IN MEMORY OF JOHN M. STEDMAN
Fayetteville Observer, Thursday, February 25, 1858
Posted January 07, 2010 by Myrtle Bridges
Messrs. Editors: Will you allow one of the travelling public to pay a brief tribute to the
memory of John M. Stedman, late Commander of the ill-fated Steamer "Magnolia."
He was born in Fayetteville in December 1809. His father, E. Stedman, was an old and influential
merchant in Fayetteville, and extended to all his children liberal educations. James is now Pastor
of the Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Porterfield, another son, is at present in California.
John, the subject of this brief notice, attended the Fayetteville Academy, until prepared for college.
He entered at Chapel Hill about 1825, and graduated, as the writer supposes, in 1829.
Soon after attaining his majority, he married Olivia, daughter of the late Hon. Henry Potter, by whom he
had thirteen children; six of whom he now sleeps beside. His wife, six daughters, and one son remain to
mourn his loss. Soon after his marriage he embarked in mercantile pursuits, in which he was not successful;
for a number of years after he devoted his time and talents to teaching. As a teacher he ranked high, and
there are many young men now in our midst who are under special obligations to him for the pains and care
taken to incline their young minds to a love of study and books.
About 1847, he abandoned teaching, and became connected with the Steam Boating business on the Cape Fear River,
as agent of the Merchant's Steam Boat Company. On the dissolution of that company he went into the employ of
T. S. Lutterloh, Esq., about 1850, as River agent.
In the absence or sickness of the regular Captains, he occasionally made trips to and from Wilmington, gradually
acquired a relish for the pleasures and perils of steamboat life, and became Commander of the "Fanny," the first
regular passenger boat between Fayetteville and Wilmington. He ran this new boat with such success as to induce
the Company to build a more commodious passenger boat, the "Magnolia," to which he was transferred about three
years ago and has commanded ever since. In the number of regular trips no man has ever excelled Captain Stedman.
In the last eight years he must have traveled on the Cape Fear River two hundred thousand miles, and entertained
at least twenty-five thousand passengers.
In his intercourse with his passengers he was ever attentive and courteous, and on all occasions disclosed the
characteristics of a true gentleman. His qualities of head and heart, training, education, and associations in
life, eminently qualified him for the station he filled, and enables him to discharge his varied duties in such
wise as to command the confidence and affection of the travelling public. To the unprotected and the timid he
had always at command words of kindness and encouragement and a pleasant cheerful smile, and ever and anon his
jocund jovial laugh could be heard above the din and noise of the steam and machinery. Possessed of kind and
social feelings, he could accommodate himself to the condition of all classes, and enjoy a good story from
stranger lips, to be repeated for the benefit of his passengers on his next trip,--many of these are probably
located in every State in the Union, who when they hear of his death, will heave a sigh
for his untimely fate, and regret that his generous, noble soul is locked in the cold embrace of death.
To his friends it is consoling to know that he died at his post, the place of danger, with a smile upon his
lip and a kind and parting word to Dr. Fellows upon his tongue-a parting that was of short duration; for in
an instant the Captain's lamp was extinguished by the explosion of the Magnolia's boiler, and in the next he
met his passengers in that eternity from which there is no return.
His summons was sudden; but it consoles his friends to know, that three hours before the accident, in speaking
to Rev. Mr. Repiton of his dear ones at home, his thoughts embraced a wider scope, and led him to remark, that
not only his phrenological developments indicated veneration for sacred things, but that he would be most unhappy,
but for a belief and hope in heavenly things. His remains were interred on the 19th from the Presbyterian Church,
escorted by the "Odd Fellows" and the Fayetteville Independent Lt. Infantry Company, and a large number of citizens.
That he was a kind and indulgent father and husband none will ever doubt who saw his bereaved and afflicted wife
and seven children gather around his remains when they were brought home.
That scene, in which crushed hopes and undying affection struggled to suppress all the heart feels will haunt the
memory of them all through life.
Mangled though his body was, his face wore a pleasant smile, as if he were called hence when in a pleasant and a
happy mood, and he bore with him in his hand to the grave a simple violet, which his three year old son, Little
Johnnie, insisted he should take from them.
Before closing this brief tribute to the memory of one from whom I have received much kindness, suffer me to suggest,
that the Passenger Boats on the River be furnished with a small box each into which those who are disposed can drop
their mite for the purpose of erecting a monument to the memory of the lamented Stedman.
(signed 'J') Fayetteville, Feb'y 20, 1858
Recent Additions in Cumberland
Index to Newspaper Abtracts
Cumberland County Homepage