Hardships Endured

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Abt. 1850 Standing: Edwin, Jane, Alanson, Mary Ann, Minard. Seated: Elva, William J, (Father), Sophia (Mother), James, Matilda. Seated on floor: Louisa.

History of the Steward family, as given by Aunt Ida Steward at the 1924 family reunion at Uncle Minard‘s.

This may be interesting to many of you, who know nothing (or very little) of your grandparents and the hardships endured by them in making a new home in the West.

To begin with, William Steward was born July 25, 1808 of Scotch parents near Rochester, New York.  He early learned the carpenter trade, also millwright, and went into Canada.  While working at his trade he met Sophia Long, who was born January 10, 1810 of Holland Dutch parents.  She went into Canada, when a small girl and her father was a potter by trade.  She used to help him at his work.  She met William Steward and finally they were married when he was twenty one and she nineteen years old.  They lived in Elgin County at Smoak’s Corners on a small farm in a log house.  He still worked at his trade while he lived there.

They had eight children: James, Alanson, Edwin, Matilda, Mary Ann, Elva, William Jr., Jane, William Jr. was drowned when about 18-20 months old.

They finally wanted to go to a new home, so in June 1846 they started for Illinois – in the far West it seemed to them.  They had two covered wagons, in which were household necessities for eating and sleeping.  The cow was tied to the end of the one wagon.  I don’t know whether  they had any chickens or pigs.

James and Ed were the drivers and Alanson was the huntsman and kept them supplied with game of all kinds.  Children, how would you like to be in a lumber wagon with no springs to ease the bumps and to go as slow as horses walk?  No auto to hurry you through; and to sleep in a wagon, not on a spring bed and to go on next day in the same old way?

Well, to continue with the trip, when they reached the Detroit river, they crossed on a ferry; then they were in the United States, and had a long long journey ahead of them.  While crossing Michigan they met with many kind people, often Father and Mother Steward were invited to share the cabin of new settlers and to sleep in a comfortable bed.  After many weeks they reached the town of Chicago and from there they started northwest across the trackless prairie, headed for the village of Rockford.  When they arrived there, they had to ford the river and I presume they had forded many other streams.  By that time, they began to feel that they were nearing their journey’s end; for a brother of Mother Steward’s  had settled on a piece of land afterward owned by Ellsworth Campbell’s father.  Mr. Long’s house was on the bank of a creek, so they could catch fish from their backdoor.  When the travelers arrived, no doubt there was joy unbounded – that they were at their journey’s end, after nearly three months.  How weary they must have become and the little children too?  The youngest was Jane and about two years old.  What a big undertaking for them for the sake of founding a home in the West?  They lived upstairs in Mr. Long’s house, in small quarters.  I have heard Mother Steward tell of how she had no carpets and she used bed quilts on the floors, so it would not be so noisy for the folks downstairs.  After they had been there about three months a daughter was born to them, Louisa Steward Redington, and we are glad that she can be with us today.  Father Steward bought a farm from the government about two miles west of there; built a house with lumber, some of it hauled from Racine, Wisconsin.  Just think of the miles they had to go.

They got settled in good time and one thing worried Mother – there were no trees nor bushes for her to get a whip to punish the children with so she had to use a strap.  They had to haul grain to Chicago.  The trip would take a week or ten days and there were no hard roads then.  Many times they would have to pry their wagons out of the mud.  Such industrious people as they were.  They soon had currant bushes, apple and cherry trees set out and it began to look homelike.

In September 1848, a son Minard came to them to be a pet or a nuisance and his is w/ us to-day.  He and Louisa are in fairly good health considering their ages.  One by one, the rest have passed to the Great Beyond and you the descendants of William and Sophia Steward are here to commemorate those good people and to celebrate their coming into the State of Illinois.

“Long and happily may you all live”

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