Stewart Steel (1800-1861)

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 1834, 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:

John Steel. Born A.D. 1735. Died A.D. 1804
David Steel, son of John, father of Stewart. Born A.D. 1761 - Died A.D. 1805.
Erected in memory of Stewart Steel, born in Londonderry, Ireland, August 4th A.D. 1800, became a citizen of the United States in 1818. Died at Blairsville, Pa. May 4th 1861. A sound [?] 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):

  1. John Andrew Steel (August 1827-7 January 1908), carpenter and carriage-maker, Hancock Co., West Virginia; on 3 April 1851 he married (1) Mary Jane Durbin (1828-1885), had ten children. Following her death he married (2) Rebecca Jane Johnston (1847-1943)
  2. David Steel (born 1830), who died in California from the accidental discharge of a pistol.
  3. Samuel Steel (born 1833).

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:

  1. William Alexander Steel (1836-1879)
  2. Stewart Steel (1838-1873), banker, St. Louis, Missouri; married Mary Eliza Higgins on 13 November 1860.
  3. James Irwin Steel (10 March 1840-28 May 1906), newspaper publisher, state representative, Ashland, Pennsylvania; married Mary M. Gwin of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
  4. Sarah Myrtilla Steel (31 December 1841-22 August 1915); married Joseph Kerr Conner on 6 September 1864.

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 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania on 9 September 1876.


(Fomerly of Ebensburg, Pa.,)

Now atteends to the business of his Profession in Blairsville.--His attention is particularly directed to Agencies and Collections, in the counties of Cambria, Indiana, and Westmoreland.

Blairsville, May 9, 1834.

The Pittsburgh Gazette, 10 May 1834.

Death of Stewart Steel.

Stewart Steele [sic] formerly a resident of this County, died of pneumonia at his residence in Blairsville, Indiana County, on last Saturday morning, aged 60 years and 9 months. He was a native of Londonderry Ireland, but emigrated to this county while a young man. He read law in this place, with Moses Cannon Esq., and was admitted to the bar about the year 1825. He was Treasurer of the County for several years. After removing to Blairsville, he continued to practice his profession. In 1847 he was appointed by President Polk U. S. Consul to Dundee, Scotland. He continued to discharge the duties of that office until the inauguration of Genl. Taylor. We knew him well, and can truly say that he was the most perfect specimen of a gentleman of the old school we ever encountered--kind-heated, courteous and affable[;] his greatest pleasure seemed to consist in rendering those around him happy. He was an upright and good citizen, and commanded the respect of all who knew him.

Democrat and Sentinel [Ebensburg, Pennsylvania], 8 May, 1861.

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