The Established Genealogy of the Sequatchie Valley
Stewart Family Is Probably Wrong

 

 

Jim L. Wilson, MD

3313 Victoria Court

Johnson City, TN  37604

jim_wilson1@comcast.net

 

December 31, 2015

 

 

The Established Genealogy of the Sequatchie Valley Stewart Family is Probably Wrong

 

It appears certain that William Stewart was my great-great-great-grandfather. He died in 1834 and was buried on his own property on the banks of the Sequatchie River near present day Dunlap, Tennessee. His oldest child was John Stewart (1789-1873), who married Sarah Davis (1799-1880) in Bledsoe County, Tennessee, in 1815. Their youngest child, Emily Stewart (1849-1927), married Jackson B. Wilson (1851-1929) on September 24, 1873, in Greene County, Missouri. Jackson Wilson and Emily Stewart were my great-grandparents.

 

The genealogy of the Stewart family was recorded and published by Mary Stewart Blakemore, a descendant of William Stewart, in 1960.[1] As far as I can tell, this has become, more or less, the established genealogy of the Stewart family. Her history of the Sequatchie Valley Stewarts has been referenced and re-published a number of times, and her Stewart genealogy appears on many family trees found on the internet. Although she made significant contributions to the knowledge about this family, especially the Tennessee connections, I believe she made a couple of serious mistakes in her research and in her narrative about this family. The following constitutes a brief summary of what she wrote.

 

Her great-grandfather was George Stewart (1795-1887), a brother of the John Stewart mentioned above; his son, James Marion Stewart (1829-1918), was her grandfather. Much of her family history came by word of mouth passed down from these two gentlemen. It was through them that she connected the family to William Stewart, identifying him as an Irish immigrant who came to Baltimore in the late 1700’s. In what I would consider a fairly long leap without adequate documentation, she linked William Stewart to the family of Stewarts who inhabited Stewart (or Steuart) Lodge in County Carlow, Ireland. This was a family of the gentry class, a family who descended from one of the most prominent Stewart families of Scotland/Ireland. She found a marriage record in a Baltimore Episcopal Church showing that a William Steward married Elizabeth Guyton. Supposedly, this was the William Stewart found in the 1790 census living in Baltimore, Maryland. She traced William Stewart’s migration from Maryland to Virginia to Tennessee, where he followed the migration path of many other families down the Great Wagon Road through the Shenandoah Valley. However, based on the results of my own research, I believe this history of William Stewart, the  Irish immigrant who married Elizabeth Guyton, cannot be supported by the evidence.

 

From the word-of-mouth history Mrs. Blakemore related that her great-grandfather maintained communication with this brother, John Stewart, after John and his family moved to Greene County, Missouri, shortly after 1850. She listed the names of John and Sarah Stewart’s children, which I have been able to verify from my own research. She also provided the names of all of William Stewart’s children; names and families that I have also verified through my research over the past several years. She reported that occasional letters passed between the two brothers, John and George, but that after their deaths, the two families lost contact with each other. The connection between John Stewart and George Stewart is confirmed through Sarah’s War of 1812 widow’s pension application file (which I have in my possession), wherein is a copy of a certified affidavit from Sequatchie County, Tennessee, which George Stewart supplied when Sarah made application for her pension. In the affidavit George attested to the marriage of his brother to Sarah Davis. The affidavit was witnessed by James Marion Stewart. So, I am certain that much of Mary Stewart Blakemore’s family history is accurate. However, there are two important details of the history which I think she got wrong, and which I think should be corrected, in order to provide a more accurate history of the family. I shall endeavor to do that in this article.

 

In chapter VI of her book Mrs. Blakemore discussed William Stewart, who she called “the Immigrant”. She reported that she learned from her grandfather that his grandfather, William Stewart, married about a year after coming to Baltimore to a woman, “Miss Skiles”. She further stated that there has been “uncertainty” and “confusion” about William’s wife, and the Skiles woman could have been a second wife. From her research Mrs Blakemore found no records of a William Stewart marrying a Skiles (and, I might add, neither have I). However, she did find a record showing a William Steward married Elizabeth Guyton on May 24, 1788, in Baltimore, and she continued on to report that her search of the 1790 census revealed only one William Stewart family in Baltimore who would meet this criterion. Also, she claimed that John Stewart’s birthdate and birthplace as found in the records, ie, 1789 in Maryland, confirms that this is the correct William Stewart. However, there is no proof that John Stewart was born in Baltimore. It does appear from the census records that he and his next two oldest siblings were born in Maryland, and that he, from his age in the census records, was born about 1789.

