The Fighting Stewarts

When I first started documenting my Stewart grandparents, I didn’t realize how much of their story would occupy a space in my brain. Some people might have found a murder/suicide in their family, noted its tragedy, and moved on but for me, for whatever reason, I have been particularly haunted and captivated by the murder of my grandmother Esther and the subsequent suicide of my grandfather William. (Seriously, I know you’re all probably tired of reading about them already.) There is just something in me that wants to understand why things escalated to that extreme that fateful day in January 1914. So I’ve kept looking and searching…

Now, I have searched every variation of Stewart and William H Stewart to find any scrap of information in the newspapers online, even searching his known alias of “Thomas” (which I’ve never found the reasoning behind that name choice). I’ve searched in every town they lived in, in every county they or their parents lived in, and even searching in adjacent counties in the off-chance they spent time there as well in-between census dates and city directory entries. But as you know, they’re constantly updating newspapers online and adding more all the time and so when I returned to my Stewart research, I found this tiny snippet from August 25, 1904, in The Times Recorder newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

From The Times Recorder (Zanesville, Ohio), 25 August 1904, pg 5, col 3. Click to view larger.

While it might not seem staggering news for some, for me, it gave me a HUGE glimpse into their marriage ten years before their murder/suicide. Noting that this was the “third occasion” since their 1902 marriage (that was known), what more happened that wasn’t documented? I also find it boggling that she assaulted him first but yet he was the one charged and fined. It sounds like she got the worst of it as she still had marks, but weren’t women culpable of assault too?

Also, their first child, Frances, was still alive and while she is not named outright, she is still mentioned in the article. She would sadly die the following month in September of cholera infantum. (Which is an interesting disease to read about if you haven’t – it differs from cholera that we know of in that the mother can actually over-feed and be a cause of the child’s demise. It’s fascinating to read.)

In a news article following their deaths, her brother Asbury gives an example of how Esther and William fought all the time about the silliest, smallest things including an argument over the placement of a knife in the kitchen to where they didn’t speak for two weeks following. Another article eluded to how they fought quite a bit and always made up quickly afterward. Asbury admitted his sister (and William, too) had a hot temper, and this article just confirms everything Asbury stated and more. They seemed to be ready to fight over every little thing.

So while this would just seem a boring article to some, to me, it’s like cracking the door open just a bit wider into their marriage seeing just how volatile it really must have been from the very beginning. When I first visited William’s grave a couple years ago, I stood there for the longest time feeling very sour towards him for the way he affected so many people that day. His bullets in 1914 would ripple down and cause damage in his family through his sons’ suicides in 1943 and 1958 and truthfully, even beyond that in the way their son Glenn would treat his wife/children by being so aloof and uncaring before his 1958 death. (My mom just recently told me that her father had positively NO good memories of his father Glenn at all and was bitter towards him, even long past his death.)

With this article now though, I somehow have shifted some of the blame towards Esther, too. I had always felt she was just a victim, but it looks now like she was an instigator and perpetrator, as well. While she doesn’t have a stone currently, I know where she’s buried, and I wonder how I will feel when I go back. Will I feel sympathy again, or perhaps something different knowing she was part of the mayhem and destruction that followed? Funny how your family’s narrative can change with just a newspaper snippet.

A Glimpse into 1930

Glenn & Rosa (Jones) Stewart with their son Glenn “Archie” Jr. and his daughter, Lisa.

Last year, I went home to Ohio to visit for my grand-baby’s first birthday and while at my mom’s, we were going through her photo album and behind a big 8×10 picture, there was this letter hidden.  I wrote about it before when talking about how this letter helped me learn more about the mysterious life of my great-uncle Dale.  From the hint in this letter, I was able to find his mug shot in the Montana State Prison.

The letter was written November 28, 1930 and was from my great-grandfather Glenn Archer Stewart, Sr. in Pickaway County, Ohio, to his uncle Asbury Archer in Noble County, Ohio.  If you don’t know the story of the Glenn and Dale Stewart (and you can read here if you’d like), but quickly I will say that their dad murdered their mom in 1914 and Asbury was not allowed to raise them, being a single man.  The boys were placed in the children’s home system and moved around several times.  Glenn eventually made his way to Pickaway County, I think to work on the farm of Lewis Edward Jones’ farm, where he met Rosa Jones.  They married May 6, 1927 and their first child, Glenn “Archie” Stewart, was born shortly thereafter November 13, 1927.  (You do the math! *wink*)  Their second child, Rose Mary Stewart, was born October 1, 1930 and this letter was written when she was nearly two months old.

From the Circleville Herald, 14 July 1945.

