Bio: Stewart, Hon. Alexander(1829 - 1912)


Surnames: Stewart, McIndoe, Feehely, Fleming, Greene, Clarke, Plumer, Alexander, Mercer, Brown, Gray

----Source: History of Marathon County Wisconsin and Representative Citizens, by Louis Marchetti, 1913.

Stewart, Hon. Alexander (12 September 1829 - 24 May 1912)

Hon. Alexander Stewart was one of the pioneers who made history in the Wisconsin valley. He began his life like all others, ax in hand, and finally worked his wav into the halls of Congress at Washington, being the only citizen of Marathon County except W. D. Mclndoe to reach that distinction. Alexander Stewart saw central and northern Wisconsin in its infancy; he labored for its growth; he grew with it, physically, mentally, and after many years of hard work, shared in the prosperity of the country. His life furnishes a shining example of the possibilities which a new country offers to the thrifty, intelligent, and persevering young man of good health and character. What Wausau and the whole valley was when he arrived here with his brother John in 1849 has been told in previous chapters; also how he went to work for Feehely, Fleming and Green in the saw mill which had its water power from a conductor from the mill pond of Clarke and Plumer, the mill standing a little south of and between the Clarke and Plumer mill. Like all men working at that time in the pinery, the two brothers Stewart took their wages in lumber, run it to market, and returning, worked under the same conditions, and with their savings bought more lumber from men who were willing to sell, not having enough of their own to make up a raft, and with a few rafts went down again to the market. After several ventures of that kind they had means enough to commence logging on their own account, continuing every year on a little larger scale and with a little more experience, until in the course of years they had built up quite a lumber trade. The fact that they came from New Brunswick and were familiar with logging and driving of logs was undoubtedly a strong factor in their favor. It took, however, many years of hard, intelligent and well considered labor coupled with a life of economy, self-denial of rest and comfort, to make that success in life which came to them in the prime of manhood as the reward of their grit and perseverance, and steadfast adherence to their rule of faithfully redeeming every business promise or obligation made. After fortune began to smile upon the brothers, Alexander Stewart stayed at Wausau and his brother John took to farming in Illinois on a large scale.

Alexander Stewart remained in business at Wausau until the end of his life, through all the changes and vicissitudes which business had to contend with in earlier days: but with his inborn shrewd Scotch business sense, hard times never struck him unprepared. He was frugal and economic in his habits, never branched out beyond his means, and never unduly stretched his credit. From personal experience he was familiar with every branch of the lumber industry from estimating the number of feet which would be gotten out of a tree, to the logging, driving, sawing the logs and marketing the lumber. The business was carried on by him and his brother in partnership, even after his brother had made his home on the Illinois farm, but Alexander Stewart conducted it personally and managed it, until it had grown to such dimensions as to demand the supervision and management by others in the many branches which had grown out of the original enterprise.

In the flush times after the war, the brothers John and Alexander Stewart laid the foundation for the wealth which became theirs in after years. They had formed a friendship with W. D. Mclndoe and had their logs sawed at his mill for years, and after his death in 1872 they acquired the mill property by purchase and later formed the A. Stewart Lumber Company, with Alexander Stewart as president. For over thirty years this concern was the largest industrial concern in the whole Wisconsin Valley, but the business was not confined to that territory alone. It conducted mills in other states, notably Michigan, Arkansas, and California, and had more than thirty lumber yards in the western states. Much of the boasted business enterprise of Wausau is due to the aid directly or indirectly given by Alexander Stewart, some of which would not exist but for his fostering care in times of need. In the last thirty years of his life he was practically connected with every important enterprise in central and northern Wisconsin; he had had many special partners in various trades and business transactions, and his connection with each and all of them was clean and honorable. He was the largest labor employer in this territory and always fair and just to his employees; even in the days when working men found it hard to get their earnings and had often to resort to the courts because of the scarcity of money, and law suits for wages were common, it was the common talk among laboring men that A. & J. Stewart, or the Stewart Lumber Company were always prompt in their pay. Alexander Stewart interested himself in everything which was for the interest of his home city. He was essentially a man of affairs; enterprising, calculating, taking a broad view of business life. He was quick to grasp opportunities which others would let pass without taking advantage of, and his business sagacity caused much of the growth and the upbuilding of the city of Wausau.

