The Machado-Stewart Family and Their Home
By Orion M. Zink
It was during the early part of the nineteenth century that the families of two old soldiers of the Spanish Army in California were united in marriage.
José Manuel Machado, a Corporal of the San Diego Company at San Diego, is presumed to have arrived at the Presidio at San Diego about 1782.
Eugenio Valdez is known to have been a member of the Los Angeles Leather Jackets in 1800. It is not known where Machado came from, taut Valdez was a native of El Fuerte de Los Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.
It was the daughter of Valdez, María Serafina de La Luz, that José Manuel Machado took as his bride. He was fifty-two years old at the time of their marriage.
María Serafina's birthdate, Sept. 1, 1788, can be found in the records of Our Lady of Sorrows Rectory, book of baptisms in Santa Barbara, California.
José Manuel's birthdate is given as 1756 in the Genealogy of the Machado Family, Vol. XLI, No. 3, Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly.
The date of the Machado - Valdez wedding is not certain, but a good guess would be that it took place the year before their first child Juan, was born in 1809.
At that time and for about twenty years afterwards, José Manuel and his fast growing family lived in quarters within the walls of the Presidio at San Diego. Only rough drawings of the Presidio have come down to us, and the location of the Machado home in the Presidio is unknown.
Living conditions within the Presidio became progressively worse as the military personnel married and began raising their families. And so, when fear of attacks by the Indians lessened, a few brave souls, wishing to improve their lot, began building homes at the foot of the hill. Good level, fertile soil was available there, and soon houses began to spring up.
The earliest of these were built about 1820. And according to Historian William E. Smythe, the first home built was that of Captain Francisco María Ruiz. Smythe described his house as a "tule hut," with a garden of pomegranate, olive and pear trees.
Another early builder was José Manuel Machado. He selected a site a few blocks south and west of the Ruiz place, and there he erected a small one story adobe. The exact date this home was built is not known, but it is presumed to have been about 1830.
In Pascoe's Map of 1870, it was located on parts of Lots I & 4, Sec. 30, Blk. 436. Years later when streets were laid out and the houses numbered, the street address became 2724 Congress Street.
The Machados had ten children, five boys and five girls. At the time the new adobe was built, it is more than likely that only the two youngest children, Joaquín and Rosa, were living with their parents.
During the early 1830's a brisk trade was going on between the New England states and California. Trading vessels, sailing around the Horn, brought coffee, tea, furniture, clothing, hardware etc. which they traded for hides. These vessels often remained for months, visiting all the ports, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Monterey and San Diego, bartering for hides that made up the cargo for the return voyage.
It was one of these vessels that brought John Collins Stewart to San Diego. There has been some difference of opinion as to which vessel he sailed on. New light on the subject is provided in the records at Hallowell, Maine. In the Vital Records, Vol. 8, p. 279, concerning John Collins Stewart and Family, may be found the following item, together with the Genealogy of the Stewart family:
"Contrary to information now on file in San Diego, California, John C. Stewart was not aboard the ' Pilgrim' with Richard Henry Dana, when it left Boston, Massachusetts, to sail for California, August 14, 1834. He did sail on the 'Alert,' Edward H. Faucon, Master, bound for California from Boston, on November 26, 1834. On this trip he was a seaman, and of course he was with Dana when the latter returned after having transferred to the 'Alert,' when she sailed back from California on May 3, 1836, with Stewart once more aboard. However this time he has been promoted to Second Mate. At this time he was 24 years of age; five feet eight inches tall, dark hair and a light complexion."
(The Stewart Family Genealogy from the Hallowell, Maine records, together with that of the Machado Family, and the Stewart Family of San Diego, may be found on separate pages at the end of this article.)
Probably the best account of the hide trade, and of Stewart's coming to San Diego, is contained in Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before The Mast, a voyage he made in 1835-36. A subsequent article, Twenty Years After, describes his marriage into the Machado family.
In Two Years Before The Mast, Dana described the San Diego that greeted him as, "a small settlement directly below the fort, composed of about forty dark brown looking huts or houses, and two larger ones plastered, which belonged to two of the 'gente de razón'" (people of standing.)
Regarding Stewart who was Dana' s "Messmate," and to whom he referred to as "Jack" and "S__," Dana stated that when they came ashore at San Diego, they "sailor like, steered for the first grog-shop."
In Twenty Years After, Dana wrote:
" The little town of San Diego had undergone no changes whatever. It is still like Santa Bartaara, a Mexican town.
The four principal houses of the "gente de razón," of the Bandinis, Estudillos, Argüellos and Picos, are the chief houses now - but all the gentlemen - and their families too, I believe, are gone. -
I went into a familiar one story adobe with its piazza and earthen floor, inhabited by a respectable lower class family by the name of Machado, and inquired if any of the family remained, when a bright eyed, middle aged woman recognized me, for she had heard I was aboard the steamer, and she said she had married a shipmate of mine, Jack Stewart, who went as Second Mate the next voyage, but left the ship and married and settled here.
She said he wished to see me. In a few minutes he came in and his sincere pleasure in meeting me was extremely grateful. We talked over old times, as long as I could afford to. I was glad to hear that he was sober and doing well...."
John Collins Stewart and Rosa Machado were married in February, 1845. John was in his thirties and Rosa only seventeen at the time. Following their marriage, the newlyweds moved into the home of Rosa's parents. This house the two families shared together during José Manuel and María Serafina Machado's remaining years.
Rosa's father passed away October 18, 1852, and her mother died March 12, 1861.
