Sunday, January 30, 2011

History of the Stewart House in Louisa, Kentucky

Hidden from view by a mighty boxwood hedge and an old fashioned wrought iron fence stands the Stewart House, built between 1846 and 1847, quite possibly the oldest structure still in existence in Louisa. Situated on Main Street in the downtown area, the large two-story house has stood the test of time. Nevertheless, the house has remained empty since the death of its last occupant, and, void of the loving human touch, is beginning to show its age and falling into disrepair.

Front Gate

Looking at the original plat map of Louisa, the Stewart House is situated on lots # 71/72, as part of a city block bound by Main Street, Lock Avenue, East Perry Street and South Jefferson Street, and formed by lots # 71 - # 74.

Louisa Plat Map
Location of the Stewart House.

The first documented owner of lots #71-74 was Richard Apperson (1799-1863), a well known lawyer from Mt. Sterling, Montgomery County, KY. Born in New Kent County, VA, Apperson settled in Kentucky in 1814/15, and began teaching school for several years, while reading law at the same time. He was licensed to practice in the Court of Appeals in 1823 and admitted to the bar in Richmond, KY where he pursued his profession until 1830. He then moved to Mt. Sterling, and represented Montgomery County in the state legislature for two terms and was a member of the 1849 Kentucky Constitutional Convention. Apperson held the original patent to a 2084 acres tract, originally surveyed by George Washington for one John Fry under the Proclamation of 1763, and granted in 1792, which was located on both sides of the Big Sandy River and included the present site of Louisa.

Ownership of lots #71-74 passed from Richard Apperson to Dr. Zattu Cushing, a medical doctor with entrepreneurial aspirations. It may be noted that he was the uncle of two well known Civil War heroes - Alonzo Hereford (Lon) Cushing, commander of the famed Cushing's Battery, who died during Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, next to the artillery guns he refused to leave, and William Barker Cushing, one of the most daring Naval commanders of the Civil War. His two most famous acts were the nighttime raid and destruction of the formidable Confederate ram CSS Albemarle and his leading of the naval brigade in the assault upon Fort Fisher, North Carolina.

Dr. Zattu Cushing was born on December 7, 1802, at Paris, N. Y., the son of Zattu and Rachel (Buckingham) Cushing. His father was a pioneer settler from Plymouth, Massachussetts, who founded the town of Fredonia, NY. Dr. Zattu Cushing came to the tri-state area at an early time, possibly before 1820. He settled in Cabell County, Virginia and began operating a mercantile store near "The Islands of The Guyandotte", which is now Logan, Logan Co. WV. Here he went into partnership with Anthony Lawson, an English man from Longhorsby, Northumberland, and began buying and transporting the local farmers' produce down the Guyandotte River in push boats to other locals. By 1828, Cushing had moved to Gallipolis, Gallia Co. OH and married Mary A. Cushing, a native of Belpre, Ohio. He returned to the area after his wife's death and in 1838, purchased 400 acres of land on the Tug Fork of Big Sandy River from David Garrett. Cushing and his brother-in-law Edward Tupper, began operating a wholesale/retail store in Lawrence County, known as "Cushing & Tupper".

On May 30, 1840, Cushing and Tupper sold a tract of land on the Tug River in Wayne County, Virginia, to William Ratcliff, for the sum of $1500. Two months later, on July 2, 1840, Dr. Zattu Cushing married Nancy Ann White Smith, a daughter of Thomas and Rachel (Moss) Smith, at Louisa, Lawrence County, Kentucky, where the couple set up housekeeping. 1840 was also the last year that Cushing and Tupper operated their store. Cushing's brother-in-law returned to Zanesville, OH and Cushing took up practice as a medical doctor. He soon became also involved in local affairs. The "Kentucky State Register" for the Year 1847 lists Dr. Zattu Cushing as one of the physicians in Louisa, as well as a Justice of the Peace.

During this time period, Cushing's family grew steadily. On July 22, 1841, his wife Ann gave birth to Edward Narrette Cushing, who later became adjutant on Major General Sherman's staff during the Civil War. The next child to be born was Madeline Lamoine Cushing, on April 4, 1843.

