The Stewarts in front of their house. Notice the shiny windows; this family photo must have been an occasion. My great-grandfather Robert Parnell Stewart is second from left.
Great-great-grandmother Nancy Pilkington Stewart, children younger. This is probably the 1890s. Robert’s head above younger brother. The Pilkington line seems the source of this generation’s notable ears.
Two sisters, one brother; the theme is probably the three eldest.
Into the 1920s, gathered on the family farm.
Stewart Family information
Charles Harry Stewart (great-great grandfather) born April 2, 1840-died October 22, 1890, birthplace Argyle, New York, married in Centralia, Illinois, died in Evansville, Indiana, a workplace accident (jostled off a railcar full of gravel that was being backed up to dump it, Charles being rolled along under the train’s wheels, severe injuries to head and extremities).
Worked as railroad machinist on Louisville and Nashville line. Served in Company D, 11th regiment, Illinois volunteer cavalry, September 24, 1861 to September 30, 1865. Civil War veteran. Enlistment papers describe him as 5 foot 6 inches tall, blue eyes, black hair.
(Father James A. Stewart; Mother Laura Brown)
Nancy Ann Pilkington (great-great grandmother) born April 1, 1850 Knoxville, Tennessee, married July 31, 1867, Centralia, Illinois. Died March 10, 1925, Salem, Illinois.
(Father John Pilkington; Mother Nancy Martin)
Signed for widow’s pension with mark (illiterate).
I’ve been reading archived newspapers from 1979, a time in my life when I didn’t pay too much attention to world events. Now that I’m doing my bit for recorded history, I enjoy reminding myself, or educating myself, on vaguely remembered moments from the years I actually lived through. I came across a piece in the New York Times, that had Senator John Glenn being shown the facade of a Washington building, and told by his guide that there was more radiation emanated by the granite than was detectable in the air around Three Mile Island (the accident occurred March 28, 1979).
That made me curious about my favorite garden rock, above. I learned, doing a little research, that pink and red granites give off more than greys and blacks—a combination of radon gas and gamma rays, chiefly. Unfortunately, a Geiger counter won’t detect levels in granite reliably, if at all, due to ordinary background radiation in the environment. And the other machines, for non-professionals, are too expensive to buy. So I guess I’ll never know how powerful my pink rock is.
(If you have granite countertops, don’t worry. Here is a PDF from the Health Physics Society explaining more.)
Above, a thing you don’t see often, since birds of prey don’t walk on the ground. But they do rocket down from the treetops onto passing squirrels and rabbits. At night, I seem to have a lot of owl activity around my ground feeder as well, to judge by the number of pellets I find. I don’t know what comes out, whether it’s mice or flying squirrels…but whatever they are, they aren’t very wary. The owls seem to be picking them off constantly.
It is walled with the money we meant to have saved
And the pleasures for which we grieve.
The kind words unspoken, the promises broken,
And many a coveted boon,
Are stowed away there in that land somewhere—
The land of ‘Pretty Soon.’
There are uncut jewels of possible fame
Lying about in the dust,
And many a noble and lofty aim
Covered with mould and rust.
And oh this place, while it seems so near,
Is farther away than the moon;
Though our purpose is fair, yet we never get there—
To the ‘Land of ‘Pretty Soon.’
The road that leads to that mystic land
Is strewn with pitiful wrecks,
And the ships that have sailed for its shining strand
Bear skeletons on their decks.
It is farther at noon than it was at dawn,
And farther at night than at noon;
Oh let us beware of that land down there—
The land of ‘Pretty Soon.’
1899, ELLA WHEELER WILCOX
To ask why evil exists here below is to ask why a contingent being is not an absolute being, why man is not God.
From History of Jefferson County
A great deal of clothing was made of deerskin before the raising of cotton and flax. The first efforts to tan the hides were almost a failure. A new effort, however, was introduced, which was much better. This was, after removing the hair, the skins were thoroughly rubbed and dressed with brains. They were then stretched on stakes driven into the ground around a large hole, and the hole was filled with light and rotten wood, which was set on fire. The warmth caused the brains and oil to permeate the skins and the smoke gave them a beautiful color. Tanned in this way, they were said to be very soft and pliant, and were handsome.
An anecdote of Judge G. W. Wall, born in Chillicothe, Ohio, April 22, 1839, moved in infancy to Perry County, Illinois.
