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Biography of JOHN STUART


This biography was submitted by Sandy Spradling, E-mail address: <SSpradling@aol.com>

History of Greenbrier County
J.R. Cole
Lewisburg, WV
1917
p. 51-60

JOHN STUART

David Stuart (the father of Col. John Stuart of Greenbrier county) was born in Scotland in 17-. He came of a family connected with the House of Stuart, whose members were strong partisans of that house.

The failure of the supporters of Charles Edward Stuart to place him on the English throne in 1745 and 1746 placed them in such standing with the House of Hanover, then reigning, and those in authority in the British Isles as to render their condition in their native land very unpleasant and their existence hazardous for some time after the battle of Culloden. For this reason numbers of them came to America, where opportunities were brighter and where they were less liable to imprisonment for their zeal on behalf of the Stuarts. David Stuart was one of their number. He came to America soon after this battle, which took place in 1746. Soon after his arrival in America he settled in Augusta county, on the Shenandoah river, some distance front the town of Staunton.

He had been a close personal friend of Gov. Robert Dinwiddie, who was sent to Virginia as its governor by the British Government in the year 1752. In 1755 Governor Dinwiddie appointed David Stuart county lieutenant of Augusta county with the rank of colonel. At the time of his appointment Augusta county extended as far west as the Mississippi river and as far north as Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh). The office of conilty lieutenant was in those days one of the most important held in the State. Especially was this true of that office in Augusta county, oweing to its vast area and the rapid advance of civilization throughout its beders towards the West. It was a position requiring a man of ability, force and energy. David Stuart, on account of his high ability, experience and peculiar efficiency as an officer was a man well qualified to fill this important office. He discharged its duties with marked success and skill, to which the records of that day give full testimony. David Stuart died in the year 1767. He met his death by drowning while attempting to ford Middle river, a branch of the Shenandoah, just after its waters were swollen by a recent rain.

David Stuart married Margaret Lynn Paul, the widow of John Paul, who was a son of Hugh Paul, Bishop of Nottingham. John Paul was also a partisan of the House of Stuart. He was killed in the siege of Dalrymple Castle in the year 1745. He left five children. The eldest of these children became a Catholic priest who moved to America and died on the eastern shore of Maryland. Audley Paul, another son, was an officer in the British colonial forces in Virginia. Pollie Paul, who moved to America with her stepfather, David Stuart, married Governor Mathews, of Georgia.

Mrs. Margaret Lynn Paul, afterward Mrs. David Stuart, was a granddaughter of the Laird of Loch Lynn, Scotland. She was also a niece of Margaret Lynn, who married Col. John Lewis, one of the first settlers of Augusta county, the father of Gen. Andrew and Col. Charles Lewis (heroes of the battle of Point Pleasant). She was named for her aunt, Margaret Lynn (Mrs. John Lewis). David Stuart left three children: Sabina, who married Captain Williams, of Augusta county. Margaret, who married Col. Richard Woods, of Albemarle county. John Stuart, afterwards Col. John Stuart, of Greenbrier county.

John Stuart, the son of David and Margaret Lynn Stuart and the most famous pioneer of Greenbrier, was horn in Augusta county on the seventeenth day of March, 1749. He exhibited at an early age extraordinary vigor both of body and mind. By the time he was seventeen years of age he was said to have acquired an excellent education, both from books and the affairs of life. While very young he participated in a number of surveying and prospecting expeditions to the west and north of the then permanent settlements in Augusta county, which brought him into contact with men of various classes and character. On these expeditions he also saw something of Indian life. In this way he gained valuable knowledge, which no doubt added greatly to his success in the discharge of the important duties he was afterwards called upon to perform as the moving spirit of the first permanent settlement in Greenbrier.

All of the attempted settlements in Greenbrier having failed prior to that time, in the year 1769 an expedition was organized by a number of citizens, most of whom were from Augusta county, having for its purpose a permanent settlement in that beautiful and inviting country afterwards called Greenbrier county.

Of this company John Stuart, then only twenty years of age, was a member. These pioneers came to Greenbrier in the spring of 1769. After arriving in this wild country the settlers found it necessary to organize for some definite course of action, both on account of developments to be made in their new home and for protection against the Indians and the many dangers by which they were beset. John Stuart was chosen as their chief adviser and first officer.

He first located near where the town of Frankford now stands, where he built his first home overlooking a beautiful view towards the east. This place he called "Grumble Thorp." Here he erected the first mill built in Greenbrier, which was propelled by a subterranean stream of considerable volume, flowing through a channel cut out by the Indians to which they had access through the mouth of a large cave. The dam, a large part of which is still standing, was built of stone and located about 200 feet from the entrance to the cave. The mill itself stood just outside of the mouth of the cave.

