William Augustus Newell, (1817 – 1901)

Newell was born while his parents were on a visit in Franklin, Ohio, on September 5, 1817. He attended the common schools of New Brunswick N.J., later was graduated from Rutgers College in 1836 and then from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1839. Just a few months later Newell witnessed the ship wreck disaster of the Count Derasto off the coast of New Jersey. He saw the crew of thirteen, including the captain, wash up upon the shore. The whole scene with the loss of life made Newell determined to do something about the lack of coastal lifesaving efforts. That hope became a reality when Newell was elected to the 30th and 31st United States Congresses.

Newell and Abraham Lincoln had adjoining seats in congress – and even stayed at the same boarding house at times. During his tenure in Congress, Newell introduced legislation that provided for the building of 10’x28’ barns stocked with life saving equipment. These barns were to be built at dangerous points along New Jersey’s sea coast. The life saving service came into existence and was later joined with the services of the US Coast Guard.

In 1857 Newell became governor of the State of New Jersey – and after his tenure became director of the Life Saving Service. In August of 1861 Mrs. Lincoln, Robert Lincoln, John Hay, and Mary’ sister Elizabeth Todd Grimsley, traveled to Long Branch, New Jersey for fresh air – and upon arrival were invited by Newell to witness a life saving experiment involving a distressed ship.

Newell’s medical skills positioned him to superintend the drafting of the Monmouth Militia in 1862. In 1864 he was again elected as a US Congressman – and soon after (1865) was appointed by Lincoln to be the White House physician. Newell helped Lincoln’s son Tad recover from his Typhoid Fever illness. Newell would be on the Lincoln Funeral train as part of the Congressional Delegation. Most likely Newell boarded the train in Philadelphia – with the next stop to be New York City. Newell’s home state of New Jersey did not have a funeral or formal viewing of President Lincoln.

In New York City the Congressional Delegation rode in carriages and there is a list of the occupants of those carriages. Newell is in the company of another Newell – who most likely was his son. Gustavus Newell was born in 1851 and died in 1871 while a medical student. Based on these dates, Gustavus would have been 14 years of age in 1865. Most likely, the young person in the picture standing behind Newell (leaning on the post) is his son.

Newell continued his amazing career as Territorial Governor of Washington (1880-1884), then as a United States Indian Inspector from August 14, 1884 to June 26, 1885. Newell’s quest for political life is evidenced by the numerous times he ran for office in his later years. On August 8, 1901, Newell died in Allentown, N.J., and is buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery.

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