He was attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad, and while thus acting, a good story is told of him. He was called upon to attend a case at Effingham for the railroad, which had been sued by a citizen for the value of stock killed by defendants’ train. The venerable and every-ready O. B. Ficklin was prosecuting the company, together with some other attorney whose name is not now remembered. The evidence was heard, and counsel went to the jury. The plaintiff’s case was opened by Ficklin’s associate, who indulged in considerable bunkum and bombast about giant corporations, etc. After he closed, Wall replied for the defense, and during the course of his remarks compared the gentleman who had preceded him to Dickens’s famous character of “Sergeant Buzfuz”, and, as he thought, completely annihilated the gentleman, and left nothing to be done but for the jury to return a verdict for the defendant, and thus closed his case.
It was now time for Ficklin to make the closing argument for the plaintiff, and after speaking to the testimony and the law, he concluded in the following vein of pathetic and injured innocence:
“And now, gentlemen of the jury, it becomes my painful duty to reply to the malignant and uncalled for attack upon one of the best men this country ever produced; a man who has long since slept with his fathers, and upon whose character no man, until today, has dared to cast the shadow of suspicion. I allude, gentlemen of the jury, to the attack of my young friend Wall, upon the memory of that good and kind man, Sergeant Buzfuz. Gentlemen, it was not, perhaps, your privilege, as it was mine, to have known him personally. I remember him well, in the early and trying times of this country. He first assisted to cut out the roads through this county. He was the early pioneer, who was ever ready and willing, with honest heart, and active hand, to aid a friend or brother in distress. In fact, gentlemen of the jury, there are few men, living or dead, that this country owes more to than it does to my old friend Sergeant Buzfuz. It is true, gentlemen, that he was somewhat uncouth and blunt in his way, but his every action, I assure you, was prompted by a noble and honest motive. He was not blessed with the brilliant and accomplished education of my young friend. He, gentlemen of the jury, wore no starched shirt or fine neckties; he was humble and retired. In his leather leggings and hunting shirt he went about the country, not as a rich representative of a railroad monopoly, but as an humble citizen doing good to his fellow-man. His bones have long since moldered into dust; the sod grows green over his grave; his work is done, and he is gone from among us to return no more forever; and I was surprised to hear his just and amiable character attacked in the manner it has been on this occasion; and it is impossible for me, his last remaining friend, to permit it to go by unnoticed. And to you, sir [turning to Wall, who was by this time completely dumbfounded], I say no better man ever lived than he whom you have so unjustly abused. Youth, sir, should have more respect for the men who have made life pleasant for those who come after them, than to assail their character in the manner you have done”; and thus he continued until his close, with great earnestness, and the utmost apparent sincerity. At its close, the jury could hardly wait until they could write their verdict for the full amount of damages claimed by the plaintiff, and, it is said, so worked up were they that Wall had difficulty in escaping personal violence.
Vanderburgh County is the place of my birth, and so I share below some historical information on the man for whom the county is named. An additional note: Governor St. Clair, in his written opinions on slavery tended, as did many early leaders, to rely on English Common Law, and its well-known emphasis on property rights. He could be passionately in favor of states formed from the Northwest Territory being free, and yet fall back on the argument that laws can’t fairly obtain retroactively, a great truth in and of itself. But to claim that therefore, to emancipate slaves belonging to settlers in the territory prior to the Ordinance of 1787, would be unjust unless they received compensation—as would be correct in expropriation of actual property—is to use a narrow legal focus to evade confronting the higher injustice. This question rested on an ethical issue, one that must supersede any property claim, and nullify any representation of fair exchange. That slavery is inherently wrong, that human beings cannot be property, sat uneasily, in the political environment of post-colonial America, next to the notion that an infant government, to hold its power, must respect the individual rights of its citizens. And like many officials, the “fathers” seemed to have hoped attrition would solve the conflict.
