Lee County Biography

Alva T. Stewart
New York to Illinois to Iowa


Few men of a past generation were better known or more highly esteemed in the locality of which this history deals than the late Alva T. Stewart, for forty-five years one of the leading agriculturists here, during which period, which constituted the epoch of transforming this section from the wild prairies to one of the foremost vicinities in the middle West, he played well his part ever sharing the work of upbuilding and furthering in any way possible the interests of his adopted country in which, with characteristic keenness of discernment, he had implicit faith from the first, believing that the future was big with possibilities, and he was permitted to live to see that he had not been mistaken in his foresight. When a mere boy he determined to become a good man and a useful citizen, and that he successfully carried out his original intentions was attested by a long life fraught with so many beneficial results to humanity, and when he was summoned suddenly and quite unexpectedly to his reward, from his pleasant residence in Marshaltown, on July 6, 1911, the city and county felt that one of their best and most useful citizens had gone.

Mr. Stewart was born in Truxton, Cortland county, New York, May 7, 1843, the son of Joseph and Elizabeth (Soules) Stewart, the father born Warren, Herkimer county, New York, in 1800, and the mother’s birth occurred in Schoharie county, that state, in 1818. Joseph Stewart’s father, John Stewart, and five brothers were among the first settlers in the vicinty Ft. Warren, New York, there being very few settlers in that region when they went there. John Stewart and his five brothers were all in the war of 1812, in which two of them lost their lives. The Stewart family is of Scotch extraction, and the first of them to come to the United States was the great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch, in 1745. He was in the Indian massacre at Fort William Henry. The mother of the subject died at Truxton, New York, in 1848, and soon afterwards the father married Jane Rose and they came to Illinois in 1856, locating in Lee county, where his second wife died. He was living with his daughter in Henry county, that state when death occurred in 1882. Five children were born of the first union, of whom Alva T., of this sketch, was one; all are now deceased. Four sons of this marriage were in the Union army during the Civil war, two of them dying during the service, the third son dying after the war. By the Second union, one daughter, Mrs. H. H. Cully, was born and she now lives at Kenwanee, ILL. Early in life the father, Joseph Stewarw, was a Democrat, but he voted for Lincoln and was later a Republican. He became well-to-do, but lost all he had in the panic of 1857.

Alva T. Stewart grew to maturity on the farm and was educated in the common schools at Mr. Carroll, Illinois, he having been twelve yers of age when he moved with his parents to near Dixon, that state. In 1866 he came to Marion township, Marshall county, Iowa, and bought one hundred and twenty acres. This proved to be a fortunate investment. He went to work earnestly, improved the place and as the years advanced they found him prospering by reason of close application and good management, and in due course of time he had one of the best improved and productive farms of this part of the country. A year after he located in Marion township he moved to Taylor township, eight miles north of Marshalltown, on the Taylor-Vienna line. He purchased additional lands until he became the owner of seven hundred and forty-five acres in Vienna, Taylor and Liscomb township, consisting of some of the choicest and most desirable land in the bountry, worth two hundred dollara per acre. He kept his land well improved and under a fine state of cultivation, and as a general farmer and stock raiser he ranked with the of the county for many years. From humble beginnings he rose to one of the substantial and influential men of his community, all through his invidual efforts, for he was one of those strong, self-reliant men who asked favors of no one, preferring to do his own thinking, lay his own plans and execute them himself. He lived in Vienna township for ten years, or up to about 1882, when he moved to his farm in Taylor township, on which he continued to reside until 1908, when, having accumulated a compentency considerably larger than that of the average man, he retired from active life and, buying a modern, attractive and well equipped home at No. 112 North First avenue, marshalltown, moved thereto and spend his last days in quiet, surrounded by all the comforts of life as a result of his earlier years of thrift and industry.

Politically, Mr. Stewart was a Republican and he held a number of minor offices in the county; though he never aspired to political preferment, he was ever willing to do his full share in the work of promoting the interests of the county. He became a member of the Frank M. Thomas Post, Grand Army of the Republic, in 1884, remaining active in that organization until his death.

Mr. Stewart proved his patriotism on August 19, 1861, by enlisting in Company D, Thirty-fouth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, in which he served gallantly and with distinction until July 5, 1865. He was in all the battles in which the regiment was engaged except one, including Shiloh, Liberty Gap, Resaca, Geogria, Bentonville, North Carolina, and others of less note. He was wounded three times, first in the leg at Shiloh, after which he remained in the hospital for eight weeks, but the wound did not heal properly; however, he rejoined his regiment and at the battle of Liberty Gap was twice wounded, once in the shoulder and again in the leg, near the old wound; but in proper time all three healed. He saw much hard service and in campaign and battle, but was glad to render his country some aid. After the war he returned to his old home near Dixon, Illinois, and remained there about a year, then came to Iowa as stated above.

Alva T. Stewart was united in marriage on May 23, 1872, to Dora Randall, daughter of the late I.W. Randall, whose death occurred in the fall of 1910 at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Stewart, in Marshalltown. She was born at Shopiere, Wisconsin, where she spent her early life. To this union four children were born, namely: William R., a farmer in Taylor township, attended Ames College; Charles H., is engaged in the lumber business at Mountain Home, Idaho; Nellie is teaching in the Anson school at Marshalltown, Bert A., who is farming in Vienna township, this county, is a graduate of Ames College.

Personally, Mr. Stewart was a very pleasant gentleman, made friends easily and had no trouble in retaining them, his reputation being above reproach, his relations with his fellow men cordial, kind and wholesome, so that he enjoyed their confidence, good will and esteem, and his career of industry and honor might be most profitably studied by the youth whose destinies are yet matters for future years to determine.

Contributed by Dot Sipes
Past And Present of Marshall County Iowa, by Judge William Battin and F.A. Moscrips, Illustrated, Vol 1, 1912, B.F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana, pages 889 -892.

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