Stewart, Joseph W.

From Lane Co Oregon


In Macoupin county, Illinois, on September 13, 1835, Mr. Stewart was born. Early in life his father took him to Missouri, thence to Iowa in 1849, and to this State in 1852, crossing the plains. The family settled near Eugene City, on the Willamette River, but in 1855 they took a residence in Eugene City. Mr. Stewart went to the Elk City gold mines in Idaho in 1862, and after a stay of five months he moved to the Boise mines in that Territory and then returned to Lane County and settled at Springfield. Here he opened a general merchandise store with his brother John Stewart, commencing business November 5, 1863, and has followed it to the present time. He married first, Julia Walker, and by this union had two children, Henry and Hattie. His second marriage was to L. Elizabeth Evans, and James E., Ethel and Harry are their children.

"Illustrated History of Lane County, Oregon." Portland, Oregon: A. G. Walling, publisher, 1884. pg. 493.

  • Springfield was incorporated as a city on February 25, 1885. The first officials were Mayor, Albert Walker, a blacksmith; Treasurer, Joseph W. Stewart, merchant; City Recorder, W.R. Walker, farmer; and Councilmen, T.O. Maxwell, owner of a livery stable, and William B. Pengra, mill owner and county surveyor. The town council met in the Odd Fellows Hall, as a city hall was not built until 1895 (Graham 1978d; Special Collections 1990:Box 66/19, Folder 11B). The first ordinance passed by the officials in December of 1885 gave the City Council the power to “open, grade, pave, plank, or otherwise improve any of the streets of this city, the costs of which to be paid by the owners of the property adjoining…” The next task was to define the duties of various city officials.

[edit] Centennial History of Oregon, page 579

JOSEPH W. STEWART. One of the most prominent and influential business men of Springfield was the late Joseph W. Stewart, who for forty years was identified with the commercial interests of the city. He was a man of much energy and determination of purpose and achieved success in his undertakings through following a well defined line of action. As he always conducted his business in accordance with a policy that commended him to the confidence of the people he built up a large patronage and was one of the best known pioneer merchants of Lane County.

He was born in Macoupin county, Illinois, on the 13th of September, 1835, and was a son of Elias and Elizabeth (England) Stewart, the father of Scotch-Irish and the mother of English extraction. Elias Stewart was a native of Virginia, whence he removed to Macoupin county, Illinois, where he met and married Miss England, who had been born and reared in that county, and there they passed the early years of their domestic life. They subsequently decided upon removal to the northwest, being influenced by the better opportunities it afforded and, disposing of their interests in Illinois, they joined together with their six children an emigrant train and started to Oregon with an ox team. The journey was fraught with sadness, as the mother succumbed to cholera when they were crossing the plains and was laid to rest on the western prairies. Upon their arrival in this state the father filed on a donation claim of three hundred and twenty acres on the Willamette River, located between Springfield and Eugene. Later he traded his holding to Charnel Mulligan for a tract of the same size, upon a large portion of which the town of Eugene is now located. The first college built in Lane county was erected on this ranch, the site subsequently becoming known as College Hill. It was a denominational institution and was under the control of the Presbyterian church. There were eight children born to Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, our subject being the eldest of the family.

The early education of Joseph W. Stewart was acquired in the common schools of his native state and completed in the college that stood on his father's ranch at Eugene. He was early trained to agricultural pursuits and remained on the home place, assisting his twenty-two. Five years later the father presented him and his brother John with two mules and they went to Boise, Idaho, and prospected in the mines for a year. During that time Mr. Stewart cleared up about eighteen hundred dollars, which was the first money he had ever earned for himself. Upon his return to Eugene he engaged as clerk in the general mercantile store of Meyer Rosenblat, and after a few months together with his brother and Mr. Rosenblat engaged in business. They came to Springfield and, on the 5th of November, 1863, purchased the mercantile establishment belonging to the late Frank B. Dunn. They were associated in the conduct of this enterprise until 1873, when Mr. Stewart bought out the interest of his partners and continued the business alone. He was an alert, enterprising man, possessing much foresight and sagacity and met with success in the development of his interests. His close application, earnest effort and honorable methods of conducting his transactions brought him well merited success, and upon his retirement in 1902 he controlled practically all of the business of this section on the east side of the Willamette. He was one of the representative pioneer merchants of the county and one of the most substantial citizens.

Mr. Stewart was married twice. His first union was with Miss Julia Walker, a native of Greene county, Missouri, who came to Oregon with her parents in 1854. They located in Eugene and there Mr. Stewart met and married the daughter. She passed away on August 16, 1874, at the age of twenty-seven years, leaving two children: Henry W., of Eugene; and Hattie, the wife of O. A. Wheeler of Portland, whose father formerly owned and operated a saw and grist mill at Springfield. On the 2d of December, 1875, Mr. Stewart was married to Miss Elizabeth M. Evans, who was born in Baltimore, Maryland, March 17, 1852. She is a daughter of Francis B. and Mary Ann Evans, the father a native of Charleston, South Carolina, and the mother of Baltimore. The parents both passed the entire period of their domestic life in the latter city and there the mother died in 1858, and the father in 1859. He was a member of the Episcopal church and a master in the Masonic fraternity and he also belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. After the death of her parents. Mrs. Stewart came to Oregon and lived with her brother, James H. Evans, who was a surveyor in the employ of the government. At that time he was located in the land office at Eugene but was subsequently transferred to Lakeview, this state, assuming his duties there in 1878. He was registrar in the office at that point until his death, which occurred in 1880. Mr. Evans was a Mason and was the first member of the fraternity in Oregon to become a Knight Templar, having been admitted to this branch of the order in Portland, this state, in 1876. Five children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Francis B. Evans, of whom Mrs. Stewart is the only one now living. To Mr. and Mrs. Stewart there were born three children. James E., who was born on January 5, 1877, is an employee of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company at Springfield. He married Miss Hazel Walling, a native of Michigan, and they have one child, Louis. Mary Ethel married James L. Clark, who is engaged in the real-estate business in Springfield, and they also have one son, Joseph E. Harry M., the youngest member of the family, is engaged in the mercantile business in this city. For his wife he chose Miss Elsie C. Boutin of Bayfield, Wisconsin, and they have one daughter, Charlotte Elizabeth.

Mr. Stewart was not identified with any religious organization, although as a child he attended the Methodist Episcopal church in which his mother held membership. Politically he was a democrat and held various local offices. For many years he served as u school director and he represented his district in the state legislature for two terms, while he had the unusual distinction of serving as postmaster under both a republican and democratic administration. His office was never inspected until he resigned, after eight years service, and his accounts were then short only two cents. The post office was robbed once while he was in charge and his store was robbed on seven different occasions. He was a most estimable man and was widely known throughout this section of the state, where he had many friends of long years' standing. Public-spirited in matters of citizenship, honorable and upright in all business transactions and thoroughly reliable and faithful to every trust imposed in him, he well merited the respect and esteem he was generally accorded by all who knew him. His death was a calamity to the entire community as his loss was deeply felt not only in his immediate family but in the social and business circles of the town.

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