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Cato Township

Early Settlers

John Buchanan Stewart. John was born February 1, 1844 in Canada. He married Elizabeth Gibb born 1850 in England. In 1881 after the birth of their son William Glover, the family  moved from Iowa to Dry Lake Township. Their 160 acre homestead was located in the corners of section 9 and section 17. The were the parents of Robert Percy born in Iowa, William Glover born 1881, Arthur Edward, John Lanham born November 4, 1885. Elizabeth died on October 1890 due to complications giving birth to her eight child and only daughter, Louise Elizabeth (Lou). Elizabeth is buried in the G.A.R. Cemetery in Devils Lake. The Cline family that lived about a mile away became foster parent of baby Lou. John raised his four sons by himself. Besides farming their own land, he and the boys did custom sod breaking with walking plows and oxen, and later horses. They all learned to cook, especially the youngest, John Lanham, who was relegated to the kitchen quite often while the others were doing the field work. By 1902 the Stewart men needed more acreage so they sold the Dry Lake property and bought land several miles east in Cato township. They purchased and farmed eight quarters (1280 acres) including the NW 1/4 of section 16, east 1/2 of section 17, SE 1/4 of section 19, and all of section 20. Their home was on the northwest corner of section 20. Agricultural historian Paul Sharp had referred to North Dakota as the “last best West.”, however, John B and his family apparently were not quite satisfied.  They started exploring Montana at its border with Canada.   This area was about 800 miles due west of their North Dakota farm, but readily accessible by the Great Northern Railroad. Beginning in 1910 and for the next few years, John B. and sons John, Art, Bill and daughter Lou each filed on and improved homesteads in Hill County, Montana. One of the family enterprises was raiding horses. Besides their own working teams, they captured wild horses, broke and trained them for field work. They shipped many railroad carloads to their North Dakota farm, which son Robert was overseeing. John Buchanan Stewart died in Montana on June 27, 1925 at the home of his son, John Lanham Stewart.  An obituary in the Liberty County archives documents as follows:

STEWART, JOHN B.  Death Claims Old Pioneer

Death claimed John B. Stewart at the home of his son, John, north of Joplin, Saturday.  The deceased was 82 years, 4 months, and 22 days of age, and had resided in this neighborhood for 14 years past.  He suffered from an attack of the flu two or three years ago and was not at good health any time since, having heart trouble, which was the cause of his death.  Undertaker AH Layton went to the Stewart home Monday and embalmed and prepared the body for shipment to his old home in Devils Lake, ND.  Funeral services were conducted at the home Tuesday AM, Rev. Nelle Phillips preaching the funeral sermon.  The remains were shipped on No. 4, Tuesday afternoon, to Devils Lake where interment will be made beside the remains of his wife, who died several years ago.  The deceased leaves three sons to mourn his loss, J.L. of north of Joplin, and Will and Art of Webster, ND, also one daughter, Mrs. Charles Sidel (Louise), living in Canada.  (Chester Reporter, 7-3-1925) 

 John Lanham Stewart. John was the youngest son of John B and Elizabeth Gibbs Stewart.  He was born in Dry Lake township, Ramsey County, ND on November 4, 1885.  His mother died when he was 5 years old.  When John was 17, the Stewart men moved to Cato township, Ramsey County, where he remained until 1910 (at age 25) when he went to Montana to homestead on land near the village of Alma.  On March 28, 1912, John married Christine Marie Aaberg at her parents’ home in Cato, ND.  The newlyweds then headed to John’s Montana home where they arrived on Easter Sunday.  Immediately upon arrival, Christine mixed up a batch of baking powder biscuits to go with their Easter meal.  Christine, the daughter of Lars and Monsena Aaberg, was born on November 26, 1885 at Rushford, Minnesota, and had come to North Dakota at the age of two.  She attended school at Aaberg Lutheran Academy and also a dressmaking school in Devils Lake.  At the time of her marriage, she was working at the home of her brother-in-law, John A. G. Dahlen, caring for the 6 children of her deceased sister, Annie.  John and Christine spent 13 years farming Montana where three of their children were born – Earl Jay, August 26, 1913, Myrtle Alice, September 15, 1914, and Jeanette Elizabeth, May 7, 1916.  In 1925, after his father John B's death John sold the farm, bought a new Graham truck, rigged the box to accommodate their 3 children and belongings, and left.  When they got to Highway number 2, they had not fully decided whether to go west to new territory or to go east to the familiar.  With the children in mind, they chose to go east to be sure of a more suitable school and church in Devils Lake, North Dakota. John got work with a construction company and used his truck to haul gravel.  The city was expanding with the building of the post office, banks and buildings along Main Street.  A fourth child, Eileen Louise, was born on June 3, 1926.  In 1931, the family moved to the Stewart Brothers farm in Cato where they remained for the rest of their lives.  John served on the township board.  He was treasurer at the time of his death.  In fact, his death occurred as he was leaving a board meeting.  His car had gotten stuck and he was shoveling snow when he had a heart attack.  He died on April 18, 1966 at the age of 80.  Christine died a year later on October 22, 1967.  Their funerals were in St Olaf Lutheran Church where they were members.  Burial was in the GAR Cemetery at Devils Lake.

