“Her whole heart’s devotion”

Another one of the treasures in my grandfather’s box of family papers is the surprisingly well-preserved booklet produced following my great-great-grandmother’s funeral, at Grace Church in New York, on 1 August 1867. The booklet’s sturdy midnight blue cover stock offers no hint of the contents, an admiring Address at the Funeral of Mrs. John Steward given by the Rev. Dr. Stephen H. Tyng, the long-time rector of St. George’s Church on Stuyvesant Square.[1]

He begins: “I cannot allow myself, my friends, to discharge the duties of this solemn occasion, by the mere performance of our stated religious service. My twenty-two years of pastoral relation to this truly excellent Christian woman require from me, that which they also enable me to give, a distinct and affectionate tribute to her own highly exemplary and Christian career now completed. I have known her well; I have loved her much…

“If you contemplate her as a daughter,[2] when did filial affection ever shine in a higher devotion, or with more unchanging fidelity?…

“If you recall her as a sister,[3] how remarkable through all her years, has been that fraternal spirit which has cemented an union of feeling and consideration, in sorrow and in joy, never broken, never violated, so distinguishing her in this connection and so promotive of the happiness of all those related to her…

“If you think of her in her married relation, how completely in sentiment, in interest, in sympathy, in affectionate devotion was she one with him, to whom she gave herself in the joy of life, and whose broken and anguished spirit is to feel the sadness of this day’s intelligence in his far distant separation.[4] It was a union of hearts and welfare, beautiful in its entire mutual respect, reciprocal confidence, unchanging tenderness, and unshaken satisfaction…

“If you survey the history of her life as a mother,[5] you will be ready to say that her whole heart’s devotion was given supremely and always to the children whom God had given to her. She seemed to live but for their happiness and advantage. Her love cheered them, her watchfulness guided them, her piety taught and led them, her example blessed them, and her whole maternal influence was so gentle and uniform, and so uniformly Christian and right, that they can have no memory which will not bless her, and no association of thought with her, which will not guide and bless them.

Steward 1
Catharine Elizabeth (White) Steward, seated at left, with her husband and children on the steps of the Steward Homestead.

“You, her friends, who have known her most intimately, have seen and known all this, as she has walked before you, from her childhood to the hour of her death.[6]

“…The circumstances of her departure so remarkable, are familiar to you all, and I need not recount them.[7] She laid herself quietly to sleep, as by the wayside of her journey, and she was not, for her Lord called her to her final rest with him. She fell asleep with Jesus, and was made a partaker of his rest…

“Thus has this beloved woman departed. Absent from the body, present with the Lord; she unites in the new song of praise before the throne of God and the Lamb, for the riches of redeeming love. While we are mourning her sudden and unexpected departure from our sight, she will abide, dwelling in our grateful remembrance, in our living affection, and in our desire to follow in the light of her example, through the power of a Redeemer’s grace to everlasting glory.”

Continued here.


[1] Mrs. Steward’s daughter, Harriet Le Roy Steward (1842–1872), married Augustus Van Horne Stuyvesant at St. George’s Church in 1864.

[2] Her mother, Harriet Banyer (Le Roy) White (1797–1885), survived Mrs. Steward by seventeen years.

[3] She was the second eldest in a family of six: John Campbell White (1817–1904, later Goldsborough Banyer); Catharine Elizabeth White (1818–1867), who married John Steward in 1841; Ann White (1820–1914); Mary Martha White (1822–1903); Jacob Le Roy White (1823–1829); and Cornelia Le Roy White (1825–1911).

[4] John Steward outlived his wife by thirty-three years; he never remarried.

[5] Mrs. Steward had four children: Harriet [see Note 1]; John Steward Jr. (1843); John Steward (1847–1923), who married Cordelia Schermerhorn Jones in 1871; and Campbell Steward (1852–1936), who married Margaret Atherton Beeckman in 1885.

[6] My great-great-grandmother died at the Steward Homestead in Goshen, New York, on 28 July 1867.

[7] One could wish he had done so!

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. 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.

5 thoughts on ““Her whole heart’s devotion”

  1. As always, exciting to read such interesting information. I am glad that I have a family member equipped to save such precious memories safely and yet share them with the rest of us.

  2. What beautiful sentiments from Rev. Tyng! I especially love the words used in your title, and the last line describing their marriage- those could be, and should be, wedding vows. What a treasure you have shared- thank you!

  3. What moving and heartfelt words. I wish we would still hear such beautifully composed expressions of praise and appreciation about worthy persons such as your great-grandmother. I think we as a society have lost the ability to use language in such elegant way. Thank you for sharing.

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