Stewart the educator
A. M. Stewart was primarily a minister of the Free Will Baptist Church, but also engaged in society for civic improvement, especially in the field of education. He taught school in Georgia and Texas – and perhaps other places. He also organized schools. Former Texas Speaker of the House R. T. Milner said “of the Free Baptist college movement, they have a fine man at the head of it in the person of Rev. A. M. Stewart. I have known him for a number of years. He was engaged in school work in East Texas for ten years and built up two splendid schools in that section, Lone Star Institute and Hewett Institute. He combines splendid executive ability with the other qualifications necessary for successful school work.”[i] With Colonel Thomas A. Cocke he established the Lone Star Institute, a private school, in Lone Star, Cherokee County, Texas in 1889. The Institute “emphasized cultural accomplishments in music and elocution” and “attracted broad attention.” “(M)any families moved to Lone Star to enroll their children in it. Some of the teachers and music instructors in its four years of existence were Perry I. Wallace, a Mr. Weaver, and Erma Jones.”[ii] According to the Texas State Historical Marker Lone Star “began to decline after a disastrous fire in 1893” and this coincides with the demise of the Institute. Stewart established a Free Will Baptist Church at Lone Star, probably earlier.[iii] He also started the Hewitt Institute at Beckville in Panola County. It was in operation by 1891, was the third school in Beckville, and continued operation until1911. According to Lelia Lagrone in Know Your Heritage, Stewart was hired as the president of Hewitt in 1891 for a period of five years, in which time the school prospered. The school year was extended to 10 months during his tenure.[iv] “Legend says that PROFESSOR STEWART used a school motto, ‘Hew to the line!’ and this became the background for the Hewett Institute.”[v]
Stewart was a leading figure in establishing a Free Will Baptist school at Bryan, Texas. In 1899, the Texas Association’s “committee on Schools and Education” discussed “the necessity for the establishment of a Free Baptist school” with the “concensus of opinion that the school should be located at Bryan.”[vi] By May of 1900 Stewart had “started on an extensive trip through the State, his object being to raise money for the erection of a Free Baptist college at or near this place [i.e., Bryan, rlv].”[vii] By March 1901 he had concluded the money-raising trip, and the school opened in the fall of 1902.[viii] Lay leader J. L. Edge was the secretary and A. M. Stewart the principal of the Academic and Collegiate Institute – presumably the same institution called the Free Will Baptist Academy in its formative stage.[ix] The Bryan Academic and Collegiate Institute was co-educational, opening with “primary, academic and collegiate departments.” As well as being president over the school, Stewart was also head of the collegiate department. The new school’s curriculum embraced “science, languages, literature, and later on, theology.”[x]During this period Stewart was a partner in Bryan Grocery, which interest he sold late in 1904 or early in 1905.[xi] In 1906, the Bryan Academic and Collegiate Institute was moved to Lancaster in Dallas County, Texas – consolidating with a military school there, and “President Stewart [remained] at the head of the consolidated school.”[xii] For reasons unknown, he apparently only stayed there one year.
A. M. Stewart was directly involved in education as teacher and founder. He also promoted education through the Free Will Baptist Associations. In 1894, the Texas Association ‘Committee on Education and Publication,’ of which Stewart was Chairman, recommended “For our ministers, Butler and Dunn’s Theology,”[xiii] and further, “We think the churches should exert themselves for the education of the ministers that come from their ranks. We think our circulating library should be looked after, the several volumes collected and a good librarian elected, and our ministers be required to use, if they have not, and connect several like reading. Our ministers should have a yearly course of reading prescribed by our board of examiners.”[xiv]
Currently little detail is known of Stewart’s own educational qualifications, though they appear respected throughout the state by those who knew him. A Bryan Daily Eagle article on the opening of the new Free Will Baptist institute in Bryan refers to Stewart as A.B. and A.M. (with these letters following his name).[xv] With the background that is currently available, it must be assumed that Angus M. Stewart received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Acts degrees from the Buford Academy. His diploma from the University of Chicago was from a course in religious or pastoral studies.[xvi]
Many ministers of the day were bi-vocational in order to support their families, and Stewart’s professional pursuit as an educator no doubt contributed to that end. He is listed as a minister of the gospel only in the U. S. Federal Census of 1900. It is not unusual for bi-vocational preachers to list as their occupations the ones from which they derived their primary incomes, and this was probably true of A. M. Stewart as well. In 1870 he was a “farm laborer” (but not yet a preacher); in 1880 a “school teacher”; and in 1910 involved in “real estate.” At one time he was part owner in a grocery store at Bryan. In addition to selling real estate, at times he also sold insurance.[xvii]
[i] “Another School Secured,” Bryan Morning Eagle, Vol. 7, No. 168, Thursday, June 9, 1902, p. 2
[ii] “Lone Star,” by Bernard Mayfield in Cherokee County History, 2001, p. 59 (See also p. 210). He may be the same as Angus Stewart who “operated a cotton gin and grist mill” in nearby New Summerfield in Cherokee County about that time, but more likely this was Angus Lorenzo Stewart who is buried at Myrtle Springs near New Summerfield. They do not seem to be related.
