Morgan Thomas and Mary Jane McClurg Stewart


Dance on Pushback

Rein your sorry nags boys, buckle the polished
And set black hats aslant the wind down
There are doings on Pushback at Gabe Waye's
And the door hangs wide, the thumping keg bubbles
With gonesome plumping in the elderberry patch;
The cider brew strains against red cob stoppers
And the puncheon floor is mealed for the skip and
Ready for the stamping, waiting for the hopping,
The Grapevine swing, the ole Virginie reeling
In the grease lamp's fuming and unsteady gleaming.
There are jolly fellows heading toward Pushback
In the valley's brisk breathing, the moon's white
In the whippoorwill's lonesome never answered
Gabe Waye has six fair young daughters
Who dance like foxfire in dark thickets,
Whose feet are nimble, whose bodies are willowy,
As smooth as yellow poplars in early bud,
And their cheeks are like maple leaves in early
And their breath as sweet as fresh mountain tea.
Gabe Waye has six full-blooming daughters
With dresses starched as stiff as galax leaves,
Awaiting the dancing, awaiting and hoping.
Rein-up the filly, boys hitch-up the stallion
And heigh-o yonder toward Pushback Mountain,
The katydids a-calling, the hoot-owl a-hooting,
Thick hooves are striking fire on the crookedy trail,
For feet are yearning for the heart-leaf weaving
And a sight of Waye's daughters doing the Fare-you-well.
Gabe Waye has three tall strapping sons
Standing six feet five in wide bare feet,
And with handsome faces where laughter's never
And with swift limber fingers for silver strings
The tallest picks the banjo, the thickest saws the
The broadest plays the dulcimer with the readiest
And the three together set the darkling hollow
While the harmony goes tripping over moon-
dappled hill.
Spur-up the nags boys, the dance won't be lasting,
Tighten up the reins and set the pebbles flying,
Heigh-o to Pushback with a quick lick-a-spittle,
Night will be fading and moonlight dying.


By James Still

            On December 15, 1895, Morgan Thomas Stewart, age seventeen, married Mary Jane McClurg who was then only fifteen years old. Mary Jane was born on November 11, 1880. She was the daughter of Marion and Josephine Markwell McClurg of Bluestone, Kentucky.

            The couple lived on a farm located on McBrayer Road adjoining Triplett Creek outside the village of Clearfield that they

Morgan, Stella, Mary and Lottie Stewart, Circa 1898

had inherited from his father. Their farm had been part of the larger farm owned by Morgan’s father, Alexander. She had her first child, Stella, at the age of sixteen and her last, Arthur, at the age of forty-two. She was raising three children by the age of twenty. By all accounts, she was a good mother who worked hard raising crops and her garden which provided the food for her family. Morgan worked as a stone cutter in Bluestone and helped construct several old buildings in Morehead. His stone was used in the building at the corner of College and Main Streets occupied by the Battson Drug Store. Like many of his generation, he dabbled in politics and was elected to the Rowan County School Board. A daughter informed me that no one sought office in the county without seeking his support.

            Morgan died at the age of fifty on March 24, 1928 leaving his wife, Mary Jane, with three boys under the age of twelve. Mary Jane's youngest daughter, Mary Ethel, went to work at a laundry in Morehead to make money to help her mother raise her small sons. Although perhaps not very noticeable to her family, a year after Morgan’s death the Great Depression began.

            From the limited opportunities provided in the area, most of Morgan’s and Mary Jane’s children left the area for the job opportunities provided in the north. Morgan, William C., Fred and Arthur moved to Richland County, Ohio, where they all prospered. Jim, after fighting in the Europe in World War II, made a career in the Air Force. Stella after living in the eastern part of Rowan County for many years moved with her family to Indiana. Only three children, Lottie, Martha and Ethel, remained in Rowan County.

            Morgan and Mary Jane had thirty-three grandchildren. They included thirteen males and twenty females. The oldest grandchild was born in 1915 when Mary Jane was thirty-five and the youngest was born forty-five years later when she would have been eighty. Their grandchildren include lawyers, doctors, nurses, educators, social workers, police officers and other government employees, and farmers

            Although the count is not complete, Morgan and Mary Jane had more than fifty-eight great grandchildren. The oldest was born in 1935 and the youngest in 1970. Of the fifty-eight known great grandchildren, thirty-three are males and twenty-five are females. Most of the great grandchildren live in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. Others live, however, in Minnesota, Florida and North Dakota. The great grandchildren include a doctor, educators, nurses, police and military officers and other government employees. Although their descendants are many, few grandchildren have left male heirs bearing the Stewart name. William Creed Stewart, a great-grandchild, (Morgan >William Clarence > Donald Stewart > William Creed) has two sons. These are the only males of the fifth generation to have the Stewart surname.


This 1909 leaflet shows the student body of the Stewart School District No. 50 of Rowan County. It shows that Morgan Stewart was a director and his brother-in-law, Alex Stewart, was also a director. Several of Morgan's children including Stella, William and Morgan were students there.

            Morgan Stewart came from an interesting and vibrant family. At the age of four, his uncle James S. Stewart, was elected Judge of Rowan County and played a role in the Rowan County Feud. This uncle and others may have played pivotal roles in his development as his father had died at an early age. Another, William. G., lived nearby with his growing family on Mill Branch hollow and Morgan and his sibling must have become close friends with their first cousins. Moreover, Aunt Louannie Amburgey and her evergrowing family lived just over the hill.


            Morgan was only 8 years old when the Martin-Tolliver feud began in Rowan County. The Stewarts were Republican loyalists. It is not known whether they sided with the Republican Martins or the Democrat Tollivers but one would have to assume that most Stewarts, to extent that they got involved, sided with the Martins. The Tollivers, led by Craig Tolliver, lived in the county’s largest town, Farmers, which had a population of 1,000. Morehead, smaller than Farmers, had a population of approximately 700.


            Mary Jane died in 1947. Her obituary stated:


Mrs. Mary Jane McClurg Stewart died last Wednesday at the age of 66.


Funeral services were conducted at the Baptist Church in West Morehead by Luther Bradley, William Caudill and Lindsey Caudill with burial in the family cemetery at Clearfield. Casket bearers at the funeral were: George McDaniel, William White, Milzie Cox, Lindsey Caudill, Jesse J. Caudill and Charlie Hogge.


She was born Nov. 1, 1880, the daughter of Marion and Josephine Markwell McClurg. Her

Mary Jane McClurg Stewart

parents both died while she was a child. A half-sister Rosetta McClurg died in 1912. She married Morgan Thomas Stewart Dec. 28, 1895. She was left a widow in 1928.


Surviving are four daughters: Mrs. Stella Martt and Mrs. Lottie May of Morehead; Mrs. Martha Barndollar and Mrs. Ethel Crager of Clearfield, and five sons: Morgan, Jim, Bill, Fred and Arthur of Shelby, Ohio. She also leaves 28 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.


Mrs. Stewart became a member of the Baptist Church early in her life, and was a devout church worker. Arrangements were handled by the Lane Funeral Home.


Click here for photos of the Morgan Stewart Family


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