Nathan (Nat) Jewett was briefly a major league baseball player – but only if you consider the National Association a “major league” and, just as importantly, the Eckford of Brooklyn a major league team. Jewett’s team won but 3 of 29 decisions, with many of the losses featuring lopsided scores.
Nathan W. Jewett was born Christmas Day, 1844 (census and military records suggest 1842, as does his gravestone) in New York City to Perry Jewett and his wife Catharine Cowen, an English immigrant. The Jewett family can trace its lineage back to the founding of Rowley, Massachusetts in 1638/1639 by Puritans in a hurry to leave Yorkshire, England – and, if you read the family history assembled by Dr. Frederic Clarke Jewett, that line can be traced back to Henri de Juett, a Knight of the First Crusade in 1096-1099.
Perry named his son after his father, but wouldn’t live to see the son’s baseball career. The owner of a porter house passed away in 1851. Catharine was left tending to a family of at least seven children – Nathan was in the middle somewhere, having three sisters that were younger than he. By his late teens, Nathan worked as a clerk and, when he registered for service in the Great War for Slavery, he was listed as a milkman.
Nathan enlisted with the local volunteers and somehow was assigned to Company G of the 71st Pennsylvania Infantry. This unit was extremely busy during course of the Civil War, featuring prominently at the battles of Gettysburg, Antietam and others. Some combination of proud service and having more than 90% of the regiment being killed or wounded, Nathan worked his way to Corporal before mustering out. While he was always employed, he applied for a pension in 1878 to help with some injury he received during the war. He returned home to New York City, living in the Bronx for most of the rest of his life.
Before the Civil War (and certainly after it), New York was a hot bed of amateur and professional baseball. And, baseball was played amongst the soldiers serving during the Civil War. One of these provides the source of Jewett’s finding his way into the top circles of the local baseball teams. In 1872, needing a catcher to give a break to Doug Allison, Jewett was briefly added to the roster of the Eckford of Brooklyn. He caught two games, July 4, and July 6, batting last both times. He reached base twice – getting a hit in his first game and scoring a run in his second. In addition to three errors, he also allowed nine passed balls. The Eckford lost 16 – 3 to the Philadelphia Athletics on July 4, and 24 – 5 to the Forest City club on July 6 – even though Forest City was forced to play the game with just eight men.
With that, Jewett returned home to his wife, the former Christina Campbell, herself an immigrant who came to the United States from Scotland in 1849. The Jewetts had ten children, with eight surviving to adulthood. Working as a letter carrier, clerk or laborer for the remainder of his days, lobar pneumonia took Nathan Jewett to the next league on February 23, 1914. He is buried with other family in Kenisco Cemetery in Valhalla, NY.
New York Death Index/Certficate
1855 NY State Census
1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 US Census
New York City Marriage Record
Frederic Clarke Jewett, MD. History of Genealogy of the Jewetts of America, Grafton Press, New York, 1908.
“Base Ball,” New York Times, July 7, 1872: 8.
“Base Ball,” Philadelphia Enquirer, July 6, 1872: 2.