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.

Questioning Your DNA

I have been working on our Stewart/Steward family line for eons… truly …and I cannot break through this brick wall that ends with John Steward and his wife Minerva. You can see my pedigree over there to the right.

Now I’m not a DNA pro by any means but I get the basics.  I have had my DNA (my mom’s and that of my children) floating around on Ancestry, 23andMe, and GEDMatch with positively ZERO hits on our Stewart line.  Three years plus and no hits anywhere, no DNA circles, not even the generic email from a possible relative with a match looking for info… just NOTHING.  So, recently, I decided to go through our DNA circles again to take a closer look.  I have 101 circles with NO Stewart matches and my mom has 25 circles with NO Stewart matches either.  (My circles are much larger because my dad’s KY line is huge.)  Puzzled… I began to dig deeper into our tree.

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.

Family Easter Traditions

With Easter right around the corner, my Facebook feed the other day, had this meme come across asking if we remembered dressing up for Easter in little coats and shiny shoes? Sure do!

It made me think back to one of my own pictures from 1979 where I’m in my Easter Sunday finest at my Grandma and Grandpa Stewart’s house. I’m donning a bright red wool coat, with a little yellow and white dress peeking out, white knee socks and of course, those shiny church shoes! Whatever made my mom think that red and yellow were a good fashion choice, I’ll never know! But that meme on my Facebook page the other day did start me thinking about our family’s past Easter traditions.  Does your family have any?