Thomas John Chew, son of Samuel Chew and Lucy Miller, was born January 28, 1777, in New Haven, Connecticut, and descended from the long-established Chew family of Virginia. His uncle, Joseph Chew, was a prominent loyalist who fought against United States forces in the Revolution and eventually relocated to Montreal, Canada, where he remained Secretary to the Indian Department until his death on September 24, 1798. Chew's father, Samuel, was killed while commanding the Resistance against British forces on March 4, 1778, and Thomas followed him to the sea, joining the Navy before taking a furlough to sail to the West Indies. Returning in 1802, he was the captain of a ship travelling to Amsterdam in 1806 and engaging in trade in Europe. In 1809, Chew returned to the Navy, receiving an appointment as purser on the John Adams . He acted in this capacity until May 1812, when he joined the crew of the Consitution as purser, serving through the ship's defeat of the Guerriere and its return to the Navy Yard in Boston late that year.
After working in the Navy Yard in Boston during the winter of 1812-1813, Chew was, by May 1813, serving as purser on the Chesapeake under Captain James Lawrence. While serving onboard the Chesapeake , Chew was taken prisoner after the ship was defeated by the HMS Shannon of the Royal Navy on June 1, 1813, and held until June 17, 1813, when he was released back to Boston where he continued working for the Navy. In June 1814, Chew was ordered to report to the Oneida as its new purser, and by July of that year he was on the ship at Sackets Harbor, New York. After the war, Chew served as purser onboard the Washington as it sailed to the Mediterranean in May 1815. After its return in July 1818, Chew remained at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York, until resigning from the Navy in March 1832. Thomas J. Chew died in 1846.
Outside of his naval life, Thomas J. Chew served for a time as president of the Protection Fire Insurance Company, presumably in New York City, until resigning the post in September 1830, and served as treasurer for St. Anne's Church in Brooklyn, New York, from April 1833 to March 1837.
Thomas J. Chew married Abby Hortense Hallam in September 1812. They had several children, including James Lawrence (1814-1829), Elizabeth Hallam, Abigail Hortense (b. 1822, m. McRee Swift), Mary Hallam (b. 1824, m. George R. Lewis, 1844), Lucy Christopher (b. 1826, m. M. Ludlow Whitlock), and at least two daughters who died in infancy. Chew and his wife Abby maintained correspondence with his brother, Samuel Chew, Jr., and with Reverend William Bull of Lebanon, Connecticut, and his wife Eliza.
Henry Wells Nelson, Junior, was born in 1839 or 1840 and married a great-granddaughter of Thomas J. Chew, Hortense Barbiellini.
Harriet and James Lewis were the parents of George Richards Lewis (May 25, 1809-June 16, 1853), husband of Mary Hallam Chew and son-in-law of Thomas J. Chew.