On pricing the priceless. Or, the bookseller as detective

Vital stats for Solomon Wallace Stewart

Solomon Wallace Stewart was born in 1754 in Mcclarar, Tyrone, Ireland. So say at least three family trees on Ancestry.com, and something called OneWorldTree. None of them cite any evidence except each other.

I have evidence. My evidence shows that Solomon Wallace Stewart was, in fact, born on April 15th, 1751 [though perhaps the last character is a poorly formed “4”] in Clog[h]er, County Tyrone, Ireland, and further, that he came from Ireland, presumably to America, on March 1st, 1774. The evidence is in a terribly abused little book that I picked up just because it was old. (See: On buying like a collector.)

The book

The book’s title is Seneca, according to the running page head of the verso leaves. I believe it to be Seneca’s Morals By Way Of Abstract. To Which Is Added, A Discourse, Under The Title Of An Afterthought. By Sir Roger L’Estrange, Knt. but it is not any of the numerous scanned editions so helpfully provided by Google Books. I don’t know when it was published, or by whom, since the title page, as well as the entire first and last signatures are missing. I judge the book to be about 220 years old, maybe published about 1790, but that’s only a guess. It’s made of laid paper, so it probably precedes 1800.

Worthless, or priceless?

It is a revered classical work, which means it was printed and reprinted countless times. WorldCat shows 71 separate edition dates for works of this title. The likelihood of this particular book having anything special to recommend it to a collector is minimal, and totally scotched by condition.  The covers and several pages are detached.  Most of the spine is missing, though on a purely educational level, it does allow a clear view of the cords and stitching that hold the remaining signatures together. To use a technical bookseller’s term, this book is an incomplete and virtually worthless mess.

And yet.

Solomon Wallace Stewart, or perhaps a close relative, recorded three very desirable genealogical factoids at the bottom of page 223. And just as in a Ron Popiel commercial, there’s more!

The first family

Maybe there was a dearth of paper available in the colonies, or perhaps there was no family bible in this household. Whatever the reason, the last remaining page of the book was used to record the birth dates and full names of five Stewart children, and here the real mystery begins.

  • Hannah Stewart was born January 4th Day 1780.
  • Mary Stewart was born June 12th 1781
  • Salome Swift Stewart was born January 19th 1783
  • William Killemoon Stewart was born November 14th, 1784
  • Theodosia Howard Stewart was born the 10th Day of August being Sunday 1786

Solomon Wallace Stewart's first family.

And bless Salome Swift Stewart! She’s the one with the searchable name, who led me to the Van Hoesens, more of whom later. From the helpful entry on Henry Van Hoesens provided in a transcription of FACTORS IN COLUMBIA COUNTY HISTORY From Columbia County at the End of the Century, Volume II, Published and Edited Under the Auspices of the Hudson Gazette (The Record Printing and Publishing Co.: Hudson, New York, 1900) pages 245-246, and my battered little book, we can put together the following family tree:

1-Solomon Wallace STEWART (15 Apr 1754-)
+Abigail BOOTH (-)
. . 2-Hannah STEWART (4 Jan 1780-)
. . 2-Mary STEWART (12 Jun 1781-)
. . 2-Salome Swift STEWART (19 Jan 1783-)
. . +Artimus BOWDY (-)
. . . . 3-Abigail Jane BOWDY (-)
. . . . +William VAN HOESEN (-)
. . . . . . 4-Henry VAN HOESEN (25 Mar 1855-)
. . 2-William Killemoon STEWART (14 Nov 1784-)
. . 2-Theodosia Howard STEWART (10 Aug 1786-)

From the same source, we learn the following story of Solomon Wallace Stewart’s arrival in this country:

Solomon Wallace Stewart…came to America as an officer in the English army during the Revolution; [he] was captured at Saratoga and exchanged at Danbury, Ct., where he married Abigail Booth.

The second family

All well and good, but what is one to make, then, of an apparently completely separate Solomon Wallace Stewart family described at some length in The Stewart Clan Magazine, a publication which takes these things quite seriously?

