Remembering an Honest man
By Laura Roselle
Family Narrative Project, LLC
Archibald Stewart, my great-great grandfather was born in Scotland in 1847. He died there in 1925 and no one I knew growing up had met him. I heard no stories about him; he was simply a name in a genealogy chart.
My mother did find a photo of a large family in her father’s things after he had died, and I discovered that the family was that of this Archibald Stewart. His wife and nine children, plus his father (another Archibald Stewart) sat proudly posed outside. Now I could see the faces of the names in the family tree. The photograph was taken near Beith, Scotland where they all lived in the 1890s. By the early 1900s the family would scatter. One son went to the U.S., 3 children went to Canada, 1 son became a missionary in India, and the rest stayed in Scotland.
Archibald Stewart, who died in 1925, is seated on the right. His wife (Ann Stevenson) sits on the left and his father (Archibald Stewart) sits in the center.
When I reached out to more distant cousins descended from Archibald, I found more about him. My mom’s second cousin Bob Stewart who lives in Canada gave me a poem written by his grandfather Robert on the passing of Archibald Stewart. From this poem we can tell a lot more about Archibald and the family. Values such as hard work, faith, love, and honesty were central to the description of Archibald’s life.
Here’s the poem which I hope you enjoy.
"Man's Sojourn Here Is But A Day"
The sun had long since cast his shortest shadow,
And now was well upon his westward way.
Toiling men, clearing the sweat of labour from their
furrowed brows, The ringing of the Auld-Kirk bell at six:
Strained their ears to hear
And when at last upon the labour-laden breeze,
The old familiar dongs did float away,
They downed their tools, and started out for home.
His well filled day: full with honest toll,
Pure as the honey gathered by the busy bee,
Was almost spent;
His manly frame, which bore his own and others’ cares
Now staggered with the weight of years,
And pain, which oft doth herald sweetest rest
Laid hold with cruel grasp of what was mortal;
But his spirit, full ripened by a life of Faith and Love
Prayed for release,
And while the Auld-Kirk bell rang out the hour of six, he downed his tools and started out for home .
He was not prodigy or super-man;
But just - an honest man, the Noblest work of God.
In memory of my Father, Archibald Stewart, who passed from this life just as the Auld-Kirk bell rang out the hour of 6, May 4th, 1925.
His son, Robert.
I treasure this poem because it contains the story of a man. There are characteristics to admire and great love shared.
Sometimes people think that stories or feelings will last forever. But stories can be lost if you don’t know how to save them and share them. Even the small stories matter. A character sketch can give a new perspective on a person who has died. So write down what you know. This thoughtful act will increase the chances that your stories will survive through the generations.
If you need help with saving and sharing stories, feel free to explore our resources or get in touch with us at the Family Narrative Project, LLC. We’re here to help.