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The James T. Stuart Family Papers

The James T. Stuart Family Papers, 1850-1993

The collection documents multiple generations of the Stuart family, with a strong focus on the life of Civil War veteran James T. Stuart. The family resided in central and western Pennsylvania, and the collection consists of correspondence, photographs, family records, and other related materials.

5.7 linear ft.

8 boxes + 1 oversize folder

The Stuart Family Papers and Commemoration

The Stuart Family Papers are a unique source for the study of commemorative practices after the Civil War. Boalsburg, Pa.'s claim to be the birthplace of Memoral Day is derived largely from this manuscript collection. Items that reference memorialization, rememberance and community inlcude the Reuben Hunter Diary (which has not been digitized but is included as a transcript in the archival collection) and the ledger, "First" [Just] Memorial Day. To read more about commemoration after the Civil War  see "Commemoration" by Kathryn Falvo and Matthew Isham.

Collection Overview

The Stuart Family Papers document multiple generations of a Pennsylvania family based in Boalsburg and Pittsburgh. The strengths of the collection are the military and personal Civil War-era materials associated with James T. Stuart (1837-1902) and his wife Emma Eliza Hunter (1848-1935), along with over a hundred years of family photographs. Most of the military papers are associated with Stuart's tenure as Captain of Company G, 49th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers (1864-1865). The personal materials include war-time correspondence, official military forms, a civil war diary, photographs, and other materials.

In addition to James and Emma Stuart’s materials, there are also family photographs, diaries, memories, family histories, correspondence, and other historic items from multiple generations of Stuart family members. Other family names represented in the collection include Hunter, Jacobs, Brisbin, and Warne. The Hunter family materials focus on Emma Eliza Hunter, and her father Reuben Hunter, the latter who passed away serving in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Finally, the collection also consists of a number of materials related to Boalsburg history, and most notably the town’s celebrations of Memorial Day. In addition to the Memorial Day materials, there is also a large photographic scrapbook for Boalsburg’s celebration of the American bicentennial in 1976.

Collection Arrangement

The collection is arranged into six series: 1) James T. Stuart Papers, 2) Stuart Family Papers, 3) Hunter Family Papers, 4) Other Families Papers, 5) Boalsburg and Memorial Day History, and 6) Photographs.

Stuart Family

The history of the Stuart family in America begins with the emigration of William Stuart (1759-1848), the grandfather of James T. Stuart. William grew up near Londonderry in Northern Ireland and emigrated in 1776. He received theological degrees in the 1790s, was ordained a Presbyterian minister, and married Ester Alexander (1774-1848). Their son David A. Stuart was a farmer in the Boalsburg area, who married Martha Johnston, who together had six children.

One of their children was James T. Stuart, who clerked for his uncle George W. Johnston at the Monroe Furnace, taught school, and enlisted in the Union Army in April of 1861. During the war he primarily served in Company G of the 49th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers (1st Division, 3rd Brigade, 6th Army Corps, Grand Army of the Potomac). Stuart participated in battles at Williamsburg, Harnets Hill, Golding's Farm, Savage Station, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettyburg, Rappahannock Station, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Winchester, Cedar Creek, Petersburg, Little Sailor's Creek, and Appomattox; received wounds at Rappahannock and Spotsylvania; and eventually was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war Stuart was active in his regiment’s veterans’ organization, including serving as its president from 1880 to 1882. In 1875 he married Emma Hunter, and in the 1880s acquired and operated the Boalsburg Tavern.

James and Emma Stuart had four sons. The eldest, William H. Stuart (1876-1951), remained in Boalsburg, while the other three sons moved to the Pittsburgh area and worked in sectors of the city's heavy industry. Their second eldest son, George J. Stuart, Sr. (1880-1951), graduated from Penn State in 1901, and worked as an engineer in a Pittsburgh industrial firm, eventually becoming vice-president. His son, George J. Stuart, Jr. (1918-1996) also worked as an engineer, and served as a radar technician in World War II. The third son, David A. Stuart (1882-1966) was a salesman for a Pittsburgh manufacturer. His first wife, Nellie Jane Warne, died from typhoid shortly after their marriage.

Hunter Family

Reuben Hunter (1814-1864) was the (posthumous) father-in-law of James T. Stuart. One of 14 children, he was a doctor in the Boalsburg area. In 1839 Hunter married Ellen Brisbin, and their daughter Emma Eliza Hunter (1848-1935) married James T. Stuart in 1875. Reuben Hunter served in the Civil War as an Assistant Surgeon, and died from typhoid fever in 1864. Local mythology states that the origin of Memorial Day can be traced back Emma’s decision to place flowers on his grave in 1864, and then along with two other women they decided to decorate all of the soldiers’ graves in the cemetery.

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