He did not live long at his first residence, but soon moved to what is now known as the "Old Stuart Place," about four miles below Lewisburg on the Fort Spring road. Here he first erected a log house in which he lived until the year 1789, when he built a large stone house on the old English style, which is now the oldest house in the county. This building is still in a state of good preservation and is at this time the residence of his great-grandson, Samuel Lewis Price. Here John Stuart lived for many years, leading an active, busy life, engaged in various occupations and acting for the settlers as chief defender against the Indians.

Within a quarter of a mile from the place where the stone house was afterwards built there was erected what was known as "Fort Spring", at the spot where the old Fort Spring Church now stands, which was placed under the command and supervision of Colonel Stuart. At the time this fort was built a large number of the settlers of Greenbrier county lived near and it was used as a refuge during several Indian attacks of which no mention is made in history. There are buried in the ground around the spot where this fort stood arrow heads and Indian relics which are frequently turned up by plowmen in the cultivation of the fields. 

When Gen. Andrew Lewis marched to Point Pleasant in the year 1774 two companies went with him from what afterwards became Greenbrier county. One of these was commanded by Capt. Robert McClanahan and the other by John Stuart. At the famous battle of Point Pleasant John Stuart's company was one of the three sent by General Lewis up Crooked Creek to flank Cornstalk's movement. This is said to have been the movement by which the tide of battle was turned and the Indians routed. It was so dexterously executed that the enemy was taken by surprise.

After this famous battle so large a proportion of the officers had been killed that John Stuart was placed in command of a large portion of Lewis's army, which was then marched by Gen. Andrew Lewis north of the Ohio to Pickaway Plains, where they met the southern division of the army commanded by Lord Dunsmore in person.

John Stuart was at Point Pleasant in 1777, where he witnessed the atrocious murder of the Shawnee chieftain, Cornstalk. Colonel Stuart risked his life to save this noble old warrior and barely escaped death, but he encountered such tremendous odds that his efforts were unavailing.

The last of the desperate attacks made by the Indians upon the settlers of Greenbrier occurred in 1778, when a band of Indians from beyond the Ohio river surprised and surrounded the settlers at Fort Donally, in what is now known as "Rader's Valley." This fort was located about eight miles northwest of Fort Unioti, where Lewisburg now stands. Colonel Stuart led the reinforcement from Fort Union, raised the siege and drove the Indians off. Within a few days after this attack he was able to raise a sufficient force to drive and frighten the Indians out of the country. There are so many accounts already in existence of this fierce encounter that it will be unnecessary to enter into its description here.

"Greenbrier county was organized in 1776. At the request of the county court on the twenty-fifth day of November, 1780, John Stuart was appointed clerk of the county. He was indeed a model clerk. He wrote a most excellent hand, plain, clear, distinct, and after a century it is as legible as if written but a dozen years ago.'

At the close of the first deed book of the county he wrote a brief history of the early settlement of Greenbrier, which shows good literary style and taste. "In this account of the early settlement of Greenbrier Colonel Stuart, in speaking of the first wagon road from Lewisburg to the Kanawha in 1786, says: 'And thus was a communication by wagon to the navigable waters of the Kanawha first effected and it will possibly be found the highest and best conveyance from the eastern to the western country. When one contemplates the distance and grades over the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway the foresight 
and judgment of Colonel Stuart stand boldly out."

Colonel Stuart was a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1788, which was called to consider and pass upon the Constitution of the United States. It assembled in Richmond on June 2. Here he was associated with such prominent men as Patrick Henry, George Mason, John Marshall (afterwards chief justice of the United States), James Madison, Benjamin Harrison and many others of like fame and undying devotion to American independence. John Stuart's descendants still have letters to him from Chief Justice Marshall written as late as i8oo, which reveal the confidence Marshall had in his ability and good judgment. Colonel Stuart was a strong advocate for the ratification of the Constitution, and was prominent in the fight waged against it by Patrick Henry and his strong following.

He was appointed colonel of the Seventy-ninth Regiment of Militia in 1793. His commission, signed by Col. Henry Lee, of Virginia, is now in the possession of his great-granddaughter, Margaret Lynn Price, of Lewisburg. In 1796 the old stone church at Lewisburg was built. For the building of this church Agatha Stuart, wife of Colonel Stuart, contributed 500 pounds, which John Stuart supplemented with 150 pounds. On the front of the church he placed the following inscription:

"This building was erected in the year 1796 at the expense of a few of the first inhabitants of the land, to commemorate their affection and esteem for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Reader, if you are inclined to applaud their virtues, give God the glory."

