James Stewart (ca1755 – 1815)

Uncertain Background

James Stewart’s background prior to his arrival in Tennessee is uncertain.  For the time being, we’ll leave speculation on his history to a separate paper.  All we can say with certainty is that he was from Virginia according to census records for his children and grandchildren.

Not the only James Stuart in the area

There was another, much more prominent, James Stuart in the area who appears several times in Knox County records.  That James Stuart was an early settler of Washington County, Tennessee, a commissioner of Jonesborough, county justice and surveyor who also owned a house and inn near Jonesborough.  He represented Washington County in the Tennessee General Assembly, serving as its speaker over the course of three terms ending in 1805.   That he was a surveyor makes it difficult to separate his grants from our James Stuart.

This other James Stuart was an administrator of the estate of a John Lysle who died in Washington County in 1781; in that capacity he appears several times as a plaintiff in Knox County court records between 1793 and 1798 and in issues of the Knoxville Gazette. Our James Stuart is absent from those records.

James Stuart settles near Knoxville, Tennessee

On 9 July 1790 a North Carolina State Grant was issued to James Stuart for 200 acres in Hawkins (later Knox) County, Tennessee on the north side of the Holston River “on a creek called Roseberry Creek”. 1  The grant was a straightforward purchase, and not a military grant.

The land was located just north of the Holston River a few miles northeast of the settlement that became Knoxville and just a brisk walk (or paddle) from the area where Knox, Grainger, and Jefferson counties intersect the Holston River.  Roseberry Creek, which is visible on modern maps emptying into the Holston near the present day settlement of Mascot, was named for William Roseberry who several grants nearby just a few months earlier.

James Stuart had been in the area for at least two years, as the tract was surveyed for him on 20 May 1788, with James Stuart and Robert Stuart serving as chain carriers. 2 Robert Stuart may have been a brother, as it is unlikely that James Stewart’s son Robert was nearly old enough to serve as a chain carrier.3 There does not seem to be any record of James Stewart in Hawkins County, suggesting that he was newly arrived in the area.

The original warrant for the land had been issued to the Washington County surveyor on 17 May 1779 for a John McLaughlin, who had claimed land on Big Limestone Creek including a house and improvements of Alexander McLaughlin. That grant was never made. There is nothing in the file to indicate how and when James Stuart acquired the warrant.

In June 1792 Knox County was formed, and the grant was recorded there several years later on 20 January 1798.

Few records of him in Knox County

The 1800, 1810 and 1820 censuses are completely missing, but a few tax lists still exist.4  James Stuart was listed on the 1799 tax list. 5  The 1804 Knox County tax list shows James Sturt (sic) with 200 acres on Roseberry Creek and two white polls, and James Stuart Jr. separately taxed as a poll in the same district.  In the same district was John Allen with 116 acres on Roseberry Creek;  he may have been the father of Polly Allen who married Robert Stewart later that year.

The 1806 tax list shows James Stewart with 200 acres immediately followed by James Stewart Jr and Robert Stewart.

Will names five sons and two daughters

The next record of James Stewart is posthumous.  His will, dated 14 January 1815 and proven on 10 April 1815, reads as follows:

James Stewart of the County of Knox, being sick and wake (sic) in body but of perfect mind and memory… be buried in a decent Christian manner at the discretion of my executor Alexander McMillen… my beloved wife Margret have one bed and furniture and all my dresser furniture and one cow, it to be at her own disposal and also her to have a decent suport (sic) out of the benefits arising out of my lands during her natural life; next I give to my daughter Jane Moore one bed, and next I give to my daughter Margret Moor (sic) seven dollars, next I give to my sons Robert, John, and James fifty dollars each and I give to my son Andrew two hundred dollars to be payed by my son Joseph to each out of my land, which I leave to my son Joseph, with the crop that is in the ground, by him paying the same.  And my farming tools to be equally divided betwixt my sons Joseph and Andrew and my sons John and Andrew each of them is to get out of my estate one bed and furniture…” 6

He signed as “James Steward” with Thomas Davis, William Maget, and Hugh Bellaget as witnesses, two of whom proved the will.   The associated court records spell his name as both Steward and Stewart.   He must have died well before April 10th, as the undated inventory of his estate was presented to the court on the same day as the will.