In the summer of 1794, Judge Turner, who had gone to Vincennes to hold court, became involved in an extensive quarrel with Henry Vanderburgh, who was then probate judge and justice of the peace for Knox County, and Captain Abner Prior, of the United States Army, who was supervising Indian affairs on the Wabash. Several matters were in controversy and bitter feelings were produced. In the midst of this a negro and his wife, held as slaves by Vanderburgh, applied to Turner’s court for emancipation by writ of habeas corpus, instigated possibly by Turner. That Turner would have held that the ordinance* freed them is beyond question, for he expressly declared that they were “free by the Constitution of the Territory”, but before the cause came on for trial the negroes were seized and carried away by a party of men who, as Turner alleged, were employed by Vanderburgh. Turner then had the kidnappers arrested, though some of them resisted, and one threatened the sheriff with a knife. Complaints from all parties were made to St. Clair, who, though declining to adjust the difficulty, took sides against Turner and proceeded to give him some information as to the meaning of the Ordinance, which will be noticed later. The French settlers were greatly excited over this attempt to release their slaves. The grand jury of the county found a presentment against Turner, and later on, the citizens preferred charges against him which were submitted to Congress as grounds for impeachment, but, on the suggestion of the Attorney General, the House of Representatives recommended a trial in the courts as preferable.
Jacob Piatt Dunn, Indiana, A Redemption from Slavery, 1888, c. renewed 1905 and 1916.
Some years previous to these transactions Hugh McGary, a Kentuckian and a sturdy pioneer, had emigrated from his native state to the new territory and settled in what is now Gibson County. In 1812 he purchased from the government the land on which the city of Evansville now stands, and leaving his inland cabin pushed his way to the bank of the river and there established his home.
McGary’s place was not central, but when the commissioners appointed to make the selection were assembled at the old Anthony mill, he presented the claims of his location in the best light possible. It was not the first choice, but was finally selected. At the direction of the court of the new county, the town was laid out, and officially designated as Evansville, in honor of General Robert M. Evans, a distinguished soldier and citizen of Gibson County.
McGary became very enthusiastic over his prospects and confidently felt that his town was destined to be a metropolis at no very distant day. His hopes, however, rested on a weak foundation. By the formation of Posey county in the southwest corner of the territory the boundaries of Warrick county were so altered as to place Evansville at one extremity of its river border, and before the town was three months old, the legislature enacted, September 1st, 1814, that the seat of justice for the county should be moved to a place subsequently called Darlington, and situated some four miles above the present site of the neighboring town of Newburgh, and about one mile from the river.
In those days it mattered little what natural advantages a town possessed or what resources lay about it undeveloped; all its hope for prosperity was based upon its being the seat of justice for some county. The founder of the village set about with great zeal and industry to supply this desideratum. As the first step he enlisted the active interests of Gen. Robert M. Evans and James W. Jones, both of Gibson county, by conveying to them on June 20, 1817, for $1,300, 130 acres of land, being all that part of fractional section No. 30 which lies above the center of Main Street in Evansville, except thirty acres previously conveyed to Carter Beaman. On the 17th of July following, these three gentlemen, Evans, Jones, and McGary, prepared a plan for a town, ignoring that previously laid out. What they platted appears on the maps of the present time as the “original plan” and is bounded by Water and Third, and Chestnut and Division streets. The combined exertions of these three men were now set forth to accomplish the end already adverted to. The greatest obstacle to their success was the opposing influence of Col. Ratliff Boon, a man of more than ordinary ability, a courageous patriot and pioneer leader whose influence was not confined by the limits of his own county.
Enthusiastic and deeply in earnest in the contemplation of his favorite theme, Col. McGary did not allow his courage to weaken, and his complaints of Col. Boon were full of bitterness. His address was not displeasing, and his conversations on the subject of the ultimate greatness of his embryonic city, sparkling as they did with genuine ardor, were deeply interesting. About this time Gen. Joseph Lane, afterward of national repute, known as a wise and upright representative in the state legislatures, a hero of the Mexican war, a member of congress, and governor of Oregon, then a young man, figured in the drama beginning to be acted by becoming the means of bringing the weightier men together. Young Lane was engaged with others in rafting logs near Darlington, and floating them to Red Banks, where J. J. Audubon, later the foremost of American ornithologists, had erected, somewhat in advance of the times, a steam sawmill which afterward failed. When rowing back to his home, he stopped on the banks of the river near McGary’s house to spend the night, and then fell a victim to the enthusiastic and pleasing manner of the sanguine Colonel, walking with him over the site of the hoped-for city, then wild with forest trees and underbrush, hearing without resentment the bitter speeches of his companion against Col. Boon, whom Lane admired and counted among his best friends. Lane was soon afterward employed in the clerk’s office in Warrick county, and there suggested to Col. Boon the opportunity in his power of making valuable friends by assisting in the formation of a new county and yet leaving Warrick county large enough to serve his own purposes. Whether or not this suggestion brought the chief actors together, it is true that during the next session of the circuit court at Darlington, an informal conversation was held in the clerk’s office, which led finally to the consummation of McGary’s hopes.
