William Morris Stewart

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William Stewart
William M. Stewart - Brady-Handy.jpg
United States Senator
from Nevada
In office
February 1, 1865 – March 3, 1875
Succeeded byWilliam Sharon
In office
March 4, 1887 – March 3, 1905
Preceded byJames G. Fair
Succeeded byGeorge S. Nixon
5th California Attorney General
In office
Preceded byJohn R. McConnell
Succeeded byWilliam T. Wallace
Personal details
Born(1827-08-09)August 9, 1827
Galen, New York, US
DiedApril 23, 1909(1909-04-23) (aged 81)
Washington, D.C., US
Political partyRepublican, Silver (1893-1901)

William Morris Stewart (August 9, 1827 – April 23, 1909) was an American lawyer and politician. In 1964, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.[1]


Stewart was born in Wayne County, New York, on August 9, 1825. As a child he moved with his parents to Trumbull County, Ohio. As a young man he was a mathematics teacher in Ohio. In 1849 he began attending Yale University but left in 1850 to move to California. He came to California because of the Gold Rush. He arrived in San Francisco, California and soon left to begin mining near Nevada City, California.[2]: 1–4 

In 1903 he was reputed to be one of the richest men in the Senate (with a fortune of some $25 million and ownership of silver mines) and the oldest member of that body.[3]


Stewart was married to Annie Elizabeth Foote, daughter of his law partner, Henry S. Foote, on May 31, 1855.[2]: 8 

His second wife was May Agnes Cone, widow of Theodore C. Cone. They were wed on October 26, 1903, in the Piedmont Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia. Judge Thomas M. Norwood, who had served with Stewart in the U.S. Senate was the best man.[3]

According to the book Reminiscences of William M. Stewart (1908) in May 1905 he moved with his new wife and her daughter to the Bullfrog Mining District (Nevada), where he started a law firm and law library.

Political career[edit]


Reminiscences of Senator William M. Stewart of Nevada edited by George Rothwell Brown, published 1908

In 1851 Stewart ran for sheriff of Nevada County, California, and the next year, in February, he was at the Whig State Convention in Sacramento, where he was named a delegate to the party's national convention.[2]: 5 

In 1852 he studied law in the office of Nevada County District Attorney John R. McConnell, becoming a Democrat in the process. He was appointed to succeed McConnell as district attorney in November 1852. At that time he became a "motivating force" in beginning a Democratic newspaper, Young America (later called The Nevada Democrat.) Stewart continued as district attorney after an election in November 1853.[2]: 6, 7 

He was acting attorney general of California from June 7, 1853, until December.[2]: 8 

Stewart moved to San Francisco and became a law partner with Henry S. Foote, Louis Aldrick, and Benjamin Watkins Lee.[2]: 8 



In 1860 Stewart moved to Virginia City, Nevada where he participated in mining litigation and helped the development of the Comstock Lode. As Nevada was becoming a state in 1864, he helped the state develop its constitution. Stewart's role as a lawyer and politician in Nevada has always been controversial. He was the territory's leading lawyer in mining litigation, but his opponents accused him of bribing judges and juries.[4] Stewart accused the three Nevada territorial judges of being corrupt, and he barely escaped disbarment.[5]

United States Senate[edit]

In 1864, Stewart was named by the Nevada State Legislature to the United States Senate as a Republican. He served in the Senate from 1865 until 1875 when he retired and practiced law again in Nevada and California.[6] In 1873, Stewart's palatial residence, nicknamed Stewart's Castle, was built in Washington, D.C. and became a center of the city's social scene.[7][8] He was elected to the Senate again in 1887 and reelected in 1893 and 1899. During the 1890s he left the Republican Party to join the Silver Party, which supported the Free Silver movement.[6] During this time, he caucused with the Silver Republicans.

