs of the person at various stages of life are embedded below the message followed by my self-quote.

Whatever one's personal religious beliefs about the prospects of superterrestrial immortality, I have come to believe that simply discovering and remembering one's deceased ancestors and relatives brings them a measure of rebirth just in the very pause of recognition and recollection.  It is not unlike Clarence in It's A Wonderful Life pausing to realize at the jingle of a bell that an angel has just earned her wings.  The simple act of reminding family that an ancestor lived gives them pause to consider the departed ancestor -- even if no family member alive today ever met or knew the ancestor. The very act of considering the ancestor’s existence and wondering about him or her and what her or his life was like, vibrates some long dispersed atoms of their existence -- and in that moment, a bit of immortality is gained.  This is especially so when a thoughtful pause includes even momentary contemplation of the fact that we living descendents are mosaics of DNA to which the departed ancestor is a contributor.

So let me recall for family (and introduce to the rest of you), my paternal great-grandfather, John Andrew Tew, who died too young 110 years ago today.

Photos of John Andrew Tew (1853 - 1903)

John Andrew Tew was the eldest son and third child born to Adam Tew and his wife Susan A. (Walker) Tew.   He was one of Adam and Susan’s six children -- three girls and three boys.

Like his father and his younger brother, Elisha, John was skilled with his hands.  He had blacksmithing abilities that he shared with his father and brother, but he also became a skilled taxidermist and cabinetmaker.  Prior to his untimely and tragic death, John worked as a foreman at the Nicholson File Company in Central Falls and then in Providence, Rhode Island.

Taxidermy and display cabinet by John Andrew Tew

Sled made by John Andrew Tew over 110 years ago

In 1882, John married Margaret (“Maggie”) Conner.  They had five children:  Edna born in 1885; Charlie born in 1886; Henry born in 1888; Arnold born in 1896; and John born in 1901.  Only two of John and Maggie’s children lived beyond age two – Edna and Arnold.  [Sadly, Maggie lost her husband on January 27, 1903 and then her youngest child, John H. Tew, died less than eleven months later on December 2, 1903.]

The following is a transcription of the January 27, 1903 newspaper account of the death of John Andrew Tew . . .

While walking along the main tracks of the Consolidated Railroad, near the Brayton Avenue crossing in this city, on his way to work, John Tew of Central Falls was struck by a train and fatally injured, a minute or two after 6:30 o'clock this morning.  The injured man was immediately taken to the Union Station and an ambulance from the Rhode Island Hospital was summoned, but Tew died within a few minutes before the arrival of the ambulance.

The victim of the accident was 49 years of age and lived at 143 Summer Street, Central Falls.  He was employed as a machinist at the Nicholson File Company's establishment and came in from Central Falls every morning on an early train.  He was walking down the tracks to his place of employment, according to his usual custom, and had reached a point opposite the Brayton avenue signal tower, when train 4005, leaving Union Station for Hope at 6:30 0’clock came along.  On the adjoining track train 4006, from Hope and due at Union Station at 6:32, was coming along at a fair rate of speed, in charge of Conductor George Groves and Engineer Robert Beal.  In stepping from the outward-bound track to get out of the way of the first train, Mr. Tew stepped directly in front of the train from Hope, and before he had time to realize his position was struck and thrown violently to one side.

When he was picked up he was in a badly battered condition, and it was seen that his injuries were extremely dangerous, if not fatal.  The back of his skull was crushed in, and there was a bad bruise on one side, and both legs were broken, the latter injuries evidently having been inflicted by the engine.  The wound in the skull was probably caused by his contact with the ground after being thrown by the engine.

The accident was witnessed by James Mills of 617 Hartford avenue and James McLoughlin of 60 Ralph street, who were also on their way to work.  After the death of the injured man the body was removed to the undertaking rooms of Boyce Brothers, and, later in the morning, was taken in charge by Undertaker Henry F. Phillips of Central Falls, who removed it to the victim's late home in Central Falls.

Mr. Tew had been employed by the Nicholson File Company for the past 20 years.  Up to a year ago last fall he was a foreman at the company's works at Central Falls, and since that factory had been closed he had been working in this city.  By his employers he was looked upon as an excellent workman and a valued employee of the concern.  He was born in Rice City, in the town of Coventry, and his father, Adam Tew, a blacksmith, and one brother, Elisha Tew, are now living at Greene Station in the same town.  Mr. Tew was a man of excellent character and was highly thought of by his neighbors, and all who came in contact with him.  He had a genial disposition and was greatly attached to his home and family. He leaves a widow and three children, the oldest a daughter of 17 years, and the other two boys of 6 and 2 years of age respectively.

Photos of the watch John Andrew Tew had in his pocket
when hit by the train (damage from the collision). 

In the time you read this, a bell jingled, some atoms vibrated, and John Andrew Tew was remembered . . .  so his immortality is renewed today.  Raise a glass to John Andrew tonight! *

My lineage from Adam Tew and Susan (Walker) Tew . . .

Generation 1:                Adam Tew m. Susan A. Walker
Generation 2:                John Andrew Tew m. Margaret Conner
Generation 3:                Arnold George Tew m. Huldah A. Hasselbaum
                                     (my grandparents)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

*  The “Smiley Face” used here and elsewhere on this Blog is a file by “Pumbaa” drawn with a text editor 1 April 2006.  It is reduced in size for use here.  The file is from Wikimedia Commons and is released into the public domain by the owner, I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. . . I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.”

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