Robert Percy Stewart. Robert was born October 8, 1879 near Hampton, Iowa to John B and Elizabeth Stewart.  He came to Ramsey County, Dakota Territory at the age of 3, grew up in Dry Lake and Cato townships, and attended a higher education school in Grand Forks, ND.  He was known as “Bob.”  After marrying Clara Baker, he managed a grain elevator at Bantry, ND.  They later moved to his farm on the SE corner of section 10 of in Cato township, Ramsey County. Robert Percy remained in North Dakota at least until after his wife died.. Later he moved with his nephew Earl J Stewart to Centralie, Lewis County, Washington where he died on September 17, 1957 at age 78.  Clara, known as “Clay,” was born in 1874 and died on June 29, 1920. Children: Louise May (Dolly), was born March 26, 1904 and married John Ruysbroek in July, 1921. Constance (Connie), was born April 12, 1910, and married Percy Olson, Robert Lewis born May 21, 1910, William C. born December 20, 1912, Evelyn Stewart Sagen born July 14, 1914, and John Baker born August 3, 1916.

William Glover Stewart (Bill) was born October 12, 1881 near Hampton, Iowa to John B and Elizabeth Stewart.  He came with his parents to Dry Lake township, Ramsey County, Dakota territory in 1883.  He had 3 brothers and a baby sister when his mother died in 1890.  The 4 boys and their father moved to Cato township, Ramsey County, in 1902.  Their farm had 8 quarters of land, and the south east quarter of section 19 was designated as belonging to Bill from the beginning.  In 1919, brothers Arthur and John L went to Montana to homestead leaving Bill and his father in Cato.  Art came back to the farm while Bill and his father went to Montana to prove up their homesteads.  Later, Bill came back to the North Dakota farm and remained there for the rest of his life. William never married.  He farmed with some hired help, had lots of horses, a steam threshing rig, an early combine, and a prized John Deere tractor.  He had a 1926 Whippet car, a Marquette sedan and a 1946 wartime (black-out) model GMC pick-up.  There were also cattle and pigs, so he carried many bushels of ground feed and pails of milk.  His brother, John L and family joined him on the farm on June 3, 1931.  Bill had gone to school in Grand Rapids as a young man.  He served as township assessor for many years.  He was a man of few words with a good sense of humor and was kind and generous to relatives, friends and hired help.  Arthritis plagued him for many years and his heart gave out in September 1950.  He is buried in the GAR cemetery in Devils Lake, ND. 

Arthur Edward Stewart (Art).  Art was born on November 9, 1883 to John B and Elizabeth Stewart.  He was the first white baby born in Ramsey County, ND.  The family lived in Dry Lake township.  His mother, Elizabeth, died on October 24, 1890 when he was 7 years old.  In 1902, the men of his family moved to a farm in Cato township.  In 1910, Art went to Alma, Montana as a homesteader.  He returned to ND occasionally until 1927 when he moved permanently to a farm near Joplin, MT.  In 1943, Art married May Hermanson, to whom he had been engaged since 1910 (engaged for 33 years!).  May, the daughter of Gus Hermanson, was born December 12, 1884 in Harding township, Ramsey County.  Before her marriage, she worked as a housekeeper some of the time, but made her home on her own land not far from her parent’s farm.  She was active in Scandinavia Lutheran Church and Ladies Aid, and was a member of the Pioneer Daughters.  Since Art and May were so well loved in their respective communities, it was difficult for them to decide in which state to live.  After 3 years in Montana, they returned to North Dakota and built a house on May’s property.  They lived and farmed in Harding township for the next 25 years.  In 1971 they became residents of the IOOF Home in Devils Lake.  They remained members of the Starkweather-Scandinavia Parish. May died on February 5, 1973, and Art died on July 16, 1975 at the age of 91.  They are buried in the GAR Cemetery in Devils Lake, ND.


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