A recent trip through the Allegheny National Forest made me realize how vast and remote the region is. For many, images of Pennsylvania begin and end with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The north-central portion of the state is still as wild in places as it was nearly one hundred years ago.
It would not be hard to just disappear into these wilds if one wanted to escape the world.
As of January 2019, NAMUS (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) reports that approximately 600,000 disappear each year. Alaska has the highest per capita rate of disappearances with 41.8 people missing per 100,000 and Massachusetts has the lowest persons per capita with 1.8 people missing per 100,000 population. Examining total number of disappearance per state, California has 2,133 open cases while Rhode Island has 20 people reported missing. Pennsylvania has 401 open missing person’s cases or 3.1 people missing per 100,000.
Unfortunately, most files regarding missing persons only go back to the 1930s. Before then, reports either do not exist or have been lost. What little information exists comes from word of mouth or newspaper reports. The majority of those disappearances pre-1930 have mostly been forgotten.
One of the strangest disappearances involves the disappearance of Edward Jewett from his home on Whitehead Hill, near the community of McGraw in Triumph Township. Located in the southwestern portion of Warren County, the region harbors the strange disappearance of a local resident. The mystery, as recorded by Arch Bristow in his book Old Time Tales of Warren County, remains as much a mystery today as it was when it happened in the spring of 1858. Sadly, if this disappearance had not been recorded by Bristow, the mystery of Edward Jewett would have been forgotten.
Edward Jewett was described as a little old man who was in his seventies with a gray beard. He was friendly to everyone he met and was not known to have any enemies. He lived with his wife in a small log cabin a short distance from the house of his son, Enoch. Edward used a cane to walk and would spend many hours visiting his immediate neighbors – at the time of his disappearance Edward would not have been able to walk more than a mile. No matter where Edward went, his dog Jerry went with him, following his master on their daily walks.
It was a wet, chilly day in early April when Edward disappeared. Late in the afternoon, he put on his cap and stepped outside. His wife would later claim that he never put on his coat that day, nor did his dog follow him outside. Jerry whined as his master stepped outside. If Edward had any particular direction in mind, he never revealed it as he stepped around the corner of the cabin and disappeared.
Exactly how long Edward was missing before word spread is not known. Eventually a search began for Edward in the mountains surrounding the small cabin. A group of ninety men, divided in bands of ten, searched the forest surrounding the Jewett home looking in every hollow tree and every depression. There were no open wells, mines, or creeks near the Jewett home into which Edward could have fallen. With snow still lingering in the mountains, Edward’s footprints should have been discovered by those searching for him, but no trace of Edward was discovered.
Bristow does add an interesting piece of evidence near the end of his story. If it had not been for the Reverend John Ellis staying at the home of Enoch Jewett, the son would have possibly been the subject of suspicion for his father’s disappearance. Bristow’s inclusion of this piece of information makes it seem that there might have been some conflict between the father and son at the time of Edward’s disappearance.
What happened to Edward remains a mystery that has created more questions than answers. Was he murdered and the body buried? Had Edward fallen and the searchers missed his body? Had he somehow managed to wander out of the search area, despite claims he could not walk more than a mile? Or had he simply stepped off the face of the earth and into the mists of time?
Only the mountains and hollows of the Allegheny National Forest know what happened that day. But, listen and watch carefully as you pass through the area and maybe you will discover the answers to those questions.