Just over 100 years ago, The Gleaner printed an article about a family reunion in Howick commemorating the arrival of John Stewart to the area. This year, his descendants will descend upon the region once more to mark 201 years of that branch of sturdy Stewarts.
In May of 1822, John and Margaret Stewart and their four young children disembarked into the mud of Montreal after a seven-week voyage from Scotland. After toiling up the Chateauguay, John was the first settler to be granted a lot on the English River. According to his son, Andrew, in Robert Sellars’ History of the Chateauguay Valley, “My father fancied [lot] 76, on account of the rapid.” The Gleaner article recounts: “[Stewart] set to work at once and with help rafted lumber down the Chateauguay from Dewittville and up the English River where he built his home. … Gradually from the bush was cut a farm and a sturdy family of seven was reared.”
100 years later, in June of 1922, a swarm of cousins landed in Howick for a grand reunion. The Gleaner wrote, “The Stewart Clan Celebrate! The Stewart Clan of English River Hold 100th Anniversary of their Forefathers’ landing in Canada.” A meal, speakers, music, marching, and dancing are described. The article shares how “Dr. F. S. Patch proved an interesting speaker, and [he] thought the only form of insanity which existed in the clan was that of chasing up and down the ice waving brooms and uttering uncouth sounds. His reference to the curling game caused much laughter.”
In 1922, there were approximately 150 descendants of John and Margaret. Now, there are close to 2,000 throughout North America, and “The primary members of the organizing committee are from BC, Manitoba, Texas, and New Jersey,” says reunion co-organizer Bob Wood, formerly of Ormstown.
The main gathering happens in Riverfield on July 1; the weekend itinerary includes visits to family landmarks, graveyards, and homesteads, and Sunday service at the ancestral church in Georgetown. Approximately 50 cousins are expected, and it is likely many of the attendees have never visited Howick; for the first time, they will set foot on the Valley soil where their far-reaching family tree took root.