The will named a prominent local, Alexander McMillan, as executor which suggests that his five sons were living elsewhere by 1815 and therefore unavailable.  There is no reason to think McMillan was related, but the choice is interesting because McMillan lived a mile or two on the other side of the Holston River.7 Intriguingly though, Alexander McMillan (1749-1837) was a native of County Derry, Ireland who came to America and settled in Virginia before migrating into what became Knox County in 1783.

James Stewart’s inventory, which contained a number of carpenter’s tools, reads as follows:

200 acres of land, 4 grown cows, 4 young cattle, 3 barshare plows, 1 coulter, 2 weeding hoes, 1 mattoc, 2 falling axes, 1 cutting box & knife, 1 doubletree and fixings, 1 iron wedge, 1 frow, 2 swingletrees, 1 box of old irons, 1 handsaw, 1 tenon saw, 1 coopers adz, 2 drawing knives, 1 key hole saw, 2 round shaves, 1 rasp, 1 pair compasses, 2 large chisels, 4 smal chisels, 1 gouge, 1 coopers coze, 2 small coopers howels, 1 jointer plain, 2 squares, 1 fish gig, 4 augers, 1 cordwood saw, 1 pair spoonmoles, 2 gimblets, 1 cotter needle, 1 trowel, 12 plains, 2 plain stocks, 1 scythe blade, 1 scriber, 2 hamers, 3 sickles, 1 grindstone, 1 pair shoemakers pincers, 1 pair of nippers, 1 shoe knife, 4 awls, 4 beds & three bedsteads, 5 blankets, 2 bosters, 4 pillows, 2 quilts, 2 counterpanes, 1 flax wheel, 1 cotton wheel, 1 reel, 8 chairs, 1 looking glass, 1 flat iron, 2 coffee pots, 1 tin strainer, 1 table, 2 chests, 1 corner cupboard, 4 white plates, 1 set of cups and saucers, 6 pewter plates, 2 dishes ditto, 3 mugs, 1 tea pot, 1 cream jug, 1 glass tumbler, 3 bowls, 1 large canister, 2 small plates, 1 set of knives & forks, 3 bottles, 1 pewter mug, 2 basons ditto, 1 server, 7 tablespoons, 1 milk strainer, 1 ladle, flesh fork, 2 ovens, 3 pots, 1 skillet, 1 tin pan, 3 bee stands, 1 fire shovel, 1 candlestick, 1 half bushel, 1 half peck, 10 books, 1 pair of shears, 1 razor & shaving box, 1 hone & strap, some men’s clothing, 1 jug, 1 flax hackle, 4 vials, 2 pails, 1 piggin, 1 wash tub, 1 pickling tub, 1 meal barrel, 1 churn, 7 geese, 5 dunghill fowls, 2 pair of pot hooks, 1 flax brake, 1 riddle, 2 pot racks, 1 meal sifter, 1 pair of warping bars, 8 clevises, 2 coulters, 1 pair of hems and chains.  8

The estate sale included a few items not listed in the inventory, notably 7 geese and 5 other fowls. 9  The widow Margaret Stewart was a heavy buyer at the estate sale, but the only other Stewart mentioned in that record was a Jane Stewart.

Alexander McMillan filed a final settlement on 4 April 1820, though no details on the names or whereabouts of the legatees were included.10

I have assumed that James Stewart’s will named his five sons in birth order.

  1. Robert Stewart (c1780? – 9 April1835)  See separate page.   Based entirely on circumstantial evidence, we think it is highly likely that our Robert Stewart was the same Robert Stewart named in the will of James Stewart.   Robert Stewart married Polly Allen in Knox County, Tennessee by bond dated 28 January 1804.   (The only Allen on the 1804 Knox tax list was in the same district as James Stewart.)   He signed his name to the bond and his surety was one Moses McSpadden.   Our Robert Stewart’s widow Mary, according to a family Bible, was born on 9 February 1781, and their eldest child was born 4 November 1804, thus a January 1804 marriage is quite plausible.

  2. John Stewart (c1780? – ?)  He was of age by 24 November 1802 when John Stewart of Knox County sold “a certain sorrel horse… branded with J on the near buttock” to Samuel Cox for the considerable sum of $180.11  He was taxed in 1804 but not in 1806, evidently having left the area.  He was apparently living in or near Lincoln County, Tennessee on 28 March 1814 when he and his brother Andrew enlisted at Fayetteville in the 2nd Regiment of Mounted Gunmen, Tennessee Volunteers, during the War of 1812.   The Stewart brothers served under Captain John Doak, apparently a relative by marriage, and alongside William Shaw, Doak’s brother-in-law and a cousin of some sort to the Stewarts.