 

I believe this is the first major error in Mrs. Blakemore’s research. From my own research I have found evidence that calls into question Mrs. Blakemore’s conclusions about this particular aspect of the family history. First of all, there is a marriage recorded for William Steward to Elizabeth Guyton on June 25, 1788, in St James Church in Baltimore, but further investigation of these church records shows that a child of this couple by the name of Henry Guyton Steward was born on May 26, 1791. And, furthermore, William Steward, about age 40, was buried from this church on January 10, 1797.[2] Knowing this, then, I have become very skeptical about the assertion that William Stewart, the ancestor of the Sequatchie Valley Stewart family, was the husband of Elizabeth Guyton, and I seriously question the accuracy of Mrs. Blakemore’s genealogy for this part of the family. The data from St James Church records show that the William Steward who married Elizabeth Guyton, could not be the William Stewart who later migrated into Tennessee.

 

The second major error in Mrs. Blakemore’s research is her finding that William Stewart of Sequatchie Valley was a member of the County Carlow, Ireland, Stewart Lodge family. In  chapter VII of her book, Mrs. Blakemore discussed her research abroad and her discovery of Stewart’s Lodge, Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, Ireland. In this chapter she presented the history of the Stewarts’ ownership of the County Carlow estate, known at one time as Stewart’s Lodge. She described how William Stewart, the supposed father of the Sequatchie Valley William Stewart, obtained possession of the estate in 1752, just prior to his marriage to Anne Butler, who was the daughter of Sir Richard Butler, a distinguished member of the British peerage. According to Mrs. Blakemore, this William Stewart married twice; first to Anne Butler, by whom he had two sons, John and William (supposedly the immigrant), and two daughters, Mary and Harriot. His second wife was Mary Swift, by whom he had three daughters, Anne, Catherine and Emily. She did not cite any sources for this information.

 

Unfortunately, the above Stewart family information appears to be incorrect. Different information is provided in a highly respected and authoritative publication, Burke’s dictionary of the landed gentry of Great Britain. According to the official website, Burke’s Peerage, which was established in 1826, “has become the definitive guide to the genealogy and heraldry of the peerage, baronetage, knightage and landed gentry of the United Kingdom, the historical families of Ireland and the Commonwealth of Nations ….. “ (http://www.burkespeerage.com).

 

In a Burke’s publication printed in 1852, the following Stewart (Steuart) family genealogy was recorded:

 

Steuart of Steuart’s Lodge: Steuart, William-Richard, Esq. of Steuart’s lodge, co. Carlow, high- sheriff in 1820, m. Elizabeth Dawson, only dau. of William Duckett, Esq., of Duckett’s Grove. Lineage: The Hon. John Stewart, third son of Alexander, fourth earl of Galloway, and the lady Mary Douglas, his wife, dau. of the second earl of Queensberry, entered the British army in 1690, and was raised to the rank of colonel at Lerida in Spain, in 1707; he was dangerously wounded at the battle of Almanza, and had personal favors conferred on him by Queen Anne. He purchased estates in the cos. of Meath and Carlow, in 1719, and m. in 1722, Bridget, only dau. of the Hon. John Pocklington, second baron of His Majesty’s Court of Exchequer in Ireland: by her had (with a dau., m. to A Weldon, Esq. of Kilmornony, Queen’s County) a son.

