The Lovewells Head West

Thomas Lovewell parked his wife and daughter in Iowa when he set out into the Far West to search for gold in 1859, returning six years later to pick up the pieces of his life and start over again at the age of forty.

Born when the Santa Fe Trail was first being surveyed and railroads were in the tinkering stage, Thomas would live to see the end of the American Frontier and watch automobiles bounce along the streets of a little Kansas village that bore his name.  Over the course of a long life he took on the roles of prospector, Army scout, soldier, abolitionist settler, homesteader, architect, contractor, farm implement dealer, and local marshal.

But this site is about more than the gentleman who appears in the banner at the top of the page,  or the towns he founded in north-central Kansas.  It is, as a certain movie franchise reminds us, “about family."

The Lovewell family arrived in America before 1658, the year when a transcription says a certain John Lowwell married Elizabeth Silvester at Scituate.  New England historian Ezra S. Stearns called this man "John Lowell the tanner,” to differentiate him from a cooper with a similar name, and pronounced him "the ancestor of the Lovewell family of Dunstable.”  

Researchers Michael J. Wood and John Blythe Dobson believe he was born around 1629 at Bristol, Gloucester, England, and died Jan. 7, 1694 at Boston.  His son John, an early-day resident of Dunstable, was long remembered as the man who first gave refuge to America's vengeful heroine Hannah Duston, when she returned from captivity clutching a bundle of Abenaki scalps.

Decades before anyone had heard of Robert Rogers or Daniel Boone, John Lovewell's son, Captain John Lovewell, may have been the most famous Indian fighter in North America.  In 1724, Captain John decided to put an end to the recurring raids that ravaged the English settlements near Dunstable.  Raising a company of rangers, known as "snowshoe men," he took the fight to the enemy in the wilderness of northern Maine.  

After two successful forays into the frontier, a third raid ended his life in May of 1725 when Abenakis ambushed his company at Saco Pond, later renamed Lovewell Pond.  After "Lovewell's Fight," only about half of the captain's men found their way home again, but the Abenakis had also taken heavy casualties and were forced to make peace.

Fortunately, Captain John Lovewell’s story did not quite end with his final battle.  Eight months after his death his wife Hannah gave birth to their son Nehemiah, who would grow up to be a frontier scout and fight in the American Revolution alongside his own son Zaccheus.  Zaccheus’s boy Moody Bedel Lovewell took up the family tradition, shouldering a musket in the War of 1812.  He also fathered a dozen children who would fan out to settle the New West.

Moody’s sons Thomas, William, and Solomon Lovewell were pioneers in southern Iowa in the 1850’s, but seemed to stay only long enough to make a nest egg by investing in Iowa farmland that was suddenly in high demand during the Crimean War.

Thomas would join an abolitionist colony in Marshall County, Kansas, for a few years before heading to Pikes Peak with his younger brothers Solomon and Alfred.  

As the men journeyed west on the eve of the Civil War, one of the most storied chapters in the history of the Lovewell family was about to begin.

Please take your time to explore it in the photo albums, slideshows, maps, movies, and the nearly four-hundred blog entries contained on these pages.  If something seems to load slowly, be patient.  It will appear in time.

© Dale Switzer 2022