« AnteriorContinuar »
HONORABLE LEWIS STEWARD.
FORMER MEMBER CONGRESS EIGHTH ILLINOIS DISTRICT AND FORMER NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS.
By Avery N. Beebe. Lewis Steward was born in Wayne county, Pa., near the present city of Scranton, Nov. 20, 1824. He was a lineal descendant on his mother's side of John Rogers, the martyr, and was of revolutionary stock on his father's side. His father, Marcus Aurelius Steward, was a native of Connecticut, and died in 1872, at Plano. Lewis was the eldest of seven children, five of whom were boys, two now deceased and the others all in active business life, and men of high character and ability. Lewis learned his alphabet before he was twenty months old, and attended school in a log school house one mile from his home, before he was four years of age. A woman once met him alone on his way to school and carried him back to his home, being unable to believe that he was out with the consent of his parents while so young.
He acquired very little schooling previous to the removal of his parents to Illinois, thirteen years after his birth, being compelled to work in the house at knitting, sewing, and cooking, while very young, and afterwards kept at work in the fields, plowing, etc. His grandfather was an associate of Daboll, author of the once popular arithmetic, and once beat the author in a contest of figures. Mathematics came easy to all of his descendants, Lewis being at home in any branch of that intricate science.
In 1838 the Steward family moved to Illinois, where the father bought a claim of David Matlock. The claim covered much of the present site of the city of Plano and included a portion of the magnificent farm and park now owned and occupied by sons of Lewis. It was on this farm that the wheat was raised which Mr. Steward helped to stack and haul to Chicago, and which, he said, in his speech before the Cheap Transportation Convention at Chicago, in December, 1875, was the first wheat that left the Chicago market for the east. Mr. Steward worked on his father's farm and in his saw mill, after coming to Illinois, until he was twenty-one years of age; attended school but a few months; became, however, very proficient in the common branches, then taught, having mastered Daboll's arithmetic in two months at the age of fifteen years. He mastered surveying, geometry, trigonometry and other branches of science without an instructor, while working in his father's saw mill.
At the age of seventeen he commenced the study of law, upon the earnest solicitation of the late Judge Helm, and became thoroughly conversant with the entire course of study, while running the saw mill, Judge Helm furnishing him the books. He was afterwards admitted to the bar of Illinois, but never entered upon the active practice of his profession, except when a friend would solicit him to help him out of trouble. He always appeared for the defense, always succeeded in winning his case, but never charged for his services. It has been said frequently by the best lawyers he came in contact with, that he would have stood in the front rank of the ablest members of the bar, in this State, had he made the practice of law a life work. The Sycamore True Republican once said of him that “he was one of the first men in the State, having the brains of a philosopher and the energy of a steam engine.”
Mr. Steward was a Democrat previous to the Rebellion, but he entered into the prosecution of the war with great vigor and earnestness. He was ready to assist in the equipment of soldiers with his practical advice and his means, and he has no more earnest friends in this country now than the soldier boys.
In 1862 he was appointed drafting commissioner for Kendall county by Governor Yates. He was elected supervisor from his town as often as he could be induced to accept, although the Republicans had a majority of over four to one from that township-he had been importuned for years to stand as a candidate for the Legislature and Congress, but would not consent to be a candidate, though his election was assured.
He was preëminently one of the people in all of his sympathies, acts and aspirations. His nominations came to him unsolicited and in spite of the politicians, not one of whom worked to bring it about. If elected, he was determined to go into office untrammeled and free to carry out just such measures as would best serve the interests of the masses. While he was connected with the manufacture of the Marsh Harvester he always tried to do away with that which stood between the manufacturer and farmer and to sell direct to the latter, from the shops, and at great saving to the purchasers. While he had a controlling interest in the Plano shops he sold machines $50.00 less than others, and would almost make a new machine, by repairs on an old one, without extra charge.
Mr. Steward's connection with the railroads is fully explained in his interview published in the Chicago Times of February 21, 1876, and the pamphlet to which he therein refers, being an outline of a movement entirely in the interest of producer and consumer and opposed to the present railroads' monopolies.
Mr. Steward stood above reproach among his neighbors and acquaintances without respect to politics or religion. The following incident portrays his practical methods and straightforwardness:
“A poor man who had a large family broke his leg, and, as he would be for some time unable to go to church, it was proposed to hold a prayer meeting at his house. The meeting was led by Deacon Brown. A loud knock at the door interrupted the service. A tall, lank, blue frocked youngster stood at the door with an ox-goad in his hand, and asked to see Deacon Brown. 'Father could not attend this meetin,' he said, “but he sent his prayers, and they are out here in this cart.' They were brought in and proved to be potatoes, beef, pork and corn and other substantial necessaries.”
From the Western Rural:
“HON. LEWIS STEWARD.
THE FARMER CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR. HE MAKES A SPEECH THAT SHAKES UP THE CHICAGO GRAIN
GAMBLERS." “Hon. Lewis Steward, of Plano, Illinois, delivered a speech in the Chicago Transportation Convention, held not long ago, that shook up the dry bones of Chicago and the members of the Board of Trade, to such an extent that it was suppressed in all the papers; but the Western Rural would not down and gave it to the public. The Rural folds presented a memorial from the producing classes, showing the enormous charges for handling grain, and other matters of complaint. The memorial raised a storm of excitement, when a member of the convention, who is now president of the Board of Trade, moved that the memorial be thrown under the table, as it was an infamous lie. Mr. Irus Coy, of Chicago, defended the memorial in a telling speech, and called upon Steward, at its conclusion, who had more experience in agricultural pursuits than any other man in the State, (as his speech will verify) to answer. The excitement here