Friday, March 11, 2016

Allan Melville's debt to Tertullus D. Stewart

Herman Melville's debt to his Lansingburgh friend Tertullus D. Stewart is amply discussed by Hershel Parker in Damned by Dollars, (the concluding chapter of Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative) and also in both volumes of Herman Melville: A Biography. See for example V1.544 and 824-5; and V2.278 and 285-6.

Allan Melville (1823-1872)  via The World of Wolcott Wheeler
New York probate records show that Herman's younger brother Allan Melville also borrowed from Stewart. I can't tell if Allan's "note" reflects an independent debt, or if it is connected somehow with the repayment of Herman's old debt. Ancestry has images of New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999. Probate date there is given as June 10, 1859. The Queens Accounts for 1859 include the final accounting by John A. Crum as Administrator for the estate of Tertullus D. Stewart. Stewart's brother and business partner William H. Stewart (1807-1866) successfully pressed large claims on the estate that included a promissory note to WHS for $23,675, dated August 1, 1856. Stewart's widow Catharine got $150 as required by 1842 legislation.

The name of Allan Melville occurs under "Debts due the estate and mentioned in the Inventory which have been collected." In the next year after Stewart's death on July 11, 1857, Allan Melville paid off his debt to the estate.
May 14 On Acct. of Note of Allan Melville   100.00
April 13 Ball. In full of [Allan Melville]   249.19 - New York, Wills and Probate Records: Queens-Accounts, 1859
I don't get why the balance of $249.19 is shown as paid in full on April 13, before the payment of $100 on May 14th. Looks like the dates might be reversed, since May should come below/after April. Either that or I don't understand the accounting procedure.

The probate records give the name of Stewart's widow as Catharine Augusta Stewart. Their children, both minors, were named John Dickson Stewart and Leeman Luman Hitchcock Stewart. "Luman H. Stewart of Albany, N. Y." is named as her surviving son in the New York Times obituary notice for Mrs. T. D. Stewart, who died in Morristown, New Jersey January 8, 1900. Tertullus D. Stewart's son Luman Hitchcock Stewart was born May 20, 1853 in Astoria, according to the biographical entry in Who's who in Railroading in North America.

Is the D in Tertullus D. Stewart for Dickinson?
Tertullus D. Stewart died July 11, 1857 age 54. For in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive. Stone broken in half. Tertullus, son of John and Eliza (Dickinson) Stewart. The marriage index to the Lansingburgh newspapers shows that Tertullus D. Stewart married Augusta Hitchcock of Albany 10/19/1847. --The Burial Grounds of Lansingburgh


  1. Memo from the Small World Department: People probably don't cite "The Burial Grounds of Lansingburgh" very often, but I did this very year in a completely unrelated context.

    A few blocks from where I live in Fitchburg, Mass., is the tiny West Street Cemetery, with 18 lonely gravestones from the 19th century. The oldest is a little boy named Increase Sumner Garfield, who died in 1801 before his second birthday. His parents, Timothy and Eunice Garfield, later left town and removed to Lansingburgh, and you'll find them under "Garfield" on that page you linked.

    I've worked on documenting that cemetery over the past year or two, and a pdf of the summary paper is available here, with footnote 13 being "The Burial Grounds of Lansingburgh":


  2. Where does the 19 cents come from? That was the cents in Allan's balance. In no way could 19 cents derive from what Herman owed Stewart. But 19 cents could derive from court costs. Allan may have lost a court case to Stewart and had to pay court costs of say, for example, $22.19 in addition to whatever was involved. John Gretchko