Biography of George S. Stewart
North Central Ohio Biographies





George Swayne Stewart, manufacturer and attorney-at-law, was born in Dubuque, Iowa, March 25, 1866, but soon thereafter his parents returned to the historic old Colonial house, 6 Church Street, Norwalk, Ohio, where Mr. Stewart and his family still reside.

His father, Gideon Tabor Stewart, was born Aug. 7, 1824, at Johnstown, N. Y., of Scotch-Irish descent. His grandmother, Elizabeth Ferguson Stewart (daughter of Dr. Thomas Ferguson of Stewarttown, Ireland) a noted educator and scholar of her day, opened the first English school and academy at Schenectady, N. Y., which continued under her auspices until it was merged into Union College. His mother, Petreshe Hill, was a daughter of the distinguished divine and Revolutionary patriot, Rev. Nicholas Hill. The Hill family came to Schenectady from Londonderry, Ireland, at about the beginning of the 18th century. Henry Hill, grandfather of Petreshe, was a prominent citizen of Schenectady, and for his patriotic utterances, was arrested and so cruelly maltreated and tortured by the British soldiers, that he died in less than a year after, near the beginning of the Revolution. Inspired by his patriotism, and to avenge his death, his two youthful sons, Nicholas and Harry, entered the Second New York Regiment. They were with Washington at Valley Forge and Yorktown, and remained until his army was disbanded in 1783. Then, for the first time, they returned to Schenectady. Nicholas, completing his studies, entered the Christian ministry. He lived on his beautiful plantation by the Mohawk, to the advanced age of ninety years, greatly honored and beloved by his church and country. Petreshe Hill was a sister of the celebrated lawyer, Nicholas Hill, Jr., who had the largest private law library and most lucrative practice of any lawyer in the United States. Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography says of him: "He was appointed State law reporter in 1841, and became one of the best special pleaders in the State, taking part in over three-fourths of the cases on the docket of the Court of Appeals during his active practice." At his death, in 1859, his life-size portrait, as standing in the act of addressing that court, was placed in its rooms by the Bar of the State. She was also a sister of the eminent lawyer John L. Hill, who was leading counsel for the defense in the famous Tilton vs. Beecher case. She had four sons, who followed the example of her two brothers, sought the legal profession. The first was Merwin Hill, who graduated with honors from Union College, but died preparing for the bar. The second was James Ferguson, who graduated at Oberlin College, went with early settlers to California, and was one of the oldest lawyers of San Francisco when he died in 1893, leaving a son and grandson, who are worthy members of the bar of that city. The third was Alexander Adams Stewart, prosperous merchant of Columbus, Ohio.

The fourth was Nicholas Hill, who was both scholar and lawyer, and acquired fame as an educator, being at the head of the principal educational institutions in the state of Florida, at Quincy, where he died in 1858. The fifth was Gideon Tabor, whose mother died in his infancy. As a boy he was brought by his father to Birmingham, Ohio, near Oberlin, at which college he obtained his education and began the study of law, which he completed at Columbus. He engaged largely in newspaper work, as editor of the Norwalk Reflector, Dubuque (Iowa) Daily Times, and as part proprietor and publisher of the Toledo Blade and Commercial. He was an ardent supporter of the Union, opposed slavery, was active in the Whig and Republican parties. Gideon Tabor Stewart called "The Father of the Huron County Bar" was admitted to the practice of law Aug. 14, 1846, and became a law-partner of Jairus Kennan. Mr. Stewart occupied first rank in his profession, and his ability was recognized throughout Ohio, and, in fact, beyond the confines of the State. Originally he belonged to the old Whig Party, and was opposed to slavery. At the commencement of the Civil War, he became a Republican; but at the close he passed into the Prohibition party, where he remained and was always one of its most earnest and conscientious workers. He was fifteen years a member and four years chairman of its national committee. He was unanimously nominated by three State conventions of the party in Ohio as its candidate for president of the United States, but each time declined to be a candidate for that office. He was at one time the candidate for Governor of Ohio, and nine times its candidate for judge of the Supreme Court of the State. He was one of the founders and first officers of the Whittlesey Academy of Arts and Sciences at Norwalk. He was one of the organizers and directors of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad Company.

