James H. Stewart

MONONGALIA COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA
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Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie & Tommy Crook
vfcrook@trellis.net
November 8, 1999
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The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 288

HON. JAMES H. STEWART, State Commissioner of Agricul-
ture, and for many years director of the Agricultural Ex-
periment Station at Morgantown, exemplifies the most ad-
mirable qualification for his present duties. He is a man
of high character, represents the substantial social attain-
ments of a family of long residence in the state, and has
the advantage of thorough training and long and successful
practice in the fundamentals of agriculture and stock
raising.

Mr. Stewart was born on the Stewart plantation on the
Kanawha River in Putnam County June 20, 1859, son of
James and Martha Jane (Staton) Stewart. The Stewarts
are a prominent family of Scotch-Irish origin, for many
generations identified with old Virginia and later with
West Virginia. Martha Jane Staton was a daughter of
James Staton, member of the Staton family who first set-
tled on the Kanawha Eiver in Putnam County, about 1812.
The original Staton plantation subsequently came under
the proprietorship of James Stewart, who developed it
into one of the famous estates of the Kanawha Valley.
It remains in the family, being the birthplace of and
still owned by James H. Stewart. The home of James
Stewart in ante-bellum days was widely noted for its
atmosphere of culture and refinement and its genuine
hospitality. Many distinguished guests were entertained
there, and the intellectual and social standards thus created
have continued to this day. Martha Jane Staton was a
rarely gifted woman in all the arts of the household, skill-
ful in the making of fine woven fabrics and other furnish-
ings for her home, and some of the counterpanes, table
covers and kindred articles that she made with her hands
are still in the home, priceless heirlooms.

James H. Stewart attended country schools, the Shelton
College at St. Albans, graduated with the class of 1882
from the University of West Virginia, and also studied
law in the University, graduating in 1885. However, he
never practiced law, finding abundant occupation for his
time and talents on the home plantation in Putnam County.
In 1893 he was made one of the regents of the State Uni-
versity, and in the following year the University author-
ities literally took him away from the plow and placed
him in charge as director of the Agricultural Experiment
Station. He therefore removed his family to Morgantown,
and remained director of the station fourteen years. Fol-
lowing that, until 1916, he was agricultural agent of the
Baltimore & Ohio Railway system.

Mr. Stewart was first elected State Commissioner of Agri-
culture in 1916 and was reelected in 1920. In both elec-
tions he was on the republican ticket, and in the primaries
and in the general election he received the highest vote ever
accorded in West Virginia.

Under Mr. Stewart the Department of Agriculture has
become one of the most vitally important and valuable in
the state government. It comprises a number of bureaus
and sub-divisions, each under the direction of a specialist,
and in the aggregate it is performing work of genuine and
lasting benefit not only for every interest that can be
grouped under the general head of agriculture but for the
welfare of the state as a whole. Some of the effective
lines of its service includes the spreading of knowledge
among farmers and stock raisers as to the best means of
increasing crop yields, getting rid of blights and insect
pests, grading up cattle and livestock, and teaching effi-
ciency and business methods in farm management. Under
this department cattle are being tested out in West Vir-
ginia at a lower cost per animal corresponding with the
efficiency of results that any other state in the Union ex-
cept Iowa. The department has done a great work in
eradicating tuberculosis, and another source of valuable
service is the promotion and supervision of agricultural
fairs.

Mr. Stewart is also a member of the Board of Public
Works in West Virginia, and a member of the Budget
Committee which makes up the appropriations for the state.
During the war with Germany the work of his department
was given over almost entirely to measures leading to the
winning of the war. Mr. Stewart was a member of the
State Council of Defense, and accepted as his special
province all questions relating to increased food production
and conservation of food supplies.

While his official residence is in Charleston, Mr. Stewart
retains his home at Morgantown, and he also keeps, in
close touch with the management of his old home estate on
the Kanawha. This comprises several hundred acres of
fine agricultural and horticultural lands, and its several
units combine to make it one of the model farms and
orchards of West Virginia. An important feature of this
estate is the famous James H. Stewart apple orchard, one
of the largest and most successful orchards in West Vir-
ginia.

Mr. Stewart married Miss Minnie Louise Vance, and they
have one son, James Vance Stewart.