[iv] Spelled “Hewett” in some records. See Biennial Report of the Secretary of State of the State of Texas, 1892, George Smith, Secretary of State, 1893, p. 18 (Listed under “Miscellaneous Charters Filed”); The Hewitt Institute building, as well as the Methodist Church and some homes, was wrecked by a storm in November of 1892 (Cf. The Galveston Daily News, Wednesday, November 2 1892, p. 3 and History of Panola County, Circulating Book Club, Carthage, TX, 1936). The school, nevertheless continued in operation until 1911. See also Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 1897-98, Volume 2, United States Office of Education, p. 2326. The Bartlett Tribune, Vol. 20, No. 40, Friday, February 9, 1906, p. 6. Beckville, Texas: History of the Town and Its Schools, Jane Metcalf, p. 225. Know Your Heritage, Lelia B. Lagrone, 1997, p. 52.
[v] Know Your Heritage, p. 52; while this might be an “apocryphal” story, it may explain the origin of the name “Hew it” Institute. There do not appear to be any prominent Hewitt/Hewett place or person names in the vicinity of Beckville.
[vi] “Free Baptist Association,” The Eagle, Thursday, October 26, 1899, p. 13
[vii] The Houston Daily Post, Vol. 16, No. 38, Saturday, May 12, 1900, p. 5
[viii] The Galveston Daily News, Friday, March 8, 1901, p. 3
[ix] “Academic and Collegiate Institute,” Bryan Morning Eagle, Vol. 8, No. 230, Wednesday, September 2, 1903, p. 2
[x] “Another School Secured,” Bryan Morning Eagle, Vol. 7, No. 168, Thursday, June 9, 1902, p. 2. See also The Burial Locations of Free Will Baptist Ministers, Volume II, pp. 557-558 and From the Red to the Rio Grande, p. 292. The board of directors was made up of 10 men and 1 woman – 8 of them from Texas and one each from Arkansas, Indian Territory, and South Dakota.
[xi] “Rev. A. M. Stewart has sold his interest in the Bryan Grocery company to his partners, T. A. Searcy and Allen Smith, who will continue the business under the same firm name.” – “Business Matters. Changes at Bryan.”, The Houston Post, Vol. 20, No. 297, Friday, January 6, 1905, p. 2. He purchased the interest with Searcy in 1900. – “Business Change,” The Bryan Eagle, Thursday, April 5, 1900, p. 5
[xii] “Bryan, Texas, May 4.—The Bryan Academic and Collegiate institute of this city will be removed to Lancaster, Dallas county. The president, Rev. A. M. Stewart, under direction of the board of directors, has contracted for the military school property at Lancaster, consisting of a main building and two dormitories, and the two schools will be consolidated. President Stewart will remain at the head of the consolidated school.” “School to Be Moved,” The Houston Post, Vol. 22, Saturday, May 5, 1906, p. 7; see also Bryan Morning Eagle, Vol. 11, No. 127, Friday, May 4, 1906, p. 2
[xiv] Minutes of the Seventeenth Annual Session of the Texas Free Will Baptist Association, October 19-20, 1894, pp. 5-6; “Joseph Apperson was appointed librarian.”
[xv] These stand for Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts; “Another School Secured,” Bryan Morning Eagle, Vol. 7, No. 168, Thursday, June 9, 1902, p. 2
[xvi] “It is possible he could have attended the first University or the Baptist Theological Union but not gotten a degree (even if he got a ‘diploma’ but not an actual degree) – we don’t have records for those possible students.” E-mail from Tyler L. Hough (Assistant Director, Constituent Relations, UChicago Alumni Association), Monday, October 23, 2017
[xvii] “For Old Line life insurance see A. M. Stewart, Carthage, Texas.” – The Panola Watchman, Vol. 39, No. 38, Wednesday, April 17, 1912, p. 8.