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The Naming of a Chapter of ECV, (part 4)
Submitted By: XNGH Jason Thorn Date: March 08, 2010, 01:08:55 AM Views: 3232

Originally published in the Hewgag Monitor by Tom Barry - October, 1988

William Morris Stewart

In our last installment of this short history of E Clampus, we covered the early life of one of the namesakes of Chapter 10, William Morris Stewart. His contributions to the early mining history of Nevada County and his law career had made him wealthy and provided him with the ability to hold high public office. Also mentioned was the State of Nevada’s interest in helping to celebrate the placement of a plaque on the Stewart Mansion in Nevada City. It was in Nevada Territory that William Morris Stewart was to begin a career which would elevate him to national prominence.

On July 1, 1859, newspaper reports in Nevada City told of the results of an assay of ore brought from Nevada Territory to James Ott’s Assay Office. Bill Stewart almost immediately went to Nevada on mule back and decided to investigate further, being so interested in mining.

Mining in Nevada County had come to a near stand-still because the ill-fated gold rush fiasco in British Columbia in 1857-58 had taken 20,000 men from California, and the county’s easily acquired placer gold was getting harder and harder to find. Another 20,000 California men would cross the Sierras in 1860-61 in search of the Silver Bonanza in the region to become known as Virginia City.
Bill Stewart returned and remained in Downieville for the winter of 1859, getting his law affairs in order. His partner, Harry Thornton Jr. would remain to run the successful practice. In March 1860, leaving Annie with the children (second daughter Anna having been born in 1859), Bill left Downieville and made his way to Genoa, opening a law office in a rented two-story log house that had been Nevada’s first permanent dwelling. Bill’s fame as a lawyer in California stood him well, for many claims disputes and much mayhem resulted from the scramble for riches in the Comstock.
In May, 1860, Bill rode his mule to Virginia City, in time to witness the formation of a retaliatory expedition against the Indians who had attacked the Pony Express post at Williams Station.
In July, Bill returned to Downieville to retrieve his family. They camped in Virginia City, where Bill had been practicing law. In late 1860 they moved to a new cut stone house in Carson City that had been built for them. Bill became the council member for Carson City in the newly formed Nevada Territorial Government, which was the equivalent of a state senator. He was also instrumental in getting the seat of government to reside in Carson City, as opposed to those who would have had Virginia City hold that honor.

During the next few years, business in Virginia City had become so good for Bill that in 1863 he moved his family into a new $30,000 mansion on a steep hillside overlooking that bustling community. He sold his stone house in Carson City to James W. Nye, the new Governor of the Territory, and it became the first Governor’s mansion.

When the newly formed Nevada State Legislature met in 1864, Bill was elected U.S. Senator, along with Gov. Nye, and his national political career began.

On Feb. 1, 1865, Bill was sworn into office and the next morning he called on President Lincoln. Two and a half months later, Bill and his old friend Niles Searls would be among the last to talk to President Lincoln, just as he was mounting a carriage to take his wife to Ford’s Theater, where he would be fatally shot.

After tangling with an imperfect President Andrew Johnson, Bill was re-elected in 1869, and set about to formulate the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which stated that the right to vote could not be abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
In 1875, after living somewhat lavishly among Washington D.C. society circles, and now with a third daughter, Bill found his financial resources unable to keep up and he decided not to run again for the Senate, but to return to Nevada. Between 1875 and 1887, Bill accumulated another fortune with his mining interests in the Panamint Valley and his law practice.

In 1885, William Morris Stewart was appointed by the most Puissant Sovereign Grand Lodge of E Clampus Vitus to establish a State Grand Encampment in Nevada. Between 1885 and 1887 he promoted the Nevada Clamper movement.

In 1899, Bill was again elected U.S. Senator from Nevada. By now, his hair and long beard white, and because of his long-held views on the production and uses of silver for money, he was known as the Silver Senator.

Bill was one of the U.S. members of the Arbitration Board of the World Court at The Hague, Netherlands, in 1902 when his wife Annie was killed in an auto accident in Alameda.

Bill remarried in 1903, and finished his term as U.S. Senator, whereupon he found himself in a now familiar situation; not enough money. He went to Bullfrog, near Rhyolite, Nevada, and opened another law office in that rich mining region. By 1908 he had acquired his third fortune, although it was admittedly smaller than his other two.

In 1908, at age 83, Bill’s business in Bullfrog had declined with the slowing down of mining there and he shuttled from his interests in Washington, D.C., and those in Bullfrog often.

But on April 23, 1909, at age 84, William Morris Stewart died in Washington, D.C., his third fortune gone, leaving many creditors who picked over his small estate.

Bill’s ashes were buried by Annie’s in San Francisco, but in 1937, the decree was made to clear, by 1940, the section in which their remains were located at Laurel Hill Cemetery. At that time no known descendant in the U.S. could be located, so the remains were removed, along with thousands of other pioneers, to Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma. The vast number of tombstones was cast aside unceremoniously. Since then, their remains have rested in the “Laurel Hill mound” marked only with a small concrete block stamped with the number “351.”

So ends this segment of our short history. See you next time with more, hopefully interesting stuff!

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  • hickey197234: i have moved how do i update my info and i lost my card how can i get a new one
    October 02, 2017, 03:05:41 PM
  • Kyle Ball: Retread. Smiley
    February 17, 2017, 05:13:30 PM
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  • Bandito: Hi what time is set up for widders ball on friday, sue and I will be there to help as ysual.
    February 04, 2017, 09:32:14 PM
  • Kyle Ball: thank you jason
    January 31, 2017, 12:48:33 AM
  • bjhardin: Who is going to Emperor Norton Days??
    January 01, 2017, 04:51:55 PM
  • Kyle Ball: Dec 3. Nevada city vets hall. Don't know the time.
    November 29, 2016, 10:28:26 AM
  • Bandito: Hey, jason thorn, no one has recieved post cards on where and when the  directors dinner is, other it says  Dec 3,  WHATS UP......
    November 26, 2016, 10:13:53 PM
  • Kyle Ball: both of mine are paid for. im ready as well. get a new trailer yet cheatham?
    September 18, 2016, 03:19:30 PM
  • Jethro: ok got all my doins pre paid for. now its time to get clampin.
    September 18, 2016, 12:02:22 PM
  • Kyle Ball: reminder to everyone. This months meeting will be at scotts flat
    September 06, 2016, 08:12:06 PM
  • Kyle Ball: road cleanup this sunday 9/11 8am
    September 06, 2016, 08:11:22 PM
  • Tom Barry: Tom Barry: Mistake on the newsletter page with the plaques. Should be Scotts Flat, not Hammon Grove.
    September 03, 2016, 06:30:03 PM
  • cellphone: Where can I pre-pay for 3 skins in November?
    August 28, 2016, 10:44:52 AM
  • Tom Barry: May Party was great! My steak just melted in my mouth. I think the turnout was a bit smaller than usual.
    May 09, 2016, 12:47:55 PM
  • Nickel: must retread to replace card
    May 04, 2016, 09:14:24 PM
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  • Tom Barry: Tom Barry. My Email address is the one by the return address on the newsletter:
    April 23, 2016, 05:17:27 PM

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