The Mystery of Whitehead Hill
Old Time Tales of Warren County


The Mystery of Whitehead Hill

The high hilltops of Triumph Township have held a human mystery these past seventy years, a mystery which can no more be solved now than it could when it occurred, in the spring of 1858.

Whitehead Hill is close to the hilltop settlement of McGraw. It is the top o' the world up there. All about you the majestic ridges roll away to meet the sky, each ridge fading bluer and hazier till you are uncertain whether the last misty line is actually earth or cloud. They might tell many interesting stories, those great silent hills which grow green and brown and white and green again with the passing seasons. The hills of Triumph and Southwest Townships might tell many a tale of man's frantic struggle for wealth, there are stories of high success and crushing failure. Here is the site of an oil well where men fought hand to hand for possession, where the battle raged for weeks and the well changed hands again and again. Here in Triumph Township and overlooking the long ravine of Dennis Run, above Tidioute, the lust of moneyed oil days centered at Babylon, where Ben Hogan, the Shay Brothers and others made riotous nights in wild resorts where scarlet women plied their trade and men came to drink and gamble and carouse. Many the ruined life those towering hills might tell of; deep in their dark ravines are secrets that have hidden there for three quarters of a century. But the murmuring pines and hemlocks speak a language none but themselves can understand, and the secrets of the hills are locked in their green-blue vaults.

And the greatest mystery of all is "What Happened to Edward Jewett?" The story is told by William A. McGraw, now past eighty years of age. He has lived all his life at McGraw, within sight of the Jewett house. He remembers Edward Jewett well, and all the details of the strange occurrence.

In the spring of the year 1858 the hilltops around McGraw were still clothed with forests of virgin pine, hemlock and hard wood. It was a sequestered region of little farms set in clearings among the woods. Over at Titusville a man by the name of Drake had the dream of an oil well, but it was to be a year yet before that dream would materialize. The region around McGraw was inhabited by small farmers who had begun to sell some of their timber. There were log churches and schools and practically all the homes were built of logs. It was a peaceful region through which the circuit riders came with their saddle bags and bible to preach to the people, and everybody knew their neighbors for miles around.

Edward Jewett was a little old man well on in his seventies. He was quite stooped, had a gray beard and a brush of shaggy gray hair that stuck out beneath his soft cap. Like all men of his time he wore leather boots with his trousers tucked in. He walked with a cane and had a little spotted dog called, "Jerry" who followed him everywhere, though to tell the truth the journeys of Edward Jewett had become very short indeed for he was unable to walk any great distance. He was fond of visiting among the neighboring homes, but his wanderings with his little spotted dog at his heels rarely took him farther than the corners at McGraw. Edward Jewett had no enemies, no money, no property to speak of. He and his wife lived alone in a little log house while his son, Enoch Jewett, lived a short distance away. The father was really dependent on the son. Jewett had lived an exemplary life and was strongly attached to the Methodist Church. Reverend John Ellis who came on horseback and preached in the neighborhood at intervals was a particular friend of both Jewett families.

On a day early in April, 1858, a wet chilly day with scurries of snow blowing across the hills, old Mr. Jewett put on his cap and stepped out doors late in the afternoon. It was still broad daylight. His wife noticed he wore no overcoat, and that his dog did not follow him. He went out, rounded the corner of the cabin and disappeared. From that moment on no human being ever laid eyes on Edward Jewett. The little old man who had stepped into the April blizzard vanished as completely as if he had been snatched up from the earth, or been swallowed up by it. He had had no quarrel with anyone. There were no open wells, no mines, no creeks near the Jewett home. The river was miles away.

Who would want to murder poor old Mr. Edward Jewett, and why? Why would anyone wish to run away with a shabby little old man with dried pork gravy in his beard? He could not have gone away without being seen. If he had died suddenly from the natural effects of old age, why should a search which crossed and ens-crossed every foot of ground not reveal the body?

An alarm was sent out through the countryside and a search began. The mystery attracted people from far and near. Finally a company of ninety men divided in bands of ten, each under an appointed captain, combed the woods for five miles around the Jewett home looking in every hollow tree, every depression in the ground, blazing the forests as they went to make sure of covering all the ground. No trace, sign or hint was ever discovered. At the time of his disappearance his strength would not have allowed him to walk more than a mile. Today, seventy-two years after, the mystery of the disappearance of Edward Jewett of Whitehead Hill near McGraw, remains as complete as in that far gone April owhen he put on his cap and stepped out of the door.

Had it not been that Reverend John Ellis was staying at the home of Enoch Jewett, the son, possible suspicion might have been directed there, but the presence of the minister in the other Jewett home on the very day and hour of his disappearance seemed to preclude all possibility that Enoch Jewett had any knowledge of what happened to his father the afternoon he vanished. Only a few of the oldest residents now recall the story of the disappearance of Edward Jewett, a mystery unsolved.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 155-158: Old Time Tales of Warren County; Meadville, Pa.: Press of Tribune Pub. Co., 1932


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