Thomas Honeybus Stewart
(1827 - <1910)
Samuel Mason
(1840 - <1930)
Martha Ann Ellis
(1834 - )
Mary Jane Elizabeth Jamison
(1848 - 1909)

m. abt 1889, Denver, Denver Co., CO 
Reginald "Rex" William Honeybus Stewart  Eliza A. Mary Mason 
b. Jan 1, 1870, Missouri
d. Mar 26, 1945, Newark, Essex Co., NJ
bur. Mar 29, 1945, Evergreen Cemetery
occ. 1920 Insurance Broker, 1930 Salesman - Life Insurance, Musician - Piano, Mandolin, Violin
cen. 1880, Dover, Lafayette Co., MO
b. Jan 1, 1871, Murfreesboro, Rutherford Co., TN
d. Nov 5, 1965, Kearny, Hudson Co., NJ
bur. Nov 9, 1965, Bloomfield, NJ
occ. Housewife - Housework
cen. Jun 1880, Topeka, Shawnee Co., KS
Spouses: 1, 2, 3

> Samuel Sylvester Stewart <
Reginald "Rex" W. Honeybus Stewart was born on 1 Jan 1870 in Missouri. Until recently, he was the “end of the line” of that branch of my ancestors. I had a few vague recollections by my grandmother, Mary Elizabeth (Stewart) Gwyn, who grew up with her grandparents Reginald and Eliza (Mason) Stewart. She said “Pa” used to travel for his job and would bring her small gifts from his travels. Only last year I finally found a few more census records, that list his birthplace as Missouri, and then received his death certificate, which listed, finally, his parents names: Robert and Martha Stewart. I was confused for a while about how the facts lined up, but knowing what I now do about my Great Great Grandfather’s history, it’s entirely understandable. This guy has got several aliases!

Aunt Pat, my grandmother’s half-sister Florence (Stewart) Hicks had told me this bit of oral history: "Pa (Robert/Reginald/Rex Stewart Sr.) told us that when slavery was over the master told all of the slaves they could choose between the names STEWART and HONEYBUS. Our family chose the Stewart name."

Years of searching yielded very few Honeybus families, most in Oklahoma and I didn't have a clue to the names of Reginald Stewart's parents until last year. Just last week, on the website I finally located my Honeybus/Stewart family and can now trace them over 6 decades.

Their first appearance in the census is in 1870, following the days of slavery. In the town of Dover in Lafayette County, Missouri.
Hanibus Thomas age 43 M B Laborer b. Virginia
Martha 36 Keeping House b. Kentucky
Donalle 18 Female at home b. Missouri (as were the following)
Sandford 15 Male
West 11 Male
Walker (Walter?) 10 Male
Virginia (Jenny) 8 Female
Tillie (Jillie?) 6 Female
(NOTE: The transcriber recorded this name as Hanilous instead of Hanibus or Honeybus. Use a wildcard search when you are having trouble finding people. This census does not list family relationships. In 1910, Martha Stewart was recorded as having 7 children born to her, 7 still living. I do not know which of the above children besides Virginia (who I believe is Jenny).


In 1880 they were recorded again in the same place: (Mu stands for Mulatto - which was assigned rather subjectively accoring to the census takers opinion.)
Thomas Honeybuss Mu 53 Farmer b. Virginia, father b. Virginia mother b. Africa (!!)
Martha Honeybuss Keeping House Kentucky, KY KY
Jennie 17 (daughter) General House Work MO
Juda (Julia) 14 (daughter) school MO
Walter 18 (son) works on farm MO
Robert 12 (son) at home MO
Dora 5 (daughter) at home
Odella 10/12 (daughter) born in July
(NOTE: I was mildly concerned not to see Reginald - but people often went by different names over time. I mentioned it to Grandma, and she told em that old family friends of Pa and Ma (Reginald and Eliza) used to call him “Bob”. Also, this is the first instance where I have found one of my African American ancestors who knew his parent was born in Africa.)

The 1890 census no longer exists and it makes for a frustrating gap in every genealogists record, but in 1900 I lost track of most of them, only finding two of the sisters living in Ft. Apache, Navajo Co., Arizona Territory, and this is the first instance of finding the name Stewart used as a Surname. It doesn’t quite match with the family legend, but the main facts are there. By 1910, the family had scattered. In Los Angeles, CA, I found Jennie (Stewart) Wylie, widowed with her 2 sons and her mother Martha Stewart, also widowed. In Cheyenne Wyoming, I found Julia (Stewart) Potter, also widowed, mother of 3 sons. For Reginald, things get interesting...