The force of these arguments [in favor of dividing the territory into counties for jurisdictional efficiency] was conceded, the only objection being that Darlington would receive a fatal blow by such legislation, because the relocation of the seat of justice would necessarily follow. At length a plan satisfactory to all was agreed upon. It provided for the organization of two new counties with boundaries so fixed that Evansville and Rockport, then called Hanging Rock and not yet the site of a town, would be the most favorable points for the seats of justice. Darlington was to be left to continue its struggle for existence as best it could deprived of all public support.
In shaping these deliberations and leading to a conclusion, personal interest was doubtless a controlling factor. But be it said to the credit of the actors that private gain was not made at public expense, for great permanent good to the communities affected was the result.
Thus Vanderburgh county, as an organic unit, owes its existence more to the unyielding perseverance and untiring zeal of Hugh McGary in his efforts to maintain the village of Evansville, than to any other single agency.
It mattered little to McGary what name was given to the new county. If any was suggested or agreed upon in the conference which determined the question of its formation, it was abandoned for reasons of policy. Judge Henry Vanderburgh was worthy the honor conferred upon his memory, but he was in no way identified with the formation or development of the county.
History of Vanderburgh County, 1889 [compilation with no single author]. The paragraphs above are extractions of key information from a longer narrative.
The above selections have been lightly edited for punctuation.
Below are two of my grandmother’s Brownie snapshots from the 1920s, taken on the back streets of Mount Vernon, Illinois. I don’t know who the subjects are, but both compositions have a sort of existential quality.
My G3 grandfather [Ramsey line], Silas Thomas Gaither (1832-1862) was married to Mary Marinda Clark (1842-?), who was the daughter of James Jordan Clark (1818-1897). James Jordan’s wife was Elizabeth Brewer. His own father was Edmond Clark, whose wife was Catherine Crane. The family at that time lived in Rutherford Co., NC.
From Lineage Book, The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1906
Under listing for Mrs. Florence D. Foster Crowell, of Indianapolis, Indiana:
(Mrs. Crowell would be a connection, not in the direct line, but the common ancestor, William Foster II, was my direct ancestor.)
William Foster II, 1746-1809, served as corporal and sergeant of minutemen in Capt. Josiah Wood’s company, which marched on the Lexington Alarm. He was born in Walpole, died in Worcester County, Mass. [married to Abigail Chapin 1748-1786]
William was the father of Jonathan Foster, who was the father of Jared Foster, who was my G3 grandfather.
My Foster ancestors settled in Massachusetts, some in the town of Salem. I don’t know that I have any direct descendancy from those involved in this famous event. But the Foster name comes up. As the story below relates, Mary Osgood was charged with tormenting a Rose Foster; also among the victims of this early hysteria was an Ann Foster, who died in jail. I feel the topic is worth a few analytical paragraphs. After all, the victims are often casually referred to as the “Salem witches”.
There is a strange sort of transmogrification, where feminism and political correctness join to color the story. Witches somehow, within our culture, much fueled by TV shows and books, are used to represent a kind of female power. The idea of the witch becomes iconic. At the same time, the notion of a protected class, a marginalized minority (and American history is rich in the marginalizing of minorities), gets woven in.
And what happens to justice?
An important lesson, for the times we live in, falls by the wayside. These people were not witches, a thing that doesn’t exist (while we make allowance for adopted religious practices). So we can’t “champion” their cause, by superimposing onto it pop culture and political creeds, resulting in an odd presumption of guilt. Our ancestors would not have wished to be told, “You’re a witch, and that’s okay!” They would have asked that their innocence be shouted from the rooftops.
Thus, the salient point, about application of the legal process: the case was not prosecutable. It would have been necessary to determine the validity of the charges first, before undertaking to bring them. The trials preceded on a circular basis: People made accusations against individuals; due to those accusations, the accused were brought to trial, to have the charges “proven” by the testimony of the accusers. There is a present danger of the same sorts of proceedings; and a bandying about, lately, of the term “witch hunt”. The fantasies the Salem accusers indulged were a product of those things culturally available to them; nothing unimaginable occurred, even in their heads.
