By Beverly Belcher Woody
I thought for my inaugural column, I would start with the “pioneer” of our local newspaper, The Enterprise.
In 1873, Andrew Jackson Stedman or “Jack” as he was commonly known, began editing and publishing The Voice of the People, the first newspaper in Patrick County.
Jack Stedman was born in Gatesville, North Carolina in April of 1828. His father, a large planter, merchant, and state legislator, was from an old Connecticut family that had settled in North Carolina in the 1780s. Jack read for the law, became a practicing attorney, and served as a presidential elector in the 1848 Taylor-Fillmore balloting.
In February 1855, Jack married Miss Susan Cathleen Staples, the daughter of John Chambers Staples and Mary Martin of Patrick County, Virginia. The newlyweds moved to Raleigh where Jack began publishing Stedman’s Magazine. The magazine’s success was short-lived because war was coming to North Carolina. Jack enlisted in the Forty-ninth Regiment, Company B of the North Carolina Troops. The following is a letter that Jack wrote to Susan the day before he was seriously wounded at Malvern Hill the first of July 1862.
“My own darling wife,
I wrote to you yesterday, and it was just ten minutes after I concluded before we received marching orders for the immediate seat of war. The warning for us to be on the field armed and equipped was but a moment. We were called out late in the evening and entered upon the march just before the close of the day. We were not required or allowed to carry our knapsacks, but when we had a sufficiency of other luggage to carry, a heavy burden. We are in the hearing of the enemy’s cannon, and not a day passes but the artillery of the contending armies is heard in our camp. And we know not at what hour or what minute we may be called on to meet the dastardly foe – the ruthless invader. Our destination on last evening was City Point distant from here 9 miles but 15 the way by which we would have had to travel. The 48th Regiment that left here on Friday has returned today. By such health and heart rally thy Husband.”
Unable to serve in battle anymore, Governor Zebulon Vance appointed Jack to the newly formed Confederate States Army Signal Corp. He was responsible for lines of signal posts and observation points, which transmitted messages by flag, torch, and telegraph.
After the war, Jack moved his growing family to Danbury, N.C., where he began publishing a weekly newspaper called The Old Constitution. He also served as a solicitor of the Fifth North Carolina District and authored a non-fiction book entitled Murder & Mystery, History of the Life and Death of John W. Stephen, State Senator of North Carolina.
In 1873, the Stedmans moved to Taylorsville (now Stuart), Virginia to be near Susan’s family. There were now four children, Mary, William Winship, Malvern Vance, and Sallie Rebecca. In addition to publishing The Voice of the People, Jack became an ordained Baptist minister about 1874 and preached regularly in the local church. He also participated in local civic organizations and was a Master Mason. He continued to practice law, serving as commonwealth attorney, and engaged in agriculture and horticulture.
Jack turned the reins of the Voice of the People over to his son, Malvern Vance sometime in the 1880s because in the Chataigne’s Virginia Gazetteer and Classified Business Directory 1888-1889, the Patrick Press lists M. V. Stedman as proprietor.
Malvern and his sister, Sallie Rebecca both sank deep roots into Patrick County. Malvern married Sallie Woolwine, the daughter of Captain Rufus Woolwine and Sarah Brown Woolwine. Sallie married Henry Lee Hylton, the son of Valentine and Mary Ann Dalton Hylton. Malvern and Sallie each had eight children and many of their descendants still live in Patrick County to this day. Jack and Susan Staples Stedman are buried in the Stuart Town Cemetery.
In the 1920 United States Census, Malvern and his family lived on Church Street in Stuart and he listed his profession as orchardist. Together, Jack and Malvern planted over 150,000 apple trees in Patrick County. It is believed that Malvern’s maternal grandfather, William Martin, planted a tree in Patrick County that became known as the world’s largest apple tree! Return next week to find out more about the tree.
I would like to thank Pamela Davis Caudill and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Davis for information about the Stedman family.
(Editor’s note: Pioneers of Patrick columnist Beverly Belcher Woody grew up in the Wayside community of Stuart. She and her husband Mark have two children and six grandchildren. Beverly is a teacher and in her spare time, learns everything she can about the history of Patrick County.)