Biography of John Russell Stewart

John Russell Stewart. As a citizen who for many years was closely identified with journalism and local affairs in Champaign County, the people of this section feel a corresponding interest in the personality and career of John Russell Stewart. As supervising editor of this publication, the publishers feel that this interest should be gratified by the inclusion of a brief personal biography.

He was born on his father’s farm in Butler County, Pennsylvania, November 6, 1840, a son of William and Eliza Jane (Gibson) Stewart, who were both of direct Scotch-Irish descent. Mr. Stewart received his education in the local public schools and private academies, grew up on his father’s farm, and at the age of eighteen qualified for work as a teacher and was in the schoolroom in that capacity for four terms.

Coming west in 1863, he found work in the public schools of Scott County, Iowa. In the same year he had volunteered his services to the Union army in the Civil War, but was rejected on account of defective eyesight. After four years in Scott County, Iowa, he moved to Tama County, and became superintendent of schools at Toledo, the county seat. In 1868, he was elected superintendent of the Tama County public schools and filled that office until the time of the Chicago fire in 1871.

As early as 1860 Mr. Stewart became deeply interested in politics and for more than half a century has actively championed the principles of the Republican party as writer, as speaker and as local campaigner. While in Iowa his active work in politics led to a connection as one of the owners of the Republican newspaper published at the county seat of Tama County. Soon after the great Chicago fire in 1871 he was called to the Milwaukee Sentinel and made telegraph editor of that paper. In 1875 he removed to Quincy, Illinois, as solicitor and associate editor of the Quincy Whig, and in 1881 assumed the desk of night editor and editor’s assistant on the Illinois State Journal at Springfield. Mr. Stewart was connected with the Illinois State Journal for ten years.

On January 1, 1891, he became editor of the Champaign Gazette, then owned by the late Henry H. Harris. Ten years later Mr. Stewart, with E. C. Flanigan and O. L. Davis, bought the Gazette and incorporated it. Mr. Stewart became president of the company and editor in chief of the paper, and was actively identified with the enterprise until about 1911, when he retired and practically gave up all active newspaper work.

He was four times elected president of the Illinois Republican Editorial Association and was an influential member of that organization until the close of the campaign of 1904. Since early youth his church association has been with the Presbyterians. On December 27, 1868, at Clinton, Iowa, Mr. Stewart married Adella M. Morris, daughter of Anson L. and Maria G. Morris. Their only child is John Starr Stewart, who in 1908, at Springfield, married Alice Mary McIntyre, and this marriage has given Mr. and Mrs. Stewart a granddaughter, Alice Adella Stewart.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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