John Lewelling Family

© 2009 by Jean Leeper

pictures from Ken Taplin



New counter on September 13, 2011





John was born 16 Jan 1811 in Randolph County, NC and moved with his dad, Mesheck, and family, to Indiana.  In the 1810 census for Randolph County, NC, Mesheck Lewellen owned no slaves nor did his brother Jonathan Lewellen.   Mesheck was both a horticulturist and a physician.  In Feb 1822 Mesheck requested membership for himself and his children Henry, Henderson, John, William and Seth to White Water, Indiana.   In White Water meeting records it is recorded that on 10th month 1822 a certificate for Meshack and children: Jane, Henry, Henderson, John, Seth and William was recorded from Back Creek Meeting, North Carolina and end to West Grove Meeting, Indiana.   (From page 26, Heiss's EQG for Indiana, Vol. 4)


John Lewelling like his brothers Henderson and William came to Salem, Henry County Iowa and were charter members of Salem Friends Meeting, Henry County, Iowa in 1839. 


Spiceland MM, Indiana recorded in the new abstracts of the Records of the Society of Friends in Indiana, Volume III

6-20-1838 Henderson & w Elizabeth “settled in Wisconsin Territory, west of the Mississippi River”;
gct Vermilion MM IL
9-19-1838 John & w Elva & ch Sarah & Eli gct Vermillion MM IL; Wm & w Cyrena gct Vermillion


They all were disowned for joining the Separatists in 1844.  When Henderson Lewelling went to Oregon in April 1847 he sold a building we call the “Beehive” to his brother William.  William went on a speaking trip to Indiana in the fall of 1847 and died in Indiana.  In William’s probate brother John wants and gets ownership of a 14 by 9 foot cellar room; the main cellar goes to William’s widow and children.  We now know that this room was a hiding place for run away slaves.  The cellar room was accessed when a wheel in the attic moved part of the first floor exposing a stairway down to that cellar room.


John appears to be well educated as he was made Henderson’s lawyer to sell Henderson Lewelling’s property that Henderson still owned in Henry County, Iowa.   John moved his family from Iowa in 1853.   From the History of Napa and Lake Counties CA 1881,  “…In 1850 he came across the plains to California, arriving at Hangtown (Placerville), July 7th of that year.  He immediately began mining, which he followed until that fall, when he went to Oregon, and worked for his brother who was then engaged in the nursery business in Milwaukee.  The next spring he returned to California and mined, and in the fall went back to Oregon.  The next spring he returned to his old home in Iowa, going via Nicaragua.  In November 1853, he started for California a second time, with his family, coming via Nicaragua, and arriving in San Francisco, January 4, 1854. ... In 1855 he went to San Lorenzo and planted a large orchard, and in 1856 he moved his family to that place.  He had three one hundred acres in orchards, which was principally cherries.  He remained there until 1864, when on account of poor health; he came to Napa County, and began planting vines in 1865.  He has now one hundred acres of vineyards.”


From the Lewelling Vineyard web-page:

Today there is the Lewelling Vineyards that make and sell wine. From their web page “The vineyards of the historic Lewelling estate were established in 1864 near the western foothills in St. Helena by pioneer winegrower and horticulturist John Lewelling.  John Lewelling's great-granddaughter, and her husband Russ, together with their three sons, Alan, Doug and Dave, operate a 28 acre vineyard on a portion of the original estate, one of the oldest continuously-owned family vineyards in the Napa Valley”


When John moved to St. Helena he built a 19-20-room house, that he planned to be used by servants as well as the family.  It was built in three sections, each separated by porches closed only at one end. The front section is the one you see in pictures.  On the outside the house was decorated with scroll-cut wood pieces suspended from the eaves, around all the gables and over the front porch. Ironwork gates and fence panels enclosed the front and two side porches.  These were painted green.  The building was clap boarded, painted white with a grey shingled roof.




Marion Wells a sculptor did a marble bust of John Lewelling that stands in the yard of his home.  It is dated 1882 one year before his death and it stands on an ornate and intricately carved pedestal, the front panel shows a man on a ladder picking apples from a tree, the right panel shows a man picking berries into a box and on the back a large bunch of grapes and the fourth panel a variety of fruit and berries.  A garland of fruits of various kinds surrounds the top of the pedestal.


  John's bust

John's bust


John died in St. Helena, CA and was buried on 24 Dec 1883 in San Lorenzo Pioneer Cemetery. When he died his estate was valued at $116,950 and consisted of about 400 acres near St. Helena valued at $54,000, 3 acres in St. Helena at $8,000, one lot in St. Helena at $1,000, 301/2 acres in Alameda County at $15,000.


On 5 Apr 1832 when John was 21, he married Elvy Elliott, daughter of Jacob Elliott, & his wife Ann, in Duck Creek Meeting-house, Henry County, Indiana. (From Duck Creek records.) She was born on 11 Oct 1815 in Wayne County, Indiana. Elvy died aft 1900.  Their children are as follows: Sarah, (29 Jun 1834-13 Sep 1866); Elisha, (26 May 1840-2 May 1872); Eli, (5 Jan 1836-16 Mar 1926); Seth, (8 May 1842-10 Apr 1853); Silas, (4 Oct 1844-26 Feb 1860); Delilah, (9 Dec 1849-8 Nov 1850); Arthur, (17 Jul 1854-22 Mar 1873) and Harvey John, (14 Feb 1855-6 May 1939).  The following children died before they were twenty: Seth, Silas, Delilah and Arthur. Sarah did marry and died leaving a young family who were taken in by the grandparents. Elisha was a California State Assemblyman in 1870. Eli stayed in San Lorenzo and was a successful fruit grower and nurseryman.  He married but had no children.



Harvey John and dogs


The youngest son Harvey John Lewelling came as a boy of nine to St Helena.  He inherited his father’s estate and was, until his death a prominent citizen of St. Helena.  Besides operating the farm he took an important part in the business life of St. Helena.  He was president of the Bank of St. Helena for over twenty years.  Probably his main interest in life was in mechanics in which he showed great talent.  Before telephones had come to St. Helena he had installed and operated one on his ranch in 1881.  This he later extended to Aetna Springs.  He put the first gas heating plant in the country in his home.  The first private electric unit followed this on the Pacific Coast.  His house was full of electrical devices; among other things he invented a machine for shelling almonds.  He was also an expert photographer, when photography was a difficult art.  It is from this son, that recent visitors at the Lewelling Quaker Museum descend.

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