The Stewart family, of Boyd or at least the family of which the Hon. James E. Stewart is the representative (for several families bearing the same name are unrelated to each other) are of Irish descent. James Stewart, grandfather of James E. Stewart, and father of Colonel Ralph Stewart, came from Giles County, Virginia, in 1813, and settled on the Sandy in what was afterwards Lawrence County. Some years after James Stewart came with his family from Giles County, Virginia, his aged father came out to see him. He was born and raised in Ireland, and was the earliest ancestor of this branch of the Stewart family in America, although other branches of the prolific tree had gone from Ireland to Connecticut, from whence they spread west into Pennsylvania and Ohio. Colonel Ralph Stewart, the son of James Stewart, was a young man when he came with his father to the Sandy Valley, for he was born in 1792. In 1829 he married America, daughter of Reuben Canterbury, of Canterbury. His wife was many years younger than he.
Colonel Stewart owned and cultivated a large farm on Durbin Creek, near the Sandy River, where he resided until his death in 1876. He was a man of strict integrity, and was always regarded as one of the prominent men of his county. While not a seeker after place, he filled many positions of trust and honor. He raised a large family of children, who have reflected credit on their good training by him and their mother. Their eldest son, Hon. James E. Stewart, on coming to age, studied law, and opened an office at Paintsville in 1855. He soon after married Miss Cynthia, daughter of Lewis Mayo, one of the leading men of the Middle Sandy Valley. The war coming on, 1861, found Mr. Stewart a sympathizer with the Southern side, and for words spoken in its favor he was sent to Camp Chase, where he remained a prisoner for a year or more. On being released by exchange, he returned home. Soon after this the oil fever struck the Sandy Valley, and Mr. Stewart’s knowledge of law, and also of business, enabled him to make quite a snug thing out of the venture. After the war he bought a handsome property in Louisa, to which place he moved, and where he still resides. He filled the office of district prosecutor for six years, and also for the same length of time he was judge of the Criminal Court of his district. He filled both offices with great satisfaction to the people. He is now engaged in his law practice, and also in other business. One of his bright sons was called away by death when just entering on what seemed to be a career of usefulness. The Stewarts have ever been Democrats of the most pronounced type, and James E. Stewart is no exception to the rule. They are also Methodists in religion, Mr. Stewart being a prominent layman in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; at Louisa. Colonel Ralph Stewart’s widow died December 27, 1886, aged seventy-four years.
John Stewart, a brother of Colonel Ralph Stewart, married a Miss Burgess, a daughter of an old settler of that name, and one of the ancestors of the house of Burgess, of Boyd and Lawrence.
William Ely, The Big Sandy Valley (Catlettsburg, KY: n.p., 1887), pp.95-97.