Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Stewarts Go to Parkersburg, West Virginia

Three of the sons of Fortune and Rebecca Payne Stewart moved to Parkersburg, West Virginia by 1900. They sought jobs beyond the farming skills they developed working in Williamsport.  They raised their families there, taking advantage of the education available to black children beyond elementary/grammar school that was not available in Williamsport.  They also provided a home to their nieces, nephews and cousins from Williamsport so that they could get an education.  (See Sumner School highlight below.)

Preliminary note:  Parkersburg is a city on the western boundary of West Virginia.  Just across the Ohio River, less than a mile away, is the city Belpre, Ohio.  When the Stewarts of Williamsport moved west they settled in either city.

In 1900 Daniel Stewart, the oldest son of Fortune and Rebecca Payne Stewart, and his wife Emma Sargent were living with her parents in Belpre with their first child; he was a fireman. By 1910 they were living on Walnut Street with their five children. and he was a station fireman at the Parkersburg Mill Company (see highlight below).  Dan and Emma were still living on Walnut Street with four of their children in 1920; Dan and his oldest son were working at the mill.  Also by 1920 Dan and Emma's oldest daughter had married and was living close by.  Daniel passed in 1927.

By 1900 Nancy Stewart, the oldest daughter of Daniel Stewart and Mary Clifford, had moved from Williamsport and was working as a servant in the home of John B McCann in Belpre.

In 1900 Henry Stewart, the second son of Fortune and Rebecca Payne Stewart, and his wife Lizzie Watkins were living at 912 Clay Street.  They had married in 1899 and never had children.  In 1930 Henry Stewart and wife Elizabeth Jackson (married in 1927) lived together at 912 Clay Street until she passed in 1939.  In 1940 Henry Stewart (65, widowed) lived at 912 Clay Street with his two nephews, Brownley and Stanley, and two lodgers.  From 1912 through 1942 Henry Stewart was a driver for Citizens Transfer & Storage Co. Henry passed in 1943. 

By 1900 George William Stewart, the third son of Fortune and Rebecca Payne Stewart, and his wife Mary Jane Susan Redman were living on Monroe Street in Parkersburg with five children; and he was working at a transfer company.  By 1910 they had moved to 8th Street. Mary Jane Susan Redman died August 16, 1927.  George William Stewart married Bessie Cameile Wilson Grant on May 15, 1928.  George lived at 508 Gale Avenue in Parkersburg until his death August 20, 1937.

In 1920 Lizzie Washington Stewart and her children (Dorothy, Edward, and Edith) were living at 814 Clay Street.  (They were the family of James Edward Stewart, the fifth son of Fortune and Rebecca Payne Stewart.)

In the late 1930s and before World War II, the three youngest sons of Homer Wilson Stewart also moved to Parkersburg to take advantage of job opportunities beyond farming around Williamsport.  Kendall Smith Stewart, followed by Brownley Thornton Stewart, and then Stanley William Stewart stayed with their uncles in Parkersburg.  All three went into the Army in the early 1940s and served overseas during the war.

Also in the 1930s Edna Kent and Mary Thornton Elizabeth Bruce moved to Parkersburg to attend highschool.  Edna Kent became the wife of Wilson Alfred Stewart after she returned to Williamsport. Mary Thornton Elizabeth Bruce was the daughter of Sarah Thornton Stewart (the youngest daughter of Fortune and Rebecca Payne Stewart) and Alfred Stanley Bruce; she became the wife of Stanley William Stewart after she completed her education and was a certified teacher.

 The Chancellor Hotel
The Chancellor Hotel, seen here circa 1910, was built in 1901 by Johnson N. Camden and Colonel William N. Chancellor on the southeast corner of 7th & Market, replacing a Methodist church that had stood there since 1858. For many years the 220-room Chancellor was Parkersburg's premier hotel. It was torn down in 1977. 
Three of Homer Stewart's sons (Kendall, Brownley and Stanley) worked at the Chancellor Hotel when they moved to Parkersburg from Williamsport.

Parkersburg Mill Co.
Management of the Parkersburg Mill Co. at 2nd and Green streets which succeeded the original Caswell, Gould & Logan Co. on March 20 1865 had developed the firm into one of the greatest milling and wooden novelty works by the turn of the century. C. L. and W. S. Caswell were still active in the firm in 1865 when it became Parkersburg Mill Co. It was first established in the early 50s by Caswell. Gould and Logan. The Parkersburg Mill Co. eventually became the Parkersburg Lumber Co. It employed more men and boys than any other individual enterprise in the city by 1896 with over 150 men on the payroll in the mills and yards.The company yards and mills covered 12 acres and three large buildings accounted for 45,000 feet of floor space.Products from the Parkersburg Mill Co. flowed into all parts of the world including Germany, Scotland, England, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick. Canada and all portions of the United States.  The company was important in the tremendous growth and prosperity of Parkersburg during the period. In 1896 the company. produced 100,000 corn popper handlesfor example. Handles of every kind, for home and industry. were special ties of the company at the turn of the century.The planning mill was responsible in those days for a capacity of 30,000 feet a day. The plant's location was situated along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad near the conjunction of the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers. The company has consistently been a significant leader in the industry As far back as 1896 the firm handled transactions for 14 million feet of poplar and oak lumber for example. The firm has always surrounded itself with ample facilities for accurately responding to the demands of its trade. Parkersburg Lumber has closed down and is no longer in business.

Sumner School
In 1862 the Sumner School in Parkersburg was the first free school south of the Mason-Dixon line for African-American children built by seven African-American men to provide education for their children.  The Sumner School closed in 1954.Sumner School, built on the east side of Avery Street just north of Tenth Street, was established during the Civil War and became the nation's first free school for black children below the Mason-Dixon line. Led for over forty years in the early 20th century by Principal J. Rupert Jefferson, it stood as Parkersburg's black all-grade school, from first to twelfth grade, until the Supreme Court ended school segregation in 1954. Sumner closed down in 1955. It was later reopened for children with mental disabilities. Eventually the school was demolished except for its gymnasium, which had been built in 1926. 

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