Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Magical Ruth

My father's cousin Ruth was always "Aunt Ruth" to us.  She was this bigger-than-life person who visited us in the 1950s and 1960s.  She lived in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  She would arrive in Keyser on the Baltimore and Ohio passenger train, my father would pick her up at the station and bring her to stay with us for several days.  She would visit all of her country cousins.  But my sister and I were transfixed by her bubbly personality.  She was so tiny, about 4-foot-nine!  She always had a smile on her face enhanced by her red lipstick, nails painted bright red, perfectly coiffed hair, and the greatest earrings.  She had so many stories about our Parkersburg relatives, especially about her successful children who had careers in New York and California.  But then she would be off to Petersburg to visit her other cousins before returning to Parkersburg. Her appearances were magical moments during our childhood.

When our family made its trek west to southern Ohio to visit my mother's relatives we always stopped in Parkersburg and Belpre to visit my father's relatives.  And of course that included at least an hour with Aunt Ruth. 

George William Stewart (12/1869-08/20/1937) and Mary Jane Susan Redman (03/10/1872-08/16/1927) married in 1885. They were born and raised in Grant County West Virginia and moved to Parkersburg in Wood County West Virginia. They had thirteen children; not all surviving childhood. Their youngest was Ruth Mona Stewart.

Ruth Mona Stewart was born May 2, 1910.  On May 7, 1928 she married Harold Fairfax Young who was born September 5, 1907.

Ruth and Harold had  five children:  

  1. Harold Fairfax Jr. 
  2. Fawne who married Milton Clay 
  3. Roxy Young who married Lonnie Bradford 
  4. Ivan Young 
  5. Carlton D. Young 

Ruth Mona Stewart passed in September, 1976 and Harold F Young passed July 10, 2001.

The Shepherd

Wilson Alfred Stewart was born in Williamsport October 7, 1909.  He was the oldest son of Homer Stewart and Mary Elizabeth Smith.  Wilson lived in the Williamsport area his entire life.

At the insistence of his mother he completed the eighth grade at the local school for black students, but did not leave home to attend a black high school miles away.  He loved books and became an avid reader at a very young age.  (I found and bought a book he had owned at an auction after he passed.)  He always had the latest farming magazines stacked by his rocking chair for his evening reading pleasure and education.

Wilson became a farmer learning from and working with his father.  He supported his family by working on one of the largest local farms which was originally owned by the Williams of Williamsport, then owned by the McDonalds, and finally by the Hartzlers.  He worked on that farm for more than 50 years!

On April 8, 1931, Wilson married Edna Bess Kent, the church musician (pianist and choir alto),  They raised three sons:  Howard Wilson, Lewis Edward, and Elmer William.

While he was working for others he was able to amass a large farm of his own over the years. Given the mountainous terrain in West Virginia, he chose to raise sheep with a focus on the Dorset breed.  He supplied the rams for a local college mascot.  He was recognized in a prominent farm journal.  (He even adopted our pet lamb after it got too big for our yard.)

Wilson became the patriarch of the Stewart family upon the death of his father in 1953.  All of his brothers looked up to him.  (As a small girl I was very fond of him.  But he did embarrass me once when I as stung be a bee on my thigh and he put chewed tobacco on the spot to alleviate the pain and swelling.) 

Wilson was a life-long member of St. Paul United Methodist Church and taught the adult Sunday School class for about ten years after his Uncle Stanley Bruce died.  He was on the Board of Trustees and was the church treasurer.  And he always made sure there was a bag of candy and an orange for each child after the annual Christmas program.

Later in life Wilson suffered multiple mini-strokes eventually limiting his abilities.  He lost his wife Edna in a fire on Christmas Day 1989.  He spent the last three years of his life in the local nursing home.  Wilson passed December 14, 1992 at the age of 83.