After their deaths, the Stewarts continued living in the Machado home the rest of their married lives. All eleven of the Stewart children were born within those adobe walls, as were many of the grandchildren and several great grandchildren.
Smythe states that John C. Stewart was a pilot, and was known as "el pilato;" that he served with the volunteer troops at San Diego during the Garra uprising in 1851, and saw service in the Mexican War.
Confirmation of his service during the Indian trouble has been uncovered at Sacramento. A record there reveals that he was paid $220.00 for his services with the "Fitzgerald Volunteers, for the period from November 24, 1851 to January 7, 1852.
In endeavoring to establish the dates of birth and death of Rosa Machado Stewart and John C. Stewart, the writer paid a visit to the Mission Hills, "Calvary" Cemetery. Fortunately the Stewarts' head stones were still standing.
Rosa's grave marker gives her date of birth as November 15, 1828, and date of death as May 4, 1898. On John's tombstone his date of birth is given as September 2, 1811, and February 2, 1892 as the date of his death. While the date he passed away is not given in the vital records of the Stewart family at Hallowell, Maine, John's date of birth there is given as September 3, 1812.
Some of the Stewart grandchildren are still living in San Diego. One, Mrs. Leo (Lottie) Mustain, (daughter of Susan Stewart,) has been able to provide much worthwhile data regarding the Stewart family. In the course of several interviews, Mrs. Mustain stated that after her grand-parents passed away, her Uncle, Frank J. "Pancho" Stewart, who was born and raised in the old Machado-Stewart house, married and raised his own family in the old adobe.
Other members of the family who lived in the old place were Stewart' s son Manuel, his daughter Margarita and Rosita Stewart. Also a cousin Rose Fourneir lived in the house for several years.
The last resident was Mrs. Carmen Meza, daughter of Frank J. Stewart. She told the writer that she was born in the house and had lived in the place for over fifty years. She was forced to move out in 1966, when a leaky roof and crumbling walls made living conditions unbearable.
Mrs. Mustain has a very retentive memory, and while never having lived in the Machado-Stewart home, she visited the place on many occasions, and remembers many stories her mother related.
She remembers an outside oven that was still there when she was a little girl. And her mother told her that one of the chores assigned her grandfather, John C. Stewart, by her grandmother, was to attend the oven while she went to Mass, and this was almost every day.
She also remembered her mother telling about a fireplace at one end of the building. Here, Mrs. Patrick O'Neill, wife of the proprietor of the American Hotel, would on her visits, cook tortillas and make candy. The O'Neills had a hotel, bar and restaurant, and Chinese cooks prepared the food. The stoves in that establishment were always monopolized by the cooks, and seldom available to Mrs. O'Neill.
She remembers a family altar in one of the bedrooms of the old house. The room had a red tile floor and in one corner was a small covered altar which was made by her grand-father. On the altar rested a religious figure. Here they gathered for family prayers.
Mrs. Mustain recalled her mother telling her that he Stewarts hired Indian girls to do the housework. One of the girls was named, "Carmel." She married a man by the name of "Searl." They had a large family. Their ranch home was in Mission Valley, near the old Mission.
Lottie Mustain remembered Carmel Searl telling her, when she was a little girl, that she practically raised Lottie's uncle, James Stewart.
Among her recollections, also, is of a visit with her mother to her Uncle Joaquín Machado's rancho at Rosario in Baja California. On that same trip she visited anotheruncle, Rachael Machado, who lived at the f oot of the table mountain, south and west of Tijuana. Lottie was ataout twelve years old at the time.
Mrs. Mustain has several mememtoes of the Machado and Stewart families. She has a rosary that belonged to her great grandmother, Serafina Machado, also her painted drinking cup, fashioned from a gourd.
Among her treasures from the Stewart family are a camphor wood chest that belonged to her grand-father, John C. Stewart. It is now on display at the Lopez house. Also a crucifix, glass tumblers and bottles, and the Stewart family Bible. In it can be found in John Stewart's handwriting, recordings of the date of birth of most of the family and sometimes the date of their deaths. Unfortunately, no pictures of John C. Stewart or his wife, Rosa Machado Stewart have been found.
There are two San Diegans, still living that remember the John C. Stewart family. One is Simon Mannassee, of 4297 Taylor Street and Mrs. Josie Serrano of 2649 Congress Street. Her home however has been sold, moved, and the lot is now within the boundaries of the park.
Mr. Mannassee remembers that Rosa Stewart was short and dark skinned and "Jack" Stewart was tall, slender and of light complexion. He said that "Jack" at one time ran a lot of cattle, and was something of a carpenter.
Discussing the Machado-Stewart home, Mannassee stated that the inside of the roof was lined with reeds, laid over poles. The writer learned later that the reed, (Genus Arundinaria) commonly known as K Carrizo Cane," was frequently used for such purposes in the early days.
Mrs. Serrano said she knew the Stewarts well. She remembered that they had an orchard of pear, fig and pomegranate trees. She also recalled that the Stewarts had the walls of their house whitewashed, about every six months.
Mrs. Serrano was only a small girl when John Stewart passed a way. But she remembered many details of the funeral; that it was a rainy day in February, and that eight black horses drew the hearse up the steep grade to the Mission Hills Cemetery. A check by the writer later, confirmed that Stewart died February 2, 1892.
The old Machado-Stewart house with its crumbling adobe walls still stands today, and is being restored. The rebuilding will be done under the supervision of Architect, Clyde F. Trudell.