His wife, Abbie Newell Simmons was also descended from old pioneer stock. One of her ancestors Moses Symonson, landed at Plymouth, Mass., November 21st, 1621, having sailed from Leyden, Holland, on good Ship Fortune. Her great-grandfather lives in Rehobath, Bristol County, Mass., owned large mills here, which were burned by the British during the Revolution, but afterwards rebuilt. He served as Captain in the Continental Line during the Revolution and was an influential figure in military affairs.

Mr. and Mrs. Gideon Tabor Stewart were married March 30, 1857, and had four children: Mrs. Francis A. Powers, (flee Mary Abbie) who was born April 27, 1858, died June 24, 1924, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Norwalk; Charles Hill, born Nov. 6, 1859, a resident of Cleveland for the last 40 years, interested in real estate and law; Harlon Lincoln, born Dec. 12, 1861, attorney at law, Panama City, Fla.; and George Swayne, the youngest of the family.

George Swayne Stewart was educated in Norwalk schools and at Oberlin College. He later studied law in the office of his father, Gideon Tabor Stewart, and was admitted to the Ohio Bar March 3, 1888. He began his career in Norwalk as an attorney at law, and was associated with his father in the practice of law. Later he became interested in the manufacturing business which was incorporated as the G. S. Stewart Company, of which he is president. The principal products are cedar chests, screens, decorated furniture, and wholesale lumber. The G. S. Stewart Company factory occupies a block close to the business center of the town and is the largest employer of labor in Norwalk.

Mr. Stewart has always been a Republican in politics. He is a Mason and Knight Templar, a member of the Shakespeare Club, Norwalk Country Club, and Plum Brook Country Club of Sandusky. He and his family are Episcopalians and for many years Mr. Stewart has been a vestryman in St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Mr. Stewart has always been a leader in civic activities in Norwalk and an ardent supporter of all great social movements, such as Prohibition and Woman Suffrage. He was an indefatigable worker for the dry cause and was chairman of the Huron County Dry Committee in the campaign preceeding the fall election of Nov. 7, 1918, which finally enrolled Ohio in the dry column.

Mr. Stewart helped to organize Norwalk's Memorial Hospital, and has been a member of the hospital board of directors ever since. He was one of the organizers of the local Kiwanis Club. He is a member of the library board and vice president of the Whittlesey Academy of which his father was one of the founders. During the World War he was active in the Red Cross and Liberty Loan Drives.

Mr. Stewart married Cora Taber, only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. B. C. Taber of Norwalk, Jan. 10, 1893. She died Sept. 28, 1893. In 1899 Mr. Stewart married Marguerite Morris Rice of Chester, Pa., who was born in Wilmington, Del.

Mr. George S. Stewart is a man of high ideals, earnest purpose, energetic, genial disposition, kindliness of heart. He is fond of life and sees it whole. He is possesed of the saving grace of humor. His merry, hearty laugh is contagious. His fondness for sport takes him on his holidays into the open, and makes him a rare raconteur of experiences with rod and gun. He is a lover of nature in her various moods. He is a keen business man, whose probity, conservatism, far-sightedness, unselfishness make him a man trusted, followed, honored. He is definitely domestic in his habits, and is never happier than with his family. He stands for the best things in his community.

Mrs. George Swayne Stewart, nee Marguerite Morris Rice, was born in Wilmington, Del. Her father, John V. Rice, Esq., was a well known lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania and Delaware Bars, and a descendant of the ancient and noble family of Ap-Rhys of South Wales. Her mother, Sarah Lowe Rice, was descended from the Lowes of Talbot County, Maryland. One of the incorporators of the Virginia Colony, 1609, was Vincent Lowe. His descendants owned large estates in Talbot, Calvert and St. Marys Counties. From this family are also descended Charles and Daniel Carroll of Carroliton. General J. Oliver Bradford, maternal great uncle of Mrs. Stewart, was first Paymaster General of the Navy. General Bradford, close personal friend of Commodore Farragut, was on his staff when the United States Fleet made its tour of the world. He was also with Commodore Perry at the opening of the port of Japan, 1854.

