Mary Jewett Telford, Humanitarian, Part 2
We pick up Mary’s story in 1870, six years after her marriage to sweetheart Jacob Telford. The Telfords are listed in the 1870 census as living in Grinnell, Iowa. Living with them were two girls, Mattie Stokes and Olive Montgomery. Mary and Jacob adopted several girls who were orphaned during the Civil War. Mattie and Olive seem to be two such girls. This is the first, and only, census in which we see the names of these girls and they seem to have faded into history after that.
A move from Iowa to Denver, Colorado, was made in 1873 in hopes of improving Mary’s asthmatic condition. In Denver, Mary’s abilities took wing. A writer since her teenage years, Mary’s short children’s story, “Tom”, was published in St. Nicholas magazine in 1880. However, Mary’s watershed year seems to have been 1883. In July of that year, Mary became a charter member of the Woman’s Relief Corps (WRC), an organization dedicated to assisting veterans, their wives and their children. Amazingly, this organization is still in existence and is entering their 127th year of service. Later the same year, Mary was appointed to the Child-Saving Work committee on the Board of Charities and Corrections. Mary followed that stellar year with another worthwhile cause in 1884 when she founded, edited and published the Challenge, a temperance journal which espoused the ideas of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.). In the late 1880s, Mary became the editor of the Colorado Farmer journal, while contributing articles in newspapers from cities around the country.
The Committee on Invalid Pensions of the House of Representatives passed a bill on May 24, 1892 granting a pension to Mary Jewett Telford based on her service as a nurse during the Civil War. Less than two weeks later, Mary applied for her pension. The money was surely welcomed, considering that the Telfords’ income consisted of Jacob’s $8 a month government pension from his service in the 15th Indiana Infantry, and from any money Mary brought in with her writing and editing ventures.
Mary did not seem to lose any energy or enthusiasm for her humanitarian efforts as she entered the autumn of her life. In fact, she continued writing and editing and began to tour the country as a lecturer on the temperance circuit. She counted W.C.T.U. founder Frances Willard as a friend. Sometime in late 1900 or 1901, Mary and Jacob moved once again, to McMinnville, Tennessee. It was there, in 1905, that Mary’s beloved husband Jacob passed away. In keeping with his wishes, Mary had his body brought to Stones River National Cemetery, the former battlefield on which he had been wounded years before, for burial.
Less than twelve months after the loss of her husband of 41 years, Mary discovered she had a health issue which required surgery. Sent to the Hinsdale Sanitarium in Hinsdale, Illinois for care, Mary Jewett Telford passed quietly away on August 5, 1906 following a critical operation. She was buried in Illinois. Nine months later Mary’s older sister, Catherine Jewett Wilkinson, brought Mary’s remains back East and interred her beside their mother Hannah Southwick Jewett at South Perinton Cemetery in Perinton, New York.
Information about Mary’s early life can be found on my March 18, 2010 blog post, “Mary Jewett Telford, Humanitarian, Part 1”.
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