Descendants of John and Margaret Stewart and their children, who first settled in what is now the Riverfield area from Glasgow, Scotland, some 201 years ago, gathered on July 1 for a very special family reunion at the Riverfield Curling Club. Most of the 60 attendees had never met before, and the cavernous room was abuzz with friendly conversation.
A family tree with 1600 names spread over much of the length of one side of the curling club, and the tables were arranged in the exact dimensions of the Jean of Irvine, which was the boat that brought the family to Montreal following a seven-week journey across the Atlantic. Name tags were colour-coded to show which branch of the original six children they were descended from.
“It has been a labour of love,” said Melanie Arscott, who currently lives in Victoria, British Columbia, but has Howick in her blood. One of the event organizers, she says she stumbled across the Gleaner article detailing a reunion that took place in 1922 to celebrate the anniversary of the family’s arrival 100 years earlier, when she became interested in researching her family’s history. John Stewart settled along the English River.
She was not alone, as several other descendants of the Stewarts had also found a copy of the article. “It was the impetus for all of this,” said Bob Wood, who was also on the organizing committee for the reunion. In fact, all the names included in the article as having participated in the first reunion, or who sent their regrets, were indicated on the family tree.
Arscott says her work to build the family tree started over five years ago, and she collaborated with other family members who were also researching their family lines. “Everyone has been very generous, sharing their family tree and their photos,” said Arscott.
Around 18 months ago, a group of descendants now living in Manitoba, Texas, New Jersey, Ontario, British Columbia, and Ormstown began meeting regularly on the Zoom platform to organize the event, which was delayed by a year due to the pandemic.
As the 1922 article suggests, the reunion “marks a milestone in the history of English River and the settlement of the dominion.” In looking out over the room full of descendants, Wood noted that the original couple “could never have imagined there would be people gathering 200 years later.”
“And the tree is still growing,” said Arscott.