Recently, I went back and re-read this letter and this glimpse into my great-grandparent’s life in 1930 was stunning and revealing to say the least.  I had heard that their relationship was difficult and that Glenn was hard to deal with.  His son, my grandpa Archie, did not particularly care for his dad and spent much of his time at the Jones’ farm with his maternal grandparents.  I had previously found a scandalous newspaper article from July 1945 where my great-grandma Rosa filed for divorce while Glenn was overseas, calling him and his “lady” out for a supposed affair.  When I asked my great-aunt Rosie (Glenn and Rosa’s daughter) about it, she had no knowledge of this affair nor the divorce filing, and she was actually quite defensive about it until I showed her the article.  I’m sure it wasn’t a pleasant thing to read.  This letter, however, reaffirmed the marriage was strained to the point HE thought about leaving in 1930, way before she ever filed for divorce.  They stayed together but not happily as Glenn ended up in a mental health facility and later shot himself in June 1954.  Dale, his brother, killed himself in Los Angeles in a mental facility by eating poisonous ant paste.

Besides describing family matters, this letter also was an interesting peek into what life was like in 1930 Pickaway County, Ohio, and how the people were struggling with their farms, their finances, and to find work/ways to provide for their families.

 

November 28, 1930
Duvall, Ohio

 

Dear Uncle,
Received your letter a couple of days ago and was glad to hear from you.  It has been a good bit since I heard from you.  Well, we have been having some awful weather this week.  Snowed and has been down below zero for the past three nights.  I certainly hate to see it get bad weather because I don’t know what we will do down here.

 

The corn is all husked down here and we have been trying to make a living by trapping and hunting and it is going to be a darn slim one too.  Fur is not worth half as much this year as it has been.  Rats are only worth 50 cents apiece.  Skunks $1.25 and coons $4.00.  We used to get $1.50 to $2.00 for rats and $9.00 for coon.  We can’t catch them now because the streams are all frozen over.

 

 Boy, I’ll tell you I don’t know what we will do till spring.  I never seen a time in my life that a fellow could not find something to do in the country.

 

I had a field of corn to husk and got done last Thursday.  So I started out to find something else to do, and everybody that is not done husking will be done in a couple of days.  Most of them shredded their corn because the did not have any hay.

 

About the only thing that we can do now is to make wood and a fellow cannot eat that.  I have never been able to buy a load of coal this fall, just 3 or 4 bushels at a time.  A fellow has to have a little coal to burn with the wood.

 

Rosa wanted to read your letter tonight and she said that you need never worry about who is going to take care of you when you get older, that you was welcome to come and live with us when ever you wanted to.  Our baby girl sure is getting nice.  She is getting old enough to laugh now and she is sure cute.  I don’t know what we would do without her.

 

I don’t know just how to say it, but there was a time last summer that I had a notion to pull out and leave but since the baby has come it seemed to make us both realize more that it was not right to separate. 

 

Yes, Azza, I get a letter from Dale every week.  His address is Deer Lodge, Montana, Box 7.  I wish you would drop him a line or two.  I know he would be glad to hear from you.

 

Azza, I would like awful well to have a fat hog to butcher this year because we are out of lard and meat and have not got the money to buy more.  My father-in-law is going to butcher in a few days and I could get a nice hog off him for $20.00 if I had the money.  I have been to buy our meat every other year and had enough lard to do till next butchering but I have not got the money now.  I hate to ask you for it because you have been so good to me, but I tell you Azza, I have not got a thing to do, and not only me but nearly every body else down here.  I told Ed I would see if I could get money enough to buy one and then kill it when he butchered.  Well, it is nearly mail time so I’ll have to close.  Write soon.

 

Your nephew,

Glenn

 

 

Long Lost Uncle Dale

My 2nd great uncle Dale Stewart. Inmate #9645 of the Montana State Prison in 1930.

I am so happy to write that I have managed to find a great big puzzle piece in my quest to find my 2nd great uncle Dale Stewart.  For new readers, let me briefly say that Dale was orphaned in 1914 when his mother was murdered by their father before he committed suicide himself at the Columbia Hotel’s out kitchen in Caldwell, Ohio.  Dale and his older brother, my great grandfather, Glenn Archer Stewart ended up in a few home for boys before Dale became a merchant marine and Glenn went on to be a farmer, security guard and a steel worker among his many other incarnations.  Both Dale and Glenn committed suicide later in life to which I’ve written about as well.

Bittersweet Photographs

Glenn Archer Stewart Sr. (left) and son, Archie Stewart.

This past week, my mom sent me the very first pictures I’ve ever seen of my great-grandfather, Glenn Archer Stewart, Sr.  I’ve written briefly about Glenn… he was one of the two young boys who were orphaned when their father, William Stewart killed their mother, Esther, and then himself at the the Columbia Hotel in Caldwell, Ohio, in 1913.  Glenn, and his younger brother Dale (who I’ve also written about), both committed suicide as well – Dale in 1943 and Glenn in 1958.

Confirming Family Stories

I have written previously about my Archer family many times and I positively love them.  I think everyone has certain families in their tree that they are just fascinated with and the Archers are one of those families that I’m especially drawn to.  As I was teaching my genealogy class at the Moffat Library yesterday, I was showing them how I was able to use the 1870 census data to confirm the tale of how Jesse Archer met Jacob Wickham and later married Jacob’s sister, Nancy Jane. Everyone especially loved this part of class because it shows you how sometimes you get lucky and can actually confirm those family stories you’ve heard about.  The class was recorded so I thought I’d share their cute tale with you.  (Warning: I say ‘um’ a bunch and lose my place!  Sorry!)