John Stuart possessed a large and valuable library. He carried with him through life the habit of diligent study which he had acquired in his early youth. He was a man of splendid literary attainments and a finished scholar. He belonged to several literary societies. In the year 1797 he was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society, held in Philadelphia. His certificate of membership, signed by Thomas Jefferson, President, is also now in the possession of his great-granddaughter, Jennie Stuart Price, of Lewisburg.

In 1797 he wrote "Memoirs of Indian Wars and Other Occurrences," a manuscript of which he left at the time of his death. In 1831 his son, Charles A. Stuart, then representing Augusta county in the Virginia senate, presented this manuscript to the Virginia Historical Society, which had it published in 1833 as one of its first publications. Unfortunately few copies were made of this interesting historical narrative and for years the work has been out of print. Hon. Virgil A. Lewis, for many years historian and archivant for West Virginia, endeavored to secure a copy of this work for his historical department. He at last contracted with a stenographer to make a complete copy of the volume in the Library of Congress. This was accordingly done and the work is now in the Department of Archives and History for West Virginia.

This work treats of the early settlement and history of Greenbrier valley and its pioneers and is probably the only account of the time and its people in existence.

Another valuable historical work of Colonel Stuart, entitled "A Narrative," is also out of print, a copy of which, together with a number of letters written by Colonel Stuart to the Virginia War Department relative to conditions in Greenbrier and the great Kanawba valley in the later years of the Indian wars is also in the Department of Archives and History.Besides his other literary works Colonel Stuart left several poems of high excellence which have never been printed. These are now in the possession of his descendants in Greenbrier.

For the time in which he lived and the circumstances by which he was surrounded Colonel Stuart was a great traveler. He visited many parts of this country, meeting with some of its most distinguished citizens and famous travelers from Europe, a number of whom visited him at his Fort Spring home in Greenbrier. Among these was the famous French philosopher and traveler, Volney, who, being deeply impressed by the beauty of the surrounding country, gave to Colonel Stuart's place its name. Besides Colonel Stuart's other attainments he was a man of extraordinary executive and financial ability, and for his time amassed a large fortune, both real and personal. He seems to have had the keenest insight into the value of land, even though at the time of his settlement in Greenbrier the whole country was virgin forest. He acquired large tracts of the most valuable land in the county, large portions of which are still owned by his descendants.

On the eighteenth day of November, 1776, he married Mrs. Agatha Frogg (widow of Col. William Frogg, who was killed at the battle of Point Pleasant). She was a granddaughter of Col. John Lewis and daughter of Thomas Lewis, who served for years in the Virginia House of Burgesses. He was a brother of Gen. Andrew and Col. Charles Lewis. John Stuart left four children:

Margaret Lynn Stuart, horn December 31, 1777, married Andrew Lewis. Jane Lewis Stuart, born February 16, 1780, married Robert Crockett. Charles Augustus Stuart, born April 23, 1782, married Elizabeth Robinson. Lewis Stuart, born May 14, 1784, married Sarah Lewis.

John Stuart showed throughout the whole of his long and useful career a strength and alertness of mind of the highest order. Not only was he a leader of men and a real builder in the formation of Greenbrier county and of its character and class of people, but he was eminently successful in many and varied fields of endeavor. Those who succeed well in a single undertaking are often highly applauded and they deserve credit and appreciation, but those rare men whose fearlessness, energy and talents enable them to become masters in every field when occasion and circumstances require their services or where they find it necessary to act show a superior greatness and bigness of mind beyond the common allotment of providence to man. Such a man was Col. John Stuart, of Greenbrier. There have been a number of short sketches of his life written, which appear in histories and magazines, but there is no full account of his interesting life. This is to be regretted, for not only was he a remarkable man with a most interesting career, but because he was the chief instrument in building up and giving to Greenbrier its distinctive character.

On the twenty-second day of December, 1807, he tendered to the county court his resignation as clerk and his son, Lewis, was appointed to this office in his place.

The first clerk's office of Greenbrier county was built by Col. John Stuart in his own yard at the old Stuart place. This building is still standing and is in an excellent state of preservation. He also granted to the county the site upon which the first court house of Greenbrier was built. This building was erected of stone in the town of Lewisburg in the year 1800.

He died on the eighteenth day of August, 1823, in the seventy-fifth year of his age, and was laid to rest in the Stuart family burying ground, where around him four generations of his family now sleep.