Alex. Stewart was a man of changing personality; he was a good conversationalist, spoke entertainingly on the topics of the day, and a thoroughly well informed man. He loved to meet his friends and acquaintances in a social way and talk interestingly on the subject which engrossed public attention as well as of the important events of the past; he had a fund of pleasing recollections of early times, of the struggles of the pioneer days and its amusing incidents. When called upon to help in a worthy cause, which was frequently the case, he was never known to refuse assistance. As might be inferred from what has been said, he was a man of strict integrity and honor.

He had always taken an interest in the political affairs in his congressional district, and although not crowding himself forward, he was nevertheless a powerful political factor. After his business had been fully organized and in the hands of thoroughly competent persons, mainly Mr. Walter Alexander, secretary and treasurer of the Alexander Stewart Lumber Company, he felt that he could give some of his years to the service of the people, and he became a candidate for political honors which were freely accorded to him by party friends. In 1894 he was nominated for member of Congress by the Republican Party and elected by a big majority over his opponent, the sitting member, and twice re-elected, each time with an increased majority, and declined a nomination for the fourth time.

As a member of Congress he was given a place on the important committee in Indian Affairs, and on manufactures. Prompt in his attendance in the sessions of Congress, he was attentive to the business of his constituents, especially in matters of pensions and better postal facilities. It is not generally known but a fact nevertheless, that much of the credit of obtaining a public federal building in Wausau is due to him. He had secured the insertion of an appropriation for the building in the public building bill of 1900, which was ready to be passed and become a law, when the administration was desirous of making a show of economy, and the bill was not passed on that ground. But the chairman of that committee, Mr. Mercer of Omaha, was sure of re-election, and he gave his word to Mr. Stewart that the appropriation would be inserted in the next bill, whether Mr. Stewart would be a member or not.

Mr. Brown of Rhinelander, the new member, introduced a new bill which was of course referred to the same committee, of which Mr. Mercer was chairman, again inserted in the general building appropriation bill and passed, including the appropriation for the Wausau building. It is true that Mr. Webster Brown secured the same, but the way for a smooth passage was already paved by Mr. Stewart. While A. Stewart served his second and third terms, he was accompanied to Washington by his family, where he had built a fine mansion for their reception. He spent the last years of his life with his family at the capital city during the winter months and the sessions of Congress, returning with them to Wausau with the milder climate.

About two years before his death he had the misfortune to fall while paying a visit to the Rothschild Paper Mill, in which he was largely interested financially and broke an arm. The injury was not serious and the break was healed in a comparatively short time, but for a person of his age, he being then eighty years of age, it did sap his vitality. He was not the same strong man after the accident as before and a decline became visible. Expecting to gain new strength from the mild climate of California, he went there to recuperate, spending the winters of 1909 and 1910 in that state, returning sicker, however, than when he went. Shortly after Christmas of 1911, feeling somewhat improved, he went with his family to Washington, but his span of life was measured, and he died there on the 24th day of May, 1912. His body was taken to Wausau and was buried in the Wausau cemetery on the 27th day of May following.

His body rests in the family mausoleum which was not wholly completed until after his death. He was born September 12, 1829, at New Brunswick of good old Scotch ancestry; married to Miss Margaret Gray, a native of York, New Brunswick, at Chicago, and their union was blessed with three children: Margarete J. married Lindley, Mary E. and Helen G. who survive him and who have taken up their residence at Washington. D. C.  Mr. Stewart's family life was an exceedingly happy one.

He was one of the few still living pioneers of the Wisconsin Valley, particularly of Marathon County, but their numbers can now be counted on the fingers of one hand. They were a good strong race. Alexander Stewart was one of the strongest among them. He will be long and kindly remembered for his many sterling good qualities.



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