I was born on a small farm in Miami County, Ohio, Feb. 25, 1827. My father was Joseph Stewart, my mothers name was Mary; her maiden name was Coe. I was the first born. My father was the first born of a large family of children; his fathers name was Samuel; his mothers name was Sarah Buffington, before marriage.
My father was born in South Carolina, April 15, 1801. When only two or three years of age, with his parents he came to Ohio.
My mother was the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Coe, and was born in Ohio, Dec. 17, 1806. I do not know much of my mothers family; but she was a daughter by second marriage of my grandfather, and of the third marriage of my grandmother.
My grandmothers maiden name was Parks; she first married a Carter, who was killed by the Indians; her second husband was a Cox, and he was thrown from a horse and killed; after which, she was married to Joseph Coe, my grandfather.
My mother and one sister were the only children born of that marriage, her sister dying young.
From the best information I have been able to obtain, my mothers parents came from Pennsylvania or New Jersey, to Ohio; settling near Cincinnati, but finally coming to Miami County about the year 1799.
The family of Stewarts are of Scotch-Irish descent, and, from the best information I have, three brothers came to this country, two of them settling in the North, and one in South Carolina; and from this one our family is descended.
My grandfather, early in the nineteenth century, removed to Shelby County, Ohio with his family. Here the family continued to reside until about 1838. When my grandfather, grandmother, and several of the younger children removed to Piatt County, Illinois.
There were, in the family, nine sons and one daughter who lived to mature years; two sons died in infancy.
The names of the family, in the order of birth, were Joseph, Hannah, John, Richard, Daniel, William, Myhew, Levi, Allen and Fielding W.
I am not able to give much definite information as to my ancestors; my father died when I was yet too young to have learned much from him, and for many years thereafter I took no interest in the matter, and when, in later years, I would gladly have learned more, the family were mostly removed to distant parts of the country, or were dead; and for a number of years past, no member of my fathers family has been living.
While at El Reno, Oklahoma, in the summer of 1901, I learned that a man was there from Normal, Illinois, having my own name. I opened a correspondence with him, from which I am led to believe that our families came from the same ancestors. I quote from a letter of his, some facts as to his own family:
"My father was born in Butler Co., Pennsylvania, in 1799, and died at Normal, Illinois, in 1863; his name was Joseph Stewart. He moved with his parents to Harrison Co., Ohio, when he was a small boy, and lived there until 1854, when he moved to this place, (Norman). His fathers name was John Stewart, born in the United States, but of Scotch descent; his mothers name was Mary Bell, also of Scotch descent. They had eight children, Elizabeth, Samuel Watson, John, William, Jane, and Joseph--two others died in infancy.
The Stewarts are of Norman blood; a Norman gentleman by the name of Alan accompanied William the Conqueror from Normandy into England, and obtained, by his gift, the lands and castles of Osewstry, in Shropshire. His eldest son, William, became the ancestor of the Earls of Arundel; the second son, Walter, went to Scotland and became prominent in the service of David I, and had large territory in possession; conferred upon him by that monarch, including the Barony of Renfrew, together with the office of Lord High Steward of Scotland.
The Stewardship became hereditary in his family, and was assumed by his descendants, (dropping their Norman name "Alan") as surname, with the single change of the final letter "d" to "t", so that the proper spelling of the name is not Stuart, but Stewart.
Mary, Queen of Scots, is responsible for the change of the spelling of the name, as she was educated in France, and that was their way of spelling it--Stuart. Her father, James V, spelled his name "Stewart" and his son, James VI did the same.
Walter Stewart was the name of the sixth Lord High Steward of Scotland; he greatly distinguished himself in the service of the reigning monarch, Robert Bruce, and married his daughter, Marjory, which alliance brought the crown of Scotland to his family.
Thus originated the "House of Stewart". Annie Stewart, best known as Queen Annie, daughter of James II, left no heirs, and on the theory then adopted, that the blood of James II--her father--had been corrupted in the direct line, it was decided by parliament that the nearest heir to the throne of England, in the line of the "Stewarts" was the son of the Erector (sic) of Brunswick, and of his wife Sophia, who was the daughter of James VI, of Scotland, and I, of England.
He was placed on the throne of England with the title of George I.
From him, Queen Victoria is a lineal descendant. She occupies the throne on account of her Stewart blood. And, referring back to Walter--surely, we can see how our own name, "Watson", was formed; as "Johnson" was given to a son of "John", "Smithson" to a son of "Smith" so, "Watson" was a son of "Walter" or "Wat".
From the foregoing, it seems probable that this family of Stewarts were the descendants of one of the three brothers coming to this country--probably in the early part of the 18th century, and who had settled in Pennsylvania.
The names are peculiarly the same, in many cases; and the name "Watson", in that family suggests the probability that our family --2--had knowledge of that branch; as I never knew of the name in our family, prior to my time. I never knew for whom I was named.
My father owned a small farm on the Miami river, between Troy and Piqua; was part owner of a water-mill; he was also a physician; and as I remember, he had an extensive country practice, and was very successful.
My mother died when I was only about eight years old, my memory of her, is that of a woman of slender build--rather tall, dark hair and eyes, and in delicate health--always patient with her children, and with strong religious feelings.