While it is possible that these are two different Solomon Wallace Stewarts, it is my belief that the second family is exactly that. That Solomon’s first wife died during or shortly after the birth of Theodosia and that Solomon married Hanna and began a second family. Below are the second and third generations as offered by the Stewart Clan Magazine (I’ve left out spouses and future generations):

1-Solomon Wallace STEWART (1754-1842)
+Hannah YOUNGS (-)
. . 2-Solomon Wallace STEWART (28 Jun 1788-16 Apr 1867)
. . +Hannah BARKER (-)
. . . . 3-James C STEWART (1815-1853)
. . . . 3-Charles Edward STEWART (17 Nov 1816-1860)
. . . . 3-Sarah STEWART (27 Mar 1818-)
. . . . 3-John STEWART (18 Jan 1820-3 Dec 1898)
. . . . 3-William K STEWART (15 Oct 1821-25 Oct 1875)
. . . . 3-Robert L. STEWART (4 Oct 1823-17 Feb 1862)
. . . . 3-Solomon Wallace STEWART (6 Jul 1826-)
. . . . 3-Marks Barker STEWART (13 Nov 1827-1913)
. . . . 3-Hannah STEWART (21 Mar 1829-)
. . . . 3-Abigail STEWART (3 Dec 1830-)
. . . . 3-Thomas Wallace STEWART (17 May 1832-)
. . . . 3-Phoebe STEWART (19 Apr 1834-)
. . 2-John STEWART (1792-)

It is this second family that is the one cited in all of the Solomon Wallace Stewart genealogies I’ve found on Ancestry.com. One reason for that is obvious. The first family consisted of four girls and a boy. The girls would not have passed their surnames to their descendants, so it would be much harder to find them. The second family was blessed with 8 boys and 4 girls, and no doubt at least some of those boys had descendants that were interested in researching the family name.

The Stewart Clan Magazine provides two alternative narratives for the arrival of the original Solomon Wallace Stewart on American shores:

…According to American Ancestry, ii: 120. He came to America before the Revolution and settled in Columbia county, New York…; he was adjutant to General LaFayette, and was professor of languages and music.

But a family source provided the following:

…the first of our Stewarts to come to this county had been at school in Dublin, fought a duel and left in haste; he came over with General Burgoyne’s army, and after the war he turned country school teacher, and he played the violin.

The second of these stories could easily fit with the one told in the Factors of Columbia County, though it’s possible that neither are completely true, since a 1774 arrival date precedes both Burgoyne and Lafayette by a few years. It is easy to see how patriotism, or perhaps a desire to be recognized by the DAR, might cause a family to suppress (or simply forget) the “fighting with the British” tale and replace it with something more palatable over the generations.

The conclusion

I have other reasons for believing that both families are related. For one thing, I would like to know what the middle name of Solomon’s grandson William K. was. If it were Killemoon, what more need be said?

But the most telling evidence comes in the will of John Stewart, which is cited at length in the Stewart Clan Magazine. John appears not to have married, but he has remembered his nieces and nephews in his will. Most of them got small bequests, but he left the residue of his estate to none other than William and Jane Van Hoesen, of Stockport.

And again I say, bless Salome Swift Stewart for having such a searchable name. [Abigail] Jane Van Hoesen is none other than her daughter, and provides the missing link between the two Stewart families that I believe were descended from one and the same Solomon Wallace Stewart.

The bookseller

Researches and speculations complete, it is now time to set aside my historical detective cap and magnifying glass and return to being a bookseller. I must face the question of how I might price this battered receptical of unexpected historical secrets.

As a book, such a worn and tattered copy of Seneca’s Morals holds some interest because the paper and typography are over 200 years old, and it’s missing so much leather that it’s easy to see how it was stitched together. Still, other more interesting books in better condition would have the same virtues.

But as a family history, and more than that, a contemporaneous record that opens whole new avenues of investigation on a heavily researched colonial American family, it is something very special indeed. There may be only a handful of people who want to own this particular piece of history, but unless they are content with using the research I have presented and feel no desire to possess the original document, I suspect they will want it a lot.

Which still does not tell me how to price it. In the end, the best I can do is to ask myself: What would I eagerly pay if the notations in this book were about my ancestor?And that’s how much I will ask, and hopefully receive, from a modern day descendant of Solomon Wallace Stewart.

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