John Stewart, the wholesale produce man of northwestern Kansas, owes his substantial position in life to his untiring energy and perseverance. The progress connected with his business operations and their magnificent results evidences what a man with courage and enlightened views can accomplish. Mr. Stewart's experiences have been varied. He has not attained his present financial standing without great labor, excellent financiering and an indomitable will that would not recognize the word defeat. The word "fail" does not occur in his vocabulary of thought.
He is a son of the "Auld Sod," born in the little village of Malin, County Donegal, November 8, 1861. His parents were James and Margaret (Kalhoun) Stewart, both natives of Ireland. His father early in life learned the carpenter trade, but later engaged in mercantile pursuits. Mr. Stewart's mother died in 1885. After her death his father emigrated to America. where his children had preceded him. He visited Colorado, remaining two years, spent one year with his son in Concordia, and went to Philadelphia, where he died at the home of one of his daughters in 1901. Mr. Stewart is one of six children, five of whom are living, a brother in Idaho and three sisters in Philadelphia.
Mr. Stewart was educated in the National schools of his native country and finished in the academic institution at Londonderry, when fifteen years of age. His choice of a profession was engineering. His parents had aspirations for him to become a clergyman, but Mr. Stewart became neither. He left his native country to make a home for himself in the land o'er the far distant seas. He sailed for America May 18, 1882, one year before he had attained his majority. His attention was attracted toward the far famed silver mines of Leadville, Colorado.
Upon arriving in that city he found work in an iron mine, where he remained four years. In the spring of 18,86, he came to Ellsworth, Kansas, in the employ of a Leadville poultry firm, returning in the autumn of the same year to Leadville, where he resumed work again in the mine. The following March he went to the Pacific coast, intending to visit Alaska. He traveled over various parts of California and visited Vancouver's Island, where his mother's only sister resides, but retraced his steps to Colorado, where he engaged in the poultry and produce business under the firm name of Stewart & Company. The enterprise was not a financial success. They suspended business in December and for the third time Mr. Stewart entered upon mining - a last resort, it would seem.
The following March he was again sent to Kansas to buy butter, eggs and poultry. He came to Concordia in 1888, and was at once attracted toward the town as an opening for a produce business. Mr. Stewart established himself in a cellar, under where the New York grocery now is, on a very limited capital; but his business increased and he soon located in larger quarters, and subsequently finding these too small he found more commodious ones, and later his enterprise assumed such proportions that he leased ground from the Union Pacific Railroad Company and erected a three-story brick building, where this concern transacts a magnitude of business that is surprising in a city the size of Concordia.
Mr. Stewart ships goods all over the United States, perhaps the bulk of which goes to the Pacific coast. During the winter and early spring months he ships into British Columbia and east to Boston, New York City, Albany, Troy, and many other eastern cities. He transacts over five hundred thousand dollars annually and employs in the produce house upwards of thirty men, makes his own tubs, boxes, etc. He employs about ten agents as buyers in various localities.
Within three years from the time of starting operations he built up a trade that footed two hundred and fifty thousand dollars annually. Thus as the world grows older and more progressive we see on every side proof of the assertion that the "self-made" man is the most prosperous and highly esteemed, and from this class many of the best citizens and leading men of our country have been taken. Mr. Stewart is in sympathy with the Republican party, but too much occupied to give a great deal of attention to political matters. However, he was a valued member of the city council in 1893-4, and in 1898 was elected mayor of the city of Concordia serving two years.
In 1896, Mr. Stewart was married to Lillian, a daughter of the late Cornelius Archer, a well known citizen of Concordia. He was elected sheriff of Cloud county and served several years. The Archers came from Ohio to Kansas in 1872 and located on a farm five miles west of Concordia, where Mrs. Stewart was born the first year of their arrival. Mrs. Stewart's mother died in 1882, and her father in 1892. After his death she lived with a brother in Kansas City until her marriage with Mr. Stewart. Mrs. Stewart is an educated woman of refined tastes. She received her education in the Concordia graded schools and in the academy of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
The commodious and substantial home of the Stewarts is brightened by the presence of two children, a son and daughter: John Archer, aged three, and baby Margaret. Mrs. Stewart is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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