Obituary for Capt. James Stevenson (d.1747)

Having made the final calendar entry in the timeline for James Stevenson of Stewartstown, the time had come to write the man's biographical sketch. Instead, herewith is presented an obituary, as it might have appeared in a contemporary, local newspaper. Admittedly, a certain amount of "journalistic licence" has been taken in the writing, presented below. Yet, the style and content seem not too far off the mark from the provincial Irish newspapers of the 18th century.

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The Stewartstown Standard & Weekly Advertiser,*
25th January 1747 edition:

  STEVENSON.——Capt. James, at his home of fifty-five years in Stewartstown. Previous to making Stewartstown his home, a youthful Capt. Stevenson led a company of Volunteers during the Williamite war. Settling here in 1692, Mr. Stevenson commenced an undertaking in the nature of trade and commerce. In more than half a century thus engaged, Mr. Stevenson became well known to the mercantile circles in the north of Ireland, and in Great Britain, as a man of worth and a trader of acumen. Devoted to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland——himself, a descendant of a minister who was disenfranchised from the Scots church during the troublesome times of Charles II.——Capt. James was a Ruling Elder for Brigh congregation. He was often seen in the company of that estimable worthy, the Rev. Mr. Thomas Kennedy of Carland, and his son in law, the Rev. Mr. John Kennedy, at meetings of the Synod of Ulster. Mr. Stevenson was present at the meeting in this town in 1710 when the then rector of Donaghendry, the Rev. Dr. Christopher Jenney, with the Stewarts of Castlestewart and Killymoon and other respectable men of the district, arranged the construction of a new Established parish church at Arboe. Having executed a series of judicious transactions in matters of property, Mr. Stevenson was not only a resident landlord to many under-tenants in Stewartstown and the neighbouring townlands of Galvally (or Stevenson's Dowery, as it is so often now called), Ruskyroe, and Tamylennan, but he was also a frequent visitor to his tenants' holdings in the parishes of Seagoe and Shankill in the county of Ardmagh. In his latter years, Mr. Stevenson was plagued by a malaise borne of the trials, travails, and sorrows which are necessarily, but banefully, attendant upon the attainment of a venerable old age. Capt. Stevenson was predeceased by his first wife, Miss Allet, several infant sons, two daughters: Mrs. James (Margaret) Templeton and Mrs. Hugh (Latticia) Sharp, and latterly, his second wife, Margaret. He is survived by one son, William (Ann Stewart), daughters Elizabeth (the Rev. John Kennedy of Benburb) and Jane (the late Solomon Speer), sons-in-law: the Messrs. Templeton and Sharp, many grandchildren, and cousins-german at Killyfaddy in county Ardmagh.

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* A fictitious newspaper title.

Local readers would have understood this intimation.
   Mr. Stevenson had lived long enough not only to see his son become financially embarrassed, but also to witness, in 1745, the relegation to bankruptcy of one of his (Mr. Stevenson's) major trading partners. Only the year before, when he wrote his will, Mr. Stevenson had relied on the realization of his trade accounts in order to bequeath certain legacies. After the failure of the English mercantile firm, Messrs. William and James Trotter (and the death of his wife, Margaret), Capt. James wrote a codicil to redirect certain funds towards the payment of his debts and the remainder, if any, to his grand daughters.
   In the crafting of his will, Capt. James had taken pains to protect his son, William, from "creditors [who] will endeavour to deprive him of the benefit of any maintenance and subsistence out of those lands which were settled upon him at his marriage." In fact, those creditors swooped in (and here) on the unfortunate William on the day directly after letters were granted for the administration of his father's will.

 Cousin-german, an archaic expression; denotes a kinsman or a person descended from a common ancestor. Such a connection between the Stevensons of Stewartstown and the Stephensons of Killyfaddy is strongly suspected, but still needs to be proved, or disproved, as the case may be.

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© Alison Kilpatrick, 2016. All rights reserved.
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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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