My husband's aunt lived in Washington, D.C.,
for several years. Through researching some of the early Stuart settlers in
this country, she found the history of the first Stuart to immigrate to the
land of opportunity, the United
States. His first name wasn't mentioned in
any of the findings. We know he was from Scotland,
and we think the circumstances of his entry into the United
States played a big part in keeping his name unknown to
our family in Tennessee
as well as to family members in other states. I'm sure there are other Stuarts
who have researched their heritage more extensively than we have, because it
has been several years since my husband's aunt first started tracing ours.
Last year in August, the Stuarts
held their first family reunion in Cleveland,
Tennessee. We met cousins and
many Stuarts we had never heard of, and what a day we had. I think we did more
talking than eating. This reunion has sparked the curiosity of many Stuarts in Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana and Florida,
just to mention a few, who plan to continue the search for more Stuarts living
anywhere in the United
States. My husband and I enjoyed the day
tremendously; however, after meeting all of them and trying to remember names
and places of residences, we never heard one single Stuart tell of the first
Stuart to enter this country.
If my memory serves me correctly,
and I think it does – I don't think I could ever forget something as exciting
and mysterious as this story told to me by my husband's grandmother – this is
supposed to be kept secret, but as we all know, nothing can be kept secret
forever. The first Stuart came to America as a stowaway on a ship
from his hometown because he had fought and killed a man in a boxing match,
which carried a prison sentence or possible execution in those days. We know
the Stuarts have a reputation for standing their ground with anyone who crosses
their path, intentionally or unintentionally.
My husband's grandfather was a foreman in several lumber
camps in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, from Tennessee
to the hills and mountains of Chico,
California. He always took
Grandmother Stuart with him and built a cabin near his camp until it was time
to move to another area of the vast forest of trees to be cut and milled into
the fine woods used in that era.
I remember an exciting story
Grandmother told me one night about their life in the hills near Chico. She told of
preparing Grandfather Stuart's dinner bucket. She made biscuits spread with
jelly or meat of some kind. She also made fried fruit pies, all of which were
put in a pail for his noontime meal. Sometimes he would work late and walk home
long after dark, with only a candle in a bucket for a light to help guide him
along the path to the cabin. It was about a mile from the lumber camp. While
walking home from work, he often heard footsteps close by. He thought it was
only a dog. When the animal would get within a few feet of him, he would shake
his dinner bucket at the animal to scare it away for a few minutes. Soon the
animal was near him again. This was something he experienced often on his way
home from work. One night the animal followed him most of the way home, almost
to the cabin door. Grandmother saw the animal and realized the danger he was
in. She screamed to him that a mountain lion was at his side. She quickly
opened the door, and he dashed to safety.
The most mysterious story she told
me was of their life in the many lumber camps across this country. Grandfather
Stuart was a fearless, quiet, respectable man, but a man could be pushed just
so far: beyond that point his opponent had the devil to contend with. Although
he was a relatively small man, he could whip, "with only his fist,"
any man in any of the lumber camps for miles around. The men of those lumber
camps soon found this to be true as they often held fist-fighting matches
between the different lumber camps.
Soddy Daisy, Tennessee
Back in 1955 a call
went out from the editors of the then asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of
letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in
their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell.
So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and
in 1956, the first title – – hit the
shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the series, all filled to the brim with true
tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available
to our growing online community.