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The Family "Indian"

History of Church Family in Petersburgh, NY
History of Church Family in Petersburgh

Background of settlement in Renss. Co.
Background of Settlement

Church Family homestead in Petersburgh
The Homestead

The Church/Stewart Family "Indian"

By Daniel J. Bornt

Speculation about reputed Native-American ancestry as becoming part of the Church and Stewart bloodlines sometime during the families' beginnings in the Petersburgh/Little Hoosac environs have long been a topic for discussion at family gatherings.

Physical characteristics have played a part in the speculation, which purported to indicate lineage from a mythical Native-American woman who had married one of the sons of the early Church and Stewart settlers.

Eunice, the wife of Nathaniel Church, along with others has been suggested as a likely candidate. And the possibility exists that there may been more than one woman who was of total or partial Native-American roots.

However, the main center of focus has to be the legend of Lemuel Steward's association with a Native-American maiden before he left in 1782 to marry Rebecca Rose in Connecticut.

From Roger Steward's Descendants of William Steward of North Stonington, Connecticut we have this excerpt:

Frank Church('s)...mother was Fidelia M. Glines, and his grandmother was Patience Ann Stewart, who lived to be 103 years, daughter of John Steward, who lived nearly 85 years. Given that Patience's grandfather Lemuel Steward moved his family from Petersburgh, NY to Grafton, NY in 1796, while his first born, John Steward, did not make that move until about 1805, it may be that John Steward was raised by his grandparents, Eliphalet Steward and Elizabeth (Church?) or at least remained very close to them. This tradition could easily have first been handed down to Frank Church.

Family legend holds that John Stewart (1780-1865) was the first-born son of Lemuel Stewart and an "Indian" maiden prior to Lemuel Stewart's marriage to Rebecca Rose in Preston, CT in 1782. Supposedly upon Rebecca's arrival in Grafton as Lemuel's new bride she was handed the young child. This anecdote by Esther Church Bierwirth, daughter of Frank Church, and told to the author of this website personally, has a strong possibilty of a factual origin. John Stewart's daughter Patience Ann Stewart may have related the tale to her great-granddaughter Esther herself. Esther remembered attending Patience Ann's 100th birthday party in 1916 when she was eleven years old, and Patience Ann lived three years after that.

We shouldn't easily dismiss handed-down family legends and stories, in an era where television, radio, or phonographs were non-existent and long evenings in isolated mountainous surroundings were filled by reading and the telling of family tales and happenings. And given Frank's keen intellect (Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason" graced his bookshelf and was a work that he studied), and Esther's accurate remembrance of family relationships we can relatively assume that this relationship is factual. It could also provide a basis for Roger Steward's suppostion above that John Steward may have been raised by his grandparents Eliphalet and Elizabeth Steward: Being a half-Indian child, it could be that he was never completely accepted by his new step-mother Rebecca Rose Stewart.

But the actual facts surrounding the child's birth and the fate of his mother "Eunice" appear to be lost in the mists of time. However, on September 26, 2000, presentations at the North Stonington (CT) Historical Society (see reprint below) attempted to clarify some of the confusion surrounding the different women who shared the name of "Eunice." - DJB 6/5/2003


Excerpts from Descendants of William Steward of North Stonington, Connecticut by Roger Steward

 

partial reprinting of page 3-7 (without footnotes and references):

Notes for Lemuel Stewart:

Soldier in the American Revolution; Lemuel was in a regiment stationed at Howland’s Ferry, Tiverton, RI (1778-9), and in Sullivan’s expedition; he then moved to NY State and served in regiments from that state thereafter. Settled in Little Hoosick, Rensselaer Co, NY. He was living in Stephentown, NY in 1790, was on the board of excise Commissioners in 1807 and town clerk in 1814.

Son John Stewart by Eunice(?) Weaver, apparently a Native American—great grandparents of Frank Church (perhaps first wife of Lemuel) [though the mother of John Steward and perhaps the first wife of Lemuel Steward is believed to have been an Indian maiden, her actual maiden name may be lost with time, but the Church family stories all center on an Indian maiden named Eunice. The name here, however, is more properly associated with Eunice Weaver, the wife of John Steward].

In 1834, his children Lemuel Stewart and wife Elizabeth, Josiah Stewart and wife Hannah, Nathan Rogers and wife Sarah, and Francis Brock and wife Polly, all of Elk Creek, Erie Co, PA chose Joseph D. Rogers of Berlin, NY as their agent and attorney - (provided by Mary Celine Scott)

On page 2 of Lt. William Stewart’s group sheet, copied at the North Stonington Historical Society on Sep 26, 2000, was this footnote, referring to Lemuel Steward 9, born Jan 31, 1732, and married to Eunice...:

“In family records from Stewart-Church families of Stephentown, N.Y., Eunice is said to have been an Indian maid - i.e., the wife of Lemuel."

It appears that the North Stonington Historical Society thought Eunice, wife of Lemuel Steward born Jan 31, 1732 to have been the Indian maiden spoken of by the Steward-Church families of Stephentown, NY, when the reference was intended to mean the first wife of Lemuel Steward of Little Hoosic, NY. Two distinct Eunices married to two different Lemuels can be easily confused, and compiled with Frank Church's assessment that her maiden name was Weaver, the Indian maiden has been passed down to us as Eunice (?) Weaver.

Carlton Church of NY after conducting his own ancestral search, has found cause to re-evaluate some of the earlier conclusions of his relative, Frank Church, and Eunice Weaver was the wife of John Steward, first born of Lemuel Steward which concurs with the cemetery records of Rennselaer Co., NY. As Eunice may have been the name of the one thought to have been an Indian maiden, who was also thought to be the first wife of Lemuel Steward in the Genealogy Chart, I have represented the mother of John Steward thus:
Eunice(?) - Roger Steward


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"The Church Family of Petersburgh, NY featuring descendants of Frank and Myrtle Church" website
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©2002 by Daniel J. Bornt, e-mail to: vanatalan@yahoo.com