Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mrs. R.F. Stewart

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, February 9, 2009
Mrs. Stewart is pictured sitting in her car at the mule barn.

Early Frederick resident is remembered at Pioneer Townsite
In the early days of Frederick, a large mule barn was located on the northwest corner of the current courthouse square. The mule barn was operated by a gentleman named R.F. Stewart.
On many afternoons Mr. Stewart’s wife, a woman of German descent, would drive to the mule barn in the couple’s automobile and play the accordion from the open, canvas-top car. The Pioneer Townsite Museum has a picture of Mrs. Stewart in the car, with the barn, three mules, Mr. Stewart and another man in the background.
Mrs. Stewart’s accordion is on display at the local museum.
Today Mrs. Stewart's accordion is displayed at the Pioneer Townsite.

In 1980, the late Alice Faye McLellan Womack of Duncan wrote her memories of Mrs. Stewart for the Tillman County Historical Society:
“Some years before World War I, R.F. Stewart came to Frederick with his wife, a delightful young woman of German descent whom he had married in one of the north central states where so many people from Scotland, Scandinavia, and Germany had immigrated.
Mr. Stewart operated a mule-trading business at the northwest corner of the present courthouse block. The building was known as the ‘Big Red Barn'. Indeed it was large, had a curving roof, and was quite red (a copy of the many barns still found on the farms of Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, etc.).
Mrs. Stewart was a typical German housewife of that era. She was a skilled cook, kept a spotless house, and was a devoted wife and homemaker. Even though the ladies of the town were hesitant to accept her, accept her they did, foreign accent and all, because she was such a cheerful, outgoing individual. She came to church whenever Mr. Stewart attended, although she probably had not been reared in that faith. She sat quietly with hands folded and a smile on her face as her eyes gazed at the stained-glass windows. She always wore long, full-cut white dresses in a shirtwaist style, handmade, with lace and embroidery trimming. Even though she was short and overweight (‘dumpy’ in those days), with her black hair and creamy complexion, she was quite lovely.
The Stewarts seemed to like all of us children, although they had none of their own. He would let us sit on the fence and admire his mules, and she would invite a few of us to have homemade cookies, milk, and punch in her usually restricted parlor.
Then came World War I and all Germans became suspected enemies, even one’s friends and neighbors. Many Frederick women began to look the other way when they walked by the Stewart home (at 401 North 11th Street) or when they met Mrs. Stewart in the stores or on the street. She quit going out and pulled the shades down. Even though the children did not really understand, they quit going by for their ‘tea parties.’
Even today I cannot believe that all this happened, but I look back with pride to several mothers who eventually called Mrs. Stewart and told her that their children missed her and her little parties and that they would like to come by for a visit.
From then on, some of us went by, on the way home from school, twice a week. We were allowed to spend an hour on each visit, homework or not. I can still see those beautiful china cups and smell those little cakes and cookies! However, the most lasting impression was the pernicious cruelty caused by the prejudice of neighbors and friends.”

No comments:

Post a Comment