 

William Stewart, Esq., who m. 1st, Anne-Eliza, dau. of Sir Thomas Butler, Bart. of Ballintemple, co. Carlow, and Henrietta Percy, his wife, and by her had issue: I. John, his heir. I. Bridget, d. unm., Harriet, m. 1st, Hamlet Obins, Esq., and 2ndly, the Rev. Joseph Miller, by whom she had issue. III. Hannah, m. ---Ward, Esq. IV. Mary, m. Edward Dillon, Esq. He m. 2ndly, Miss Swift, by whom he had, with three daus., one son, William, who was colonel in the Native Bombay infantry, and died unm. The eldest son, John Steuart, Esq., high-sheriff of Co. Carlow in 1792, m. Mary, only dau. of John Whelan, Esq. of Ballyconnell, co. Wicklow, and niece of Christian, first Countess of Donoughmore, and by her he had issue, William-Richard, present proprietor. Henrietta-Marie, m. to the Rev. William Hickey.[3]

 

Without a doubt, the family addressed in Mrs. Blakemore’s book is the same one described in Burke’s publication. From Burke’s, it is very clear that William, the brother of John Stewart, owner of Stewart’s Lodge, and the man who is supposed to be William Stewart, the immigrant, was a colonel in the Native Bombay infantry and died unmarried. He could not have been William Stewart, the immigrant, who came to Maryland and settled in Tennessee.

 

There is more evidence from another source, that corroborates the above. Henrietta, John Stewart’s daughter who married the Rev. William Hickey, wrote a large volume of family genealogy for her descendants. On the 49th anniversary of her marriage on December 11, 1862, she set about recording her family’s history. This is the beginning of her 52 page epistle:

 

I have been asked by my children to note down my personal recollections, and also the traditional accounts of my ancestors, and those connected with me by ties of blood; in short to write a family chronicle, and I shall endeavor to do so, although the task will be a sad and difficult journey into the Golden days of past.

 

I was born the 24th May 1792, at Steuart’s Lodge, in the County of Carlow.

 

My father, John Steuart, was the proprietor of a small estate which had been in his family for only two generations. His grandfather, the Honourable John Steuart, was a younger son of the third Earl of Galloway. He left Scotland to serve as Colonel of a British Regiment, and in 1707 Brigadier General at the Battle of Almanza in Spain during the War of Succession. He was left for dead on the battlefield of Almanza, but was rescued by the servants of a Spanish lady who resided near the field of battle, and who despatched her servants to help the wounded. Upon his recovery he was received by Queen Anne, who, as a mark of her favour, bestowed upon him a magnificent diamond ring, and also it is said gave him the white satin quilt and pillow case now in my possession.

 

He sold his Army commission and bought an estate and house in County Carlow.

 

He moved to Carlow and at the age of 60 married Bridget, sister of Admiral Pocklington.

 

They had two children, a daughter, Henrietta, who married Anthony Weldon, Esquire, of Kilmarony, and a son, William who married twice, first to Anne Eliza Butler, daughter of Sir Richard Butler, of Ballintemple, of Carlow, and secondly Miss Swift.

 

My father’s step-mother, Miss Swift was a woman of extravagant habits, is said to have indulged in a new pair of gloves everyday, and a new pair of stays every week, and as her other tastes corresponded to these small items, she found it necessary to raise money in order to gratify them, therefore, following my grandfather’s death, she sold the Diamond ring which had been presented to my ancestor, the Honourable John Steuart by Queen Anne. She also sold a silver shield which had been an heirloom in the Steuart family of the Royal Stuarts of which the Galloway family were the elder branch.

 

By his first marriage to Anne Butler, he had a son John (my father) and five daughters viz., Bridget, Henrietta, Anne, Mary and Hannah, by his second marriage to Miss Swift he had a son, William, and three daughters, viz., Emily, Catherine, and Sophia. (Here the letter provides in lengthy detail the names of the children and who they married.) Anne married Thomas Whelan, Esquire, a relative of Pilsworth Whelan. Mary married Edward Dillon, Esquire, and had a numerous family. Hannah married Mr Ward, and had no family. Of the children by the second marriage, William became Colonel of the 3rd Bombay Infantry. Emily married Mr Medlycott. Catherine married Mr Keegan. Sophia married first, Mr Boyce and secondly, Mr Snow, an Englishman. Henrietta married twice, first to Captain Obins, (her son Hamlet, Colonel Obins married Miss Keogh of Killbride Carlow.) Henrietta’s second marriage to Rev. Joseph Miller, produced three daughters, Henrietta (Mrs Le Hunte of Artramont), Mary Ann (Mrs Jacob), Ellen (Mrs Bayly).[4]

 

It can be seen readily how this first-hand account of the family history meshes with the details reported in the Burke’s Peerage publication. Again, it should be noted that William Stewart, brother of John Stewart, proprietor of Stewart’s Lodge in the late 1700’s, became a colonel in the third regiment of the Bombay infantry, and according to Burke’s peerage, died unmarried.