According to tax lists, Zattu Cushing acquired lots #71 - 74 in 1846, valued at $300. The following year, this property was valued at $1500, indicating that Cushing had made improvements on the lots, building a house and barn on the property. His daughter Romaine Vinton Cushing, was reportedly born in the house on June 22, 1847, followed by Ada Byron, on Aug. 9, 1848, who died there the following year, on June 5, 1849.


In 1849, three slaves (one over 16 years old) became part of the Cushing household. This is an interesting fact, considering that Zattu's brother Milton Buckingham Cushing, who had died in Gallipolis, OH, in 1847, was regarded as one of the pioneers in the anti-slavery movement. At his funeral an eulogist said "...He was a conscientious and active antislavery man and gave liberally of this money, and his time and thought, to assist in bringing freedom to the colored race..."
In 1850, a 13 year old male slave was the only one who remained with the family. The small structure behind the main house may have served as quarters for Cushing's slaves.

Possible Slave Quarters

In the 1850 Lawrence County, KY Census, Dr. Zattu Cushing's family lived in HH # 916 and was enumerated as follows:
CUSHING, Z., 47 years old, Male, Doctor, $3000, b. NY
Cushing, Nancy A., 29 years old, Female, b. VA
Cushing, Nary, 9 years old, Male, b. KY
Cushing, M. L., 7 years old, Female, b. KY
Cushing, Romane V., 5 years old, Female, b. KY

Perhaps motivated by the death of his daughter Ada in 1849, Dr. Zattu Cushing made the decision to leave Louisa and move to Catlettsburg with his family. A decree by the Lawrence Co. KY Circuit Court enabled Dr. Zattu Cushing to acquire lots # 71 -74 from Apperson on Nov. 7, 1850 for $300, possibly the outstanding balance owed on the property by Cushing. On the same day, in turn, Cushing sold the same to James Lawson, the son of his former business partner Anthony Lawson of Logan Co. VA, for $3,000.

Lawson retained ownership of the house for the next 13 years but there are no indications that he ever lived in the house. Lawson, a surveyor, lived with his family on Island Creek, Logan Co. VA. His wife Matilda died on April 19, 1860 of consumption and left Lawson a widower with a number of teenage children to raise. When the Civil War began, the family was decidedly pro-Southern. One of the more prominent members was James' nephew Melvin B. Lawson, who had a gained notoriety during the Civil War as captain of the 5th VA State Line and captain in the 10th Kentucky Cavalry. He was also associated with "Rebel Bill" Smith's VA Battalion as captain and participated in raids in Floyd County and Pike County, KY, during the summer of 1864 and in a raid on Peach Orchard, Lawrence County, KY, in October 1864.

Early on in the war, perhaps due to the Southern sympathies of the owner, the house was commandeered by the Union Army and used as a hospital for the soldiers as well as to retain prisoners. The choice of this particular house may also have been a matter of convenience since Dr. Yates, regimental surgeon of the newly formed 14th KY Infantry, lived next door on one of the neighboring properties (lot # 82). It was also in close proximity to another building that had been converted into a hospital - the First Methodist Church on Main Street (lot # 86).

It appears that James Lawson moved with his family from Logan to Wythe County, VA during the war. On June 2, 1863, Lawson sold lots # 71-74 to John B. Carter, specifying that the purchase price of $1,200 was to be paid in Confederate money.

James Lawson to John B. Carter Deed, June 2, 1863

John B. Carter and his wife Lucretia retained ownership of the property until 1868 when the lots were conveyed to John J. Jordan who in turn sold them to George Carter on July 20, 1868. On the same day, Carter executed a title bond to Greenville McHenry who assigned the same to James E. Stewart, a lawyer living in Paintsville, Johnson Co. KY.

