Walter Stewart, Sr.

The odyssey to America of Walter Stewart, Sr., the founder of the Walter Stewart family, has been traced by 6561 Goldie West Stewart, Co-Historian of the House of Clark, in her 1975 paper, Clark Berry Stewart (1813-1890): Preparation for a Life 1813-1844, written as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master's degree in history at the University of Georgia. Here we join her story early, as she describes the origin of the surname "Stewart" in Scotland:

Traditionally the lineage is traced to Walter, a Norman who came to England with William' the Conqueror. His son, Walter, made his way to Scotland and entered the service of King David I by whom he was appointed Lord High Steward. The office became hereditary and Steward (Stewart) was adopted as a surname in 1246...

It cannot be proved with any degree of certainty that the thousands of Stewarts since that time have direct biological lineage; it does appear that they may claim some psychological and philosophical kinship, for certain ideals and characteristics are woven like a thread through their history. They are strangely conscious of their name and of a bond with others of the same name. They are not "clannish" in the literal sense. To them, the word "clan" merely means "kinship from a common ancestor"...

The original patrimony of the Stewarts was the Barony of Renfrew, but this prolific and adventuresome clan could not be held in the confines of Scotland. Early in their history they eyed the fertile lands of nearby Ireland and when their own rocky hills refused to produce, they crossed the Irish Sea to vie with the natives for the best lands. Later, under the rule of their kinsman, James IV (James I of England), many of them received land grants to settle on Ulster Plantation to expand the Protestant population in Catholic Northern Ireland. Others came as tenants of the great lords.

Their vision broadened and the next land to beckon was North America. The first Stewart on record in the New World is James who came to Plymouth in 1621. He was followed by many of his kinsmen, most of whom were Ulster Presbyterians. As a rule they brought money to buy good land but some did arrive as indentured servants. The period of greatest migration began in 1718 when the landlords of Northeastern Ireland doubled or trebled rents. In addition, these stubborn Presbyterians were barred from holding political office because they refused to submit to the Test Act. Many sailed to America where they found a land of religious and political equality and ample opportunity to live the good life. It was not long before such ideas floated back to their cousins at home. Before the American Revolution, members of the Clan could be found in every colony and, almost without exception, they joined the movement for independence.

One Scotch-Irish Stewart who undoubtedly heard from his kinsmen in America was Walter of County Antrim in Northern Ireland. Little is known of his immediate ancestors or early life; his was a favorite name among the clan and the numerous Walters in the late eighteenth century make it impossible to unravel their histories. This particular Walter was born around 1758. Late in 1787 or early in 1788 he sailed from Belfast to Charleston, South Carolina, together with his wife, Mary Ross and eight year old son, Samuel. Another son, John, was born to Mary Ross Stewart in February, 1788 while they were on board ship...

The lure of new land and new opportunity rather than an intolerable situation at home probably led to the move. Conditions in Ireland had improved for both Protestants and Catholics. The Irish had exchanged their aid to England in the recent wars for certain concessions. They had forced commercial benefits, such as amendments to the Navigation Acts to include Irish-built vessels, bounties to Irish fisheries, free export of Irish Wool and manufactured glass, and freedom of trade with the colonies. London had, in a small way, eased political restrictions and it appeared to be the beginning of a new freedom. Yet, America represented the real Camelot.

The Walter Stewarts, apparently, were far from poverty stricken. Among the few artifacts that remain from this time in their lives are a gentleman's silver tipped walking cane, an exquisite knitted bed coverlet, and two fine trunks brought from Ireland. The lady's trunk is particularly handsome with heavy brass straps and hardware. Both trunks are in remarkably good condition and even have the original linings. These articles were hardly the possessions of a pauper.*

[*At the time the above was written, the cane was in the possession of 658 Dr. Calvin B. Stewart, Atlanta, Georgia; the trunks, 685 Janie Stewart, Greer, South Carolina; the coverlet, 6561 Connor E. Stewart, Elberton, Georgia.]

Perhaps it was no accident that they chose to settle in the upper part of South Carolina, for many of their kinsmen had preceded them: Samuel in Spartanburg County, John in Union County, and David on the Pacolet River, among others. The First United States Census, 1790, lists Walter Stewart as head of a household made up of four free white males, one free white female and no slaves. On November 6, 1795 he bought [from John Templeton] 185 acres of land on the Enoree River for twenty pounds sterling...

Laurens County was developing rapidly in the late eighteenth century. Cherokee Indian farmers originally inhabited the county; evidences of their existence are occasionally found today in the broken implements and arrowheads which are plowed up. Reportedly the first white settler was John Duncan who came from Pennsylvania about 1755 and settled on the creek that now bears his name. As early as 1767 an act of the Provincial Government of South Carolina authorized a road from Orangeburg to the Saluda River and from thence to Bush and Rabun Creeks which ran through the district. On March 12, 1785 the General Assembly passed an act creating six counties out of Ninety-Six District. One of these was Laurens, named for Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress and Ambassador to France. Many fine homes were erected, some of which survive to attest to the graciousness of the area's early life.

