Stewart, Russell

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                                 RUSSELL STEWART
                                 Back Home At 92
                               By Denise Berthelotte


He left the Miramichi 74 years ago. But Russell Stewart, 92, of Pasadena, California was back this week to visit relatives and his native Boom Road. His daughter Kathy Stewart Symons accompanied him during this trip. The second youngest of a family of nine, Stewart is the only one left alive. Every four or five years he comes back to visit nieces, nephews and cousins, about 75 in all.

Stewart was visiting his nephew on Lane Street over the weekend. Monday night, he made his way back to Boom Road to spend time with another nephew's widowed wife. Stewarts, Hares, Allisons, Dunnetts and Sherrards are among some of the families he visits while on the Miramichi. Other relatives are scattered about in Shediac, Oromocto, St. Andrews, Sussex, Moncton and Thunder Bay.

Over 25 of Russell's relatives, including him, are to gather at a family reunion in Sussex on Friday night. Stewart is the eldest of five living generations of his family.

He is now a great-great-great-uncle to a two-year-old. The line is as follows: Russell's sister Mary and her husband Elmer gave birth to Harold who married Doreen. They gave birth to Donna who married Ian. That couple gave birth to Jeff who married Krista. The two-year-old belongs to them.

He's still in contact with some of his old classmates. Russell went to school in Boom Road. He moved to America when he was 18. To date he knows of three classmates who are still living and on the Miramichi. In fact he recent visited one of them, Allan Sherrard, who is about the same age as Russell. The two other classmates he knows are still in the area are Maggie Allison Ford and Edith Dunnett.

                                     First settler

Russell Stewart has traced back his descendants to the first settler. His great-great-great-grandfather was John Stewart, one of the original settlers in Boom Road. Stewart arrived in the area in the 1770s with the 42 regiment in the British Army. He participated in the Siege of Montreal in the 1760s. Stewart settled in Boom Road in the 1770s. He died in 1803 and is buried in the Nelson cemetery.

                               School Pranks Still Prompt Laughs

Russell Stewart left the Miramichi decades ago, but his heart is still here. "I come back every four or five years because of the wonderful people around here," said the spirited 92 year old from Pasadena, Los Angelas. Stewart found this trip a little tiresome. He had difficulty with the change of time, a four hour difference. "You go to bed later and then have to get up earlier," he said. But make no mistake, he'll be coming back home to visit as long as his health permits.

Stewart was born and raised in Boom Road. Even at 92, he has 18 years of memories etched in his mind and has no trouble recalling "the good old days." So when asked if he could spare some time and share some memories, he eagerly agreed.

Stewarts’ first memory was of his school, a small building with two rooms that held about 70 students and two teachers. "Hardly anyone went any farther that Grade 8." With no transportation and the high school in Newcastle, students of Boom Road didn't have much an option after they finished Grade 8. Russell's most hated memory of the school was the strap. But as much as students feared it, Russell and friends took revenge at night. Russell had the key to the school because he used to clean it. So late at night when the strap hung helplessly, they cut it to shreds.

But the adventures didn't stop there. Russell and his friends occasionally took revenge out on teachers too. Russell bent his head downward and a little grin spread on his face. "We were young then." One of his best pranks was waiting until it snowed and digging a deep hole in a trampled path that lead to the school. The hole was covered with tree branches and was invisible after a snowfall. Then the students waited, angel-like watching the teacher making her way to work. "Boy did she go through," Russell said laughing and blushing a little at his childhood mischievousness. But Russell said he could never pull a prank on a certain Mrs. Appleby. "She corrected very few. All the students liked her."

Another of Russell's memories is of rafting logs during summer. "You had to be able to run pretty fast," Russell said of the difficult task of running over floating logs. But he and co-workers mastered the art, not that they had much of a choice, since most couldn't swim, including Russell.

                                 Leaves during Depression

At 18 in the depression, Russell decided it was time to move on and look for other work. He went harvesting in Saskatchewan, and in 1921 went to Detroit, Michigan to an automobile school. "I thought I wanted to fix cars," he said and laughed. He never did become a mechanic. Instead he started selling life insurance, then after his retirement spent 20 years selling real estate. He retired in 1983. "And I've been tired ever since."

                                       First Car

When Russell Stewart of Boom Road left the Miramichi he only knew of one car in the area. "Cliff Somers owned a Ford - a 1914 Ford," he said and chuckled. Russell remembered it causing quite a stir for one family travelling on horse and buggy. "One family had a very spirited horse that would never let the car by." He said the family had to turn the horse and buggy around in the same direction of the car so it could pass them from behind.

                             Outhouse highlight of the trip for Symons

Coming home brings back many for Russell Stewart. It also is special for his daughter Kathy Stewart Symons. Her first visit here in 1949 left such an impression on the city child, she bugged him continuously until he took her back. "I didn't stop bugging about coming back until my father took me." That was in 1953 when she was 12. Then she returned in 1981 as an adult, but was a little disappointed. "It was nice but it wasn't quite the same." She missed the farms.

Today, at 54, and still visiting the Miramichi with her father, Kathy remembers her childhood visits vividly. "I loved the country life. I had never had any experience on a farm in the States," she said in an interview Monday afternoon. Her greatest experience was using an outhouse. In the city, Kathy considered herself spoiled with indoor plumbing, running water and electricity. But that comfortable technology hadn't reached the Miramichi when she first visited. "It was great getting fresh eggs and milking the cows, they didn't have the machines to pump the milk like they do now. Another good experience was picking wild strawberries." Kathy also remembers being really good friends with Irene Sherrard, although she I hasn't seen her in a long time. "She's my second cousin, I think."


Source: Miramichi Weekend – July 21, 1995

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