Stewart was born on Oct. 1, 1832 in Lawrence Co. KY, the son of Ralph J. Stewart and Emma America Canterbury. James E. Stewart read law with Judge James M. Rice and was admitted to the Kentucky Bar Association in late 1854. He moved to Paintsville, Johnson Co. KY on December 31, 1854 and opened a law office the following year. On January 11, 1860, James E. Sewart married Cynthia F. Mayo, daughter of Lewis Mayo, who was one of the leading men of the Middle Sandy Valley. From September, 1861, to April 1865, Stewart resided part of the time near the mouth of John's Creek, and a part of the time on a farm about two miles from Paintsville.

When the Civil War began, Stewart, according to his own words, "sympathized with the southern people, but had no connection whatever with those in arms, or that was aiding the rebellion."

After the Battle of Middle Creek on January 10, 1862, Paintsville served as temporary military base for Union commander James A. Garfield. During this time disloyal citizens were arrested, among them Stewart who was charged with "giving aid and succor to rebels." According to Stewart, he was arrested "at the instance of prejudiced acquaintances, and upon false testimony." He was taken to Newport Barracks, KY and from there forwarded to Camp Chase, Ohio on March 19, 1862, where he remained a prisoner for nearly a year. On being released by exchange, he returned home and soon returned to the practice of law.

In August of 1868, one month after acquiring the Main Street property in Louisa, Stewart was elected commonwealth attorney for the sixteenth judicial district of Kentucky, composed of the counties of Pike, Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin, Lawrence, Carter, and Boyd. According to Stewart, he was, "was elected to that position by the people in August, 1868, by a majority of near a thousand majority."

It was not until 1872, that Stewart, with his wife and three children, finally moved from Johnson County to Louisa and took up abode in their new home on Main Street. Their child Neva Sharon Stewart was born here in 1875.

In the late 1870's, Eastern Kentucky was rocked by activities by groups of so-called "Regulators". Judge James E. Stewart was appointed special judge of the Criminal Court, 16th District, in an attempt to bring peace and order to the counties of Carter, Elliott and Lawrence. Despite frequent death threats, Judge James E. Stewart vowed to uphold the law against the Regulators and called on Gov. Luke P. Blackburn for state troops. Stewart's firm stand, the threat of military force, and the promise of executive clemency for Regulators who voluntarily surrendered, proved to be successful to end the violence in Lawrence County. On May 28, 1880, several hundred Lawrence and Carter County Regulators surrendered to Judge Stewart at Louisa. On February 2, 1881, Stewart recommended pardons for 390 Regulators.

In 1884, Judge James E. Stewart's son James Lewis graduated with a Bachelors of Law from the Ann Arbor Law School, University of Michigan. During the closing ceremony, he was exposed to cold which turned into pneumonia. He returned to Louisa and died at the home of his parents on July 18, 1884, at the age of 23 years.

The Stewart family continued to live in Louisa and in 1900, James E. Stewart was listed in the census as living with his wife Cynthia and son Forest Lee, also a lawyer, and daughter Neva Sharon, a music teacher. In 1902, Neva married their neighbor Albert M. Campbell, an engineer. Soon thereafter, Judge Stewart's health began to decline and, after sustaining "a stroke of paralysis", he died at his Louisa home on Jan. 18, 1903.

Judge Stewart Obituary, Morning Herald, Jan. 19, 1903

On March 10, 1904, Cynthia Stewart finally received the deed for their Main Steet home, "the entire consideration in said title bond [executed on the 20th July, 1868] having been paid in full..."

In 1905, Forest Lee Stewart married Nannie Lee Watson Hays, a widow from near Webbille. This family eventually became the next occupants of the Stewart home. After Forest Lee's death on June 9, 1930, his widow Nannie continued to reside in the house until her death. Up to the present day, the house still remains in possession of the family.

Article researched and compiled by Marlitta H. Perkins, January 2011.
Images are copyright of the author.


  1. Replies
    1. Yes Nora...I just found out myself. I find the circumstances rather suspicious, to be honest. What a loss for Louisa. I have no words. It died of neglect and non-caring. Thanks for letting us know.

  2. i thought ruby shannon was the last person to live in this house

  3. The property has such an eerie feeling to it. The house is completely burnt to the ground. Some say that there is para normal activity on the land.

  4. The property has such an eerie feeling to it. The house is completely burnt to the ground. Some say that there is para normal activity on the land.