Walter Stewart was active in community life. He served as an elder in the Duncans Creek Presbyterian Church (sometimes called Old Stone Church), the oldest Presbyterian church in upper South Carolina. He and Mary Ross were the parents of five sons that survived infancy...

Mary Ross died some time between 1800 and 1810. Her descendants have assumed that she was buried in the family cemetery [Stewart-Gilliland burying ground] across the road from Bethany Church, but the ravages of time and weather have made it impossible to read the inscriptions on some of the stones.

Walter Stewart assured himself of political equality in 1808 when he, and in 1810 his two oldest sons Samuel and John, petitioned for naturalization. They were accepted as legal citizens of their adopted country.

By 1810 new neighbors had appeared; on January 4 Spencer Bobo bought a tract of land from the Stewart farm and on January 10 he added an additional 125 acres adjoining this. A short time later Walter Stewart married young Isabella Bobo and his son, James, married Lida Bobo, daughters of their new neighbor.

Attending school for the Stewart sons must have been spasmodic. Their father never owned slaves but depended on his own lively crew to coax a living from the soil to support the fast growing family. They, apparently, were no more advanced in their methods of farming than most of their neighbors. Some years later Clark wrote of his father's "sorry" farm land.

In 1824 several families from Laurens County moved to Gwinnett County, Georgia to settle on land recently acquired from the Creek Indians. Included in this group were Spencer Bobo with his son Tilman, James and Lida Bobo Stewart, and Walter and Isabella Bobo Stewart with sons Clark and David. The four other sons remained on the farm in South Carolina...

New Gwinnett County had been inhabited by Cherokee and Creek Indians for hundreds of years... But in 1824 young Clark Stewart and his family were not greeted by a wilderness. White settlers, hungry for fertile land, had preceded them by several years and the area was well on its way to the farm and village stage of development. The population in 1820 was 4,589; it increased to 13,289 by 1830. Already the Indian trails were growing into usable roads, such as the Peachtree Trail. Settling in his new home was much the same for Walter Stewart as it had been thirty years earlier in Laurens County, South Carolina. He chose a site on the Chattahoochee River on what is now known as Peachtree Road, and the family began the process of becoming a part of community life.

Walter Stewart died in 1825 at about age 63, a year after moving to Gwinnett County. He is said to be buried - at his own request - on his land there.

The exact location of Walter's land in Gwinnett County is not known; the early records of the country were destroyed in a courthouse fire. His land appears to have been near the present town of Duluth, about 10 miles northeast of Atlanta (which was little more than an Indian village named Standing Peachtree when he moved there). One of the most interesting documents in the family records is a letter from John S. Bobo of Georgia to his cousin, 6 Rev. Clark Berry Stewart of South Carolina (see also 111 John Pinckney McKelvey and 4 James Stewart). In the letter, dated November 30, 1876, J.S. Bobo relates news of old Gwinnett County friends and makes a reference to "your father's grave."

Next I will inform you that old Evan Howell has been ded but a few year and that previous to his death and but a Short Time before he joined the old Side Baptist Church and was Baptised in the Chatahoochee River by being Immersed while Sitting in his arm chair two men Standing in the Flat Let him over the gunnels Into the water. All of boys are living and they are about all that is living that lived there in your day. there has been a great change in that country as well as with the people, now the [rail] cars pass daily not more than 150 yards from your fathers grave, the Rail Road Strikes the old peachtree Road just above where old Billy Green used to live and Keeps the old Road until it passes the crosing of the State and Peachtree Roads a mile and a half above the Chatman place Norcros is the first Station above Atlanta old Pinckneyville deluth is at the crosing of the above named Roads that place is owned by Clark Howells Sons a deed of gift from the old man Howell...

The "Peachtree Road" mentioned in the letter is now Highway 23 out of Atlanta through Norcross and Duluth; it is roughly parallel to Interstate 85 to Greenville, South Carolina. Highway 23 closely parallels the railroad, which crosses Highway 23 at Duluth. Evan Howell had extensive holdings in the area.

How Isabel Stewart and her two young sons Clark and David managed to live after Walter Stewart's death is not certain, but they were not alone in Gwinnett County. Isabel's stepson, 4 James Stewart and his young family lived in the nearby Hog Mountain community in Gwinnett County in later years; they may have lived in the widowed Isabel's household for a time. There is some evidence that Isabel's father, Spencer Bobo (one of the "three Spencer Bobos" later mentioned by 6 Clark in his journal), may have lived nearby. A re-recorded deed in the Gwinnett County Courthouse, originally dated 1837, places the property of a Spencer Bobo, deceased, near Duluth on what is now Berkeley Lake; this land was sold by John Baker and Martha C. Bobo, Executors, to Hiram Pittman; witnesses were James Stewart and Pleasant H. Turner.

