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Hon. William Jewell, M.D.
By R. P. Rider, A. M.

Religious Activity in Missouri (1820-1852)

      Like most of the men that rank as pioneers in the civilization of the Middle West, south of forty degrees, north latitude, Dr. Jewell was born in Virginia, bred in Kentucky and came West, in keeping with the ten­dency of the time, to gain such maturity as could be acquired only when the habits of lif e were of a sterner, more heroic character.

      He was born in Loudoun County, Virginia, Jan­uary 1, 1789, and came with his father's family to Gallatin County, when a young lad. He there completed


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his academic education in the schools of that State. Even at that early date, the first years of the Nineteenth Century, the private schools of that Mother of States were excellent in quality. Public schools for the gentry were then unknown in the slave-holding sections of the Union.

      Little is known of his younger manhood, but it is on record that he studied medicine in Transylvania University, and was graduated from that institution with the degree of Doctor of Medicine. The diploma attesting this graduation is framed and hangs upon the wall of the Archives of the Missouri Baptist His­torical Society, in the Library Building, William Jewell College.

      Soon after his graduation he came to Missouri, 1820, being then a mature young man, 31 years of age, and settled soon afterwards at Columbia, Boone County. From that time onward he exerted a con­trolling influence in the development of that beauti­ful little city, and the citizens to this day are proud to point to one acknowledged excellence after another in arrangement of streets and stability of old build­ings or some other admirable feature, and attribute this excellence to Dr. Jewell's active painstaking in the early day, when the small town was just beginning to realize itself.

      He had the sturdy instincts of a pioneer, united with the methodical exactness pertaining to the prac­tical life of the older civilization. This happy com­bination it was, supported by unusual determination, that made him at once a leader among men in his newly adopted home.

      By nature a broad-minded man, he could at the same time with one hand assist the State of his adoption


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in establishing an institution that in economic and scholastic interests was destined to dominate the policies of that State, and, with the other hand, assist the religious denomination that possessed his fealty, by means of a monetary gift of unusual magni­tude in those early days, to establish an institution that should conserve the time-honored doctrines of this denomination, permeate the learning of the schools with the sweetening and purifying influence of the principles of the religion of Christ, and at the same time fall below none in giving thorough scholas­tic training to the young men of the State. His gifts to his State were liberal; to his church, munificent.

      In his character of village doctor one is strongly reminded of Balzac's immortal portraiture Monsieur Bonnassis, the practical, tender-hearted country doc­tor and of the much-loved, tenderly-revered Doctor MacLure of Bonnie-Briar-Blush fame — strong, prac­tical, sympathetic, self-forgetting and, at the same time, rigidly adherent to his conception of the right, controlling his community of patients by the subtle supremacy of a firm grasp but masterful dominance. The almost sacred intimacy that existed between the physician and his patients in the early days before the war of modern improvement made it possible for the patient to report his symptoms by means of the telephone, and the doctor to make his flying visits in an automobile and his prescriptions through the me­dium of the drug store, seems to be a condition wholly of the past. Then the "Family Doctor" — close and sacred compact entered into by physician and family for an undisturbed and indefinite period — healing the physical ills by lotion or powder concocted from the contents of his own saddle bags, or alleviating


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the pangs of suffering by close sympathetic personal tenderness, shared the loving confidence of the family with the other old-time friend and advisor who in the divine relationship of "Family Pastor" applied the elements of spiritual healing to the diseases of the soul. Are they both holy ministers of the past only? Not so. When we consider the beneficent spirit that confronts the physician of the present day in his mis­sion of useful visitation, and the holy sympathy of the present-day pastor we say there is a change in method, but no loss in genuine helpfulness.

      Dr. Jewell, through his consecrated character and devoted life, in a large measure filled both offices. It is said of him by one biographer: "He took a deep interest in his patients, and when his medical skill failed, he pointed them to the Heavenly Physician."

      In 1843 when he offered $10,000 to the Baptist General Association to aid in establishing a college in Missouri to be used as an agency for the higher edu­cation of young men, and the partial preparation of those who were called to the ministry for the exalted duties of their profession, knowing that his offer, though munificent for that time, would, by no means, adequately equip an institution of that kind, much less endow it, he stipulated that the Baptists of Mis­souri give a liberal amount additional. His offer was declined at the time on the ground that it would be impracticable then to try to raise the required amount of money, but having faith in the future liber­ality of his brethren, he left the offer open. Within a few years action was again taken, accepting the offer, and a committee consisting of five prominent busi­ness and professional men was appointed to consider the feasibility of now establishing such a school.


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This activity resulted favorably, and the College was organized in 1849 with a building and endowment fund of $59,432, the first denominational college estab­lished west of the Mississippi River. Thus as the Bap­tists had preceded all Protestant organizations, in or­ganizing Old Bethel Church in the Louisiana Territory 1806, so now forty-three years later they in like man­ner were first in making provision for the liberal edu­cation of their sons.

      Dr. Jewell immediately came to Liberty, the place selected for the location of the College, to superintend the erection of the building, now known as Jewell Hall. His thorough business-like disposition mani­fested itself in the solidity and external finish of the masonry of the building. An architect who was in­specting it a few years ago, said in our presence: "It is doubtful if another so substantially constructed building can be found in Missouri. Whatever changes are wrought upon this hill in the future, this building should be left standing just as it is."

     While superintending this work he contracted a severe cold which soon developed into acute pneu­monia, and he died August 7, 1852, the victim of his scrupulous faithfulness. He now sleeps in the beau­tiful but modest cemetery two miles south of Colum­bia, founded by and named for him, "William Jewell Cemetery."

     We quote from "The Average Man," an admir­able address delivered before the Literary Societies of William Jewell College, June 5, 1911, by Hon. E. W. Stephens:

"It is difficult now in this day of education, of endowed colleges, denominational and State, to realize the sagacity, the foresight, the originality, the statesmanship

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of this initial step for denominational edu­cation. At that time there was not a school in Mis­souri fostered by any religious denomination. No one individual had contributed any amount to compare with this gift to education. But henceforth the fires of Christian education were lighted all over the State, and colleges for both young men and young women sprang up in all sections and received prompt and lib­eral patronage. The tide has rolled on with increas­ing momentum unto the present hour, and it is but just to say that William Jewell was the pioneer who gave the original impulse and suggestion to it all."
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[From J. C. Maple and R. P. Rider, Missouri Baptist Biography, 1912, pp. 65-70. The book is from the St. Louis Public Library. — Scanned by Jim Duvall]



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