Although I have found no records on Reginald since 1880, I know Reginald married Eliza Mason and their son Samuel Sylvester Stewart was born in 1894 Cripple Creek, Colorado. Then in 1903, Reginald became a student at Lincoln University in Oxford PA, singing in a quartet. There he met a young woman, Jane Johnson and may have married her. Grandma told me that Nanny (Eliza (Mason) Stewart was married to Pa twice, so I’d like to think that they were officially divorced, and that he was no bigamist. Reginald and Jane had a son, Rex Stewart, Jr. who went on to achieve fame as a music innovator and coronet player in Duke Ellington’s band. He wrote very little about his father, but it is the only information I have about this part of his life. Some quotes from Rex Stewart’s Boy Meets Horn:

...Pert and pretty Jane married Rex Stewart from out Kansas way. I am told that they met while Mother was at Bryn Mawr and father was singing with a quartet from Lincoln University. Aside from singing, Pop also played violin, piano and mandolin. (pg. 12) ....

When she married at 16, she had only one more year of college to complete her course. Even though she continued her studies at home, she never graduated. My parents were divorced when I was quite young so my father was not in my life at all, and from childhood. I did not see him again until I was a youth of 16. I have only a few very dim childhood memories of him. I remember being on a boat and then the spanking some big man gave me when I tossed my ball overboard. the big man was Dad and I was only two years old when this happened, according to Mom. Then I remember my short introduction to the violin. Pop proudly started me on the instrument and I did catch on quickly to the principles of fingering, the notes of the scale, etc. but I was too small to related what he was trying to teach me to his beautiful tone and technique. I also remember being so overawed that I said to myself, “I don’t want any old violin.” And I never touched the instrument again, especially after that spanking in the woodshed just for taking the bridge off the fiddle to see if it would sound like a mandolin, which Pop also played. Outside of those memories, I forgot Rex Sr as a person for many years. When we met after that long separation I recognized him immediately, but it took many years for us to become acquainted and for our mutual love and respect to develop. (pg 12)

...Grannie always called me “Boy,” never by my name. I guess she never accepted her Jane’s being married to Rex and that perhaps explains why she never had anything good to say about my Pop.... ... Grannie really furthered my education in race relations by yelling “Scat, black boy. You are black, your pop is black and you will never amount to anything.” (pg 11)

...My dad especially had made music distasteful. He wanted so much for me to play the violin, but my fingers were two short, so it became a tug of war between us. ( pg 37)

I searched his book high and low for any other mention of Rex Sr., but never found one, although my grandma told me that they knew Rex, and saw him a few times, and that he had some kind of relationship with his father in later years. In any event, by 1920 and through 1930 Reginald lived again with his wife Eliza Stewart in Newark, NJ raising their granddaughter. Reginald and Eliza Stewart’s son, Samuel Stewart married Addie Jane Johnson, daughter of Hampton and Elizabeth (Sayles) Johnson of Wytheville, VA whom he may have met when they were both students at Morgan College. Sadly, she died giving birth to their only daughter, my grandmother Mary Jane Elizabeth Addie Stewart (it says on her birth certificate.) He was a member of Thirteenth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Newark. He worked as an Insurance Broker in 1920 and a Salesman for Life Insurance in 1930.

Grandma also told me that he loved to play music, and would play with his friend “Uncle Will” Hightower and a Mr. Hansen when they visited them in Brooklyn. (I also searched for Will & Lula Hightower, hoping they would lead me to missing Stewart listings, but no luck).

In addition to the quotes above about his musicianship, Rex Stewart’s Jazz Masters of the Thirties says of Reginald W. Stewart, “He helped support his studies by singing and occasionally working in restaurants - waiting on tables, playing the piano, violin, mandolin.” 127

At some point Reginald and “Nanny” Eliza divorced and he married Ethel Garrett. He died on March 26, 1945 of cancer of the intestine. At his funeral service, the president of the Lincoln University Alumni Association read his obituary, and remarks were made by Dr. W. G. Alexander, a well known minister in the African Methodist Episcopal church, whom he probably met at Lincoln, as they both attended. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Newark, a site I haven’t yet located. Eliza is buried near her son in Glendale Cemetery in Montclair.

Stewart, Rex. Boy Meets Horn. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993.

Reginald W. Stewart aka Robert Honeybus!
Friday, February 24, 2006

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