Isabel later married a Henry S. Turner probably between 1830 and 1833, according to Historian Goldie. Family tradition says her two young sons did not care for their stepfather - although 6 Clark later writes about him affectionately in his journal. In any case both left home as young men; Clark was back in the Bethany community by 1833. He was visited there in 1837 by his 18-year-old brother 7 David "from Cassville," in northwest Georgia (Cass County, later Bartow County). The two brothers and their half-brother 4 James continued to gather at Isabel and Henry Turner's home in Gwinnett County for Christmas over the years, until Isabel's death about 1843. Her place of burial is not certain; probably Gwinnett County.

Isabel Bobo was a member of an extended family of Bobos who settled in the tri-county area of Spartanburg, Union and Laurens Counties in South Carolina. The family is said to be of French Huguenot extraction; the name originally was spelled "Beaubeau." Bobos came very early to Maryland and Virginia, and thence to South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and other states. There is some confusion as to the original relationships among the old Bobo families, but they were characterized by a distinctive set of first names for male descendants - among them Spencer, Sampson, Simpson, Tillman, Absolom, and Lewis - which have been passed back and forth among their families and handed down for generations. Isabel's son 6 Clark Berry Stewart noted in his journal that "there were three Spencers" (see Introduction). Three Spencer Bobos are found on the 1790 Census for South Carolina: two in Spartanburg County and one in Laurens County. The only other Bobo shown in Laurens County at this time is Absolom.

The identity of "Nancy Bobo of Revolutionary fame" found in 62 Wistar's interview with his cousin 31 William (see Introduction) is not certain. However, an old letter dated 1897 from the household of 31 William shows that his wife Rebecca had in fact received an inquiry from one of her Bethany cousins Clarentine Robertson Cooley - about a possible relationship between "Rev. Clark Stewart" and "Mary Musgrove," whom they all knew as the young Revolutionary heroine of Musgrove Mill near Bethany, where the Redcoats were routed during a crucial Up Country skirmish during the Revolution. Mary Musgrove had distinguished herself by helping two of her captured countrymen escape from an upstairs window in her home while their British captors ate their evening meal downstairs.

Absolom Bobo of Laurens County was in fact married to one of the Musgrove sisters - not Mary the heroine, but her sister Ann; their son, Dr. Edward Musgrove Bobo, was a doctor in the Bethany community in the years before the Civil War. Absolom Bobo's third and last wife, however, was named Nancy - hence Nancy Bobo. This was indeed the name of Isabel Bobo's mother - but she was not the same Nancy Bobo.

According to a Bobo family history, "Bobo Cousins by the Dozen," Isabel Bobo was the daughter of Nancy Berry and Francis Spencer Bobo, Jr. (born 1739), probably of Culpepper County, Virginia, who joined the migration to South Carolina. Particulars on the family are uncertain, but they are said to have had children Absolom, Tillman, Sampson, John T., Isabel, Lida, and Mollie, all born between 1764 and 1776. Of several of the children there is no further record, but the wife of their son Tillman is shown as Bulah or Beulah Yarbrough - which agrees with the record 6 Clark Stewart has left us on his "maternal uncle" (see Introduction).

Readers who are not fascinated with these matters are invited to skip to the next section, but one other problem should be mentioned: the relationship between Isabel Bobo and 4 James Stewart's wife, "Lida" Bobo (probably Scynthia Bobo, in the light of recent findings - see 4 James Stewart for more information). In the past these two Bobo women have been identified as sisters, but the evidence now indicates that James' Bobo wife was a niece of Isabel Bobo, and probably the sister of John S. Bobo, 6 Clark's cousin and correspondent. The names of John S. Bobo's and Scynthia Bobo's parents are not known.

There has been little progress in recent years in tracking down the identity of the family of Walter Stewart, Sr. - and of his first wife, Mary Ross - in northern Ireland. If our Walter was indeed from County Antrim - which appears likely - and if the old tradition that he was a weaver is true, then it is possible that he was a later descendant of a Col. Walter Stewart, whom the Stewart Clan Magazine (Nov. and Dec. 1933) describes as a colonel of one of ten regiments of Scotch soldiery sent to Ireland in 1643 to quell the native Irish. He later retired from military service and settled near Procles in County Antrim, where his later descendants "made bleach linen cloth along the Main water for about fifty years." Later members of the family moved to an estate called Cairndeasy in County Londonderry, from whence several emigrated to America, most of the known ones to Pennsylvania.*

*Information located through the courtesy of Mrs. Aldine K. Burks, Tucson, Arizona, member of the Arizona State Genealogical Society.

Walter Sr. Dates