Jacob W. Lewis, AKA Harvey M. Dixon???

I wanted to let you know some interesting news regarding Caleb and Joanna (Wade) Lewis’ eldest son, Jacob W. Lewis. The tie-in looks pretty sure, although I am still looking for some sort of confirmation to really nail it down.

After all these years of searching for Jacob W. Lewis, these were our only clues:

“Genealogical and Family History of Western New York,” Vol. II by W. R. Cutter, 1912, page 832, regarding the Caleb Lewis family of Farmersville, Cattaraugus County, NY. The list of children includes Jacob, who “moved to Dickson, Missouri; was killed in the civil war; left a family.”

Lewis Family Bible Records from the Cattaraugus County Historian:
List of children of Caleb and Joanna (Wade) Lewis includes Jacob W. Lewis, with a birthdate of August 11, 1818.

The 1820 Census record finds the family living in Genesee County, NY. Shortly after that, Caleb purchased land in Cattaraugus County and settled there with his family. One can safely assume Jacob W. Lewis was born in Genesee County, New York.

Caleb’s probate papers, dated March, April and May of 1865 (he died 1856 and his widow in 1862, but the legal documents were filed in 1865 by their son Ralph Lewis):
List of heirs include “Jacob Lewis, residing at Union Mills, Iowa.”

In the 40 years since my interest in genealogy began, I have never been able to find Jacob in any other records, including military, census, cemetery records or anything. This was frustrating, as I like to flesh out all siblings in a family so that I can get a complete picture of relationships and migrations.

Then this past Sunday, out of the blue, I received an email from a researcher who had seen my Find-A-Grave posting for Caleb Lewis listing his kids and their birthdates. She noticed Jacob’s birthdate of August 11, 1818 in Genesee County, New York, and that he had moved to Iowa, but nothing further was known. This information matched one of her family members, Harvey M. Dixon. He was on record (WPA grave records out of Iowa) as having been born August 11, 1818 in Genesee County, New York. Harvey served in Co D, 33rd Iowa Infantry during the Civil War and died of disease before war’s end. What clued her into the Lewis family on her search for Dixons was the appearance of Guy C. Lewis in Harvey’s household in 1860. She looked up Guy C. Lewis on Find-A-Grave, which led her to Caleb and the mention of Jacob W. Lewis, older brother of Guy.

Harvey M. Dixon married Catharine C. Starnes in Hickory County, Missouri in 1847. The couple moved to Mahaska County, Iowa by 1850, but were back in Hickory County, Missouri in the 1860 census.

You could think it was a remarkable coincidence, two men with different names having the same birthdate, birthplace, and having moved from New York to Iowa only to die during the Civil War. But the clincher is the appearance of Guy Carlton Lewis in the Dixon household in 1860, another of the Lewis brothers out of New York. Guy was staying with his older brother! He obviously knew his brother was at that time going by the name “Harvey M. Dixon” and the Dixon (Dickson) name even filtered back to the Lewis family in the form of a confused reference in the Western NY book. Yet in Caleb’s probate papers, Jacob is not shown AKA Harvey Dixon, so apparently not everyone in the Lewis family was informed… at least our branch knew nothing about it as far as I know. But then, my great-great-grandfather Ralph Lewis was the tenth of eleven Lewis siblings. His eldest brother Jacob would likely have been out of the  household by the time Ralph came along in 1842.

I have looked up Catharine’s widow’s pension application on Fold3 which verifies her marriage to Harvey M. Dixon, her maiden name, his birthplace, his date of his death and the three surviving heirs of Harvey Dixon, namely George W. Dixon, Malinda Francis Dixon and Thomas Jefferson Dixon. Their birthdates are shown as well.

The information all seems to match our Jacob W. Lewis, but I am hoping to find just one more document that might prove the link, perhaps a legal document that might mention a name change. Why did Jacob/Harvey appear in Missouri in the 1840s? Did he want to start a new life with a clean slate? Did he do something illegal? Was he escaping from a dysfunctional family? Why would he go to Missouri in the first place? How is it they ended up in Mahaska County, Iowa?

Many times we assume our ancestors moved to find greener pastures. But they don’t usually change their names. By doing this, Jacob/Harvey wiped out his past history and made it difficult for Lewis researchers to locate him, and for Dixon researchers to find his parents, who weren’t named Dixon at all!

So many mysteries! But these are very intriguing new clues to the oldest of the Lewis brothers. Now I’m hoping to find a male Dixon descendant who might be willing to take a DNA test to confirm this. Since my father is a direct male descendant of Caleb Lewis, a Y-DNA match to a Dixon descendant would give us the proof we seek.

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