Biography of Hon. John Stewart

HON. JOHN STEWART. – This gentleman was born February 12, 1800, in Virginia, that grand old state which has given birth to heroes and cradled the world’s best since the white man first took possession of this fair land of ours. There our subject was nurtured through all his infancy and until his fifteenth year, when his parents moved to Terre Haute, Indiana. He resided in that state until 1837, learning the blacksmith trade, which calling so nearly broke down his health that he abandoned it and engaged in trading cattle.

He first earned his title of captain in the Black Hawk war, through which he served from beginning to end. In 1837 he left Indiana and moved to Holt County, Missouri, where he was elected county judge for four successive terms. On January 7, 1842, Captain Stewart was united in Marriage to Miss Mary Scott; and the happy couple lived in all peace and mutual esteem for three years, when they started on May 12, 1845, to journey across the plains to Oregon. Mr. Stewart was elected the captain of a company of five hundred wagons and about twenty-five hundred souls. The company also drove an immense herd of cattle and horses, but had the misfortune to lose so many that on arriving at the journey’s end they had comparatively few.

Just after leaving Fort Laramie the train was stopped by the Pawnee Indians; and all the men decline risking their lives in meeting and treating with the chiefs. However, Captain Stewart and Prior Scott were prompt volunteers, and succeeded in effecting a compromise with the Indians by paying a tribute and being allowed to pass on. A company of soldiers from Fort Leavenworth were sent after the company, overtook them and traveled in company with hem until they reached the Sweetwater. The train suffered and withstood all the many trying ordeals, which so many of the early emigrants succumbed to. The sickness, death and accidents incident to the long and wearisome journey did not pass them by. At Fort Boise the company divided; and Captain Stewart’s command took the “Meek cut-off,” which resulted in much suffering, as they lost their way and were ten days at one place without water, except from a small spring not affording half enough to supply the needs of the company. After ten days’ search, water was found; and the company moved on at night, it being so hot as to make travel in the day unendurable. After these terrible experiences the company finally reached Tualatin Plains where they stopped; and Mrs. Stewart there gave birth to a daughter.

When they reached Linnton, six miles below Portland, which they did on the 29th of October, 1845, out of the one hundred and eight cattle and horses with which Captain Stewart began his journey, there were only twenty-five left. They located on the Willamette river, just below Corvallis, where they have since resided. Captain Stewart on his death leaving a most beautiful home for the comfort of his gentle and lovely widow. He expired on the 28th of February, 1885, leaving his wife with a family of six children, and the memory of an honorable, upright man, respected by all whom his life brought him in contact with, and sincerely mourned by a loving wife and children. He had been good, kind and generous to all; but no one mentions Captain Stewart’s name but who can tell of some kindly deed either to themselves or some friend. He did his part nobly in making “this world what it might be if hearts were always kind.” He was an honorable and active member of the Methodist-Episcopal church; and his house was always open to all ministers of the gospel as a most cheerful and welcome home to sojourn in. Indeed, his home was used for holding divine services until the church was built, rendering its use no longer necessary. His estate was valued at one hundred thousand dollars, which he and his helpful and hopeful wife had honestly earned.

Mrs. Stewart is left to mourn her husband, but is also left the consolation that he had not a single enemy, and passed away in joy and with a soul full of hope. Mrs. Stewart is still a beautiful woman, and promises many years of strength and health to be added to what is already a fruitful and happy life. In fact, she is growing old gracefully, beloved by her neighbors and respected by all. She is generous and charitable to the poor, letting not her left hand know what her right hand doeth, and bestows her benefits in an unostentatious and modest manner. In fact, she is one fit to have been the helpmeet of the grand and good old man who has gone before. She was born in Switzland county, Indiana, in 1821, where she lived with her parents until 1840, when she went to Missouri, and was afterwards married to Captain Stewart in that state.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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