    John Stewart evidently survived the war, but was not traced further owing to my inability to find him amidst the crowd of men named John Stewart.

  3. James Stewart  (c1785? – ?)  He was not taxed in 1804 but was taxed in 1806, evidently having turned 21 in the interim.  Like the other older children, he apparently left Knox County before his father died. What became of him is unknown.  
  4. Andrew Stewart (c1785? – February 1815)  He wasn’t taxed in 1804 or 1806, so was evidently born after 1785.  On 28 March 1814 Andrew Stewart and his brother John Stewart enlisted at Fayetteville, Lincoln County, in the 2nd Regiment of Mounted Gunmen, Tennessee Volunteers.   The Regiment helped capture the fort at Pensacola, Florida in early November 1814 and participated in the Battle of New Orleans on 8 January 1815.   Andrew Stewart died of disease on 2 February while the unit was still in New Orleans.   The Regiment returned to Tennessee in March 1815, and several months later on 7 August 1815 two soldiers of the unit appeared in the Lincoln County court to testify to the nuncupative will of Andrew “Steward”, who was “late a Sergeant in Capt. John Dooks (sic) company of Tennessee Volunteers of Mounted gunmen, who was suddenly taken sick while at New Orleans performing a term of duty as a soldier and died between the 6th and 10th of February 1815.” 12

    The witnesses testified that Andrew Stewart’s oral will left everything to “my brother Joseph Steward of Knox County, East Tennessee…except a silk dress which I leave to my cousin Darkes Shaw.”  Dorcas Shaw was evidently the younger sister both Sarah Shaw Doaks, the widow of Captain John Doak who also died at New Orleans and of William Shaw who served in the same regiment.   In what specific way the Shaws were related to the Stewarts is unknown.  It also isn’t clear why Andrew Stewart owned a silk dress.  (Had he planned on marrying Dorcas Shaw?).

    See the separate paper exploring the identity of Dorcas Shaw.

    According to the inventory, Andrew Stewart’s estate in Lincoln County consisted of 3 horses, 9 head of cattle, 20 hogs, an axe, a saddle and horse bell, and $118 in notes on John Doak, Absalom Collins, Lewis Garrett, and William Wilson — all of whom were soldiers in the same regiment.   He does not appear to have owned real estate.  Oddly, the name of the administrator of his estate is not mentioned in any of these records.  From the will and inventory it is clear that Andrew Stewart was over 21 and unmarried.

  5. Joseph Stewart  (c1785 – 1860s)  He was apparently the youngest son and the only one to stay in Knox County.  On 23 December 1814 he married Susan Buckalew, the daughter of a neighbor named William Buckalew who had bought several items at James Stewart’s estate sale. (The name is mis-transcribed as “Buckallen” or “Buckalien” in some secondary sources.)  He appears to have married again to Susan Tackit on 18 December 1821. 13  In the 1830 census, the earliest census of the county that survives, he was enumerated heading a household of four males and four females.14   The 1840 census shows him heading a household of ten.15  His age category in the censuses tells us he was born sometime in the 1780s. The 1850 census gives his age as 75.Joseph Stewart inherited his father’s 200-acre land grant and added a 100-acre grant in 1827 and bought a tract of 20 acres adjacent to his father’s original land grant on 20 December 1834 from Martin B. Carter.16  He was listed on the 1836 tax list with 220 acres and on the 1842 tax list with 320 acres.Joseph Stewart may have been a Baptist.  In 1843 John Westerfield gifted two acres of his land to the Union Baptist church to build a meeting house, the deed witnessed by Joseph Stewart and Thomas Smith.17.  The Union Church is shown on an 1895 map of Knox County located a few miles west of Roseberry Creek.Joseph Stewart was consistently in debt in the 1840s.  On 28 May 1841, having incurred a number of debts to eight different people, including $50 to the above Martin B. Carter, he mortgaged all his real estate and all his personal property to a trustee named Amos Carter.18.  He evidently either settled the debts or refinanced them, for on 31 January 1844 he mortgaged his inherited 200-acre tract to secure another set of debts.19  He settled them, as the trustee filed a quitclaim deed a year later.20  He sold 60 acres of his land in 1846 to a Robert M. West, mortgaged 160 acres in 1848, and in 1849 the sheriff sold “the land of the said Joseph Stewart and conveyed to him by the last will of his father”.21In 1850 he was  enumerated in the federal census twice.  On 15 October 1850 he and his family were enumerated in Knox County, and barely two months later on 17 December were enumerated in Gordon County, Georgia.  The  two enumerations are sufficiently alike to confirm that they refer to the same family, but clearly relied on two different informants, as the children’s ages were slightly different.