He could not have been William Stewart, the immigrant, ancestor of the Sequatchie Valley Stewart family.

 

There is more evidence to the contrary. A thorough review of the Stewarts of Stewart Lodge in Ireland reveals that this family was connected with several prominent families in Ireland, including the Butlers, and that one of the Butler family members, Pierce Butler (1744-1822), played a prominent role in American affairs at the same time that William Stewart, in the Mrs Blakemore’s story, was getting established in this country. This Butler family was one of considerable wealth and political influence, and it seems strange to me that a close relative of this family, as William Stewart of Stewart’s Lodge was, would have been making his way on the American frontier without evidence of contact or support from wealthy and powerful relatives. There is no evidence to show this to be the case.

 

So, refuting Mrs Blakemore’s research begs the question: Who was William Stewart of Sequatchie Valley? At this point I do not have an answer; the search is on-going. But some of my research on other lines of my family have given me some theories. My research into another ancestor, Joseph Hixson, a Revolutionary War soldier, and my four-greats-grandfather, provides intriguing ideas. Joseph Hixson migrated with his family from Washington County, Maryland, down the valley through Virginia to Greene County, Tennessee, where he died in about 1804. His will is on record in Greene County. In the same Washington County, Maryland, in 1778, were several Skiles families and Stewart families.[5] The Skiles family also migrated to Greene County, Tennessee, at about the same time that Joseph Hixson came. An abstracted deed from Greene County Deed Book 8, page 343, while not showing any relationships, does tie all of these family names together:

 

Indenture 12 Oct 1807 William Bigham, Blount Co., TN, one part and William Skyles, Greene Co., TN other part, $200 pd, tr on S side Nolachuckey on Middle creek, being 133 1/3  acres and it being part of Patent granted Bigham for 600 acres, beg on S bank Nolachuckey river cor John Parks and adj Joseph Hickson, Decd, cor to Washington Hanshaw. Wit: William Stewart, William Skyles.[6]

 

 

So, the family history that William Stewart married a Skiles woman seems possibly to have some credibility, although the proof has not been found. My theory is that William Stewart was a member of one of the Stewart families who are found in Washington County, Maryland, records, living in the same general area where Joseph Hixson and several Skiles families lived. If this is true, then I think it very likely that William Stewart migrated down the Great Valley with the Hixson and Skiles families into Tennessee. He may actually have married a Skiles woman, as the word of mouth history suggests, and she may have been his first and only wife. Of this we have no concrete information. Further, but I cannot make too much of this at the present time, there are a few individuals matching with me on my autosomal DNA test, who show Skiles in their family trees. If I could prove a definite relationship with any of these people, this might support the idea that I have Skiles ancestry -- maybe William Stewart’s wife.



[1] Mary Stewart Blakemore, A Narrative Genealogy of the Stewarts of Sequatchie Valley Tennessee and Allied Families (1960; reprint, Salem, MA: Higginson Book Company, 2007).

[2] June Kinard, St James Parish Register, Maryland, 1787-1825  [database-online]. Provo, UT, USA:Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999.

 

[3] J Bernard Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland 1852: Comprising particulars of Upward of 100,000 Individuals, Vol II P to Z (London: Colburn and Co., 1852), 1301. [This book can be found in Google books, on-line].

[4] Pat Purcell papers, County Carlow - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP ™), http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlcar2/Letter_20.htm, Accessed: 30 August 2015.

[5] Ancestry.com, Maryland, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1772-1890 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999. (Original data: Ron V Jackson, compiler, Accelerated Indexing Systems, comp., Maryland Census, 1772-1890).

[6] Joyce Martin Murray, abstractor, Greene County, Tennessee Deed Abstracts 1785-1810 Volumes 2, 4, 6, 7 and 8 (Dallas, TX: privately printed, no date), 140.