Colonel Stuart, from the time he first settled in Greenbrier, made special effort to induce settlers of a high class to settle in this new land. In this undertaking he was eminently successful, for the history of Greenbrier county shows that it was settled by a class of citizens remarkable for their sterling worth and superior character. Most of these settlers came from eastern Virginia and what are now Augusta, Botetourt and Montgomery counties. These citizens gave to the people of Greenbrier a distinctive character, which has marked it through years.

Lewis Stuart, the second son of John and Agatha Stuart, was born in Greenbrier county on the eleventh day of May, 1784. He succeeded Col. John Stuart in the possession of Beau Desert, where he lived the whole of his life.On the fifteenth day of October, 1807, he married Sarah Lewis, daughter of Col. John Lewis, of Bath county, Virginia, and granddaughter of Col. Charles Lewis, known as "Brave Charlie," who was killed at the battle of Point Pleasant.

On the twenty-second day of September, 1807, upon the resignation of his father, he was appointed clerk of the county court of Greenbrier county. He held this office until the first day of June, 1830, when the Constitution of 1830 took effect and changed the arrangements of the courts. On the seventeenth day of April, i~, he was commissioned by Judge Coulter as the first clerk of the Superior Court of Law and Chancery of Greenbrier county, which position he held until 1831.

During the last years of his clerkship he was too much engaged in other affairs to be able to give personal attention to his duties, but he always provided a competent and trustworthy deputy clerk to wait upon the public. He was a splendid writer and a very competent clerk, having been well trained in 
the duties of clerkship by his father.

Lewis Stuart was very fond of the social side of life, was a splendid conversationalist and noted for his hospitality. He kept his home filled with relations and friends and his barn full of horses. He was fond of riding and was noted for his superior horsemanship. He was a most indulgent and kind master to his slaves and employees. He granted to his slaves an opportunity to cultivate crops of their own and to receive the proceeds therefrom. On account of his kindness and the charm of his personality Lewis Stuart is said to have been one of the best loved men in the whole country, numbering friends from far and near.

Lewis Stuart died on the twenty-seventh day of January, 1837, in the prime of his life. He was buried in the old Stuart family burying ground close by his father. He left his entire estate, personal, mixed and real, to his wife, Sarah Lewis Stuart, who, being a woman of strong mind and great energy, managed it with wisdom and splendid results.Lewis and Sarah Stuart left five sons and five daughters:

John Stuart, horn July 26, 1814.
Charles A. Stuart, born June 5, 1818.
Lewis Stuart, born September 7, 1820.
Henry Stuart, born Ocetober 31, 1824.
Andrew Stuart, born March 12, 1827.
Elizabeth Stuart, born January 13, 1809.
Rachel Stuart, born May 30, 1816.
Jane Stuart, born November 17, 1810.
Agnes Stuart, born September 2, 1812.
Margaret Stuart, born September 15, 1822.

John, Charles and Lewis moved to the West, where they died. John died February 19, 1835. Charles died July 4, 1888, Lewis died December 19, 1850. Henry Stuart, horn October 31, 1824, married Nannie Watkins, July 12, 1871. He resided on a farm in Richlands, Greenbrier county. He died September 5, 1902. Andrew Stuart married Sallie Cabell. He resided at the old Stuart place, near 
Fort Spring Church, where he died. Elizabeth Stuart died August 9, 1819. Rachel Stuart married Gen. A. W. G. Davis. This couple resided near what is known as Fort Spring Station on the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad in Greenbrier county. 

Henry Stuart, born October 31, 1824, married Nannie E. Watkins, daughter of  Dr. Joel Watkins, Charlotte county, Virginia, July 12, 1871. Of this union two children were born: I. Watkins, of Sinks Grove, Monroe county, West Virginia, and Lewis L., of Richland, Greenbrier county. Henry Stuart died September 5, 1902. He was for fifty-four years a member of the Greenbrier Masonic lodge, and was appointed by Gov. William Smith, of Richmond, Va., on the seventh day of November, 1864, as captain in the Fifth regiment of cavalry in the Thirteenth brigade and Fifth division of Virginia Militia. He served throughout the Civil war in the Fourteenth Virginia cavalry. Agnes Stuart married Charles S. Peyton on the day of This couple resided in the Richlands on what is known as the Biggs place. Margaret Stuart married Col. James W. Davis on the ....... day of .......  This couple resided on a farm on the Fort Spring road half a mile below the old Stuart place. Jane Stuart married Gov. Samuel Price, of Lewisburg, on the fourteenth day of  November, 1837. Jane Stuart was a woman of remarkable intellect and great personal charm and was much beloved by all her friends and family. She died on the ...... day of ........


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