    The Tennessee census listed him as age 75 (perhaps overstated) and born in Virginia,  his wife Susan as age 50, and the following children:  Catherine (34), James (28), Newton (24), Margaret (22), Mary Ann (20), Kendrick (17), Matilda (15), John (13), and Susan (11).   The Gordon County, Georgia census listed him as age 60 and born in Virginia, Susan as age 40, and the following children:  Catherine (30), Isaac (27), Newton (24), Margaret (21), Thornbrook (18), Matilda (15), John (13), and Susan (11).  [This census appears to have a transcription error or two when the marshal copied it.]  Catherine Stewart was evidently a child of the first marriage to Susan Buckalew, the others must have been children of the second marriage.  22  The daughter Mary Ann apparently married sometime in late 1850.   Joseph apparently died sometime in the 1850s, perhaps in Georgia, as his wife Susan and three children were enumerated in Bradley County, Tennessee in 1860.   James, Newton, and Kendrick Stewart were all living in adjacent households in the 1870 census of  McMinn County, Tennessee.

    in an interesting coincidence, the son Newton Stewart married Charlotte McSpadden, daughter of Samuel McSpadden, and granddaughter of the same Moses McSpadden who was bondsman for the marriage of Robert Stewart in 1804. 23  Joseph Stewart and Samuel McSpadden had been enumerated in adjacent households in the 1850 Gordon County, Georgia census.

  6. Jane Stewart was “Jane Moor” in her father’s will.  There is no record of a marriage in Knox County of anyone named Stuart or Steward to a Moore.  A Jane Stewart was a buyer at the estate sale, which may have been the same person.   A Jacob Moore had been a neighbor in the tax list of 1804 and a James Moore was a buyer at James Stewart’s estate sale.
  7. Margaret Stewart was “Margret Moor” in her father’s will. There is no record of a marriage in Knox County.
  1. North Carolina State Grants, Book 9, page 225. []
  2. Surveyor’s plat contained in the loose grant file in the North Carolina Archives, in call no. S.108.375 as File No. 517 and is repeated in FHL film #007164473, images 879-882 of 1253. []
  3. North Carolina law required chain bearers to be sworn, thus were at least 21.  While I suppose anything could happen on the frontiers, we have no reason to believe that the son was even into his teens by 1788. I note that the son was not taxed until 1804. []
  4. Only a handful of tax lists have been published, though a number of others are available in microfilm form.  Knox County tax lists are available on microfilm at the Tennessee Archives for the years 1796, 1803, 1804, 1805-1812, 1826-1831, 1836, 1841-1850, 1852, 1853-1857, 1860-1870, 1873, 1874, and 1876.  Some of these, 1796 for example, are incomplete. []
  5. 1799 tax list information courtesy of Doug Wilson. []
  6. Knox County Estate Record Book 4 (1812-1830), pages 164-165. []
  7. His house, built in 1787, is an historic site. []
  8. Knox County Estates Record Book 2, page 166. []
  9. Knox County Estate Record Book 4 (1812-1830), page 196-198. []
  10. Knox County Estates Record Book 3, p188. []
  11. Knox County Deed Book L-1, p11. []
  12. Lincoln County, Tennessee Inventories, Wills, Etc. 1810-1824, pages 82-83. []
  13. Security was William E. Anderson on bond dated the preceding day, 17 December 1821. []
  14. Joseph Stewart:  1110001 – 20101 []
  15. Joseph Stewart:  11110001 – 112001 []
  16. Knox County Deed Book A-2, p116. Grant No. 14990 dated 26 January 1827 is found in Book 14, p347. []
  17. Knox County Deed Book H-2, p420. []
  18. Knox County Deed Book E-2, p165 and p168 respectively. []
  19. Knox County Deed Book H-2, p423. []
  20. Knox County Deed Book L-2, p106. []
  21. Knox County Deed Book K-2, p416; M-2, p233 and M-2, p335. []
  22. Note that, with the exception of Catherine, the 1850 households match the 1840 census.  Catherine would fit the older daughter of the 1830 census. []
  23. This according to Joseph L. Haw III, The McSpad(d)en Family Ancestry (1982), pp55. []