"There was an eastern prince"

Catharine Steward envelope 1864As it turns out, the envelope in which my great-great-grandmother’s letter to her son was mailed in 1864 (and found in my grandfather’s box of family papers) also contains a story written by my great-grandfather and dated 1 November 1862. His own interpolations are marked ^:


The Magic RingThe Magic Ring

There was an eastern prince who when he ascended the throne received a number of presents as (it)[1] is the custom in the east. Among others there was a magician who gave him a ring. This ring was not valuable on account of the precious stones ^which it contained^ but on account of a power ^it possessed^ which when he did any thing wrong ^caused it to^ pinch his finger. He liked this ring at first but when he got old and spoiled he began to dislike it very much because it pinched his finger all the time, so he was determined to take it off and never to put it on again. He got so wicked ^after this^ that his subjects (did rise)[2] ^rose^ against him, which would probably never have happened if he had worn it.

Campbell Steward

Nov. 1st 1862[3]

My first composition

My great-grandfather preserved another letter dated on his thirteenth birthday:

William Hude Neilson letterDear Cammy:

I could not let your birth-day pass without some little souvenir––

May it prove a happy day without alloy. As you increase in stature, may you increase in wisdom and in form, ever living nobly[;] may you always have pleasant memories in the past, and bright anticipation for the future––

Accept my kind congratulations, and believe me ever, very sincerely anxious to contribute to your happiness and welfare.

March 31st 1865                                                                                                                           Wm. H. Neilson[4]

Another survival of my great-grandfather’s young manhood[5] is this program from the “Happy Family/Bull-Pup Tournament” of 15 December 1874. Campbell Steward appears in the third fixture of the evening, fencing against James T. Soutter,[6] and the other participants are old friends from Columbia: Samuel Shaw Howland (1849–1925), who married August Belmont’s daughter Frederika; Charles Russell Hone (1849–1920); George Lockhart Rives (1849–1917), a future Assistant Secretary of State; Adrian Iselin Jr. (1846–1935), replaced by Hermann Oelrichs (1850–1906); Adrian’s brother William E. Iselin (1848–1937)[7]; and William Waldorf Astor (1848–1919), later the 1st Viscount Astor. Something of the larky humor of these young men still shines through in this rather fantastical production!

Continued here.



[1] Penciled in by an editor – perhaps his mother.

[2] Penciled in by an editor.

[3] He was ten years old.

[4] William Hude Neilson (1816–1887), a friend of Cammy’s parents; his wife Caroline Kane Mills was Cammy’s future wife Daisy Beeckman’s second cousin once removed.

[5] He graduated from Columbia University in 1873.

[6] James Taylor Soutter (1848–1883).

[7] His son Arthur Iselin married Hermann Oelrich’s niece Eleanor Jay in 1904.

Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.View all posts by Scott C. Steward