Stewart Steel was born on 4 August 1800 at Upper Creevagh, County Donegal, Ireland, near Londonderry. He was the son of David Steel (died February 1805 at Altaghaderry, Donegal) and Sarah Gailey. His father David Steel was reported to be a fourth-generation descendant of Captain John Steel of Logan Waterhead in the parish of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, a leader in the Covenanter uprising of 1679. After his father's death in 1805, Stewart was raised by his mother on the farm at Altaghaderry. Perhaps, like his younger brother David, he attended a grammar school in nearby Londonderry. In 1818, he removed to the United States, where two of his uncles had settled in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania before 1800. In Huntingdon Stewart sought training in the law; he studied with Judge Moses Cannon, and was admitted to the bar on 29 August 1825. By this time, however, he had moved to Cambria County, where he taught in the Ebensburg Academy and served as county treasurer. Here journalist Anne Royall encountered him: "Mr. Stewart Steel, is an attorney, a tall, slender, fair young looking man, with a very keen eye, and a sensible countenance." [ Mrs. Royall's Pennsylvania; or, Travels Continued in the United States, (1829) vol. 2, p. 232 ]
In 1830, Stewart Steel moved to Blairsville, where he became a prominent attorney and businessman. In 1837 he was appointed a commissioner of the Pittsburgh and Susquehanna Railroad. He was a friend of James Buchanan, and served as U.S. Consul in Dundee, Scotland from 1845 to 1849, while Buchanan was Secretary of State. He returned to Blairsville, where he continued to practice law until his death on 4 May 1861. He was buried in Blairsville Cemetery. His monument includes data on his father and grandfather, although both died in Ireland. It reads:
STEEL, John, A.D. 1735 - A.D. 1814 [1804?]
David, "son of John, father of Stewart" A.D. 1761 - A.D. 1805,
Erected in memory of Stewart Steel, born in Londonderry, Ireland, 8/14/1800, became a citizen of the United States in 1818. Died at Blairsville, Pa. 5/4/1861. ______ [illegible] Lawyer, a faithful government officer. A believer in Jesus Christ and an honest man.
Stewart Steel married twice: by Mary Murray, daughter of Judge John Murray of Cambria County, he had three sons (Mary died after 1832):
On 14 January 1836 he married the widow Myrtilla Bishop, née Sterrett. Myrtilla was born 5 July 1806, daughter of John Sterrett (1760-1811) of Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and Myrtilla Irwin (1765-1824); they had three sons and one daughter, all born in Blairsville:
After Stewart's death in 1861 Myrtilla moved to Joliet, Illinois, where she is listed in the 1870 census as living with her son William Alexander Steel. She died on 9 September 1876.
Stewart Steel, born Londonderry, Ireland, August 4, 1800. Came to the United States 1818 and to Blairsville in 1830. Was formerly County Treasurer of Cambria County. Admitted to the Bar 1825. Gave some time to the manufacture of iron and to merchandising. Served as U.S. Consul in Dundee, Scotland, during President Polk's administration.Blairsville Record, May 8, 1861.
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