The Tews Of Jamestown And The Princess
Three years ago, a few of us in Jamestown received an unexpected gift in the mail. It was a book sent from a publisher in The Netherlands. Written by Annette van der Zijl, the book was entitled An American Princess, The Many Lives of Allene Tew. We received a copy of the book because we had met with and helped the author as she researched Allene Tew, who was from Jamestown. Allene married five times and one of her husbands was Prince Henry XXXIII of Reuss, a relative of the reigning family of Holland. Thus Allene Tew of Jamestown became a princess. The discovery of this many years later by the author of the book led her to explore the life of Allene Tew and research brought her to Jamestown and the many other places Allene had lived.
Now in 2018, the book has been translated to English and is available in this country. Many of the book clubs in this area have or will be reading the book. The Jamestown area people know of the Tews in Jamestown through the Tew House located on the southwest corner of North Main and West Fifth Streets in Jamestown. But the book does not include much about the extended Tew family associated with Allene. There is a chart in the book but it includes only her parents and her husbands and children. Although Allene’s father and some of the relatives are discussed in the early pages of the book, it is difficult to understand the connections to the Jamestown Tews known through the Tew House.
The Tew family goes back a couple of generations before Allene in Jamestown and Chautauqua County. William Tew, born in Massachusetts, married Priscilla Fish. They had 4 sons and 5 daughters born in different places as the family moved west ending up in Chautauqua County by 1832. The two sons most closely associated with Jamestown were George W. Sr. and William H. who ended their careers as bankers in Jamestown.
The youngest son of William H. was Charles, father of Allene. He married Jennette Smith of Jamestown and went west to Wisconsin where Allen was born. Within two years of her birth the family was back in Jamestown living with or near Jennette’s parents.
Her father, Andrew Smith, was a stage driver and mail carrier and at one time also ran a livery stable located near the corner of West Third and Cherry Streets. The story of Allene continues in the book.
George W.’s son, George W. Jr., is the person who built the Tew House in 1881and lived there until his retirement and the house was sold to the Jamestown Club. George Jr. and Charles were first cousins. Although the children of these cousins all grew up in Jamestown, there did not seem to be much closeness between them and Allene. Allene’s friends for her teenage years when she was home from boarding school in Albany, New York, were Belle Smith, Maud Grant, and Kathro Jeffords. Belle Smith was actually her aunt, in that Belle was Jennette Smith’s much younger sister.
Maud Grant had an interesting life in that she married Alba Kent, who soon after the marriage absconded with funds from a local bank and an actress. Maud went on to teach at Wellesley and run a school for girls in Paris, France. I have yet to explore Kathro’s life. One wonders if these friends all kept in touch after they left Jamestown. Did Maud and Allene ever see each other in Paris?
One other little question is did Allene know or know of her third husband, Anson Burchard, through Willis Whitney? Willis Whitney was associated with General Electric as was Anson Burchard. Willis was four years older than Allene and grew up in Jamestown. His mother was Agnes (Reynolds) Whitney and his father was John Whitney.
Their home was given to the Women Christian Association and became the Agnes Home in Jamestown. Their connection to the Tew’s and therefore the possible acquaintance of Willis and Allene is that Agnes’s mother was the second wife of George W. Tew, Sr. A second connection is that Willis’s father, John Whitney, was a brother of Lucia (Whitney) Tew, wife of George W. Tew, Jr. (Confused yet?) Being that all lived in Jamestown and Willis and Allene were about the same age, they must have had some interaction while growing up here.
One other connection between cousins, we know from a newspaper article, is that when Allene and Henry came to visit Jamestown in 1931 they were entertained by Mrs. Cora (Sheldon) Tew , daughter-in-law of George W. Tew, Jr., and her daughter Dorothy (Tew) Johnson, at Cora’s home at 70 Prospect St.
Local history has so many different threads connecting to history around the world. Studying families gives one a much more detailed view of history. If you have a chance to read the book, do it. It offers a glimpse of “a local girl makes good” or did she?