So let’s bear this in mind—in the world of fiction, witches can be admirable characters, and carry the role of empowered feminist icon, or beleaguered minority, or both. The accused of Salem were ordinary people, innocent of the charges made against them, and murdered by the system.
The examination and confession (September 8, 1692) of Mary Osgood, wife of Capt. Osgood, of Andover, taken before John Hawthorne and Majesties’ justices. She confesses, that about eleven years ago, when she was in a melancholy state and condition, she used to walk abroad in her orchard; and upon a certain time she saw the appearance of a cat at the end of the house, which she yet thought was a real cat. However, at that time it diverted her from praying to God, and instead thereof she prayed to the devil, about which time she made covenant with the devil, who, as a black man, came to her and presented her with a book, upon which she laid her finger, and that left a red spot; and that upon her sinning the devil told her he was her god and that she should serve and worship him; and she believes she consented to it. She says further, that about two years ago she was carried through the air in company with Deacon Frye’s wife, Ebenezer Barker’s wife, and Goody Tyler, to Five Mile Pond, where she was baptized by the devil, who dipped her face in water, made her renounce her former baptism, and told her she must be his, soul and body, forever, and that she must serve him, which she promised to do.
She says the renouncing of her first baptism was after her dipping, and that she was transported again through the air in company with the aforenamed persons, in the same manner as she went, and believes they were carried upon a pole.
Q. How many persons were on the pole?
A. As I have said before; viz.: four persons and no more, but whom she had named above. She confesses she has afflicted three persons: John Sawdy, Martha Sprague and Rose Foster; and that she did it by pinching her bedclothes and giving consent, the devil should do it in her shape, and that the devil could not do it without her consent. She confesses the afflicting persons in the court by the glance of the eye. She says, as she was coming down to Salem to be examined, she and the rest of the company stopped at Mr. Phillip’s to refresh themselves up, and the afflicted persons, being behind them on the road, came just as she was mounting again, and were then afflicted and cried out upon her, so that she was forced to stay until they were all passed, and said she only looked that way towards them.
Q. Do you know the devil can take the shape of an innocent person and afflict?
A. I believe he cannot.
Q. Who taught you this way of witchcraft?
A. Satan; and that he taught her abundance of satisfaction and quietness in her future state, but never performed anything, and that she has lived more miserably and more discontented than ever before. She confesses further that she herself, in company with Goody Parker, Goody Tyler and Goody Dean, had a meeting at Moses Tyler’s house last Monday night, to afflict, and that she and Goody Dean carried the shape of Mr. Dean, the minister, between them, to make persons believe that Mr. Dean was afflicted.
Q. What hindered you from accomplishing what you intended?
A. The Lord would not suffer it so to be; that the devil should afflict in an innocent person’s shape.
Q. Have you been at any other witch meetings?
A. I know nothing thereof, and I shall answer in the presence of God and his people, but said that the black man stood before her and told her that what she had confessed was a lie; notwithstanding she said that what she had confessed was true, and thereto put her hand. Her husband, being present, was asked if he judged his wife to be any way discomposed. He answered that, having lived with her so long, he doth not judge her to be any way discomposed, but has cause to believe what she has said is true. When Mistress Osgood was first called, she afflicted Martha Sprague and Rose Foster by the glance of her eyes, and recovered them out of their fits by the touch of her hand. Mary (Foster) Lacey and Betty Johnson and Hannah Part [probably Post] saw Mistress Osgood afflicting Sprague and Foster. The said Hannah Post and Mary Lacey and Betty Johnson, Jun., and Rose Foster and Mary Richardson were afflicted by Mistress Osgood in the time of their examination and recovered by her touching of their hands.
‘I’ underwritten, being appointed by authority to take this examination, do testify upon oath, taken in court, that this is a true copy of, the substance of it, to the best of my knowledge, January 5, 1692-3. The above Mary Osgood was examined before their majesty’s justices of the peace in Salem.
John Higginson, Just. Pac.
Source: Foster Genealogy, Frederick Clifton Pierce, 1899.
(Mary Osgood was released, and died in 1710; the John Hawthorne mentioned, was the G2 grandfather of author Nathaniel Hawthorne.)