One of my most vivid recollections of her, was in connection with her desire to attend the church of which she was a member, to hear a favorite minister, in the early summer before her death; in which connection I was sent to build a fire in the church--distant about one mile from our house; it was her last attendance; she was wasting away with consumption, of which she died, soon after.
The church was a country church, of the "Christian", or "New Light" sect; known as the "Rocky Springs Church"; as it was commonly spoken of.
Dying, my mother left four children; myself, Sarah, Elizabeth and Samuel.
Grandfather and grandmother Coe, lived in a small brick house in the same yard with us; our family lived in a large hewed log house, in fact, as I understand, my father built the brick house, when he was first married; and as the family increased, and it became necessary to have more room an exchange of houses was made.
My father, some time after mothers death, married a widow--Garland; her husband and, I think, two children, having died. She was the daughter of Henry Hyatt, who lived in a small village south of Troy, named Hyattsville; they were English. My stepmother having been born in England, coming to this country when only a small child; her name was Ann. She came into the family of four small children, and it is a great pleasure for me to say, that she proved herself a good mother. Afterward, two children were born, Mary Ann and William; and we all lived together in perfect accord and harmony.
My Father, as I think of him, must have been a man of more than ordinary intelligence, in that day. And I think he was a radical in his views on all matters in thought and action affecting the people of that period. In religion, he was a member of the Christian or "New Light" church; which, in the early thirties was rent asunder by the teachings of Alexander Campbell; and he went off with that sect known as "Campbellites."
The "New Lights" laid great stress on the matter of "feeling" in religion, and were often wrought up to a perfect frenzy in feeling; sometimes were taken with what was known as the "jerks", in which the limbs of the body would become uncontrollable; and the person would be thrown upon the floor in an exhausted condition; others would jump and shout until, unable to stand, they would fall and lie in a comatose condition for hours at a time.
The "Campbellite" branch, laid more stress upon a strict compliance with the commands of the new Testament, and considered baptism by immersion as a very clear command, and essential to church membership. Both branches were Unitarian in belief.
In politics, my Father was a Democrat; but a radical Antislavery man; taking an active part in the agitation of the question, in public discussions, in vogue at that time; on some occasions being met by the opposition, in the use of stale eggs--a very common argument of those times.
He was also an earnest advocate of Temperance, being a total abstainer from the use of intoxicants; which, in his day, was a rare thing; as it was almost the universal custom for people to keep liquors in their houses, and use them daily; and it was almost impossible for farmers to get work done in harvest fields, unless liquor was furnished. I remember that both my father, and grandfather Coe, refused to furnish it, and they were sometimes put to great inconvenience in getting "hands" to work.
My father was also a reformer, in the practice of medicine; practicing the "Thompsonian System"; discarding the use of Calomel and other minerals, and the use of the lance in blood-letting, so common in those days; using, in lieu, vegetable remedies, cold and hot baths, etc. So, in looking back at these characteristics of the man, I conclude him to have been a progressive and advance thinker, of his day.
I was too young during his life to have noticed, particularly, these evidences of a reformer. I remember that he was popular, as a debater on these several questions. He was also greatly interested in educational matters.
He died when I was but thirteen years old; he had given me the best available opportunities to secure and maintain an education, but I only enjoyed the benefit of a three-months term of school, each winter, with a course of lessons in Kirkhams Grammar, given at our own house; with the addition of a few lessons in penmanship at a night school.
My father died Feb. 9, 1840, leaving six children to the care of a stepmother, as to four of us, of whom I was the oldest.
My services were required at home, so that, for about two years I could not go to school; then I went for one term of three months; and this completed my education, as far as schools were concerned.
My father, about two years prior to his death, had built a two-story frame dwelling house, in the building of which I think, he became somewhat involved in debt; so that in the settling up of his estate, there was very little left, after the debts were paid.
We continued on the farm for about two years; most of the work devolving upon me; my sisters often lending a helping hand--as they could. Our farm, in connection with grandfathers, only contained about sixty acres, lying on the east bank of the Miami River and north of Spring creek; it was fenced into four or five fields, and had three acres in sugar maple trees, from which, every spring, we made our supply of sugar and syrup.
We had the three houses in which our family and grandfather Coe lived; and two other houses, in which families of the mill men lived; an old orchard of very large apple trees; and on the east side, an old family, and neighborhood burying ground; where lie my mother, father and their youngest son, who died in infancy; also, grandfather and grandmother Coe, who had both died within two years of the death of my father. And now, as I look back for more than sixty years, it all comes back to me as clearly as the happenings and scenes of yesterday. But time has wrought great changes.
I visited the old place in 1895, and while the lay of the land and the river, had a familiar look, not a vestige of the old mill, residences or orchard, remains; the farm has passed into the possession of a party owning adjoining land, and all buildings had been removed.
My stepmother, after about two years of widowhood, married one J. C. Winans, quite a prominent man, owning a farm on Spring Creek about one mile east of our place; and a former partner with my father in the mill business. He had a family of four children; and with them we went to live; making a family of ten children when all were at home. My brother Samuel, about this time, went to live with his uncle William, in Champaign County, Ill., and my sister Sarah, for much of the time, lived with my stepmothers sister, Mrs. Favorite, in Tippecanoe. Thus, our old home was broken up, and in my sixteenth year, I set out to make my own way.