During his many years in the Senate, Stewart drafted or co-authored important legislation, including several mining acts and laws urging land reclamation by irrigation. Most famously, Stewart is given credit for authoring in 1868 the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution protecting voting rights regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. During his time as senator, Stewart received 50,000 acres of land for his service on the Committee on Pacific Railroads.[9] In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant offered Stewart a seat on the United States Supreme Court. Stewart declined. Stewart was also involved in an international scandal where he promoted the sale of a worthless worked out Emma Silver Mine at Alta, Utah for millions of pounds to unsuspecting English citizens.[10]

In 1902, he was in The Hague in connection with the Mexican-American arbitration case, when his wife, the daughter of Confederate Senator Henry S. Foote,[11] was killed in a motor-car accident in Alameda, California.[12]

Post-political career[edit]

William Morris Stewart by C. M. Bell

Stewart retired from the Senate in 1905. He was a co-founder of the city of Chevy Chase, Maryland, along with Francis G. Newlands, a fellow Senator from Nevada.[13] Stewart remained in Washington, D.C. and died there four years later. He was cremated and the ashes were originally kept in Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco before being moved to Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.

In popular culture[edit]

The actor Howard Negley (1898-1983) played Stewart in the 1953 episode, "The Bandits of Panamint", of the syndicated television anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. In the story line, Stewart enters into an agreement to gain pardons for two bandits, played Rick Vallin and Glase Lohman, who accidentally stumble upon a rich silver strike. Stewart, however gains ownership of the mine. Sheila Ryan and Gloria Winters played young women with romantic interests in the outlaws.[14]

In another 1953 episode of Death Valley Days, "Whirlwind Courtship", Michael Hathaway, who appeared only twice on television, played Stewart as a young Nevada lawyer determined to wed Annie Foote, a daughter of former U.S. Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi, who had relocated to the West.[15]

In a 1954 episode of Death Valley Days, entitled "The Light on the Mountain," the role of Stewart was played by Michael Colgan (1921-2006). In the story line, Stewart and Richard Corey (Glase Lohman) attempt to clean up the justice system in Nevada in preparation for statehood in 1864. Phyllis Coates played Stewart's wife, Annie. Angie Dickinson was cast as Sabina Harris, a young woman with an interest in Corey.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hall of Great Westerners". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Servant of Power, University of Nevada Press, Reno, 1983
  3. ^ a b "Senator Stewart, Patriarch of the United States Senate, Leads to Altar Mrs. May Agnes Cone, of Madison, Ga.," Atlanta Constitution, October 27, 1903, page 1
  4. ^ Grant H. Smith, 1943, The History of the Comstock Lode, Univ. of Nevada Bulletin, v.37, n.3, p.69.
  5. ^ Dan Plazak, 2006, A Hole in the Ground with a Liar at the Top, Salt Lake City: Univ. of Utah Press, ISBN 0-87480-840-5, p.26-27.
  6. ^ a b "Senators Who Changed Parties During Senate Service (Since 1890)". United States Senate. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  7. ^ Hansen, Stephen A. (2014). A History of Dupont Circle: Center of High Society in the Capital. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 31–44. ISBN 9781625850843.
  8. ^ Goode, James M. (2003). Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's Destroyed Buildings (Second ed.). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 96–97. ISBN 1-58834-105-4.
  9. ^ Faragher, John Mack (2006). Out of Many: A History of the American People, 5th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 505.
  10. ^ E.G.D. (October 9, 1893). "New York Times" (PDF).
  11. ^ Carter, John D. (May 1943). "Henry Stuart Foote in California Politics, 1854-1857". The Journal of Southern History. 9 (2): 224–237. doi:10.2307/2191800. JSTOR 2191800.
  12. ^ "Latest intelligence - Fatal motor-car accident". The Times. No. 36873. London. September 15, 1902. p. 3.
  13. ^ "Chevy Chase Historical Society". Archived from the original on March 3, 2008.
  14. ^ "The Bandits of Panamint on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  15. ^ "Whirlwind Courtship on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  16. ^ "The Light on the Mountain on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 12, 2019.

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
U.S. senator (Class 1) from Nevada
Served alongside: James W. Nye, John P. Jones
Succeeded by
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from Nevada
Served alongside: John P. Jones, Francis G. Newlands
Succeeded by
Legal offices
Preceded by California Attorney General
Succeeded by