Mrs. Stewart inherited from her mother marked musical ability which she displayed at an early age, and before long made the pipe organ her special subject of study under the tutelage of David Wood and other noted musicians of Philadelphia. She soon became a member of the American Organists' Club of Philadelphia and her recitals were musical events. She is now a member of the American Organ Guild, Cleveland Chapter.

On Dec. 27th, 1899, she married George Swayne Stewart, at the home of her brother, William Lowe Rice, Esq., Lowe Ridge, Euclid Heights, Cleveland, Ohio. In a few years her increasing responsibilities as mother of three small children led her to join a Child Study Club of which she became the first president. From the activities of that Club the Kindergarten movement with equipment was started in Norwalk, which afterwards was incorporated in the public schools of the city. She then became president of the "Child Conservation League."

The natural sequence of her interest in childhood and its conservation led her to espouse the Suffrage Cause where greater opportunities were sought for women in their work of conservation. With the full sympathy and cooperation of her husband, Mr. George S. Stewart, whose father, Gideon Tabor Stewart, had been one of the ablest protagonists of progres sive movements in Ohio, the Stewart Colonial home was the first to be opened to the propagandists of the suffrage cause, and Mrs. Stewart became the first vice president of the Huron County Equal Franchise League, raising more than the County's quota of names in the petitions for the vote. Mrs. Malcolm Patrick and Mrs. Stewart represented Huron County in Columbus when the petitions were presented at the State House. Fifty years before this Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony had been entertained in the Stewart home by Gideon Tabor Stewart. In 1899 he greeted there Carrie Chapman Catt, Anna Howard Shaw and Harriet Taylor Upton. Mrs. Stewart has since been made a life member of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association.

When the war broke out Mrs. Stewart served as first Huron County Chairman of the Woman's Committee, Council of Nationa1 Defense under Mrs. George Zimmerman of Fremont and Miss Belle Sherwin of Cleveland, and organized a unit in every township of Huron County.

The League of Women Voters was the fruition of the achieved suffrage cause and Mrs. Stewart was made director of the Thirteenth District of the Ohio League of Women Voters from its beginning to 1924. ("Her District was known at the State Office as the best organized District in Ohio.") She was next unanimously elected Director at Large of the State League in 1924 in place of Miss Belle Sherwin, and since 1926 she has been a trustee of the State League. For the year 1928-9 Mrs. Stewart was president of the Norwalk League of Women Voters, and has served as finance chairman, raising the League's quota almost every year since its inception.

Mrs. Stewart has been a delegate to nearly every State Suffrage Convention, in Dayton, Lima, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, etc. She was elected Ohio delegate to the National Woman Suffrage Association in Philadelphia, 1912; St. Louis, 1919; the Jubilee Suffrage and League of Women Voters Convention in Chicago, 1920; to the National League of Women Voters Convention in Cleveland, 1921; National League of Women Voters Pan-American Convention in Baltimore, 1922; National League of Women Voters Convention in Buffalo, 1924; Richmond, 1925; and Louisville, 1930.

But with all Mrs. Stewart's outside interests and activities, her family, her husband, her four daughters, Elizabeth Bradford (who attended Vassar and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts); Margaret Morris (graduate 0f the Columbus School for Girls and Wellesley College); Anne Ide (graduate of Columbus School for Girls and also student at Wellesley and Antioch College); Patricia Hill (now a junior at Bryn Mawr); and her one son, George Swayne, Jr., (fifteen, and preparing for Princeton where his father's cousin, Dr. George Black Stewart is senior trustee) have always come first. With their interests and future at heart has Mrs. Stewart thrown her heart and soul into the great causes with which she has been identified. None could be more proud and more appreciative of her activities than is each and every member of her family.

From:
History of North Central Ohio
Embracing Richland, Ashland, Wayne,
Medina, Lorin, Huron and Knox Counties
BY: William A. Duff
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis 1931


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